UK scraps contentious visa bond plan ahead of Cameron's visit
London: The controversial 3,000-pound visa bond scheme for some "high risk" overseas visitors to the UK, including those from India, which was scheduled to be implemented on a pilot scale this month has been scrapped, it was officially stated Monday.
"The government has been considering whether we pilot a bond scheme that would deter people from overstaying their visa. We have decided not to proceed," a government spokesman said today.
The move comes ahead of Prime Minister David Cameron's third visit in two years to India on November 14.
Cameron, who will make a day-long visit before heading to Sri Lanka to attend Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) on November 15-16, will hold talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on key bilateral and regional issues.
India had conveyed its serious concern about the scheme to the British government both at the ministerial and official levels.
Deputy Prime Minister and Liberal Democrats leader Nick Clegg had also supported India's stand and threatened to block the proposal.
The aim of the scheme was to reduce the number of people from some "high risk" countries - including India, Pakistan, and Nigeria - staying in the UK once their short-term visa had expired.
Visitors would have paid a 3,000-pound cash bond before arrival in the UK - which would be forfeited if they failed to make the return trip.
Labour MP Keith Vaz, Chairman of the Home Affairs Committee had also voiced his concern about the controversial bond scheme.
"During this shambolic process the Home Office has managed to upset a number of foreign governments and confuse millions of potential visitors. This is not the way to fashion a strong and effective immigration policy," he said.
"The Home Secretary is right to shelve the bond proposals. At the time Mrs (Theresa) May (Home Secretary) announced the pilot, I warned her that bonds would not work. Unfortunately the damage has already been done to our relationship with India," Vaz said.
Meanwhile, Cameron today firmly blamed Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg for the coalition's failed plan to force visitors from the so-called "high risk" countries to pay a 3,000-pound visa bond.
Speaking at the Confederation of British Industry's Annual Conference this morning, the Prime Minister publicly slapped down his Liberal Democrat colleague over the plan, saying, "This was an idea that the Deputy Prime Minister first proposed but we are not proposing to go ahead with it."
To laughs, he added, "He has lots of good ideas. We have just decided not to go ahead with it."
In response, a spokesman for the Deputy Prime Minister said that Clegg's proposal was "entirely different to the one from the Home Office".
He said, "Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats thought they could serve as an additional tool and safeguard for immigration officers when making borderline decisions."
By contrast, the Home Office wanted it as an additional requirement on a much wider range of legal migrants. Ultimately, Liberal Democrats in government were clear that we would not agree to the Home Office's version of the policy. As a result, they have dropped it," he said.
Earlier this year, the Liberal Democrat leader said he would stop the plan if it was implemented in an "indiscriminate way".
Clegg told BBC's Andrew Marr Show, "Of course in a coalition I can stop things," and added, "I am absolutely not interested in a bond which becomes an indiscriminate way of clobbering people who want to come to this country, and in many respects bring great prosperity and benefits to this country, of course not."