May raises questions over Queen’s Speech immigration and justice plans

By Josh Thomas, Elizabeth Arnold, Richard Wheeler and Sophie Morris, PA Political Staff

Theresa May has voiced concerns over Boris Johnson’s attempts to control immigration into the UK.

The former prime minister cautioned that points-based immigration systems alone are “not an answer to controlling immigration”, before urging Home Secretary Priti Patel to “look very carefully” at how regional visas can operate, noting there are some “very real challenges”.

Mrs May also said there were many pieces of legislation in the Queen’s Speech which will help improve people’s quality of life.

Former prime minister Theresa May speaks in the House of Commons during the Queen’s Speech debate (PA)

She added that those governing could have the “best headlines and the greatest oratory” but these would be of no use if they “don’t actually practically deliver for people”.

Her intervention came as debate on the Queen’s Speech, which includes the Immigration and Social Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill to end freedom of movement and introduce a points-based immigration system from 2021, entered its third day.

Conservative Mrs May said the Domestic Abuse Bill was an important piece of legislation, adding: “But there are many other Bills in this Queen’s Speech which will also help to improve people’s quality of life and which show that it’s the Conservatives that listen to people, but also recognise that actually it’s not about headlines – governing is about delivering practical solutions to the problems that people face day to day.

“You can have the best headlines and the greatest oratory and the most arresting phrases, but they are of no use if they don’t actually practically deliver for people, and that’s what this Government is about.”

Turning to immigration, Mrs May said one of the challenges she faced upon becoming home secretary in 2010 was abuse which had arisen in the immigration system, something she claimed was “largely enabled” by Labour’s “points-based immigration system”.

She said: “So, it is possible that the Home Office has come up, the best brains have come up, with the best scheme, but I would simply urge the Home Secretary and the Home Office to look very carefully at the lessons which have been learned in the past in relation to points-based systems which, in themselves, are not an answer to controlling immigration and can allow abuse to take place.”

Mrs May also said she fears Government proposals will potentially see more foreign national offenders in UK prisons.

She said: “On the question of foreign national offenders, it is absolutely right to look at those cases where foreign national offenders, having been deported, are then brought back into the country, often by illegal criminal gangs.”

She added: “The issue I have though, is that the result of the proposals will be that we will see more, potentially see more foreign national offenders in our prisons.

“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 are doing, to look at making sure, seeing how we can most effectively remove foreign national offenders, and also at ensuring that we have prisoner transfer schemes to replace those once we have left the EU, to replace those that are available to us within the European Union.”

Mrs May then raised concerns about the possibility of “regional visas” being given to people wanting to work in a particular part of the country.

She said: “I would urge my right honourable friend to look very carefully at how that can operate logistically, because it has some very real challenges.”

She told the Commons the issue has been rejected in the past by the Independent Migration Advisory Committee.

Mrs May welcomed the Police Protections Bill but said measures to protect police drivers involved in accidents while chasing criminals had been intended to be part of a wider Bill introducing sentencing reforms for dangerous driving.

Theresa May urged Home Secretary Priti Patel to ‘look very carefully’ at regional visas (Jacob King/PA)

She said: “I am disappointed that those reforms are not in the Queen’s Speech.”

Mrs May urged the Ministry of Justice to look at ensuring these reforms are introduced to “give some comfort” to parents who have lost children as a result of dangerous driving.

Earlier, Conservative former minister John Hayes said people were excited to see Ms Patel as Home Secretary and added: “Because at last we have a Home Secretary who is not an apologist, but believes as my constituents do that people who cause mayhem and misery should be caught, convicted and locked up for a very long time.”

Mrs May, sat across from Mr Hayes, turned to him and looked to express her disagreement with his comments.

For the SNP, Alison Thewliss warned the prospects for restricting immigration are “absolutely grim” and said they are an “existential threat to Scotland’s public services” as well as to businesses.

She said: “(Mrs May) very interestingly pointed out the myth of the points-based immigration system, and I’m glad that she did, because it was taken from a piece by Fergus Peace in the i (newspaper) earlier this month, which points out that we already have a points-based system to an extent that’s already harsher and less flexible than the one in Australia.

“And there are significant problems with the UK’s immigration system – it is arbitrary, it is damaging, the hostile environment leaves people in tears in my surgeries week in and week out.”

Ms Thewliss went on to brand the Government a “bunch of chumps”.