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Updated: September 11, 2013 17:05 IST

UK Cabinet split over visa bonds for Indians

PTI
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Britain's Business Secretary Vince Cable. File photo.
AP Britain's Business Secretary Vince Cable. File photo.

The divisions within Britain’s Conservative-led coalition government have been exposed over the controversial plans to impose 3,000-pound visa bonds on visitors from countries like India.

UK business secretary Vince Cable, from the Liberal Democrat Party, warned of the negative impact the yet-to-be-finalised scheme would have on relations with India.

“The reaction to it from our friends in India and elsewhere, where we are trying to build up relations, was one of outrage,” Mr. Cable told the BBC in London on Wednesday.

“In government, I and Nick [Clegg — Lib Dem leader and UK Deputy Prime Minister] are arguing for the much more sensible and flexible approach to the bond,” he added.

The senior minister plans to urge his Tory colleague in the Cabinet, home secretary Theresa May, to reconsider the plans which had emerged back in June under which visitors from certain high-risk countries including India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Ghana and Nigeria will be required to deposit 3,000 pounds for a six-month visa, to be forfeited if they overstay in the UK.

Indian ministerial circles had raised strong objections and sought full details on the application of the scheme, which is to be piloted from November.

The scheme had initially been mooted by Mr. Clegg but Mr. Cable clarified that his party leader had a very different idea in mind.

“What Nick Clegg actually proposed was that if somebody in the subcontinent, for example, is turned down for a visa, they could as an alternative come up with a bond. Had that proposal been accepted I think most people would not have seen a problem with it,” Mr. Cable said.

“It would actually have made it easier for people to come who have good reason to do so. But the way some of our colleagues in the coalition interpreted it was in a much more negative way, of saying that everyone who comes here should pay this very large bond,” he explained.

Asked if he wanted Ms. May to change the plans, he said, “I think so. We are going to have to do this in a much more sensible way.”

His comments come days after Sarah Teather, a former Lib-Dem minister, announced that she was quitting Parliament in despair at Clegg’s leadership of the party.

She said she was unhappy with the party’s policies, particularly on immigration bonds, which she believes will harm the most vulnerable members of society.

Cable said he had “sympathy” with Ms. Teather’s concerns about immigration, but added that she had “overreacted” by announcing that she would quit Parliament.

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