Theresa May warns Boris Johnson his major immigration shake-up could be open to ‘abuse’

Posted On: 
16th October 2019

Theresa May has warned Boris Johnson that his plans for a new “points-based” immigration system after Brexit could be left open to “abuse”.

Theresa May spoke out in the Commons debate on the Queen's Speech.
Credit: 
House of Commons

The former prime minister - who served as home secretary for six years - called on her successor to “look very carefully” at the lessons she had learned from her own time in the job.

And she warned that plans outlined in this week’s Queen’s Speech to ramp up sentences for foreign national offenders who breach deportation orders could lead to a surge in prison numbers.

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The Queen’s Speech, which sets out the Government’s upcoming legislative programme, included a high-profile pledge to bring European freedom of movement to an end once Britain quits the EU.

And it vowed to bring in a “a fair, modern and global immigration system”, with ministers promising “a new points-based immigration system from 2021”.

But, speaking in the Commons debate on the Queen’s Speech, Mrs May said: “In 2010, when I became Home Secretary one of the challenges I faced was dealing with the abuse that had arisen in the immigration system, largely enabled by the Labour Party's points-based immigration system.

“So it's possible that the Home Office's best brains have come up with a very good scheme.

“But I would simply urge the Home Secretary and the Home Office to look very carefully at the lessons that have been learned in the past in relation to points-based system, which in themselves are not an answer to controlling immigration and can allow abuse to take place.”

'LOOK VERY CAREFULLY'

Monday also saw the Government unveil plans for a clampdown on foreign citizens who commit crimes in the UK.

A new ‘Foreign National Offenders Bill’ would, the Government said, boost the UK’s “ability to deal effectively with foreign national offenders”.

It would include plans to ramp up the maximum penalty for offenders who return to the UK having breached a deportation order.

Mrs May said it was “absolutely right” to focus on cases where offenders had been brought back to the UK after being deported - often “illegally by criminal gangs”.

But she warned that the plans could lead to more offenders ending in UK jails once Britain leaves the EU if proper prisoner transfer plans are not put in place.

“The result of the proposals will be that we will see, potentially, see more foreign national offenders in our prisons,” she said.

“The issue of dealing with foreign national offenders in our prisons is one that every Home Secretary is faced with when they come into office.

“And I would urge the Government alongside what they're doing to look at... seeing how we can most effectively remove foreign national offenders and also to ensuring that we have prisoner transfer schemes to replace… those that are avsailble to us within the European Union.”

The former prime minister also raised doubts following reports that the Government is considering allowing different regions of the UK to issue visas in a bid to address skills shortages.

The UK currently has a centralised immigration system, with targets set by the Home Office.

But the Australian system, seen as a model for Britain’s post-Brexit plans, allows regional flexibility.

Mrs May said she was “a little concerned about some references in the press to… what looked like regional visas - or the ability for somebody to be given a visa if they're going to work in a particular part of the country”.

And she told Home Secretary Priti Patel: “I would urge my right honourable friend to look very carefully at how that can operate logistically because it has some very real challenges."