All 24 contributions to the Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Act 2020 (Ministerial Extracts Only)

Read Full Bill Debate Texts

Mon 18th May 2020
Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill
Commons Chamber

2nd reading & 2nd reading & 2nd reading: House of Commons & Money resolution & Money resolution: House of Commons & Programme motion & Programme motion: House of Commons & Ways and Means resolution & Ways and Means resolution: House of Commons & 2nd reading & Programme motion & Money resolution & Ways and Means resolution
Tue 9th Jun 2020
Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill (First sitting)
Public Bill Committees

Committee stage: 1st sitting & Committee Debate: 1st sitting: House of Commons
Tue 9th Jun 2020
Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill (Second sitting)
Public Bill Committees

Committee stage: 2nd sitting & Committee Debate: 2nd sitting: House of Commons
Thu 11th Jun 2020
Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill (Fourth sitting)
Public Bill Committees

Committee stage: 4th sitting & Committee Debate: 4th sitting: House of Commons
Thu 11th Jun 2020
Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill (Third sitting)
Public Bill Committees

Committee stage: 3rd sitting & Committee Debate: 3rd sitting: House of Commons
Tue 16th Jun 2020
Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill (Fifth sitting)
Public Bill Committees

Committee stage: 5th sitting & Committee Debate: 5th sitting: House of Commons
Tue 16th Jun 2020
Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill (Sixth sitting)
Public Bill Committees

Committee stage: 6th sitting & Committee Debate: 6th sitting: House of Commons
Thu 18th Jun 2020
Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill (Seventh sitting)
Public Bill Committees

Committee stage: 7th sitting & Committee Debate: 7th sitting: House of Commons
Thu 18th Jun 2020
Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill (Eighth sitting)
Public Bill Committees

Committee stage: 8th sitting & Committee Debate: 8th sitting: House of Commons
Tue 30th Jun 2020
Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill
Commons Chamber

Report stage & Report stage & Report stage: House of Commons & Report stage
Wed 22nd Jul 2020
Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill
Lords Chamber

2nd reading (Hansard) & 2nd reading (Hansard) & 2nd reading (Hansard): House of Lords & 2nd reading
Mon 7th Sep 2020
Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage & Committee stage:Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Wed 9th Sep 2020
Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage:Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Mon 14th Sep 2020
Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage:Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Wed 16th Sep 2020
Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage:Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Wed 30th Sep 2020
Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill
Lords Chamber

Report stage & Report stage:Report: 1st sitting & Report stage (Hansard): House of Lords & Report: 1st sitting & Report: 1st sitting: House of Lords
Mon 5th Oct 2020
Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill
Lords Chamber

Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Report stage:Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Mon 5th Oct 2020
Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill
Lords Chamber

Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard - continued) & Report stage:Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard continued) & Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard - continued) & Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard - continued): House of Lords
Tue 6th Oct 2020
Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill
Lords Chamber

Report stage:Report: 3rd sitting (Hansard) & Report: 3rd sitting (Hansard) & Report: 3rd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Mon 12th Oct 2020
Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill
Lords Chamber

3rd reading & 3rd reading (Hansard) & 3rd reading (Hansard) & 3rd reading (Hansard): House of Lords
Mon 19th Oct 2020
Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill
Commons Chamber

Consideration of Lords amendmentsPing Pong & Consideration of Lords amendments & Ping Pong & Ping Pong: House of Commons
Wed 21st Oct 2020
Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill
Lords Chamber

Consideration of Commons amendmentsPing Pong (Hansard) & Consideration of Commons amendments & Ping Pong (Hansard) & Ping Pong (Hansard): House of Lords
Wed 4th Nov 2020
Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill
Commons Chamber

Consideration of Lords amendmentsPing Pong & Consideration of Lords amendments
Mon 9th Nov 2020
Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill
Lords Chamber

Consideration of Commons amendmentsPing Pong (Hansard) & Consideration of Commons amendments

Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill

(Limited Text - Ministerial Extracts only)

Read Full debate
2nd reading & 2nd reading: House of Commons & Money resolution & Money resolution: House of Commons & Programme motion & Programme motion: House of Commons & Ways and Means resolution & Ways and Means resolution: House of Commons
Monday 18th May 2020

(4 years, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Act 2020 Read Hansard Text

This text is a record of ministerial contributions to a debate held as part of the Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Act 2020 passage through Parliament.

In 1993, the House of Lords Pepper vs. Hart decision provided that statements made by Government Ministers may be taken as illustrative of legislative intent as to the interpretation of law.

This extract highlights statements made by Government Ministers along with contextual remarks by other members. The full debate can be read here

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

Priti Patel Portrait The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Priti Patel)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

We meet here today in extraordinary circumstances. Our way of life has changed beyond anything we could have imagined just a few months ago. The British people are making extraordinary sacrifices as we pull together to combat this deadly pandemic. Coronavirus is the biggest crisis this nation has faced in my lifetime, and we must do everything in our power to control the virus as we reopen society and support the United Kingdom’s recovery. Our national recovery will reflect many new norms, including how we look to the future as a confident, outward-facing, global Britain, open to the world now that we have left the EU.

The Bill will play a vital role in our future recovery plans. It will end free movement and pave the way for our new points-based immigration system: a firmer, fairer and simpler system that will attract the people we need to drive our country forward through the recovery stage of coronavirus, laying the foundation for a high-wage, high-skill, productive economy; a system that works in the interests of the British people, allowing us to attract the very best talent from right around the globe; a system that will revolutionise the operation of the UK border, tightening security and keeping criminals out while also making the experience of coming to the UK transparent, smoother and simpler; a system that, for the first time in decades, allows us, as an open and democratic country, to set our own controls and to count people in and out; a system that will attract the most talented people from around the world to boost our economy and support our public services to rebuild and thrive, including our outstanding NHS.

Since publishing the details of the new points-based system in February, our world has undoubtedly changed, but what has not changed is the Government’s unwavering support for our NHS and its incredible professional staff. They are the very best of Britain. That is why we are introducing a new fast-track NHS visa, to prioritise the qualified staff needed to provide high-quality and compassionate professional care. During these exceptional times, it is right that policies that affect our NHS workers are kept under review, including the immigration health surcharge. That is why I recently announced a free automatic one-year visa extension for those with six months or less left to stay on their visas. Our EU settlement scheme enables EU citizens who made our country their home to continue to build their lives here, including those working in the NHS.

As Britain fight back against coronavirus, controlling the virus to save lives remains the Government’s top priority, but it is also our duty to continue to serve the public by delivering on the people’s priorities so that when these darker days are behind us, we can focus on building a brighter future—a brighter future for people in cities, towns and villages across all four nations—and, as we have promised, on levelling up right across the country, especially in those areas that have been left behind in economic renewal in the past and communities that placed their trust in us back in December last year.

It is almost four years since the British people voted for independence from the European Union. This Government have already delivered that sovereignty, and we have been clear that there will be no extension to the transition period with the EU. We promised the British people that we would end free movement, take back control of our borders and restore trust in the immigration system. This Bill delivers on that.

The story of immigration in the UK is woven into our national fabric. It is at the core of our national character and has defined many traditions and characteristics of our country. It is a testament to British society that, notwithstanding the past struggles of race, ethnicity and class, today in this very House so many descendants of migrants are now representing every region of the United Kingdom. Equally, our national fabric continues to be enriched by EU citizens who have made the UK their home. From day one, despite scaremongering from those in the Labour party, we have been clear: we say to EU citizens in the UK—to all of them—“We want you to stay”.

Our successful EU settlement scheme has now seen over 3.5 million applications, with over 1.3 million concluded. This is a fantastic example of a digital and data-led project delivering real results, despite many of those who have sought deliberately to campaign against the scheme and undermine public trust and confidence in protecting the rights of EU citizens in the UK.

This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reform our immigration system, and we are determined to get it right. Through our extensive engagement programme, we have consulted the British people, business leaders, employers, civic groups, local government, academia and specialist organisations such as those working with vulnerable migrants. Our proposal to lift the cap on skilled workers has been supported by the CBI. The decision to widen the threshold for skilled workers has been welcomed by the Construction Industry Training Board, and the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry has spoken favourably about the plans for the salary threshold.

This responsive, people’s Government have listened to the evidence and designed an immigration system that meets the needs of our businesses, our economy and our country. To ensure that it works from the start, our extensive engagement programme continues. We are working with employers to make it a success for them. We are supporting them every step of the way to ensure that their economic needs and business needs are supported, so people know that global Britain is open for business. The Government will work with employers to develop a UK-wide labour market strategy, enabling businesses to move away from their reliance on the immigration system as an alternative to investing in the domestic labour market, and encouraging employers to invest in people, their skills and development, leading to an economy that is fit for the future, with higher productivity and wider investment in technology and skills.

