17 Dec 2010

Temporary immigration cap ‘unlawful’

A temporary immigration cap introduced by the Home Secretary this summer is ruled invalid by the High Court. Opposition politicians say the government’s immigration policy is in chaos.

Immigration cap has been ruled 'unlawful' (Reuters)

Two judges said Theresa May had unlawfully attempted to “side-step Parliamentary scrutiny” when setting the temporary cap.

Lord Justice Sullivan and Mr Justice Burton declared that, as a result, no lawful limits were in place for two tiers of job applicants from abroad.

The ruling was a victory for the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) and English Community Care Association, which was concerned about the position of immigrant care workers.

The interim cap on visas for Tier 1 (general) highly-skilled migrants and the number of certificates of sponsorship allowed for Tier 2 skilled workers were introduced in June-July.

The Government plans to introduced a permanent limit on non-EU immigrant workers next April.

Critics say today’s ruling is important for British business as the current cap is damaging industry in the UK.

Richard Drabble QC, representing the JCWI, argued at the High Court in London that the Home Secretary acted outside her powers when she introduced changes to the immigration rules in the summer.

“The Government’s immigration policy is in a state of chaos.” Shadow Home Secretary Ed Balls

Today Lord Justice Sullivan said: “The Secretary of State made no secret of her intentions.

“There can be no doubt that she was attempting to sidestep provisions for Parliamentary scrutiny set up under provisions of the 1971 Immigration Act, and her attempt was for that reason unlawful”.

The changes introduced were substantive and should have been laid before Parliament.

The judge declared: “In my judgment no interim limits were lawfully published or specified by the Secretary of State for either Tier 1 or Tier 2… and there is not, and never has been, a limit on the number of applicants who may be admitted either under Tier 1 or the number of certificates of sponsorship that should be issued to Tier 2 sponsors.

‘State of chaos’

Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary, Ed Balls, said: “The Government’s immigration policy is in a state of chaos.

“Their so-called cap may have sounded good before the election but it wasn’t properly thought through and didn’t get the scrutiny it deserved.

“Not only will it do little to control immigration, it also risks damaging British businesses.

“I am disappointed with today’s verdict.” Immigration Minister Damian Green

“Cutting the number of border officers and staff by nearly a quarter raises serious questions about the security of our borders and whether the Government’s policies can be enforced.

“And David Cameron’s flagship election promise to bring net migration down to the tens of thousands has now been watered down from a firm pledge to just an aim.”

Possible appeal

The Home Secretary introduced an interim cap for non-EU skilled workers of more than a fifth on 2009 levels, in line with a Conservative election commitment.

The Immigration Minister, Damian Green said: “I am disappointed with today’s verdict. We will study the judgment and will appeal it, if we have grounds.

“We remain firmly committed to reducing net migration and will be introducing a permanent limit on non-European workers next April.

“We will do all in our power to continue to prevent a rush of applications before our more permanent measures are in place.”