The Minister for Immigration works out of the Home Office, which is the government department with overall responsibility for domestic affairs in England and Wales as well as for immigration and passports.
The UK’s Home Office
The Home Office is headed by the Home Secretary who has ultimate control over all of the Home Office’s functions. Within the Home Office five other Ministers work together with the Home Secretary and have particular responsibility for some of the various functions which the Home Office performs. The Home Office oversees several agencies which carry out the work of the Home Office – including the UK’s Border Agency and the Identity and Passport Service.
The UK’s Minister for Immigration
The UK’s Immigration Minister is formally known as the Minister of State for Immigration. Other Ministers within the Home Office have particular responsibility for the police and the criminal justice system, as well as for security and counter-terrorism. Various Under Secretaries support the Ministers in their roles.
The Cabinet forms the ultimate decision-making part of any UK government and is made up of the Prime Minister and the UK’s most senior ministers. The Home Secretary is part of the Cabinet whereas the Immigration Minister is not.
The Responsibilities of the Immigration Minister
The current Immigration Minister’s main responsibilities centre on implementation of the new policies being introduced by the UK’s coalition government. The UK’s previous administration had been in power in one form or another for 13 years. Inevitably when a new government comes to power there are likely to be many changes of policy. Even though the Immigration Minister does not form part of the Cabinet many of the policies with which he has been involved have been central to the new government’s manifesto.
Functions and tasks for which the Immigration Minister has particular responsibility include: the abolition of ID cards, various policies on immigration and asylum, passports and border control. The Immigration Minister has particular responsibility for imposing the coalition government’s controversial immigration caps, which continue to be the subject of newspaper headlines and public debate.
Whilst ultimate responsibility for the Home Office’s immigration functions rests with the Home Secretary, the Immigration Minister will remain the government’s face of immigration. Many announcements about implementation of government immigration policy are formally made by the Immigration Minister and he is also likely to be called upon to answer questions from the media about immigration policies.
The Coalition Government’s First Immigration Minister
Since May 2010 the UK’s Immigration Minister has been Conservative MP Damian Green. Before Mr Green became an MP in 1997 he had worked as a journalist and a policy adviser. Prior to being chosen as the coalition government’s first Immigration Minister he had served as the Conservative Party’s Shadow Immigration Minister. As Shadow Immigration Minister, Green acquired a reputation for keeping the Labour government on the defensive about immigration issues. He hit the headlines in late 2008 when he was arrested as part of an enquiry into alleged leaks of Home Office documents. Perhaps as a foreshadow of things to come, Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs were united in their criticism of the way in which Mr Green was treated.
Mr Green represents a political party whose policies on immigration are very different to those of the Labour party which had been in government for 13 years prior to the May 2010 general election. Immigration had formed a prominent party of many of the parties’ manifestos in the pre-election campaign. The main political parties had to strike a balance between appealing to voters who believed that the UK had suffered as a consequence of liberal immigration rules and avoiding extreme right-wing anti-immigration rhetoric.
In a September 2010 speech, the UK’s Immigration Minister confirmed that the government intended a complete reform of the UK’s immigration system. The purpose of such a reform is two-fold – to reduce the level of all types of immigration and to reduce the number of immigrants who make the UK their permanent home. It seems that the only type of immigrant who will not be discouraged from settling in the UK are the so-called “super rich”. It was announced in March 2011 that those with at least £5 million in a UK bank account and some entrepreneurs may be entitled to acquire UK citizenship after only three years of residence.