20. If she will bring forward proposals to amend the immigration rules to prevent misuse of article 8 of the European convention on human rights. (108046)
By this summer, we will have in place new immigration rules, which will help to end abuse of article 8. The Government are considering responses to the public consultation on changes to the family migration rules carried out last year, and expect to announce the results shortly. This will include changes relating to article 8.
The UK Border Agency recently reported that almost 4,000 foreign criminals are free to walk our streets. My Bromsgrove constituents know that it was the previous Labour Government who put the rights of criminals before the rights of ordinary law-abiding citizens. What steps does my right hon. Friend plan to take to start deporting these criminals?
My hon. Friend rightly raises an issue that causes considerable concern to members of the public. We have changed the way in which we deal with foreign national offenders. We now start deportation action 18 months before the end of the sentence, and in order to speed up the process we are chartering more flights to remove foreign offenders, but we are indeed having to make good a system that was of course put in place by the last Labour Government. When we deal with article 8, we will ensure that it provides less reason for people to claim that they need to remain here in the UK.
The abuse of article 8 undermines faith not only in our own criminal justice system but in human rights generally, as envisaged by the original British jurists who founded the convention in 1946. Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the Government will hold true to the Brighton declaration and make it clear that the sovereignty of our Parliament and our UK courts must be sacrosanct?
As my hon. Friend knows, we are making a number of efforts to ensure that the operation of the European convention in relation to the United Kingdom and the United Kingdom courts is as we believe it should be. That does indeed entail the decisions made at the Brighton conference concerning changes in the operation of the European Court of Human Rights. It also involves what we are doing to clarify the fact that article 8 is a qualified right and not an absolute right.
There is real concern in my constituency about appeals being lodged under article 8 allowing people to remain in the UK longer without leave to remain. Does my right hon. Friend agree that changes in article 8 will complement the Government’s changes to the family route of settlement policy, and will prevent further abuse of the system?
Yes. That is why the Government will be making changes in the family migration route along with their changes to article 8. Given that article 8 is about the right to a private and family life, the two are relevant to each other. What is crucial, however, is that article 8 is not an absolute right. It is qualified, and it allows the Government to operate a system under which people do not have an automatic right to stay here for the purposes of a family life. We want our courts to operate article 8 in the way in which it is written in the convention.
I listened carefully to what the Home Secretary said about changes that might be forthcoming. Does she believe that decisions should be made in a timely manner? My constituent Daniel Omonkhua was told by the UK Border Agency back in October 2010 that his article 8 application would be determined within a month. Why is he still waiting a year and a half later?