The current crisis has shone a light on how we value those who provide compassionate care across health and social care. The Government’s long-term solution for social care is focused on investing in those who deliver that compassionate and high-quality care. An additional £1.5 billion has already been allocated for adult and children’s social care in this financial year, and the Government are working with the sector on a plan for the long-term recruitment, investment and training of those who are dedicating their careers to care. As the Migration Advisory Committee identified in its own report published earlier this year, the immigration system is not the sole solution to the employment issues in the social care sector.

I will now set out for hon. Members exactly what this Bill does. First and foremost, the purpose of this Bill is to end free movement. From 1 January 2021, all EU and non-EU citizens will be treated equally. The Bill repeals all EU immigration legislation retained under the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, as amended by the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020. This means that European economic area citizens, including EU and European Free Trade Association citizens, and their family members will become subject to UK immigration law, and they will require the same permission to enter and remain in this country as people from the rest of the world—levelling the playing field and giving everybody the same opportunity to come to the UK regardless of which countries they come from.

--- Later in debate ---
Kevin Foster Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Kevin Foster)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is a pleasure to formally welcome the new shadow immigration Minister to her post; I have not had the chance to do so before at the Dispatch Box.

The breadth of views expressed by Members today clearly demonstrates how important an issue this is, not only to our constituents but personally. Given the unusual circumstances in which we meet, I will not have time to give a detailed response to each point raised, but will seek to respond to the broad themes that have been brought out in the debate.

The Bill is before the House not only to deliver on our manifesto pledges, but to lay the framework for our new immigration system, which will be fairer because we will treat people from every part of the world equally, while respecting our historic links with Ireland and the Belfast agreement, and firmer, because we will have control of our own borders from 1 January and all migration policy will be in the hands of this Parliament. It will be skills led, because the system will be based on the skills, talents and qualifications that people can bring to this country, not two radically different systems based on where someone’s passport comes from.

Let us be clear: this is a framework Bill, not an immigration shopping list. In response to some comments, especially from those who wish to build an economic version of Hadrian’s wall, I emphasise that this Bill sets up the framework for a single, global points-based migration system, with the rights of Irish citizens protected and ensuring the ability of Ministers to respond to any agreement on social security co-ordination.

The detail of our migration rules will continue to be set in secondary legislation, to ensure that they remain flexible and able to respond to changing situations but always based on the key policy principles I have outlined. The reaction to the coronavirus emergency shows why that is necessary. Imagine our having to pass primary legislation to amend visa end dates, automatically renew NHS workers’ visas, grant waivers to in-country route-swapping conditions or allow tier 4 sponsors to move courses online. Hence this Bill, in common with those on this subject that came before it, does not replicate the immigration rules in statutory form, and neither should the House regret its not doing so.

We have already moved to create the first part of our new migration system with the creation of our global talent route. I saw at first hand at Glasgow University what this could result in and the strong offer it presents, clearing the path for some of humanity’s most complex problems, such as the fight against malaria, to be solved by teams recruited on a global basis and based here in our United Kingdom. The new graduate route, which will be introduced next summer, will help to retain some of the brightest minds coming out of our universities, giving a simple path to future residence and settlement. As our universities see an increasing number of international students arrive to study here, we know that more will be inspired to make their life and career in vibrant locations such as Glasgow, Belfast, Exeter, Cardiff and Coventry. Our immigration system should allow them to do so.

I hear the frustrations of those who see our migration and humanitarian protection system being abused by those who engage in human trafficking—as highlighted well by my hon. Friends the Members for Dover (Mrs Elphicke) and for Hastings and Rye (Sally-Ann Hart) —and the risks being run by those using small boats to cross the channel. A key part of ensuring a fairer system is to tackle that type of behaviour. My hon. Friend the Minister for Immigration Compliance and the Courts is leading work on that, which is benefiting from the input of my hon. Friends.

The Migration Advisory Committee report earlier this year provided a strong and evidence-based view for our future points-based migration system. We accepted its key recommendations: a reduction in the general salary threshold for the key skilled worker visa from £30,000 to £25,600; moving the skills threshold from degree to A-level, to ensure that we include those with significant skills levels, such as senior carers; and tradable points, with a salary floor of £20,480 for jobs on the shortage occupation list or where significant potential is shown by holding a relevant STEM-based PhD. We are working hard to bring the new system into effect, and I thank the teams in the Home Office who have continued doing this in the extraordinary circumstances we have found ourselves in over recent weeks.

We will continue to work closely with the Migration Advisory Committee and its interim chair, Professor Brian Bell. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has already commissioned the Migration Advisory Committee to advise on the future shortage occupation list. Its call for evidence has now been issued, and that will provide an opportunity to look at the skills needs of a range of sectors that Members have highlighted today. I encourage all businesses to take part and have their voice heard; no one should allow themselves to be silenced. Several Members have been keen to highlight groups with whom I can speak about this. For example, I look forward to a video conference with seafood businesses in north-east Scotland arranged by my hon. Friend the Member for Banff and Buchan (David Duguid). I know he shares my passion for ensuring that the new migration system serves our whole Union and the skills needs of Scottish businesses, rather than the political aims of Scotland’s separatists.

Talking of serving the needs of our nation, no organisation has done that more than our NHS and social care services over recent weeks. Our new system will not just allow but actively welcome a range of health professionals to the United Kingdom. This will be via not only the points-based system being based on national salary scales for roles such as doctors, nurses and physiotherapists, but an NHS visa, which includes discounted fees and fast-track application processes for those with a job offer from our NHS or for those providing services to it. This process will build on the dedicated team that the Home Secretary has already established in UKVI to process applications from those with NHS job offers. Our social care sector will benefit from simpler processes to recruit qualified medical staff and key roles such as senior carers on a global basis.

One area that has been regularly queried in the debate is our acceptance of the MAC’s recommendation that there should be no general route for employers to seek to employ temporary or permanent employees on the legal minimum wage with limited training and no requirement to speak a basic level of English. I gently say to Members that if the lesson they have taken from the events of the last two months is that paying the legal minimum to those working in social care who migrate to the UK from low-pay economies is the right approach, they have drawn the wrong conclusion. Similarly, those who think that the migration system is the go-to option for recruitment issues in social care, rather than creating career paths and increasing the value of such roles, should read the MAC’s specific rejection of this.

No one can deny the economic impact that the measures necessary to deal with the coronavirus will have. Many of our friends and neighbours will need to find new employment opportunities, and it is therefore vital that our migration system aligns with this goal, rather than providing an alternative to it. I have welcomed speaking to my hon. Friend the employment Minister about how we can ensure that our goals align and that those seeing migration as their first port of call are instead steered to the efforts being made to get UK-based workers back into employment and to the Disability Confident scheme, which helps to get unique talents into the workplace. There will still be some flexibility. For example, there is provision for the further expansion of our youth mobility schemes, through which 20,000 young people come to the UK for a period of work and travel each year, along with the adult dependants of those who come as skilled workers, who can also access the employment market. However, we will not create a minimum wage general migration route.

Alongside creating our new points-based global migration system, we are also taking the chance to work on a long overdue simplification of the immigration rules. I am grateful to the Law Commission for its thoughts on this area of work, and we will take most of them forward as we create the new system. Many will not be headline-grabbers but changes that will make it easier for those who need to use our immigration system to both understand the requirements and to comply with them. This will sit alongside moves such as the abolition of the resident labour market test, which will make it easier for employers to recruit skilled labour, and will remove some of the bureaucracy and time associated with doing so.

Finally, it was predictable that some would use this debate to re-fight the battles of Brexit, despite the clear result in the recent general election. The Bill delivers one of the key commitments that the Government made: a single global migration system. However, we are also delivering on our pledge to protect those who have moved here and made their life here in good faith under the current arrangements. The European settlement scheme is the largest documentation of immigration status in UK history. More than 3.5 million applications have been received, with more than 3 million decisions made, and only a tiny number of refusals by comparison. I am afraid that those calling for systems where rights are granted but not recorded do not seem to have learned the lessons of the past. The European settlement scheme means those entitled can prove their status easily for the rest of their lifetimes, while also ensuring that those who arrive in years to come cannot abuse the scheme’s provisions.

We recognise that immigration is vital to the social, cultural and economic life of this country. The new system will aim to create global equality of opportunity, giving everyone the same chance to live and work in this country. The Bill is the first step in ending free movement, establishing a fair and equal immigration system and upholding the scientific and commercial excellence of our country. Above all, it will help us to build a better future for this country and its people as we rebuild after the impact of covid-19. I therefore commend the Bill to the House.

Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Before I put the Question, I confirm that my final determination is that the Question on Second Reading should be decided by remote Division. There is therefore no need for me to collect the voices, or for those present in the Chamber to shout Aye or No.

Question put, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

The House proceeded to a remote Division.

--- Later in debate ---

Division 46

Ayes: 351


Conservative: 343
Democratic Unionist Party: 8

Noes: 252


Labour: 188
Scottish National Party: 47
Liberal Democrat: 10
Plaid Cymru: 4
Social Democratic & Labour Party: 2
Alliance: 1
Independent: 1
Green Party: 1

Bill read a Second time.

Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill (First sitting)

(Limited Text - Ministerial Extracts only)

Read Full debate
Committee stage & Committee Debate: 1st sitting: House of Commons
Tuesday 9th June 2020

(4 years, 1 month ago)

Public Bill Committees
Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Act 2020 Read Hansard Text Amendment Paper: Public Bill Committee Amendments as at 9 June 2020 - (9 Jun 2020)

This text is a record of ministerial contributions to a debate held as part of the Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Act 2020 passage through Parliament.

In 1993, the House of Lords Pepper vs. Hart decision provided that statements made by Government Ministers may be taken as illustrative of legislative intent as to the interpretation of law.

This extract highlights statements made by Government Ministers along with contextual remarks by other members. The full debate can be read here

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

Before we begin, I have a few preliminary points. Members should switch off any electronic devices or switch them to silent. As in all Bill Committees, tea and coffee are not allowed during sittings. Obviously, I must stress the importance of social distancing in the Committee Room. I will suspend proceedings if at any point I am not satisfied that advice on public health is being observed.

The Hansard reporters would be most grateful if Members could email any electronic copies of their speaking notes to hochansardnotes@parliament.uk.

We will first consider the programme motion. We will then consider a motion to enable the reporting of written evidence for publication and a motion to allow us to deliberate in private about our questions before the evidence session. If there are any questions about our unusual procedure because of social distancing during that session, we can deal with them then. In view of the limited time available, I hope we can take these matters without too much debate. At 11 o’clock, there will be a minute’s silence in memory of the death of George Floyd.

I call the Minister to move the programme motion, which was agreed at the Programming Sub-Committee yesterday.

Kevin Foster Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Kevin Foster)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I beg to move,

That—

(1) the Committee shall (in addition to its first meeting at 9.25am on Tuesday 9 June meet—

(a) at 2.00pm on Tuesday 9 June;

(b) at 11.30am and 2.00pm on Thursday 11 June;

(c) at 9.25am and 2.00pm on Tuesday 16 June;

(d) at 11.30am and 2.00pm on Thursday 18 June;

(e) at 9.25am and 2.00pm on Tuesday 23 June;

(2) the Committee shall hear oral evidence in accordance with the following Table:

Date

Time

Witness

Tuesday 9 June

Until no later than 10.20am

Federation of Small Businesses;

London Chamber of Commerce and Industry

Tuesday 9 June

Until no later than 10.50am

The Confederation of British Industry;

Make UK

Tuesday 9 June

Until no later than 11.25am

The Migration Advisory Committee

Tuesday 9 June

Until no later than 2.40pm

British in Europe;

Professor Bernard Ryan

Tuesday 9 June

Until no later than 3.20pm

British Future;

Policy Exchange

Tuesday 9 June

Until no later than 4.00pm

Detention Action; Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association

Tuesday 9 June

Until no later than 4.30pm

the3million;

The Children’s Society

Tuesday 9 June

Until no later than 5.00pm

Fragomen LLP;

No.5 Barristers’ Chambers



(3) proceedings on consideration of the Bill in Committee shall be taken in the following order: Clause 1, Schedule 1, Clauses 2 to 5, Schedules 2 and 3, Clauses 6 to 9, New Clauses, New Schedules, remaining proceedings on the Bill;

(4) the proceedings shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at 5.00pm on Thursday 25 June.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Stringer. I welcome my shadows, the hon. Members for Halifax and for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East, to the Committee.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That, subject to the discretion of the Chair, any written evidence received by the Committee shall be reported to the House for publication.—(Kevin Foster.)

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

Copies of written evidence that the Committee receives will be made available in the Committee Room.

Resolved,

That, at this and any subsequent meeting at which oral evidence is to be heard, the Committee shall sit in private until the witnesses are admitted.—(Kevin Foster.)

--- Later in debate ---
None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

Thank you. Richard Burge, please introduce yourself.

Richard Burge: Thank you very much. My name is Richard Burge. I am the chief executive—fairly recent—of the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Martin McTague: I am Martin McTague. I am the chair of policy and advocacy for the FSB in the UK.

Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q I will start with a slightly more open question to the two witnesses. How do you see small businesses adapting to the new system that we have proposed?

Richard Burge: With difficulty. The obvious difficulty they have is that they are surrounded by chaos at the moment. Many small businesses have furloughed a large number of members of staff, or they are operating on their own. They have only so much bandwidth, so this will be hard work for them, particularly as they do not know what the rules will be. If they employ EU citizens, their concern is that they will now be introduced to the world of having to register themselves and get themselves licensed, which, like customs documentation, is a completely new world for them, and they have six months to do it.

Martin McTague: Sorry, I could not hear that question very well. Could you repeat it? You are very echoey and quite distant.

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

Just before you do, Minister, it would be helpful if when asking questions, Members said who they were directing the question to.

Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Certainly, Mr Stringer. The question was an open one, directed at both witnesses, and it was basically about how they see small businesses adapting to the proposed new immigration system.

Martin McTague: I just about got that; I think it was a question about small businesses’ experience of immigration. The reality is that 95% of small businesses have absolutely no experience of dealing with any kind of visa system, and the system has been largely designed for larger businesses with reasonably sophisticated HR resources. We have found that the biggest concentration of issues is to do with mid-skilled occupations; in other words, the debate tends to be very binary. It either refers to high-skilled and very sophisticated employment requirements or completely low-skilled ones, but there are a lot of mid-skilled positions that fall within the £20,000 to £30,000 bracket, and those are the ones that cause the most problems for small businesses in the UK.

Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q I would like to ask two follow-up questions, one to each witness, if that is acceptable. My first question is to Mr McTague, given what he has just said about mid-skilled workers being a particular issue. Does he see the skill level of skilled workers’ being changed to RQF3—that is, A-levels—as helping to address that issue?

Martin McTague: I assume that was to me, was it?

Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My question to Mr Burgh is about the fact that he talked about the process of sponsorship and becoming licensed. He may be aware that the Home Office is looking to streamline that system. Is there a particular change, or changes, he thinks we could make to the sponsorship licensing system that would help address some of the concerns he outlined?

Martin McTague: [Inaudible] it is welcome. It is a change that we were keen to see, and there has been a welcome change in the Government’s approach.

Richard Burge: To add to that, first of all, I have great admiration for the Home Office team working on this. I have worked for Matthew Rycroft before, in the Foreign Office, and he is one of the most talented managers in the public service. I think umbrella licensing is a good idea: it has good precedents, and it would create a huge relief for small businesses if they felt they could go to an organisation that had the ability to provide umbrella licensing. It would provide reassurance to the Home Office and a workable solution for small businesses, and we would be happy to be part of that process.

Holly Lynch Portrait Holly Lynch (Halifax) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q As free movement comes to an end with this Bill and we transition to the minimum income requirement of £25,600, how have your members responded to that minimum income threshold?

Richard Burge: In two ways. One is relief that the threshold was lowered; it is now a much more realistic threshold. I have to say, though, that it is going to be a lot more workable within London than it is for my colleagues who run chambers in other parts of the country. A threshold of £25,600 is quite high in different parts of the UK, given the wage levels there, so while I think it is workable in London—not ideal, but workable—I also think we concentrate on income too much as an indicator of value, rather than skills, and that in parts of the country, the threshold is still probably too high.

--- Later in debate ---
None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

Good morning, Mr Fell. The Bill Committee will now hear your oral evidence. I am sorry about the technical hitches; you will be on your own, not with Make UK.

Thank you very much for agreeing to give evidence today. If you would like to briefly introduce yourself, we can move straight to questions. We have about 10 minutes.

Matthew Fell: I am Matthew Fell, chief policy director at the CBI.

Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q I will ask one question, because of constraints of time. How do you see your members working with the proposed new migration system?

Matthew Fell: I think our members completely understand that free movement of people is ending. Business gets that, and it is ready to phase into a new immigration system. I think, with the proposed approach of a points-based system, it is entirely possible to design a system that works for business. There are many positives in it so far—the headline salary threshold changes that have been announced and the commitment to streamline and improve the system are all positives—but I would say that there are perhaps three areas of concern for our members at the moment.

One concern is the absence of any route at all below level 3, which will prove challenging for the care, hospitality and logistics sectors and so on. The second, from the Government’s perspective, is introducing this with a phased approach; I can perfectly see where they are coming from, but it means that business will be left with a reasonably cumbersome system from the off, with a promise of improvements to come. The third is that we are getting very close to the deadline for the system being introduced, and business is still looking for further clarity, time to prepare and assurances that the system will be ready in time. Those are the concerns, against a backdrop of an effort to really make this work and lean into it.

Holly Lynch Portrait Holly Lynch (Halifax) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Bearing in mind what you have just said, what are the things that you would really like changed about the Bill? Alternatively, what would the Government need to do to support you to manage the impact that it will have on your businesses?

