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Primary Education News
News David Laws vetoes plan to force schools to check immigrant status of pupils
Liberal Democrat schools minister tells Michael Gove, the education secretary, the proposal is a 'non-flyer'
A proposal to require schools to check on the immigration status of their pupils has been shelved after the Liberal Democrat schools minister David Laws decided the idea would be bureaucratic and difficult to implement.
In a sign of the Lib Dems' determination to assert themselves in the coalition, Laws told the education secretary Michael Gove the proposal was a "non-flyer".
According to Whitehall emails leaked to the Guardian in March, Laws asked officials earlier this year to carry out a "cost-benefit analysis" of carrying out checks on the immigration status of pupils "as part of school admissions".
Laws, who was understood to be sceptical about the idea, ordered the analysis after officials warned ministers that Britain would be in breach of the UN convention on the rights of the child if it attempted to ban illegal immigrant children from schools.
The ideas were being considered as part of the work of a ministerial committee, chaired by the immigration minister Mark Harper, that has been charged with drawing up new restrictions on immigrants.
Downing Street wants these in place ahead of the lifting of labour market restrictions on workers from Romania and Bulgaria next January.
The Lib Dems are full members of the ministerial committee and are signed up to toughening immigration rules. But they believe the Tories, who are nervous about Ukip, need to be restrained at times.
One source said Laws has vetoed the school vetting proposal. "David decided that this idea would be extremely bureaucratic and difficult to implement," he said.
"It would end up placing a major burden on teachers. Michael Gove has agreed to that and the Department for Education has said this is not an idea that is going to fly."
John McDonnell, the Labour MP for Hayes and Harlington, told the Guardian in March – after examining the emails – that the immigration proposals were "scraping the barrel of morality".
In an email to David McVean, the deputy director of the Department for Education (DfE), one civil servant wrote: "The group has asked that DfE looks further at the feasibility of carrying out checks on migrant status as part of school admissions.
"David Laws has asked for a cost-benefit analysis of carrying out the checks. I think this needs to consider evidence of the extent of existing problems – Home Office have already provided some estimates for the number of illegal migrant children in English schools … [and] how migrant status information could be used.
"I think members of IMG [inter-ministerial group on migrants' access to benefits and public services] have agreed that there should not be a bar on illegal migrants going to school – David Laws certainly sees this as a red line."