h1_bkg

Ditching a bad piece of law

In last week’s New Statesman, the magazine’s political editor, Mehdi Hasan, coined the ideal phrase for one of the least pleasant tendencies of the last government.

He wrote that the former immigration minister Phil Woolas, stripped of his parliamentary seat after an electoral court found that he told race-related lies about his Lib Dem opponent, embodied “the cynical, authoritarian populism of New Labour.”

Coincidentally, on the same day, Third Sector heard that the new government is going to repeal another example of that same tendency – the provision, railroaded through parliament last July in the face of widespread opposition and the unequivocal message from consultations, that the citizenship applications of migrants would be fast-tracked if they did voluntary work.

Ditching this measure is a sensible, principled decision. Giving people a specific material advantage from doing voluntary work is a perversion of the voluntary principle. It discriminates against those unable to volunteer and eats away at the foundations of altruism. Full marks to ministers on this one.

But why don’t they shout the decision from the rooftops? Are the spin doctors advising them to keep it quiet for fear of upsetting this or that constituency or faction? They should come out with it, loud and clear.

  • Phil Cooper

    Not only would retention of this piece of legislation have undermined the ethos of volunteerism and thus, presumably have dealt a blow at what we understand to be a principle behind the Big Society, it would also have tied asylum seekers and refugees into a concept of having to work free of charge in order to achieve citizenship.
    It is far better for community cohesion for refugees granted the right to remain in the UK to contribute to society by achieving paid employment and paying taxes, NI contributions etc.
    The next logical step for the Coalition government is to extend the legal right to work to asylum seekers so that they can also pay their way while awaiting the government’s verdict on their claim, rather than having to depend on destitution-level benefits.

    Phil Cooper
    Hammersmith and Fulham Refugee Forum