CentreForum’s ‘Liberal Heroes of the Week’ #6 – 17 MPs representing five political parties

by Stephen Tall on July 20, 2012

ImageWelcome to the sixth in our series — Liberal Hero of the Week — as chosen by Stephen Tall, Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and Research Associate at CentreForum. 

The aim is simple enough: to showcase public figures who help promote the four liberal tenets identified in The Orange Book: economic, personal, political and social liberalism. We will be highlighting individuals regardless of their party affiliation, and indeed from beyond Westminster. If they stick up for liberalism then they’re in contention. Nominations are welcome via email or Twitter.

17 MPs (listed below) from 5 political parties

Members of Parliament representing Labour, Liberal Democrat, Green, Respect and Plaid Cymru
Reason: for signing Early Day Motions 297 & 335 opposing the Government’s proposed income threshold for sponsorship of spouses and civil partners by British citizens and settled people.

This month, the Government introduced new migration rules which have an explicit aim of preventing many thousands of people from exercising their right to a family life in the UK. As a result, British citizens and settled people will now need to be earning at least £18,600 in order to sponsor a non-EU partner to enter and settle in the UK.

The income requirement is higher for those applying to bring a child under the age of 18 with the partner: to unite a family with three children, a British citizen will now have to earn at least £27,200 a year — and the non-British partner’s overseas earnings are not taken into account in the initial application.

It has been calculated by the Migration Observatory at Oxford University that this change prevents 47% of the working population of the UK from bringing their foreign partner into the UK. Unsurprisingly, those most likely to be affected are the most economically disadvantaged: women, those living outside the south-east of England, young people and some ethnic communities.

There is a quite simple principle at stake here. The state should not deny a citizen the right to live with their family simply because they do not earn enough money. Economic and personal liberalism should encourage the free movement of people to live their own lives as they wish; and social justice demands that we do not split up families based on an arbitrary income requirement. As Early Day Motion 335, proposed by Lib Dem MP David Ward (pictured above), states:

That this House recognises the important economic and cultural benefits of immigration; notes that the Government’s plans to increase the income threshold at which UK citizens can bring a spouse to the country to 18,600 (27,200 with three children) will deprive many residents of towns like Bradford, where 21 per cent of households have incomes under 15,000 per year, of the right to a family life; believes that the right to a family life should not be contingent on earnings; further notes several reports from the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration which call into question the quality of decision making on family immigration cases; and therefore calls for the Government to review its plans both toincrease the income threshold at which UK citizens can bring a spouse to the country to 18,600 (27,200 with three children) and to remove the right of appeal against the refusal of family visitor visas.

This EDM, together with EDM297 which also opposes the rule-change, has been signed by 17 MPs representing five political parties:

    David Anderson (Labour)
    Martin Caton (Labour)
    Jeremy Corbyn (Labour)
    Jim Dobbin (Labour)
    George Galloway (Respect)
    Andrew George (Lib Dem)
    Mary Glindon (Labour)
    John Leech (Lib Dem)
    Tony Lloyd (Labour)
    Caroline Lucas (Green)
    John McDonnell (Labour)
    Alan Meale (Labour)
    Virendra Sharma (Labour)
    Keith Vaz (Labour)
    Valerie Vaz (Labour)
    David Ward (Lib Dem)
    Hywel Williams (Plaid Cymru).

They may not all be liberals; but they are our heroes this week for their action in opposing an unutterably illiberal measure.

Action you can take:

if you agree that this measure is wrong, then you can write to your MP using the WriteToThem website. You can find out more about the campaign against the rule-changes at Migrants’ Rights Network and the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants.

* Stephen Tall has been Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice since 2007, and also writes at his own site, StephenTall.org. He tweets @stephentall. Please submit your nominations for future ‘Liberals of the Week’ to Stephen by email or via Twitter. You can view our list of ‘Liberal Heroes of the Week’ (and ‘Liberal Villains of the Month’ in due course) here.