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Duke of Sussex backs campaign to scrap visa fees for Commonwealth Army veterans

·2 min read
Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex, has backed a campaign to scrap visa fees for Commonwealth veterans who fought in the British Army - CHRIS JACKSON /AFP
Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex, has backed a campaign to scrap visa fees for Commonwealth veterans who fought in the British Army - CHRIS JACKSON /AFP

The Duke of Sussex has backed a cross-party campaign to scrap visa fees for Commonwealth veterans who wish to remain in the UK after serving, according to a Tory MP.

Johnny Mercer, a former defence minister, on Tuesday told the Commons that he spoke to Prince Harry by phone earlier this week about the issue.

At present, former overseas personnel who want to live in Britain and use public services, such as the NHS, after serving in the UK Armed Forces must pay £2,389 to regularise their immigration status.

Mr Mercer and Labour MP Dan Jarvis tabled an amendment to the Nationality and Borders Bill on Tuesday that would remove fees for veterans who have served a minimum of five years.

The Conservative MP said abolishing these fees for Commonwealth veterans and their immediate families was an “almost effortless change” that would cost less than £1 million a year, and had wide support from veterans groups and across the country.

Mr Mercer said: “I speak to all sorts of people in the veterans community. Last night I had a conversation with Prince Harry about this.

He has contributed hugely to the veterans’ debate and I wanted his view. He said to me, ‘It’s not only morally right, but would mean so much to those who’ve given so much’.”

A spokesperson for the Duke of Sussex confirmed he had spoken to Mr Mercer on the issue. The Duke supports plans to help servicemen and women who have made sacrifices for their countries, she said.

The Royal British Legion and Help for Heroes have also backed the proposal, which would benefit the 500-odd Commonwealth personnel who leave the UK services each year and wish to remain in Britain.

Fees can be over £10,000 for family of four

It would also lift charges for their immediate family. The current rules mean a family of four can face visa fees in excess of £10,000.

Ahead of an expected vote on the amendment, a series of senior Tories pledged to rebel against the Government in support of it.

Conservative select committee chairmen Tom Tugendhat, Tobias Ellwood and William Wragg vowed to back it, alongside former party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith and ex-Cabinet minister David Davis.

Other Tory MPs including Simon Hoare, Adam Holloway and Anne Marie Morris signed the amendment, which won the backing of opposition parties.

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