The 17th Tory policy Lib Dems have blocked: Clegg rejects Theresa May’s plans to impose new immigration regulations on private landlords

by Stephen Tall on October 11, 2013

Perhaps the silliest proposal in a generally thread-bare Queen’s Speech in May was the Conservatives’ plan to ‘look busy’ on immigration.

Yes, the party that claims to want to cut back red-tape for small businesses decided to try and tie-up private landlords in it by imposing a legal duty on them check the immigration status of new tenants and lodgers. It’s an, erm, interesting approach to regulation, I guess: out-sourcing it to people who’ll have no way of validating the information they’re given.

However, the Tories’ grand plans have been scuppered thanks to the Lib Dems, as The Guardian reports today:

Theresa May’s scheme requiring all private landlords to check the immigration status of new tenants and lodgers has run straight into trouble with the Liberal Democrats, who have voiced concerns that it will increase homelessness and drive migrants underground into the hands of unscrupulous landlords.

A spokesman for Nick Clegg said the home secretary had been forced to agree to restrict the proposal this side of the next general election to a trial scheme in a single area, as the government introduced the immigration bill in the Commons.

“The Conservatives want to roll this out nationally but because of our concerns we will not agree to that. This will be piloted in a single area,” the spokesman for the deputy prime minister said. …

It is not the first time that the Lib Dems have secured concessions from the Conservatives during eight months of tortuous coalition negotiations over the bill. A move to require headteachers to carry out immigration checks on new pupils was also dropped.

The Home Office issued a face-saving response, saying the proposal is simply being phased in. It is, of course, a coincidence that only this first phase will happen this side of the 2015 general election.

Hopefully this daft plan can be added to the list of 16 Tory non-starters Nick Clegg has already rejected in this parliament.

* Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and editor of the 2013 publication, The Coalition and Beyond: Liberal Reforms for the Decade Ahead. He is also a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum and writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.