Theresa May set up a showdown between Parliament and judges yesterday, as she vowed to cut the number of foreign prisoners who avoid deportation by pleading family commitments.
She wants MPs to set new guidelines on what the "right to a family life" enshrined in European law should mean in the case of a foreign criminal facing deportation, indicating she would change the law if judges refused to follow the advice.
The move was part of plans aimed at reducing immigration, including a new income guarantee before migrants can bring their families into the country.
Yesterday, Mrs May said there is no "absolute right" to a family life under the European Convention on Human Rights, denying her position would put Britain on a collision course with the European courts.
"There are some instances where the European courts have actually been tougher than our own courts," she told the BBC's Andrew Marr programme.
"I would expect that judges will look at what parliament will say and that they will follow and take into account what parliament has said. If they don't, we'll look at other measures which could include primary legislation."
She admitted that her initiative was likely to have little impact on the overall immigration statistics.
"This is not big numbers," she said when compared with the effect of the Government's decision, announced last year, to cut the number of student visas issued each year by 52,000.
Labour's shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, said Mrs May should focus on sorting out the confusion at the UK Border Agency.
Jamie Beagent from the Human Rights team at law firm Leigh Day & Co, said: "It is hard to see what difference this guidance can make as it does not change the law and simply exhorts the courts to continue doing what they have been doing all along. The irony is that it is the Government's own spin and readiness to accept tabloid myths that has led to this guidance... It is a waste of time and resources."
Mrs May announced that she will lay down new rules today that will prevent immigrants earning less than £18,600 to bring their families into the UK. The threshold is lower than originally planned, but the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants warned it would mean nearly half of applications would be rejected and some 15,000 families would be forced to live apart.
Chief executive Habib Rhaman said: "These measures are the actions of a vicious government. The cases we have been dealing with have some devastating stories – stories that Theresa May prefers to ignore."Reuse content