Saturday News Review

Government’s immigration policy “chaos”

A temporary cap on the number of skilled workers from outside the EU allowed into the UK was introduced “unlawfully”, the High Court has ruled. Home Secretary Theresa May introduced the cap this summer as an interim measure ahead of a permanent cap. But a legal challenge to it was upheld with judges ruling that ministers had “sidestepped” Parliamentary scrutiny. The Home Office said this did not imperil its flagship immigration policy but Labour said it was in “chaos”. The BBC’s Home Affairs Correspondent Danny Shaw said the ruling was an embarrassment and a setback for the coalition but was not a fatal blow to its plan for a permanent cap on non-EU migration. – BBC

Critics say the ruling is important for British business as the current cap is damaging industry in the UK. The changes were deliberately intended to give the minister flexibility and the ability to change the numbers allowed in to work, without having to go before Parliament for scrutiny. Lord Justice Sullivan said: “The Secretary of State made no secret of her intentions. There can be no doubt that she was attempting to sidestep provisions for Parliamentary scrutiny set up under provisions of the 1971 Immigration Act, and her attempt was for that reason unlawful.” The changes introduced were substantive and should have been laid before Parliament, he said. – Press Association

Actress files dossier on hacking

The past week has seen several more twists in the Andy Coulson saga. Far from resolving the allegations surrounding the UK prime minister’s principal media adviser, they have only served to muddy the waters further… There remains a need for a deeper inquiry. An independent review of the police investigations would be a start. The Miller claim also raises questions about News International. Its executives have told a parliamentary committee that only one journalist was involved in the hacking. Ms Miller’s dossier casts doubt on this. Mr Coulson’s position is not untenable. It may be true that, as he claims, he was unaware of what his staff were up to. He made that claim again this week – under oath as a witness in the perjury trial of a former Scottish politician. But while the drip of claim and counter-claim continues, this affair cannot be put to rest. And without a resolution, it will continue to undermine Mr Coulson’s credibility and, by extension, that of the prime minister. – The FT

The document suggests that the hacking of the two actors was part of a wider scheme, hatched early in 2005, when Mulcaire agreed to use ”electronic intelligence and eavesdropping” to supply the paper with daily transcripts of the messages of a list of named targets from the worlds of politics, royalty and entertainment. The evidence explicitly contradicts the account of the News of the World and its former editor Andy Coulson, who is now chief media adviser to Prime Minister David Cameron. They claimed that Goodman was the only journalist involved in phone hacking. He and Mulcaire were jailed in 2007. The disclosure is embarrassing for Scotland Yard, which has held a large cache of evidence for more than four years but failed to investigate it. – Sydney Morning Herald

Cameron discourages Tories in Oldham East

The best tactic for beating Labour might seem to be for the Tories quietly to encourage their supporters to fall in behind Mr Watkins. However, his share of the vote fell in 2010. The reason the contest was so close was that a chunk of the Labour vote defected to the Tory, Kashif Ali. With the Lib Dems in trouble nationally, many of the Tories argue that Mr Ali is the more credible challenger. So they will not have been pleased to hear what David Cameron had to say yesterday: “The context of the by-election is that the MP elected at the election has been found in court to have told complete untruths about his opponent… In that context, we wish our partners well. They had an extremely tough time. All the unfairnesses and untruths about their candidate [Mr Watkins] – he’s now been exonerated. So of course I wish them well.” He did not sound like a leader intent on victory. – The Independent

The prime minister yesterday appeared to slacken Conservative resolve in the forthcoming Oldham East and Saddleworth byelection, doling out generous words for the Lib Dems’ election effort. Liberal Democrats have been canvassing hard in the constituency for the seven months since the general election victory there by Labour‘sPhil Woolas, which they immediately set about contesting. Nick Clegg’s party missed out on the seat by just 104 votes in May, but the result was declared void last month by an election court that found that Woolas had made false statements about his Lib Dem rival Elwyn Watkins. This week, the Liberal Democrats defied convention to call the date of the byelection, when it is usually the incumbent party who move the writ. – The Guardian

What a principled bunch

Nick Clegg’s position should be understood and forgiven. He is instinctively a conservative, and he should not be blamed for following his heart and head. It is the so-called progressives who have betrayed what they once insisted were their principles. A half-hearted revolt over student fees is not enough to salvage their reputation. Nor is Simon Hughes’s occasional grand-standing about coalition policies that he never actually opposes. No Lib Dem who was offered a place in the government declined to serve. No groups have been formed within the party to oppose the coalition in principle. Danny Alexander is the boy who stands on George Osborne’s burning deck and Vince Cable is the self-appointed captain of David Cameron’s praetorian guard. – The Guardian

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