Theresa May just loves playing at being Cruella de Vil.
She’s at it again today.
In a “leaked letter” (betcha she told someone to leak it) she calls for the rules for bringing foreign spouses into Britain to be tightened up.
The letter from Mrs May to Nick Clegg, which has been seen by The Sunday Telegraph, proposes a tough new minimum income of £25,700 a year for anyone seeking to bring a spouse, partner or dependant to the UK from outside the European Union from June – almost double the current threshold of £13,700.
She tells Mr Clegg: “In particular I propose a minimum income threshold of £25,700 for a British citizen or person settled in the UK to sponsor the settlement of a spouse or partner of non-EEA [European Economic Area] nationality.”
For a partner with one child, the income threshold would rise to £37,000 a year, for two to £49,300 and for three children it would hit £62,600 according to the letter.
In other words, she reckons you need an income of £37,000 a year to survive with one child, or £49,300 to survive with two children.
The latter figure is higher than the higher rate tax threshold. The figure for three children is so high that George Osborne intends to withdraw child benefit from people on that income next year, on the grounds that poor taxpayers should not subsidise “the rich” to have children.
The immigration rules have this income threshold for a purpose. The idea is to make sure that the spouse being brought into the country will not be a burden on British taxpayers.
But these thresholds that Mrs May has proposed go way beyond that. They are simply a way to prevent people marrying foreigners – unless, of course, they are rich Tory voters.
Naturally, if you are from the European Union – Poland, for example, or Latvia – these thresholds do not apply. EU rules mean that the British government is not allowed to put any restrictions at all on people from other EU countries. The Tories, being absolutely wedded to British membership of the EU, do not propose to do anything about that.
On benefits and want to marry a Pole? Be Mrs May’s guest.
But a salary of £50,000 and want to marry a Canadian widow with two children? Forget it. Mrs May says no.
Her letter to Mr Clegg hints at some of the measures that really ought to be taken to stop abuse of the rules:
The Home Secretary also refers in the latter, dated 14 March, to a need to “differentiate between genuine and non-genuine relationships” – a clear sign that ministers believe many of the marriages entered into under the current system are sham.
Of course, the Immigration and Nationality Directorate ought to ask searching questions to ensure that foreigners marrying British people are not just trying to get a visa.
But simpy assuming that all marriages to foreign people are shams and ought to be stopped – except for the rich – just about sums up Mrs May’s dumb attitude to her job.
She once said the Tories had a problem being seen as “the nasty party”.
Well, these proposals – assuming the Telegraph has reported them accurately – are certainly nasty.
The Tories may not be nasty, but Mrs May most certainly is.