The plan to sell off UK citizenships is being met with indignation and derision. The home secretary’s migration advisory committee is advocating that visas be auctioned off to the highest bidder. Detractors are suggesting that the scheme will make the UK a laughingstock by turning Britain into another e-Bay. Under the visa scheme presented by the chairman of the committee, Sir David Metcalf, bidders would be required to cough up £2 million and also make a £500,000 gift to a “good causes fund.” That fund is still not clearly defined but could include designated charities, hospitals and schools. Any cash beyond the £2.5 auction reserve bid would be designated as philanthropic cash. Home Secretary Theresa May is mulling over the scheme.
Back in November, Prime Minister David Cameron popped in for curry and a pint at the British Curry Awards ceremony at Battersea in London. He supported a scheme to bring in more skilled curry chefs from India to replenish the diminishing stock of native English curry cooks. “I know this problem won’t be fixed overnight,” Cameron told the assembled curry restaurant owners. “It requires a long-term commitment on all sides,” he added. That speech raised questions about the government’s stated commitment to bring immigration under tighter control. As it stands today, the current investor visa scheme has proved particularly popular with wealthy individuals from the Middle East, China and Russia. More than 500 people applied as of September 2013.
Supporters of this latest visa scheme point out that London’s wealthy class spends £4 billion annually on goods and services, according to Ramidus Consulting, an analyst for property investment. A consultant there stated that the typical buyer of a £15 million home will spend £4 to £5 million on goods and services. Household staff topped out as one of the largest expenses. There’s additional concern, though, that many investments made by these wealthy newcomers are primarily government gilts or loans to businesses owned by these individuals. That spending is not particularly beneficial to the UK economy.