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Ex-minister dismisses landlord immigration proposal

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Lib Dem MP Sarah Teather has called the government

Teather, former minister for children and families, said that expecting private landlords to verify their tanents’ immigration status marked an extraordinary change in the relationship between the citizen and the state.

She said: “It’s completely unworkable. I wonder whether or not the people who’ve designed this policy actually have any idea what Home Office regulations are.”

Immigrants’ status could be verified through a complex variety of documents, she said, while the Home Office was often slow to return paperwork: “So you might have a scrappy old bit of paper that gave you status, that probably by now doesn’t even look genuine.”

Teather, who lost her ministerial job in the last Cabinet reshuffle, also questioned the right of the state to intervene in the private rental sector.

She said: “What’s the difference between that and saying you’re not allowed to buy a piece of fruit from Sainsbury’s without proving you’re not an illegal immigrant?

“Because as a private landlord you are a private individual who is effectively selling a product, and we’re saying you’re not allowed to sell to this person who can’t prove their status.”

An internal working group on immigration was initially named the Hostile Environment Working Group, she revealed.

Under the government’s proposals, landlords or letting agents found to have repeatedly rented properties to illegal immigrants could face fines of £3,000 per tenant. Landlords will face fines of £1,000 for a first offence.

Four-fifths of landlords oppose the government’s plans to compel them to carry out immigration checks on tenants, according to a poll by the National Landlords Association. founder David Lawrenson echoed Teather’s comments that the plans were unworkable:

“Would you know a valid work permit if you saw it or not? If they are going to educate landlords then great, but short of that, it is quite difficult to expect landlords to know what they are looking at.”

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