Matthew Fell: There are a few things that we would like to see in the proposed new immigration system. We believe that a temporary route for people to come and work in this country would be a helpful addition to the system as it is currently set up.

Secondly, I would say to accelerate efforts to streamline the proposed approach. The vast majority of businesses have never previously had to engage with the visa system; something like only 30,000 businesses in the country have grappled with it so far, because we have lived and worked with free movement of people for so long. It will be a big change, so I would say to accelerate the changes to streamline and improve the system, reduce red tape and so on.

The final piece, just to reiterate, is to accelerate efforts to get clarity and detail out there and known to businesses as soon as possible, so they can begin to familiarise themselves, prepare and get ready.

--- Later in debate ---
None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

Welcome to the Committee. I apologise for the difficulties we had before. You will be on your own. First, can you introduce yourself to the Committee for the record, and then I will ask the Minister to ask you a question?

Tim Thomas: My name is Tim Thomas. I work for Make UK, the manufacturers’ organisation. I am Make UK’s director of employment and skills policy, so I cover all work-related issues and a few political issues, including immigration policy.

Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Mr Thomas, how do you see the manufacturing sector working with the proposed new migration system?

Tim Thomas: Sorry, could you just repeat that? It was a bit echoey. Apologies for the line.

Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I will say it slowly; it will sound weird. How do you see the manufacturing sector working with the new system?

Tim Thomas: In terms of how the manufacturing sector will work with the new system, it will be a considerable challenge to cope with the end of free movement. Around 95% of our members employ an EU worker and about 5% employ a non-EU worker, so the majority of Make UK members do not currently interface with the tier 2 non-EU migration system. There will be a considerable change for manufacturers’ recruitment practices with the implementation of the points system.

It is fair to say that the changes to the proposed points-based system for manufacturers will ease the route. The reduction in the qualification level from level 6 to level 3 and the reduction in the salary threshold will make things easier for manufacturers than they would be. However, manufacturing is a global business; about half of manufacturing exports go to the European Union, and they cannot export their British-manufactured goods to the EU without an exchange of people. People, and the cross-fertilisation of people between the UK and the EU, go hand in hand with trade in manufactured goods. There is a strong connection with the EU and global trade in the manufacturing sector, and the ability to recruit people from outside the UK is vital to that trade.

Holly Lynch Portrait Holly Lynch
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q As free movement comes to an end, Mr Thomas, how satisfied are you that the Migration Advisory Committee and the shortage occupation list understand the requirements of the manufacturing sector and are able both to respond to potential shortages in skills and to understand the variety in salaries paid in your sector?

Tim Thomas: At Make UK, we have responded over several years to calls for evidence from the Migration Advisory Committee, and we are preparing our response to the current call for evidence. If I may make one point before I come to your question, the call for evidence from the MAC has a very short window for Make UK and other organisations to respond. That is because the points-based system is being implemented on a very truncated timeline. In gathering the evidence for the MAC, Make UK and other organisations face a stiff challenge in ensuring that our response is evidence-based and provides a realistic forward look at the manufacturing sector and the jobs we will need in the future.

As for how realistic the MAC can be in its work and how realistic we can be, covid-19, the changes to the manufacturing sector and the difficulties it is in have presented a challenge in showing the MAC the true state of what occupations are in shortage in our sector at the moment. The manufacturing sector systemically suffers from long-term skills shortages—we are no different from any other western European economy in that regard—and that is not because manufacturers do not train. About 75% of manufacturers have apprenticeship programmes, and Make UK is an apprenticeship provider. We are investing in training the next generation of talent, but the fact is that there are certain skills, including digital skills, that are not available in the UK, and we need them to make sure the manufacturing sector is internationally competitive and productive. In terms of the work of the MAC, it needs to take a realistic view of what the UK labour market can provide, given those skills shortages and how long it will take it to adjust at the end of free movement, given that those skills can be brought in through the points-based system.

There are some key elements of the manufacturing sector for which workers tend to come from the European Union. One is new green technology. We all support the move away from an economy in which electricity generation is carbon-based, towards clean energy. Clean energy is something that our members are investing large amounts of resource in. A lot of those skills, simply because the technology has been deployed for longer in the European Union, exist in, for example, Germany and Denmark to a greater extent than they exist in the UK. Accessing those green skills—those environmentally friendly skills—and that new technology is something that most people would support. We just need to make sure the MAC captures the fact that those skills are in shortage in the UK at the moment.

--- Later in debate ---
None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

Mr Bell, thank you very much for coming today. I remind members of the Committee that at 11 o’clock the bell will ring and there will be a minute’s silence for George Floyd. We will stand for that minute. Would you like to introduce yourself, Mr Bell, for the benefit of the record?

Brian Bell: I am Professor Brian Bell. I am the interim chair of the Migration Advisory Committee and professor of economics at King’s College London.

Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q I will start with perhaps a slightly more general question. The Migration Advisory Committee has recommended that in the context of the Bill ending free movement with the European Union there should not be a dedicated general route for employers to recruit at or near the minimum wage from outside the UK and the Republic of Ireland. Would you like to explain to the Committee the reasoning behind that recommendation?

Brian Bell: If you move to a system in which you take control of immigration and are no longer subject to free movement under the European Union, you essentially have to have a selective immigration policy, and the question is where you think that selectivity should be. All the evidence that the committee reviewed in its 2018 report pointed to the benefits to the United Kingdom being highest when we focused on high-skill immigration—often high-wage immigration—and the gains, to the economy as a whole and also the resident population, which is our key metric, as it were, being highest with those kinds of workers. If you are going to have any kind of selectivity, that is where you want to tilt the balance, as it were.

That does not necessarily mean that you do not have any access to workers at low wages and with lower training or educational requirements. There are other routes that are already available within the system for immigration. For example, the family route allows you to recruit people who come through the family route for immigration, and there is the asylum route—once applicants are granted asylum they can be employed in the United Kingdom without regard to their skill level. There are alternative routes, and in fact that is extremely common. There are an awful lot of non-EEA workers employed in British firms across sectors who would not meet the requirements of the new immigration system but still have a job because they can come through different routes.

At the end of the day, there is a crucial distinction that we draw. With jobs where the training requirement and the education, both academic and vocational, to begin that job are reasonably low, firms can actually compete against each other, and we sort of want firms to compete against each other for workers, because that is good for workers; whereas for more technical, highly skilled jobs with very high training requirements there is often a practical difficulty in getting a new supply if you need it. You cannot just turn on the tap, so migration is a more obvious response for that.

Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

In terms of that general route for recruitment, the MAC made some specific comments on the care sector, again in the context of the Bill ending freedom of movement. It was very specific against a sectoral scheme. Could you explain some of the rationale for that?

Brian Bell: The first point to bear in mind when thinking about the social care sector is that it is often described as being dependent on migrant workers. Nothing could be further from the truth. Something like 80% of those working in the social care sector are British, so actually it relies on British workers. The European Union is a relatively small fraction of the social care employment sector relative to the economy as a whole, accounting for about 5% of it, depending on which statistics are used.

We do not think there should be a particular route for social care because we think that immigration has historically been used as an excuse to not deal with the problems of the social care sector. The problems of the social care sector are fundamentally nothing to do with immigration. They are to do with the fact that, frankly, Governments of all stripes have failed to grasp the funding issue of social care. If people say that the response to the social care issue should be, “Well, employers should be allowed to bring in as many migrants as they want at the minimum wage,” first, that does not sound like the low-wage problem of the social care sector is being dealt with, and secondly it suggests that one of the groups that will really suffer from that is the social care workers. You are saying that you are going to keep on allowing their wages to be held down by allowing employers to bring in workers at the minimum wage, whereas we want to see wages rising in that sector. That will not happen if there is a continuous supply of free labour from abroad willing to work at the minimum wage.

Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Some of the earlier witnesses—particularly those from the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry and especially from the Federation of Small Businesses—talked about the need for flexibility when it comes to those sections of the Bill setting how we will empower Ministers to set the future migration system. Given that the Migration Advisory Committee’s role is to provide expert advice to the Government—to myself and the Home Secretary—how do you see it being able to respond to the demands of the new system in the context of the Bill?

Brian Bell: The Migration Advisory Committee has a key role in making sure that we keep a pretty constant view of what is happening across sectors, occupations and industries as the new system is rolled out, to see where problems are emerging. When you switch from a system that has been running for 40 years to a new one that incorporates all European Union countries as well, there will inevitably be teething problems. It would be surprising if that were not the case. We will be focussed on looking for the evidence: where is the system having problems? We will be highlighting those to the Government, and we can do that. We have an annual report that we will be publishing, and we will be highlighting to Ministers where the problems are, as well as potentially what solutions might be available.

Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q The Migration Advisory Committee also advised specifically against having regional variations in the migration policy, specifying that there should not be any in the Bill. Is there any particular reasoning behind that recommendation?

