Immigration rules that have been in operation for four years had to be rushed from the Home Office to the House of Lords yesterday, in the hope of saving the system from collapse.
The emergency action was forced on the Home Secretary, Theresa May, after a unanimous ruling by Britain's most senior judges that the Labour government broke the law by changing the rules without first allowing Parliament to scrutinise them. They were officially presented to Parliament for the first time yesterday morning, though they have been in force since November 2008.
The case arose from an appeal by a Pakistani man, Hussein Zulfiiquar Alvi, who was granted a work permit in February 2005 to work as a physiotherapy assistant. By the time his permit had run out, in February 2009, the Home Secretary, Alan Johnson, had introduced a "points-based" system that disqualified immigrants in low-paid or unskilled work from remaining in the UK.
Mr Alvi's application to renew his permit was denied on the grounds that his job was insufficiently skilled, but his lawyers argued that the list of skilled occupations drawn up by the Home Office was not part of the Immigration Rules because it had never been laid before Parliament. The appeal was unanimously upheld by five Supreme Court judges.