ILPA: General Election, implications for immigration, asylum and nationality law and related areas 8 May 2015

ILPAThe Conservative party has a small, outright, majority.  A Conservative government will need the support of the right of the parliamentary Conservative party, a section hostile to both the European Union and to human rights legislation, to go it alone on any issue.  The Government will need to work with other parties to have a majority on matters where it does not have the support of the right of its parliamentary party and whether those parties will be minded to support it on such matters or to see it fail is as yet unknown.

The Conservative party manifesto commits the party to repealing the Human Rights Act 1998,  to introducing a British Bill of Rights and to curtailing the role of the European Court of Human Rights, in particular where deportation cases are concerned.

The manifesto commitment is to delivering annual net migration in the tens of thousands and to maintaining the cap at 20,700 during the next parliament. Changes to the student visa system are promised including reviewing the highly trusted sponsor status for student visas and increasing sanctions for colleges and businesses who fail to ensure that their students or workers comply with the terms of their visa. Those regularly using the shortage occupation list will need to provide long term training plans for training “British workers.”

Non-suspensive appeals will be extended from deportation cases to all immigration appeals and judicial reviews apart from asylum cases.  A new removals policy will be introduced, including satellite tracking for those subject to deportation.  There is a manifesto commitment to requirements that landlords and landladies check their tenants. Those coming to join family members will have to pass new language tests when extending leave.

As to the European Union, it is proposed to renegotiate rules on access to benefits so that those exercising treaty rights have to be working in the UK for four years before they can claim benefits or tax credits (this will involve renegotiation as it would not be permitted under the current terms of EU law) and there will be no access to job-seeking benefits at all.  The division between what will be done and what must be renegotiated is somewhat blurred in the manifesto, but one way or another the intention is that EU nationals will have to meet residency requirements for social housing and that those EU migrants who have not found a job within six months will be required to leave. It is stated that the Government will negotiate stronger powers to deport EU nationals who have committed criminal offences and also longer re-entry bans.  There is a stated intention to inter alia impose English language tests and income thresholds on EU nationals.  There will be a referendum on EU membership by the end of 2017.

It is intended to continue to “modernise” the courts system and to keep legal aid under review.

There are commitments to enhancing border security and to strengthening the enforcement of immigration rules and it is stated that there will be tougher labour market regulation to tackle both illegal working and exploitation.  A new controlling migration fund will be introduced for authorities experiencing high and unexpected volumes of immigration, some of which will go to enforcement.  Law will require public sector workers “in a customer facing role” to speak fluent English.

Human rights in Zimbabwe, Burma (Myanmar) and Sri Lanka are particularly highlighted in the manifesto.  There is a commitment to protecting the overseas territories.

Be mindful that, under the Salisbury-Addison Convention, a Bill, foreshadowed in a manifesto and passed by the House of Commons, is not opposed by the House of Lords on Second or Third Reading.  The convention is often taken to go wider, to cover  wrecking amendments and, particularly in the case of commitments, that an opposition want to avoid discussing, more.

 Alison Harvey