Home Secretary targets landlords, banks and bosses in illegal immigration purge


The Home Secretary has announced a crackdown on illegal immigration and set out tough new measures to deport foreign criminals.

Amber Rudd laid out a three-stage plan to slash the numbers coming into Britain and announced a £140 million fund to help ease the strain on public services in places with high levels of immigration.

And she reissued the pledge to get immigration numbers down to the tens of thousands - but warned this "will not happen overnight".

In her first speech to the Conservative Party conference as Home Secretary, she told activists the vote to leave the EU was a "clear message" from the British people to tackle high immigration.

She said the Government will implement a three-pronged attack on illegal immigration by going after the landlords, employers and banks that allow them to function.

She said: "So today, I am announcing that from December, landlords that knowingly rent out property to people who have no right to be here will be committing a criminal offence. They could go to prison.

"Furthermore, from December, immigration checks will be a mandatory requirement for those wanting to get a licence to drive a taxi.

"And from next autumn, banks will have to do regular checks to ensure they are not providing essential banking services to illegal migrants.

"Money drives behaviour, and cutting off its supply will have an impact."

Ms Rudd laid out plans to cut migration into the UK and said ministers will launch a consultation on whether businesses and universities should face stringent new tests before they are allowed to recruit workers and students from overseas.

She said a "tick-box culture" has allowed some firms to get away with not training local people and that ministers will consider if new tests to "ensure people coming here are filling gaps in the labour market, not taking jobs British people could do" should be imposed.

And British universities that are not from the top tier may have to do more to justify why they are offering a place to a foreigner.

Ms Rudd said: "We will also look for the first time at whether our student immigration rules should be tailored to the quality of the course and the quality of the educational institution."

She warned that some foreign students are turning up to study in the UK without being able to speak English properly, while their families are allowed to work here.

"We need to look at whether this one-size-fits-all approach really is right for the hundreds of different universities, providing thousands of different courses across the country", the Home Secretary said.

"I'm passionately committed to making sure our world-leading institutions can attract the brightest and the best.

"But a student immigration system that treats every student and university as equal only punishes those we should want to help."

A number of measures to make it easier for Britain to deport foreign criminals were also set out.

Foreign criminals who repeatedly commit so-called minor crimes will be able to be booted out for the first time, and banned from coming back to Britain for five to 10 years.

Ms Rudd also announced a new £140 million Controlling Migration Fund designed to ease the pressures on public services in areas of high migration and tackle illegal immigration.

She said: "The fund will build on work we have done to support local authorities - to stop giving housing benefit to people that have no right to be in the country, to reduce rough sleeping by illegal immigrants, and to crack down on the rogue landlords who house illegal migrants in the most appalling conditions."

Summing up her strategy, Ms Rudd said she will get immigration down to sustainable levels by reducing numbers from the EU in the long term, reforming student and work routes into Britain in the middle term, and kicking out foreign criminals.

Labour shadow home secretary Andy Burnham MP criticised Ms Rudd for failing to do more to help reunite child refugees living in The Jungle camp in Calais with their families in Britain.

He said: "It sounded like the Prime Minister had a heavy hand in drafting the Home Secretary's speech. We've heard these conference promises on net migration and child migrants before and they haven't come to anything - people will take them with a pinch of salt. On Theresa May's watch, net migration reached record levels.

"Amber Rudd is right to introduce a scheme to help communities address the pressures of migration, as Jeremy Corbyn called for last week. But she had depressingly little to say about the largest humanitarian crisis since the Second World War and failed to repeat the commitment to taking a share of adult refugees.

"This morning the Prime Minister said that injustice makes her angry. But people will see a gap between the rhetoric and the Government's continued failure to support Birmingham families with legal costs, or ordering an inquiry into Orgreave.

"The Home Secretary's boasts of protecting the police will appear hollow after six years of budget cuts - axing thousands of officers and allowing knife and violent crime to rise.

"Some of the cast may have changed but the script is the same. Theresa May and her party still have no answers to the problems facing Britain."

Josh Hardie, CBI deputy director-general, criticised the proposed new restrictions on businesses recruiting foreign workers.

He said: "Following the EU referendum, we need an approach to migration that both supports the economy and deals with public concerns. In this regard, the Home Secretary's announcement on more funding to support public services in key areas of the country is welcome.

"But it is also time to be clear about the value of migration to the UK, as well as its challenges.

"Businesses will not welcome further restrictions on high-skilled migration from key trading partners around the world, especially as a series of changes were only announced earlier this year.

"At a time when we need strong links globally to seize new opportunities after the referendum, being seen as open to the best and brightest is vital. And we should be clear that business does not see immigration and training as an either-or choice. We need both.

"The UK's universities are a crown jewel in supporting innovation, growth and skills development. Many courses are sustained here in the UK because we can attract students and faculty from around the world.

"The Government must tread carefully on any changes to student immigration to make sure we don't undermine this critical sector for national prosperity."

Jonathan Bartley, co-leader of the Green Party, accused Ms Rudd of blaming migrants for problems caused by Government funding cuts.

He added: "Indeed all of the evidence suggests that the Government's planned crackdown on free movement in Europe will mean less money being available to spend on public services.

"The answer is not to penalise migrants."