Brian Bell: We were asked explicitly to think about whether there should be regional variation in the salary thresholds that are a key part of the system. The easiest way to answer that is to think about the fact that the median wage in Edinburgh for a full-time worker is higher than it is in Newcastle, Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham, Cardiff and Belfast. Compared to Dumfries and Galloway, it is 25% higher. In other words, regional wage variation—if by that you mean either the nations of Britain or the regions of England—demonstrates that variation within those areas is much greater than variation across them. If you really wanted to go down that route, you would need an immigration system that set thresholds in every local community around Britain. I do not quite know how that would be enforced. You would be explicitly saying that low-wage areas should stay low-wage areas and that high-wage areas should stay high-wage areas. I am not sure that it is a very sensible policy.

Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill (Second sitting)

(Limited Text - Ministerial Extracts only)

Read Full debate
Committee stage & Committee Debate: 2nd sitting: House of Commons
Tuesday 9th June 2020

(4 years, 1 month ago)

Public Bill Committees
Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Act 2020 Read Hansard Text Amendment Paper: Public Bill Committee Amendments as at 9 June 2020 - (9 Jun 2020)

This text is a record of ministerial contributions to a debate held as part of the Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Act 2020 passage through Parliament.

In 1993, the House of Lords Pepper vs. Hart decision provided that statements made by Government Ministers may be taken as illustrative of legislative intent as to the interpretation of law.

This extract highlights statements made by Government Ministers along with contextual remarks by other members. The full debate can be read here

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

Good afternoon. This is the second evidence session, and it will be a mixture of people who are with us physically and people who are here virtually, so we will have to cope as best we can. Our first witnesses are a representative of British in Europe, via audio link, and Professor Bernard Ryan. We have until about 2.40 to take that evidence. I will go first of all to the Minister, then to the Opposition spokesman. Is anybody else desperate to ask a question at the moment? You can put up your hand and intimate to the Clerk that you would like to speak.

Those of you who are sitting at the back of the hall—you are very welcome, by the way—are equally members of this Committee. Apparently if you want to speak, you have to go to a microphone over there. Are we all happy to start the session? We have to ring our witnesses now, so please be patient.

We are ready to start with our first panel of witnesses. Thank you for coming today. This session will have to end at 2.40pm.

Kevin Foster Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Kevin Foster)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q 64 It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Edward. Mr Morgan, what implications do you see for British citizens living in Europe regarding the social security co-ordination provisions in the Bill?

Jeremy Morgan: The sound is not very good but I will do my best. The question was about social security provisions, is that right?

Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It was about what implications you see for British citizens in Europe regarding social security co-ordination provisions in the Bill.

Jeremy Morgan: May I start by thanking the Committee for asking us to give evidence, even in this rather strange way? The social security provisions are crucial for UK citizens in the EU. They govern pensions, pension increases, healthcare, other benefits, and the aggregation of the equivalent of national insurance contributions made in different countries, without which some people would fail to meet the minimum contribution period for pensions or other benefits. Those provisions are preserved in UK law by the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 so there should be no impact. However, as is made clear in the briefing note that we prepared and that has, I hope, been circulated, we are worried about clause 5 because that clause creates a regulation-making power wide enough to modify rights under the withdrawal agreement. We entirely accept that in the explanatory note the Government say that they do not intend to have an impact on our withdrawal agreement rights, but we are worried about that on two grounds, and the concerns are twofold.

First, as a constitutional issue it is wrong to create a power in a regulation that might breach an international treaty. If that is to be done, it should be done by primary legislation after a proper debate. Secondly, and more practically, those social security provisions that are listed in the Bill are right up there with UK immigration law for complexity. It is Byzantine complexity, and that is no exaggeration. It would not be difficult for an unintended breach to slip through. Therefore, to prevent a breach of a treaty by mistake, it is important that any such amendment be made through primary legislation after a proper debate.

Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Speaking as a Minister, a Minister cannot make a regulation that breaches international law, just to be clear on that point. Would you have concerns if, for example, an agreement on social security co-ordination was reached but the legislation did not allow the Government to quickly implement it?

Jeremy Morgan: I am sorry, I am having great difficulty in hearing the question.

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

Minister, I think you need to lean in to the microphone and speak loudly.

Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

A Minister cannot breach international law in regulations. Would you have any concerns if the legislation, for example, did not empower a Minister to quickly implement an agreement in relation to social security co-ordination if one was reached with the European Union before 1 January?

Jeremy Morgan: You are talking about the future relationship beyond Brexit, effectively?

Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Yes. Effectively, there are negotiations ongoing, and the issue is what happens if the Government reached an agreement and wished to implement it before that time.

Jeremy Morgan: I should start by saying that we were fairly careful in the representations that we made. We are a group that represents British citizens in Europe who are affected by Brexit and were there before Brexit. We have tended not to get into policy post the end of the transition period, simply because it is not within our remit to do so. It is for others to express views on that. Clearly, if a further agreement is made for rights that extend to others beyond those who are already in the EU, it is important that the Government should be able to implement that, but whether that is by primary legislation or regulations made at the time for that purpose is a matter for this Committee to decide. I do not think British in Europe would have a strong view about it.

Holly Lynch Portrait Holly Lynch (Halifax) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Perhaps I can come to Professor Ryan first. Thank you very much for your written submission to the Committee. Can you talk us through what you think might be missing from clause 2?

Professor Bernard Ryan: Certainly. First, I thank the Committee and the Chair for the invitation.

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None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

You are very welcome. As we normally do, the Minister will start by asking you a couple of questions, and then the Opposition spokesman, and then other Members will come in. Perhaps other Members who wish to ask questions could intimate to the Clerk that they would like to ask a question.

Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q I have two questions, one for each witness; I will ask them both and then we can just cover them off at the same time.

The first question is to Mr Goodhart. I noticed that the January 2018 report from Policy Exchange, “Immigration after Brexit”, welcomed the ending of free movement. As you will appreciate, the main provision of the Bill is to alter UK law to remove the provisions for free movement. I wondered how you saw that, and how you saw the system that will seek to replace it, which we confirmed in a policy statement in February.

My question to Ms Rutter is this: given, obviously, the area that she covers in her group’s interest, I wonder how she sees the working of the European settlement scheme, which has now had 3.5 million applications, in terms of securing the continuing rights of EU citizens in the UK, or EEA citizens in the UK to be exact, under the withdrawal agreement.

David Goodhart: A general comment on the Bill is that I think it is broadly welcome. Part of the motivation behind Brexit, and perhaps the 2019 election too, was a more moderate level of immigration. It is true that immigration has dropped down the list of things that people worry about, for obvious reasons, even before the covid crisis, but I think that was partly because people saw that the Government were actually doing something about it. And I think the Government have broadly got it right to focus very much on restricting lower-skill immigration.

I think the higher-skill immigration channels are probably somewhat more liberal even than the Migration Advisory Committee envisaged. I mean, there has been a big liberalisation both on the salary threshold and on the qualification threshold. Bringing the qualification threshold down from degree level to A-level is a big move, and it will be interesting to see whether those changes achieve the goal of an overall lower level of immigration. I think the perfectly reasonable and democratically willed goal is a lower equilibrium level of immigration without damaging the economy. That is the goal that the Government are hoping to achieve, and I think the measures they have introduced are likely to achieve that.

I think I would probably have gone for slightly tighter restrictions, perhaps keeping the degree-level qualification and then having more exemptions—the type of exemptions that we see in the agricultural sector and so on—because Governments have made promises about immigration many times in the last 15 years or so, and they have very clearly said that they want the overall levels to be lower. I think it is quite likely that in a couple of years’ time they will not really be significantly lower, and then that will set off a whole—but then we will have the levers, at least, to do something about that.

Jill Rutter: I would like to make some general points before coming to your question on the EU settlement scheme. I am going to draw from the National Conversation on Immigration, which is the biggest ever public engagement activity on this subject and included a nationally representative survey and discussions in 60 locations across the UK, including a good few of your constituencies.

Although public confidence in the ability of successive Governments to manage the immigration system has been and still remains low, most people are balancers who see the pressures and gains of migration. Generally, most people want immigration to be controlled, they want migrants who come here to make a contribution and they want everybody to be treated fairly. However, control means different things to different people. It can be about UK sovereignty, controlling numbers, a selective immigration system and enforcement.

There are two further points in terms of public confidence. Immigration is a national issue that people see through a local lens, so what happens locally is quite important, and people’s understanding of immigration policy is very top line. They do not know the details of our policy, such as the detail of the EU settlement scheme.

Treating people fairly is hard-wired into most people. Most people want to see fair play and humanity. They want immigration to be controlled, but that has to be fair, and you do not win support by sounding nasty. In terms of the EU settlement scheme, nobody wants people who are here to be sent home. Towards the end of the National Conversation, when Windrush was an issue, people also talked about the unfairness of the Windrush scheme.

