Lewis Silkin, Malik Law and Landmark act as Supreme Court crushes UK immigration policy

The Supreme Court has told the Government that its current immigration practices are unlawful.

The UK’s highest court today handed down judgment in the case of Pakistani migrant Mr Alvi versus Home Secretary Theresa May, ruling that immigration restrictions based on jobs and salaries had not been laid before Parliament as they should.

Zane Malik of Malik Law Chambers Solicitors was instructed on behalf of Alvi, alongside interveners the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, which instructed Lewis Silkin deputy head of immigration Shahram Taghavi and counsel Richard Drabble QC and Charles Banner of Landmark Chambers to argue the appeal.

Taghavi said the verdict will have far-reaching consequences across all government policy and is likely to force an immediate revision and simplification of immigration law.

Treasury Solicitor Guy Higginson was instructed by May, with Jonathan Swift QC and Joanne Clement of 11KBW acting for the respondents.

The central argument was that parts of UK Borders Agency (UKBA) policies on corporate immigration were set out in governmental guidance rather than put before parliament – rendering them unlawful.

But the wider context, according to Taghavi, is the way the Government has “sub-delegated laws to external documents”, which it can then alter more easily to in effect change the law.

He said: “This is a very important stop signal to the Government. This is a point of immense constitutional importance.”

Taghavi said the UKBA will seek to lay down rules straight away to avoid overseeing a system with “no teeth”, but that it has acknowledged a need to simplify the system for the benefit of employers and businesses.

Alvi, a graduate physiotherapy assistant, had been granted leave to remain for six years until the work permit regime was replaced with a points-based immigration system in 2008 and his salary was deemed too low to satisfy the rules. This was later revised to say his job title was not of an adequate skill level.

Alvi launched a judicial review, arguing that the list of skilled occupations was not part of the immigration rules as the document had not been laid before parliament.

After the High Court dismissed his claim, the Court of Appeal allowed it and today the Supreme Court, led by deputy president Lord Hope, dismissed the Secretary of State’s appeal.

In its judgment, the court said: “Everything which is in the nature of a rule as to the practice to be followed in the administration of the act must be laid before parliament.

“It is acknowledged that the volume of material that will now have to be laid to give effect to the court’s judgment will impose a heavy burdern on parliament.”

Lord Walker said: “This is an important and difficult case touching on matters of deep and widespread public concern.”

Taghavi added: “Today’s ruling will have a profound impact upon the current corporate immigration system, and effectively represents a wholesale collapse of the legal framework for immigration policy in the UK.

“This decision will no doubt reverberate loudly and widely, given the sheer number of cases on related matters winding their way through the courts at present. Had the Home Office and Secretary of State elected to pursue changes to immigration in the proper way – through parliamentary review and scrutiny – it is clear that this chaotic situation could have been avoided.”

A Home Office spokesperson said in a statement: “We will act quickly to ensure the requirements of this judgment are met and that the necessary guidance is transferred into the Immigration Rules. Today’s judgment supports our ongoing work to simplify the immigration system and minimise legal challenge in future.”