Debates between Lord Green of Deddington and Lord Faulks during the 2019-2024 Parliament

Thu 10th Feb 2022
Nationality and Borders Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - Part 2 & Committee stage: Part 2

Nationality and Borders Bill

Debate between Lord Green of Deddington and Lord Faulks
Lord Green of Deddington Portrait Lord Green of Deddington (CB)
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My Lords, I support Amendment 183 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, which I am cosponsoring along with the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, and the noble Lord, Lord Rooker. I do not always agree with the Lib Dems, but I think the noble Lord’s arguments were very powerful and need to be listened to. The effect of this route is to sell permanent residence in the UK, and later even citizenship, to anyone who turns up with a couple of million to spare, with no questions asked about where that money came from. It is an extraordinary outcome. I can see why one might have thought this was a good idea initially, but it has turned into a nonsense.

As the Committee may know, this route is for individuals able to make an investment of £2 million. The applicant does not need a job offer or sponsor, and the visa includes all immediate family members. The tier 1 investor visa is initially granted for three years and four months and can then be extended for another two years by providing evidence of an investment of the required amount. The funds must be invested in UK gilts, bonds and equities only—of course, the money can be taken out of those afterwards, so it is a very convenient little entry for your money.

Currently, if you invest—so called—£2 million, you will get your permanent residence in five years; if you have £5 million to spare, it is three years; and if you have £10 million in your pockets, it is two years. The whole thing is just absolutely absurd, frankly. Indeed, between 2008 and 2020 it has led to a total of more than 12,000 such visas being issued. There is not even any economic benefit to the UK in this. According to Sir David Metcalf, a former chair of the Migration Advisory Committee, in 2014,

“the main beneficiaries are the migrants. Investors benefit from, for example, rule of law, property rights and access to efficient markets. Second, at present, the investment is a loan, not a gift.”

A MAC report from 2015 noted that the main proponents of this type of visas are—guess what—law firms, accountants and consultancies that help organise the affairs of such extraordinarily wealthy investors. There are also speculative concerns around whether this investor visa is being used by criminals. In an October 2015 report, Transparency International UK argued that it was highly likely that substantial amounts of corrupt wealth stolen in China and Russia had been laundered into the UK via this visa programme.

It is not clear what will happen to the tier 1 investor visa under the new points-based system—at least, it is not clear to me—but it seems that it will remain in place. I suggest that a thorough review is in order and, meanwhile, the route should be closed, as set out in this amendment.

Lord Faulks Portrait Lord Faulks (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, I am happy to join the noble Lords, Lord Green and Lord Wallace, and others who have brought this amendment. I may not agree with all that the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, says, but I share with him a passion for the rule of law and a real concern for our reputation for protecting the rule of law. It is a real irony that our reputation for protecting the rule of law is one of the things that attracts people who have very little regard for the rule of law themselves and come from countries which ignore it almost altogether. I am afraid that this Government and their predecessor have a very inadequate record in responding to the threat of corruption of all sorts, and of course I support the proposals in this amendment.

In 2016, the then Prime Minister, David Cameron made a seminal speech about the importance of stamping out corruption. The Minister will remember the Criminal Finances Act 2017 and what a nuisance I was during its passage. I found it inadequate in a number of respects, including unexplained wealth orders, which I did not consider were nearly tough enough. I also put down amendments to try to persuade the Government to establish a register of overseas entities’ property, in order to try to reveal a great deal more about who actually owns vast parts of London. The noble Baroness was emollient and responded that as soon as parliamentary time allowed, there would be an appropriate response. I was slightly reassured by that. I continued to harry the Government. I asked the noble Lord, Lord Young, when he was a Minister, about the progress of matters. He was reassuring—none more reassuring than he—and said good progress was being made.