In terms of the Bill, the devil is in the detail and policy will be set through immigration rules, but areas to look at perhaps include people who have been awarded pre-settled status being automatically granted settled status, rather than having to apply again, and also thinking about citizenship. The public find it very reassuring when people make the UK their home and then take up British citizenship. That can sound a bit counterintuitive, but there is a preference for people becoming citizens, rather than having guest-worker schemes. On immigration policy, you could look at how one can make the acquisition of citizenship smoother and easier—by reviewing the cost of citizenship, for example.

Holly Lynch Portrait Holly Lynch
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q More broadly, through your work at Policy Exchange and British Future, how have you seen public attitudes towards immigration change over the past 12 months? David, may I come to you first?

David Goodhart: As I just mentioned, it has certainly dropped down in terms of priority and level of anxiety, but pretty consistently over the past 20-odd years about two thirds of the public have said that immigration is either too high or much too high. That may have come down a little bit recently. It has certainly come down in terms of priority, partly because other things have been happening, even prior to covid. It is also because of a feeling that, with Brexit finally happening and the end of free movement from the European Union, we would be in control of it again, so a source of anxiety was removed.

Jill Rutter: To echo what David said, immigration has certainly dropped down of the list of issues of public concern. It is much less salient. Ipsos MORI has also tracked the same group of people over a five-year period, and has seen a slight warming of attitudes. That is evident in other polling data, too.

I think the reason for that is, first of all, as David said, that people feel that now we are leaving the European Union, the UK has control over immigration from the EU. But also the referendum itself enabled a much more open, public debate about immigration in pubs and among groups of friends. Inevitably, in that discussion, there is a kind of moderation of our attitudes. That is a reason, too. Again, there is a displacement effect: covid-19 has pushed immigration off the news agenda.

--- Later in debate ---
None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

We will start with a question from the Minister, then the Opposition spokesman, and then other colleagues will come in as they wish.

Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q I will start with a question to Mr Berry. You will be aware that the Law Commission published its report on simplifying the immigration rules. One of the places we want to go to with the changes in the Bill is having a single set of migration rules. What opportunities do you see that presenting, and what is your view so far on the response that has gone out in terms of simplifying and where you see that further work could be done?

Adrian Berry: I do not think that simplifying the immigration rules has much impact on inbound migration per se. It is obviously a good thing from the point of view of good rule making and from a user perspective. The more pressing question is how you integrate the intention to create free trade agreements with the EU and with other countries, and the migration routes there, with the Home Office proposals from January 2020.

We have the Home Office paper on the future of immigration, and then we have a parallel universe where there are free trade agreements with other migration routes and mobility rates contained in them—not just with the EU, but the proposed ones with Australia, New Zealand and the United States, drawing on precedents from existing EU free trade agreements with Korea, Japan and Canada. There appears to be no joined-up thinking in Government about what impact those mobility routes have on the Home Office proposals of January 2020. It is very important and necessary and urgent to see how that joined-up economic migration regime is going to work, and I have yet to see a Government paper on that.

Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Perhaps slightly later we can talk about international agreement. Obviously, the other aspect of this is the social security co-ordination clauses. There are negotiations going on, and there is a range of potential outcomes. Do you have any particular views about that clause?

Adrian Berry: On clause 5, you already have powers to amend ineffective retained EU law under section 8 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, so you can make regulations under Henry VIII powers to deal with any deficiencies in retained EU law and social security. You have given yourself additional powers under section 13 of the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020 to make regulations for social security co-ordination, so you already have two sets of Henry VIII powers. You are currently negotiating a third social security treaty, annexed to the draft free trade agreement. If that is agreed with the EU, you will have another Act of Parliament that you will need to implement that. Why do you need a fourth set in clause 5? If there is anything left in social security law that you have not covered under the array of Henry VIII powers that you are arming yourselves with, primary legislation and the scrutiny of MPs in this room at the highest level is required.

Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q And do you have any view on the fact that clause 5 will be stretched into devolved competence, subject to legislative consent motions? Is that part of your consideration at all?

Adrian Berry: It is devolved because it is a devolved power under the Scotland Act 1998.

Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Northern Ireland as well.

Adrian Berry: Yes, of course, but there needs to be primary legislation in whatever format, in my view, and not statutory instruments using the affirmative procedure.

Holly Lynch Portrait Holly Lynch
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Bella Sankey, perhaps I can come to you first. Will you outline for us what your hopes for change are, in terms of detention, through this piece of legislation? Will you also comment on David Goodhart’s remarks that those who, for one reason or another, have not applied for pre-settled or settled status through the EU settlement scheme may find themselves in a very precarious immigration position, and could find themselves in detention? What are the implications for those people, and what might need to change?

Bella Sankey: Thanks very much, Ms Lynch. For some time now, Detention Action has been working with a coalition of civil society organisations, including the Bar Council, the Law Society, the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Stonewall and others, and with MPs across the divide—Conservative, Democratic Unionist Party, Labour, SNP and Liberal Democrat MPs—to build a consensus around the idea that there needs to be a strict statutory time limit on immigration detention.

Immigration detention is a peculiarity of our public policy, in that there is no time limit. Unlike the criminal justice system or the mental health system, you can currently be detained indefinitely for months or years, and redetained indefinitely for months or years, without any statutory time limit in place if you are subject to immigration control.

It is a sweeping power that was introduced in 1971, when a series of immigration Acts acted to limit immigration from Commonwealth countries with the explicit intention of trying to reduce black and brown migration to the UK. The system was set up then, and has not been properly amended or looked at by Parliament. From the 1970s right up until the 1990s, a handful of people were detained, but it is now the case that thousands and thousands of people are detained each year. At present, as we sit here, 12 people in immigration detention have been there for more than one year.

The system is arbitrary and cruel. There is a crisis of self-harm in the system. Every day, my caseworkers speak to people who have suicidal ideation as a result of the indefinite nature of their detention. That is what everyone who has experienced the system will tell you: it is the indefinite nature that creates psychological torture and uncertainty. That means that people begin to lose the will to go on and live. We are seeking to implement a time limit through this Bill.

--- Later in debate ---
Stuart C McDonald Portrait Stuart C. McDonald
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Ms Sankey, may I turn to you? You have spoken already about how rules around detention will apply to people impacted by the Bill. May I ask you about deportation powers, which became topical a couple of months back, with flights to Jamaica in particular being a source of controversy? How will the Bill impact deportation powers in relation to EU nationals, and what would you like to see changed about it?

Bella Sankey: Thanks very much for the question. The Bill will mean that, for the first time, EU citizens will have the deportation laws that currently apply to non-EU citizens applied to them. Those rules are blunt, they are harsh and they are dehumanising. In 2007, the last Labour Government brought in a power of mandatory deportation for anybody who receives a sentence of 12 months or longer. In 2014, when Theresa May was Home Secretary, the coalition Government introduced additional legislation that meant that if somebody was seeking to resist deportation on the grounds that they had a loving parental relationship with a child in the UK, or a child who was a British citizen, they would only be able to do so if the effect of their deportation would have an unduly harsh impact on that child.

The Home Office defines “unduly harsh” as “excessively cruel”, so at present it is insufficient, if you are a non-EEA national, to show that the impact on your child would be cruel; you need to show excessive cruelty. The effect of that provision means that child cruelty is legislated into our primary legislation. It means that the courts, when they are making these decisions, are forced to allow a deportation to go ahead even though they may find on the evidence that serious psychological harm will be done to a child. The courts are clearly very uncomfortable about that and have said explicitly, in terms, that immigration law can no longer be reconciled with family law principles, because family law principles require the best interests of a child to be taken into account in all public decision making.

That is the situation as it stands. The impact of these laws over the past decade or more has been to cause untold trauma and pain, particularly to Britain’s black community, who are disproportionately impacted because, as is well-known, they are a community that is over-represented in the criminal justice system and subject to social and economic deprivation.

The issue from earlier this year that you mention was, of course, a charter flight to Jamaica. The majority of the people booked on to that flight by the Home Office had drugs convictions—a lot of them when they were teenagers or a long time ago. The law as it stands did not allow any of that to be taken into account, because of the automatic and mandatory power to seek deportation of those individuals.

A number of our clients were victims of modern-day slavery, grooming and trafficking, but again, they found themselves in detention without an opportunity to raise the fact that they had been subjected to that, and of course the large majority of them had been in the UK since they were two or three years old and had been in primary school here and secondary school here. I see the Minister does not seem to be agreeing with this account.

Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

No.

Bella Sankey: But it is all there on the public record. As I say, the law as it stands has applied in a blunt and discriminatory way against the black community, and this Bill now proposes to extend those harsh provisions to all EU citizens.

I spoke only recently to a woman who was actually removed to Poland on 30 April, leaving behind an 11-year-old child here. She felt that the system had already become unbearable. She was taken into detention following a conviction for theft, and when she was in Yarl’s Wood, without legal aid and without help and assistance, she decided that it would be easier for her and less traumatic for her 11-year-old son if she just went back to Poland. This Bill is going to bring about thousands more Sandras, thousands more family separations, in completely unjust circumstances.

