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Home Office takes emergency action as Supreme Court judgment leaves UK immigration policy in disarray


Statement of Changes to be laid before parliament tomorrow as legal framework for immigration ‘collapses’

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The Guardian reports that Home Secretary Theresa May has been forced to take emergency action after today's Supreme Court ruling in Alvi threatened to render illegal thousands of decisions made under Britain's skilled migrant programme.

According to the Guardian, immigration lawyers claimed the supreme court ruling represented a "wholesale collapse of the legal framework of immigration policy in the UK".

The Law Gazette reported that the "legal framework for UK immigration policy is in disarray following today’s Supreme Court ruling that UK Border Agency (UKBA) policies on corporate immigration are unlawful."

The Guardian says: "The Home Office reacted to the ruling by announcing that they were putting a statement of immigration rule changes, including the codes of practice, before parliament on Thursday to come into force by Friday, "in order to safeguard their lawful operation". Although the Commons has risen for the summer recess, the House of Lords is still sitting and will be asked to approve the changes." 

BBC News reported earlier that today's Supreme Court judgment in Alvi v SSHD is a potentially serious legal setback to the government's efforts to reduce the numbers of migrant workers in the UK.

According to the BBC, the Supreme Court said rules used to bar workers have to be shown to Parliament. "Under a 40-year-old law, Parliament's Scrutiny Committee must examine all changes to immigration rules," BBC News notes.

BBC News says that the full implications of today's ruling are not yet clear. However, unnamed legal sources are said to have told the BBC that it could be one of the most important judgments on immigration in a decade.

Labour MP Keith Vaz, chairman of the Home Affairs Committee,  told the BBC: "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. Thousands of people will not know whether or not they are allowed to stay in the country."

The Free Movement blog says that the judgment is "huge news" in immigration law.

By ruling that substantive requirements in immigration control must be laid before Parliament in the form of proper Immigration Rules under s.3(2) of the Immigration Act 1971, Free Movement states that the Supreme Court decision "will have huge implications for the awful new immigration rules on family members. At a stroke it almost certainly renders all of the attempts to specify required documents to prove income and so on unlawful, rendering the Appendix FM largely ineffective. Looks like the Home Office lawyers have gambled and lost on this one."

In further analysis, Free Movement says of Alvi and the related judgment in Munir: "The implications in the short and the longer term are both huge. In the short term, the judgments mean that almost all of the requirements in the Policy Guidance, the Codes of Practice and the other satellite documents that accompany the Points Based Scheme have no legal effect. This drives a coach and horses through the thousands of meticulously detailed pages of the PBS."

According to Free Movement, the longer term implications are that Parliament now seems likely to legislate to amend the procedure by which immigration rules are made, perhaps removing them from Parliamentary scrutiny altogether.

A Home Office spokesperson told BBC News: "We will act quickly to ensure the requirements of this judgment are met and that the necessary guidance is transferred into the Immigration Rules. Today's judgment supports our ongoing work to simplify the immigration system and minimise legal challenge in future."