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Theresa May seeks changes to use of human rights law over deportation


Home Secretary Theresa May today issued a warning to judges that 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 Parliament for new guidelines for the courts spelling out how the courts should apply the European Convention on Human Rights in such cases.

In particular, she said she would be making clear that the right to a family life enshrined in Article 8 of the convention - used by some foreign criminals to appeal against removal from the country - was not absolute.

She complained the judges were not taking account of the wider public interest in the way the convention enabled them to.

And she warned that if they ignored the will of Parliament, she would bring in new legislation to ensure that it was enforced.

“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 told BBC1's The Andrew Marr Show.

“What I am going to do is actually set out the rules that say this is what Parliament, this is what the public believe is how you balance the public interest against the individual's interest.

“We are going to ask Parliament to vote on this to say very clearly what constitutes the right to a family life.

“I would expect that judges will look at what Parliament will say and that they will take into account what Parliament has said. If they don't then we will have to look at other measures and that could include primary legislation.”

Mrs May also confirmed that the Government would be bringing in 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.

"I think it is important that if people are bringing people into the UK to create a family here in the UK that we say that you should be able to support yourselves and not be reliant on the state," Mrs May said.

In addition, she said that from next year migrants seeking to settle in the UK will have to pass a "Britishness" test.

"We will be requiring people to be able to speak English to a certain level, to be able to understand English, and also to do a 'Life in the UK' test so that we know that they are going to be able to integrate and become part of British society here," she said.

Mrs May said that the Home Office was also looking at contingency arrangements in case the the eurozone crisis triggered a flood of immigrants into Britain.

"So far we are not seeing any trends in any increased movements, despite obviously significant problems already economically in a number of eurozone countries," she said.

"But I think that it is right that, as a Government, across the board we look at the contingency arrangements that might be needed."