Immigration rules need to be overhauled to make them clearer and fairer, the chair of the Law Society's immigration law committee has said, following MPs' calls for reform.

Sharmila Mehta, a consultant solicitor at Farrer & Co in London, welcomed the Commons home affairs committee's report, Immigration policy: building a consensus, which she hopes will 'remove the heat out of the conversation about what immigration means for the country'.

The report points out that governments have passed 11 immigration acts in the past 50 years and made regular amendments to the Immigration Rules with little parliamentary scrutiny or public consultation. 'This has led to many people, including immigration tribunal judges, to complain that the system has become far too complex,' the report states.

Colin Yeo, an immigration and asylum barrister at Garden Court Chambers, London, told the committee that the rules have become so complicated that it is hard to make a successful application without a lawyer. The report states that Yeo 'described the current situation as a "terrible way to run an immigration system". Not only does complexity hinder those who must engage with the system, it increases the challenge faced by officials tasked with making life-changing decisions.' 

Mehta said the report 'is an opportunity to think about how the rules should actually change, how they could be clearer and fairer. They're not transparent at the moment'. The report also 'refreshes how we view immigration on a national basis'. 

The committee recommends establishing an annual migration report setting out a three-year, rolling plan for migration. It would detail migration flows as well as the economic contribution from migration, measures taken to manage impacts and pressures, and action on skills, training and integration. The committee's report also calls for 'clearer and simpler' immigration rules, underpinned by values and principles.

Yvette Cooper MP, chair of the committee, said: 'The government has a responsibility to build consensus and confidence on immigration rather than allowing this to be a divisive debate. But that requires transformation in the way that immigration policy is made as too often the current approach has undermined trust in the system.'