Home Secretary warns judges on deportation law

The Home Secretary has said she would be seeking the backing of Parliament for the new guidelines.
The Home Secretary has said she would be seeking the backing of Parliament for the new guidelines. Photo: Tim Ireland/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Home Secretary Theresa May is on a potential collision course with judges after she warned their powers to block the deportation of foreign criminals on human rights grounds must be curbed.

Mrs May said she would be seeking the backing of Parliament for new guidelines spelling out how the courts should apply the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) in such cases.

In particular, she said she would make clear the right to a family life enshrined in Article 8 of the convention, which has been used successfully by some criminals to appeal against removal from the country, was not absolute.

At the same time Mrs May set out new plans intended to crack down on sham marriages and prevent migrant spouses and their children coming into the country and claiming benefits.

Human rights lawyers warned ministers could not use guidelines to dictate the interpretation of the law to judges.

However, Mrs May warned that if the judiciary did not heed the views of Parliament, she would introduce primary legislation to enforce its will.

In an interview with BBC1's The Andrew Marr Show, she accused the judges of not taking into account the wider public interest when applying Article 8 - even though they were entitled to do so under the terms of the ECHR.

"This is not an absolute right. So in the interests of the economy or of controlling migration or of public order - those sort of issues - the state has a right to qualify this right to a family life," she said.

In a Commons statement tomorrow, Mrs May will also set out plans for a new "financial independence" rule imposing minimum income requirements for people seeking to bring foreign spouses or children into the country.

For a non-EU spouse, they will have to earn at least £18,600 a year and if they have a child they will need £22,400, rising by £2,400 for each additional child.

Yvette Cooper said Mrs May's announcement on Article 8 would do nothing to address the failings in the UK Border Agency.
Yvette Cooper said Mrs May's announcement on Article 8 would do nothing to address the failings in the UK Border Agency. Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA Archive/Press Association Images

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said Mrs May's announcement on Article 8 would do nothing to address the failings in the UK Border Agency which meant fewer foreign criminals were being deported.

"The truth is this Government is deporting fewer and fewer foreign criminals every year because of failures in enforcement and administration," she said.

"Drawing up new guidance for the courts is sensible, and Parliament will need to debate the detail. But it isn't enough to sort out the problem.

"The Home Secretary needs to get a grip of the Border Agency and address the fundamental reasons why too many foreign criminals are not deported."