HC Deb 09 July 2002 vol 388 cc897-8W
Dr. Cable

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what progress has been made on Government proposals to introduce a visitors' bonds scheme. [65607]

Beverley Hughes

A consultation paper, "Financial Bonds for Visitors", was issued in October 1999. This sought views on a number of key questions, including the scope of any scheme, the nature and amount of the bond, and the locations for the proposed pilot study.

The response to the consultation paper was generally negative. Many respondents—particularly those from the ethnic minority communities—simply did not support the idea of a bond scheme, either in principle or because of worries over discrimination or affordability. Of those who responded more positively, many wanted a very low level of bond that would not have offered sufficient disincentive to fraud. The scheme also attracted considerable adverse reaction from the countries proposed for a pilot study.

Simultaneously, work on moving towards a more flexible approach to the operation of the immigration control made it difficult to design a simple, quick scheme for providing a bond facility for visitors and recording their entry to and departure from the United Kingdom.

It was also considered that the re-introduction of a right of appeal for family visitors in October 2000 would provide a more effective way of addressing the concerns of the ethnic minority community about visa refusals for family visits.

For all these reasons it was decided not to pursue the proposed pilot scheme—a decision that was generally widely welcomed. An announcement to this effect was made in a response to a parliamentary question from my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, East (Mr. Vaz) on 28 July 2000.

The White Paper "Secure Borders, Safe Haven", published in February 2002, explained the negative response to the financial bond scheme proposals. It also referred to exploring community-based or other collective mechanisms, or a way of requiring people to report back to posts when they return, and invited views. We are currently considering the responses.