Queen's Speech focuses on UK immigration

08 May 2013 | Posted by Carl Thomas

Britain's ongoing attempts to give its immigration system a facelift have put UK visas and migration policies at the heart of public discussion this year, so much so that immigration was the centre piece of the Queen's Speech given at the State Opening of Parliament.

The speech, which was written for the Monarch by ministers, took a broader focus on the promotion of a “fairer society that rewards people who work hard”, but called for the strengthening of the country's economy to be the government's “first priority”.

Applying this to migrants, the Queen said that the government's immigration bill will aim to “ensure that this country attracts people who will contribute and deter those who will not”.

The bill forms a major part of the coming year's legislative programme and – if passed – it will adjust the law to impose bigger fines on businesses caught employing illegal workers without UK work permits or visas. The bill is also designed to ensure that illegal immigrants cannot access driving licences and will demand that private landlords check their tenants' immigration status.

On a more controversial note, the bill could also restrict migrants' access to the NHS. Any temporary visitors would be required to make a “contribution” - the amount of which is yet to be defined – towards the cost of their care.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's The World At One, Business secretary Vince Cable explained that the method of enforcing such a change is yet to be determined. However, he did note note that “checks of various kinds” were being considered, adding that the checks were “not the role of doctors”.

“Doctors are there to provide medical care but there is a question of whether people who administer GP surgeries and hospitals should be in the business of checking,” he added. “Naturally there is a fair amount of that which goes on already.”

It remains to be seen how much of the bill will be passed, but it is clear that companies need to be more careful than ever when it comes to ensuring that their employees have the required work permits and documentation if they are to avoid unnecessary fines.