4 Oct 2011

May pledges to restore ‘sanity’ to immigration

Home Secretary Theresa May tells the Conservative Party conference she will restore “sanity” to immigration, with measures including stopping the human rights act protecting foreign criminals.

Theresa May told the party faithful in Birmingham: “As home secretary, I will do everything I can to restore sanity to our immigration system.”

The home secretary also set herself up for a clash with the Conservative Party‘s partners in the coalition government, the Liberal Democrats, with an attack on the human rights act.

“I remain of the view that the human rights act needs to go,” she said – just weeks after Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg told his conference that it is here to stay.

I will do everything I can to restore sanity to our immigration system. Home Secretary Theresa May

Regardless of the political battles ahead, Ms May said she would be taking steps to ensure the human rights act no longer protected foreign criminals.

Changes to immigration law

She said British immigration law would be amended so that article eight of the human rights act – the right to a family life – could no longer be misconstrued.

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Citing the case of an illegal immigrant who could not be deported because he had a pet cat, Ms May said: “I can today announce that I will change immigration rules so the right to a family life no longer prevents the deportation of people who should not be here…

“The right to a family life is not an absolute right and it must not be used to drive a coach and horses through our immigration system… when foreign nationals are convicted of a criminal offence or break immigration conditions, when they should be removed, they will be removed.”

She said the change was part of a wider package of measures to bring immigration down from the hundreds of thousands a year under a Labour government, to tens of thousands under the coalition.

She also cited reforms to student visas, a cap on economic migrants, and the end of automatic settlement rights as part of the package.

The home secretary also tackled the causes of the riots and police cuts in her keynote speech at the Conservative conference, saying the government would publish a new strategy on gangs at the end of the month.