Bishop of Manchester speaks in a debate on immigration and nationality

On 6th July 2022, the House of Lords discussed charges associated with processing citizenship cases involving children. The Bishop of Manchester spoke in the debate:

The Lord Bishop of Manchester: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for giving us the opportunity to hold this short debate. The matters she raises are serious and require urgent address.

Greater Manchester—the Minister knows and loves it as much as I do—is a very diverse city region. Many of those who contribute to its flourishing and growth are families whose origins lie elsewhere. The children of those families enrich the life of our schools, including the 190-plus Church schools that educate over 60,000 children every day, often in the poorest communities. While these children rejoice in the distinctive heritage of their ancestral culture, and offer its riches to us, they are being brought up to be as British as I am. They know no other home. They are not immigrants—as the noble Baroness has said, we must not confuse the asserting of citizenship with immigration—they are British. They simply need to clarify that legally.

Ideally, I would not put a price on citizenship; it is far too precious. However, if a charge has to be made, it seems invidious to pitch it at a level where over half of the revenue is pure profit. Indeed, the profit levels might set the mouths watering of some of those who notoriously have milked our public coffers through the charges they have exacted for substandard PPE equipment—but perhaps that is for another day.

For cultural and religious reasons, many of these children are being brought up in families where they have more sisters and brothers than the average. We need those larger families to provide the future workers who will sustain our economy in years to come, as our population—noble Lords are no exception—increasingly ages. Many of their parents are key workers in those vital sectors of the economy, such as health and transport, which kept this nation going during Covid lockdowns, and they are often employed in the least well-paid jobs. Charging over £1,000 per child, especially when there are four, five or more children in the family, acts as a major disincentive to citizenship applications, one that prevents those children, as they grow up, being able to access the full rights to which they should be entitled as our fellow citizens. I echo the noble Baroness’s remarks about the opacity of the waiver regime. There is no point having a regime if it is not clear, when families embark on that process, whether they will be eligible.

I urge the Government to reconsider these charges as a matter of urgency. Perhaps it is not for me to intrude into private grief but, on a day when the moral authority of the Government is up for question, this would be a small but significant assertion that Her Majesty’s Government recognise a compelling moral case when they see one.


Extracts from the speeches that followed:

Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con, Minister of State – Home Office): In answer to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester on how much income is generated through fees, £1.01 billion was generated from visas, immigration and nationality income and passport fees in 2020-21, which contributed to the cost of running the migration and borders system. That does not include income from the immigration health surcharge.

The right reverend Prelate talked about profit. We do not make a profit from application fees as the income is used to fund other vital areas of the migration and borders system, in line with the principles outlined in the 2014 Act. The full operating expenditure costs of the migration and borders system was £3.4 billion in 2020-21. That includes HM Passport Office, Immigration Enforcement, the international and immigration policy group, Border Force and UKVI.

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