Robert Goodwill Portrait Mr Goodwill
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q We have heard already that we need better law, and obviously this will be an opportunity to have better law. It is interesting to note that when the Home Office director general of immigration enforcement left his post and went public in January, he made the point that our immigration system largely fails to deal with those who are here illegally, and he pointed out that over 75% of judicial review applications made to the administrative court were for asylum and immigration matters. According to the most recent figures that he could get, only 54 of the 8,649 applications actually succeeded.

If, at the moment, the law is being used to actually frustrate the legal process of removing people who have no right to be in the UK, do we need to improve the law to make that work better? I am sure you would agree that it is not unreasonable to expect people who have committed serious criminal offences and have no right to be in the UK to be removed under the law of the land.

Adrian Berry: I believe in the rule of law. I think it is a good thing if we have judicial scrutiny of executive decisions, including deportation, removal and detention decisions, in order to ensure that they are lawful and consistent with the values that we have embedded in our Human Rights Act provisions and in our civil liberties provisions and statutes.

To answer your question directly, a lot of judicial reviews are settled on issuing, because the Home Office realises that it has made a mistake and it compromises on them. The second stage at which they are settled is when permission to apply for judicial review is granted and the Home Office realises that it has made a mistake and it compromises; it settles and pays the costs, on a polluter-pays principle. Very few judicial reviews go the distance to a substantive hearing, so you have to be very, very careful in measuring the data between the number of claims lodged and the number of claims that are determined at a final hearing.

What we do know is that judges routinely grant injunctions against removals, on the basis that they see a point in holding the ring in order to determine the true and lawful position in the situation. Whatever someone has done, all their interests—including the public policy interest in their expulsion and, on occasion, the public policy interest in their retention—are to be weighed up before a lawful decision is made. Judicial review is one check on it, in the absence of a proper full range of appeals, that allows that to take place.

--- Later in debate ---
None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

Good afternoon, Mr Piper. I am Edward Leigh, Chair of this Public Bill Committee. The Minister and the Opposition spokesman will ask questions. We have only 15 minutes. Minister, would you like to begin?

Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q As you appreciate, Mr Piper, the Bill ends the provisions for freedom of movement in UK law, but we have the European settlement scheme set up to protect the rights of those covered by the withdrawal agreement. Given that we have had 3.5 million applications and 3.2 million decisions, how do you think the process is going?

Luke Piper: First, thank you for allowing me to attend by telephone. In general, it is true that the EU settlement scheme is there to provide people with their status and their rights to live in the UK under the terms of the withdrawal agreement. It is a great achievement of the Government’s to set the scheme up. Our concern is about those that do not apply in time and fail to acquire the status by the deadline of June next year. The worry is that those that miss the deadline will face the problems that some of the previous witnesses have spoken about—the risks to jobs and homes, and access to healthcare, welfare and so forth. Although there have been over 3 million applications to the scheme, it is not a reflection of the numbers of people that have applied or have succeeded, or of the types of status that are under it. This is more about an issue of recognising that there is a potential problem here. Yes, freedom of movement will end and there is a new status that people can acquire, but it is about creating safety mechanisms and ensuring that there is a safe passage for people to move from their old status to their new one. That is what we would like to see amended in the Bill to ensure that that security is there.

Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Just to be clear, I used the figure of 3.2 million in terms of decisions as well as the figure for applications. Coming on to the social security co-ordination parts of the Bill, do you have any thoughts on those? Are you concerned about the Government perhaps not being able to promptly implement any agreement that we might be able to reach with the European Union on those areas?

Luke Piper: I will defer to the points that Mr Berry made in his presentation previously on the issues of social security co-ordination. Our central concern is that at this stage much of the rights-based provisions of the withdrawal agreement, both under title II and title III, have been delegated away by the Bill and the previous European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act to various Ministers, and there is a lot of legislation and regulations that we have still to see to fully understand how those rights and obligations will be implemented.

Holly Lynch Portrait Holly Lynch
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Luke, your organisation and a number of your members have been clear that you would like some sort of physical proof of pre-settled or settled status. Can you explain to the Committee why that is?

Luke Piper: Yes. There are clear points as to why we feel physical documents will help people in their day-to-day lives. First, it is the No. 1 ask of our members and people that we speak to who are EU citizens in this country. They would like physical proof of their status to live here. It is something that unfortunately has not been followed through.

Indeed, the House of Lords European Union Committee made the point that there are real worries that those without physical proof will face similar problems to those faced by the Windrush generation; there is a risk that they will face discrimination because they do not have physical proof of their status. We also had concerns about the availability of an online status; there may be instances when the status is not available for IT reasons. Also, online systems can be hacked. There are real security risks.

Finally, we also have concerns about the newness of the digital-only scheme. It is essentially being tested on over 3 million people. A digital-only identity system like this has never existed before in the UK, and it is being rolled out for a massive cohort of people. We had rather hoped that there would be an opportunity to trial the scheme substantively before people were pushed into a digital-only set-up. Those are the key reasons why we desire a physical document.

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None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

I take it that we have on the line Lucy Leon, immigration policy and practice adviser for The Children’s Society. Minister, you have a question.

Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q In your briefing, you suggest two amendments to the Bill related to granting an automatic status. How do you suggest that a child, who may need to rely on a status in some decades’ time, would be able to evidence the status that had automatically been created?

Lucy Leon: I am sorry; the line is really unclear. I heard that you were trying to ask me a question about automatic status. Would you be able to repeat the second part of the question, please?

Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

You talked about automatic status—granting something under a piece of legislation to someone. Under your suggested system, how, in decades to come, would an adult evidence the status that they were granted as a child?

Lucy Leon: The line is not very clear, so apologies if I have misunderstood the question, but are you asking what it would be like in decades to come if we granted children automatic status?

Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Yes. If they had to evidence their status many years later, how would they do it? How would they be able to define their status, as against someone who arrived in March 2021, for the sake of argument, and was not entitled to that status?

Lucy Leon: We have put forward an amendment about automatic status for vulnerable children, particularly those who are in care or are care leavers. We are not just looking to give them automatic settled status; we want local authorities to be given a duty to identify those children, and a timeframe in which they need to be identified and offered settled status. This would enable a financial burden to be lifted and pressure to be taken off the overstretched local authorities that are struggling right now.

We are not suggesting that children do not go through the scheme. We are saying that they still need to go through the scheme, but should be given indefinite leave, as opposed to pre-settled status, because children are falling through the net and social workers are struggling to understand their roles and responsibilities under the scheme. They do not know the processes, and they are struggling to locate documents for young people.

Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q To be clear, your suggestion is that these children should go through the European settlement scheme to get the evidence they need, and in essence, your point is about how local authorities apply.

Lucy Leon: Sorry, it is really hard to hear you. The line is really not very clear.

Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Okay, we will leave it there. I think you have made the points that are needed.

Holly Lynch Portrait Holly Lynch
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q On the same subject, perhaps you could explain what engagement The Children’s Society has had with local authorities about this. What problems are local authorities reporting to you that would be overcome if they had an ability to provide those names to Government, with some assurances that those children would be eligible?

Lucy Leon: At the moment, this is a significant burden on social workers. We welcome the guidance that has been issued, the funding that has been put in place, the prioritisation of this issue, and the fact that the Minister has taken time to write to council leads to ensure the issue is seen as a priority. However, we know—because we see it in our frontline services—that the information is not trickling down, and many social workers are unclear about what they are meant to be doing and how to help young people.

In the current pandemic, with helplines and embassies being closed and people being unable to travel, it has become even harder for social workers to support young people in locating the right paperwork to help them through this process. Social workers are also not always aware of who needs to apply, and some of the cases are very complex. Some children and young people are entitled to British citizenship, and the struggle to access legal advice and helplines at this time has made that very problematic for social workers. We see the proposal as not only taking the pressure off local authorities, but taking the stress off young people.

We see young people who have been incorrectly given pre-settled status, when they are entitled to settled status. We want to enable automatic settled status at this pivotal moment in young people’s lives, when they are planning their future, thinking about their education and thinking about pathways to work, so that they know that they can have indefinite leave to remain and can stay in this country, which is their only home. We are talking about children in care who would have had a history of abuse and neglect. It is imperative that, as corporate parents to those children, we give them as much stability as possible in the long run.

--- Later in debate ---
None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

Good afternoon and welcome to our session. We have until 5 o’clock. Would you like to introduce yourselves for the record?

Alison Harvey: My name is Alison Harvey. I am a barrister at No5 Chambers in London.

Ian Robinson: I am Ian Robinson. I am a partner in Fragomen, the immigration law firm.

Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q I should like to ask both witnesses this. Part of the process of moving to a single migration system, which the Bill sets the framework for, is to simplify the immigration rules. Do either of you have any thoughts about how it goes towards doing that?

