In a major climbdown, the David Cameron government has decided to abandon plans to introduce bonds of 3000 pounds for visitors from India and five other countries following opposition from within ruling coalition and outrage in India.
A Home Office spokesman said: “The government has been considering whether we pilot a bond scheme that would deter people from overstaying the visa. We have decided not to proceed.”
Welcoming the decision, senior Labour MP Keith Vaz, however, regretted the impact of such plans on Britain's relationship with India, which is seen as a major investor in an economically challenged Britain.
Vaz told HT: “Unfortunately the damage has already been done to our relationship with India. 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."
Home secretary Theresa May had announced the plans earlier this year for visitors from countries considered ‘high risk’, including India. The other five countries targeted for the bond scheme were Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nigeria and Ghana.
The Cameron government has abandoned another controversial plan, a nationwide campaign targeted at illegal immigrants, asking them through large boards mounted on vans to ‘go home or face arrest’. This plan also faced trenchant criticism from the opposition Labour party and other quarters.
The bond scheme, which was twice mooted and abandoned by the previous Labour government, raised hackles in India and other countries, with suggestions that they could impose reciprocal bonds for Britons travelling to their countries.
The scheme was to be piloted from 1 November in the six countries. Under the scheme, applicants for UK visa would need to deposit 3000 pounds as a bond, which would be returned on their return, or forfeited if they failed to return.
There were indications at the Conservative party conference in October that the scheme would be scrapped, particularly due to opposition from the Liberal Democract leader and deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg.
May stated at the conference that she would scrap the scheme if it did not have the support of the Liberal Democrats. Clegg had reportedly threatened to block the passage of the scheme through the cabinet.