The Bishop of Leicester spoke during Report Stage of the Immigration Bill, speaking in favour of Baroness Lister’s Amendment 21. The amendment sought to reduce the threshold at which a child becomes a material factor in a parents’ immigration case from seven to four years. The amendment was not moved, with the Minister giving assurances that the Bill would not have a negative impact on the safeguarding or welfare of children in the United Kingdom.
The Lord Bishop of Leicester: My Lords, I want just to assure your Lordships that as the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, suggested, I support Amendment 21 in spirit. I also support it in practice. It seems that the arguments, from any understanding of child development, are clearly overwhelming. I speak as a former chair of the Children’s Society and as a member of the commission that published the A Good Childhood report on behalf of the Children’s Society some four or five years ago, which was based on the evidence of more than 20,000 children, many of them very young children. They made it very clear, even at the age of five or six, that friendships were an absolutely primary part of their understanding of their well-being. This is documented and spelt out in that report, as indeed it is in many other more academic reports. I would be happy to support this amendment as it stands or even if it is reduced to fewer years. On the basis of any understanding of child development, the argument for a cut-off period of four years seems overwhelming. I hope the Minister will be able to respond positively to the amendment.
Lord Wallace of Tankerness: …The noble Baroness, Lady Lister, talked about her experience of losing friends at the age of four, and that was echoed by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leicester, but let us face it: many parents move with their children around the country or out of the country for work or other temporary purposes, and the family leaves to return home or move elsewhere. When a family comes to the United Kingdom for a temporary purpose, they cannot and should not expect to settle permanently in the UK, and should not be able to do so unless they meet the rules for doing so. It is essential that the public interest in controlling immigration and protecting the public be properly weighed in the balance, even when children are involved. We believe that Clause 18 strikes the right balance in this regard…