Britain’s immigration rules in force since November 2008 were rushed to the House of Lords after the Supreme Court ruled in a major judgement that they were illegal because they had never been before Parliament.
The Home Office was forced to take emergency action after judges upheld a complaint by a Pakistan national,who had been refused further leave to remain in the UK,that the list of skilled occupations used under the points-based system had not been scrutinised by Parliament.
The court’s ruling on Wednesday was described by Keith Vaz,chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee,as a “hammer blow” to the points-based immigration system.
It was not clear if applications refused under rules that were not scrutinised by parliament could appeal against the decisions.
The Home Office yesterday placed in the House of Lords over 70 ‘Statement of Changes to Immigration Rules’ since 2003. It said the changes come into effect from today,and had been made following the Supreme Court judgement.
“The changes will not affect the way we consider applications. They support our ongoing work to simplify the immigration system and ensure that existing policy and guidance is transferred into the Immigration Rules where necessary,” the Home Office said.
According to Vaz,”thousands” of people would be left unsure as to whether they would be able to remain in the UK as a result of the decision.
He said: “This judgement delivers a hammer blow to the points based system. The court is very clear that ministers must place rules before parliament for proper scrutiny. Their failure to do so over a number of years leaves the immigration system open to ridicule.”
On Wednesday,the court ruled in the case related to Pakistan national Hussain Zulfiquar Alvi that ministers could not bar foreign workers unless rules used to do so had been shown to Parliament.
The ruling concerns the ‘shortage occupations list’ used by the Home Office to control migration of foreign workers skilled in occupations that were in demand in the country.
The ruling is likely to have an impact on cases that had been refused after 2008.
Hussain Zulfiquar Alvi came to the UK in 2003 as a student and stayed on after his studies to become a physiotherapy assistant.
In 2009,he applied for further leave to remain under revised rules for migrant workers called the Points-Based System.
The system,which came into force in 2008,uses points to calculate which migrants have the most skills and would be of most benefit to the UK.
The Home Office said Alvi could not stay because he did not have enough skills to earn sufficient points.
However,Alvi said the decision was unlawful because Parliament had not actually scrutinised the specific Home Office-set rules relating to his occupation.
The Parliament’s Scrutiny Committee is required to examine all changes to immigration rules.
In its judgement,the Supreme Court said the occupation list which applied to the decision in Alvi’s case was clearly part of the immigration rules that needed to be examined by Parliament,because MPs and peers wanted a say in how immigration was being controlled.
Lord Hope,the lead justice in the case,said he recognised the judgement could create a huge workload for Parliamentarians.
He said: “The situation that has created this problem is so far removed from what it was in 1971 that one wonders whether the system that was designed over 40 years ago is still fit for its purpose today.”
Lord Dyson,agreeing with Lord Hope’s leading judgement,criticised the modern immigration system: “It is… a striking fact that the immigration rules are already hugely cumbersome.
The complexity of the machinery for immigration control has (rightly) been the subject of frequent criticism and is in urgent need of attention.”