Author: Holly Pyne
Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat has said the UK government should make an “exception” to allow commonwealth soldiers to bring their wives and children to the UK, as current immigration rules have seen troops take on second jobs to afford the costs.
Immigration rules say that a foreign worker must earn £18,600 to apply to bring their spouse to the UK, with additional costs for bringing children.
A soldier’s basic pay after training is only £18,600 a year, leaving many to take on second jobs to afford to move their families to the UK.
Mr Tugendhat said that these soldiers “risked their lives” to “defend our values” and that the government should change the rules for them.
The MP for Tonbridge and Malling told talkRADIO’s Mike Graham: “The truth is that we all know that the government is a huge organisation and it applies very large rules across hundreds of thousands of people. We understand that.
“We also understand that politics is about judgements and choosing when those rules don’t apply.
“I would have thought that commonwealth soldiers who are over here – and genuinely risking their lives when we order them abroad to serve our nation and defend our values and our interests – that is one of those moments where the judgement sure is ‘let’s make an exception here’.”
Mr Tugendhat, who was a lieutenant colonel in the British army, said he had the “great privilege” of serving alongside commonwealth soldiers during his time in Afghanistan and Iraq.
He added: “After serving in the army, it is one of the things that I noticed – and that got me into politics – is that I don’t think we look after our own well enough.
“The army is an incredible social ladder for many people. There are lots of people from across the country that come from either the most or least privileged backgrounds who learn much more about our country from the armed forces than they do in any other way.
“It brings our nation together in many ways and it helps us to see the opportunities that are possible and therefore, also helps us see where those opportunities are lacking.”
‘The UK doing what it does best’
Following the Defence Secretary’s announcement for the UK to send an aircraft carrier to the Pacific region, Mr Tugendhat described it as “the UK doing what it does best”.
The HMS Queen Elizabeth is being sent in a show of strength after China was involved in a dispute over navigation rights and territorial claims in the South China Sea.
“I don’t think we are talking about being the world’s policemen,” Mr Tugendhat said.
“We are talking about commonwealth soldiers and many of them came from Fiji.
“This aircraft carrier is heading around there and if we can’t go support those who are such good commonwealth friends, who support our armed forces, then frankly we need to think again.
“This is the UK doing what it does best, which is standing by our friends and allies, being a trusted broker for many, and being a supporter of the international rule-based system that has kept us prosperous and peaceful for broadly speaking the last 70 years.”