From October wealthy would- be immigrants willing to invest in Britain will be allowed to bypass the usual entry rules. 'Entrepreneurial investors' from overseas must prove they have pounds 1m and agree to invest pounds 750,000 in Government bonds and shares, or corporate bonds, and intend to make their main home in the UK. The Government admits the rules are designed to encourage investment.
Opposition parties attacked the change, which they said would benefit the wealthy at the expense of more needy people, a claim dismissed by Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, as 'claptrap'.
The new rules, which will allow entry for an initial 12 months, are believed to be primarily aimed at people living in Hong Kong who have not qualified for citizenship when China takes control of the colony in 1997. The other main category is hoped to be white South Africans.
However 'K' Sital, the chairman of the Council of the Indian Associations of Hong Kong, said: 'I think this scheme is doomed to failure, there are very few people with a pounds 1m to invest or many that are that desperate.' He added that most businessmen only wanted a passport as a 'safety net' and would want to remain in Hong Kong. He also argued that few would want to invest such a large sum in British shares and bonds.
This view was supported by Philip Trott, a solicitor who specialises in immigration applications and a former chairman of the Immigration Law Practitioners Association. Mr Trott, who supplied the Government with a briefing paper on how to encourage foreign investment, said: 'The Home Office have missed a golden opportunity. They have simply asked people to dump vast sums of money into the country without any thought of offering tax incentives - wealthy business people will need more to attract them.'
Peter Moss, who advises on immigration issues, added: 'This new offer will only attract a handful of applicants.'
People who have capital of pounds 200,000 and set up a business which employs at least two people are already allowed into Britain.
Michael Howard told ITN that the rules would 'enable those people who can make a real contribution to the economy of this country to come and settle here'.
Kenneth Clarke, the Chancellor, told a Westminster news conference: 'I know of no country in the world I can think of that cuts off its nose to spite its face by saying 'if you want to invest in business and jobs here, you can't actually live here'.'
This was in response to criticism by Labour and the Liberal Democrats. Dr Jack Cunningham, shadow Foreign Secretary, said: 'This seems quite astonishing to me, and seems to be a charter for anyone who has laundered money - got money by dishonest means, crooked people - simply to buy a ticket to Britain.'
Other changes to the immigration regulations, announced on Monday, will make it harder for working holidaymakers, married couples and foreign students, to enter Britain.Reuse content