British MPs want more Aussies in UK

A push to ease UK visa restrictions on immigrants from Commonwealth countries has been debated in the British parliament.

British MPs have reopened the debate over UK visa rules, arguing they are unfairly favouring Europeans at the expense of those from Commonwealth countries like Australia and New Zealand.

The debate in parliament at Westminster this week followed the release of a report claiming visa restrictions had resulted in a steep decline in Australian migration to the UK in recent years.

Romford MP Andrew Rosindell led the debate, calling for Britain to establish "better immigration" by being more selective over who entered and settled within the country.

He wants a reformed system which placed more restrictions on European immigration and didn't "alienate or exclude" people from countries with longer and closer historical links with Britain.

"Being a subject from one of Her Majesty's realms or being from a Commonwealth nation should count for something when looking to visit, work, study or live in the United Kingdom," Mr Rosindell said.

"At the moment it appears to count for little."

The Tory backbencher called on the government to seriously consider London Mayor Boris Johnson's proposals for bilateral mobility zones between economically developed Commonwealth nations.

"I am aware that such a proposal has support from the New Zealand Prime Minster and the tacit backing of Tony Abbott's Government in Australia," Mr Rosindell said.

Several MPs backed Mr Rosindell's argument while former Foreign Office minister Henry Bellingham said it was "ridiculous" that people from countries which have retained the Queen as head of state were confined to areas that "accommodate the rest of the world" when trying to enter the country.

Mr Rosindell reiterated his proposal for a special Commonwealth queue at airports such as Heathrow.

Home Office Minister Karen Bradley, replying on behalf of the government, said there were still many ways members of Commonwealth nations could live and work in the UK, such as the ancestry visa, and more progress was being made on the issue.

A report compiled by Tim Hewish, executive director of the think tank Commonwealth Exchange, said this week that Australian migration to Britain dropped from from 40,000 in 1999 to 26,000 in 2011 because of visa restrictions.

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