Alison Harvey: Essentially, it does not have anything to do with that. There has been a lot of talk about the Bill setting up the new points-based system. It does not; it gets rid of the free movement law, and that is all it does. Although I have not sat on it yet, the Bar Council has appointed me its representative to the simplification committee on the rules, and I gave evidence to the Lords Constitution Committee about this a while ago.

If you look at what the Law Commission and the Home Office have published on the rules, it is simpler but not simple. We will not get to a simple system or anything like one until we consolidate the primary legislation. Let us remember that our immigration legislation is built on the Immigration Act 1971, which came into force on 1 January ’73, when we joined the EU. Before that, we had only had four years in this country, in all its history, without free movement. If you go back to 1066 and beyond, you have everyone within the King’s allegiance and dominions moving freely within the allegiance and dominions, subject to the limitations in place in 1066, but they were not legal limits. The passport that you have from Hull is the same as the passport that you have from Bangalore.

We then had the Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1968, which cut off free movement, but we were bigger then. As well as our current overseas territories, we had the associated states in the Caribbean, from which people came. That period of March 1968 to 1 January 1973 is the only period in our history when we have been as small as we are going to be from June, so the change is massive.

We are managing with a rickety old Act that desperately needs changing. The problem with immigration law is that every time you change it, you have to deal with the people under the old regime and make transition provision, so change always results in complexity.

Ian Robinson: The simple answer is that we are going from two immigration systems to one. Right now, we have reasonably simple arrangements for free movement and complex arrangements for non-Europeans. We will have one complex arrangement for everybody. In some areas, it will become slicker, I suppose, but it will remain complex.

In an international context, my clients will quickly recognise that the UK has a simpler, more transparent immigration system than many countries. That is great if you are a multinational, but if you are a small or medium-sized enterprise dealing just with the UK immigration system, that does not really help you, and the complexities can still trip you up. Likewise if you are an individual.

Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Do you have any particular thoughts on how businesses will engage with this system?

Ian Robinson: In terms of the skilled part of the system, we will have one of the better skilled immigration systems in the world, in terms of much of the policy and the speed as it relates to skilled people. Where that falls down is the cost. I suspect that there will be more questions about that later, and I can cover them. We are wildly more expensive than other countries. What businesses want is speed. Singapore and one or two central African countries aside, no one can issue visas as quickly routinely as the UK does. We are very good at that. There are on-entry arrangements in Canada, but we are very good at issuing visas.

If I were talking to an American or Canadian audience, they look for predictability. We can offer certainty. It is a fairly tick-box, prescriptive list for a work permit, which is good. In that respect, it is a good system. It becomes more difficult again when you look at cost. It becomes difficult when you look at lower-skilled workers and the fact that the tap will be turned off, unless we have a youth mobility scheme.

My clients are not quite sure where they stand on that at the moment. On the one hand, if you had asked me three months ago, they were very concerned. Covid changes things, but they are nervous about taking the gamble now that there will be enough people in the labour market after the pandemic is cleared.

The final point that I would make is that if you are an established user of the system, used to working with Indian, US and other non-European migrant workers, you are going to experience a much better immigration system when we have a lower skill level, marginally lower salary, and one or two other changes, particularly when the new technology comes in for sponsorship.

But if you have never used the immigration system in that way before, and if you do not already have a licence, there is a real risk that you will have no idea and no time at the moment to apply for a licence. You probably will not have before the end of the year, so you will realise you need to too late, at which point, unless a concerted effort is made not only by the Home Office, but by trade bodies to push employers to apply for licences, we will be back to six-month delays before a company can even begin to make a visa application, which is not great. Steps need to be taken to make sure that employers know what will be expected of them, and that they can, as easily as possible, get the tier 2 sponsor licence.

Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q I have a brief question for Ms Harvey, given the provisions in the Bill about Irish citizens. We are providing a clear provision for Irish citizens. I note your own background and work on that area, so I wonder whether you have any particular comments on those provisions.

Alison Harvey: You have heard this afternoon—I did not manage to hear his evidence—from Professor Ryan. He has a grasp of the issue that is second to none. Clause 3ZA is very useful and important. I do think that it lowers the protection from deportation for the Irish. The Irish do not deport Brits at all. I think we ought to address that.

My own work has been around giving effect to the Good Friday agreement in the work I have done for the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission and the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission about looking at the Good Friday agreement. I would like to see, as a bedrock that would deal with some of the concerns about deportation and the question of identifying solely as Irish, a right of abode given to all the people of Northern Ireland, whether they identify as British or Irish or both.

A right of abode protects you from deportation. It is as close as you get to citizenship. You get the whole packet of rights. From the point of view of the Administration, the Government, the country, and the people in benefits offices, if you know that if you were born in Northern Ireland, you have a right of abode in the UK, it becomes much less problematic whether you identify as British or Irish or both. You essentially know what your social security entitlements and your health entitlements will be. I think that is the bedrock on which we build the flexibility in identification.

Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Briefly, because I am conscious that others want to come in, there has been mention of the deportation of Irish citizens. Can you think of an example—not of an extradition, I have to say, because that is a different provision?

Alison Harvey: An example where someone was deported?

Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

An example where an Irish citizen has been deported from the United Kingdom or Northern Ireland.

Alison Harvey: I was looking at this recently for an article and I think there were examples at the time. I think they fall parallel with the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1974, where we were confining people to Northern Ireland or to Britain or not letting them in, so you have rules on third-country nationals, but they also have the potential to affect citizens of the two countries. It was in that period, and there was an overlap between the security powers that were being used at the time with the roll-over of the Prevention of Terrorism Act and the control orders and deportation—

Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

They are historical pieces of legislation.

Alison Harvey: Yes, they have totally gone now.

Holly Lynch Portrait Holly Lynch
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q We have heard evidence this afternoon from other witnesses regarding their concerns about some of the Henry VIII powers in the Bill. May I ask you to share your thoughts on those, and what they mean not only for parliamentary democracy, but for practitioners of law? Do you have concerns about them?

Alison Harvey: Very much the concerns that Mr Berry expressed about certainty. If it is said that provisions of retained EU law are not compatible with the Immigration Act, please can we have a list? Tell us what they are. You must know, Home Office, otherwise you are not going to be able to operate the system. As he said, we had the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 and the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020, both of which essentially give us powers to save EU law. They also give us powers to knock out retained EU law bit by bit, so what is the point of the Bill at all, in substance terms?

I think the point must be, because immigration is a sensitive area and because it involves people, to give you the opportunity to put in place safeguards. I suppose the Bill goes beyond the European Union (Withdrawal) Act and the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act in that it would allow you to build a new system. There are wider powers of delegated legislation. I think most of the repeals could have been done under those Acts. If you want to test that, you go back to March, when the Immigration, Nationality and Asylum (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 were passed. Look at some of the things that they do: “Let’s give all Gibraltarians a right to apply for British citizenship.” There are big chunky powers in those regulations that are not in the Bill.

The Bill is an opportunity to put some brakes in. What is astonishing is that the Bill looks almost the same as it did last time it appeared; yet last time we did not have a withdrawal agreement. All the wait and see markers that justified not putting something in primary legislation have gone. Similarly, although the Home Office delegated powers memorandum has got longer it has produced, for example, absolutely no more substance on why the powers on fees are needed. The Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee said that this is so unsubstantial you cannot even say it is a skeleton.

There really is no justification to explain why there possibly need to be those powers. It creates tremendous uncertainty. It certainly creates lots of opportunities for litigation; to go in and argue that, no, something is not incompatible. That does not seem to me helpful at all.

Ian Robinson: Alison has said everything that I could and more.

Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill (Fourth sitting)

(Limited Text - Ministerial Extracts only)

Read Full debate
Committee stage & Committee Debate: 4th sitting: House of Commons
Thursday 11th June 2020

(4 years, 1 month ago)

Public Bill Committees
Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Act 2020 Read Hansard Text Amendment Paper: Public Bill Committee Amendments as at 11 June 2020 - (11 Jun 2020)

This text is a record of ministerial contributions to a debate held as part of the Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Act 2020 passage through Parliament.

In 1993, the House of Lords Pepper vs. Hart decision provided that statements made by Government Ministers may be taken as illustrative of legislative intent as to the interpretation of law.

This extract highlights statements made by Government Ministers along with contextual remarks by other members. The full debate can be read here

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

I remind the Committee that with this we are discussing the following:

Amendment 3, in clause 4, page 2, line 34, leave out “, or in connection with,”

This amendment would narrow the scope of the powers provided to the Secretary of State in Clause 4, as recommended by the House of Lords Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee in connection with the equivalent Bill introduced in the last session of Parliament.

Amendment 20, in clause 4, page 2, line 35, leave out “this Part” and insert “Schedule 1”

This amendment seeks to limit the scope of the power in Clause 4 to matters concerning the ending of retained EU law rights that currently preserve free movement and immigration-related rights.

Amendment 21, in clause 4, page 2, line 35, at end insert—

‘(1A) The power to make regulations under subsection (1) may only be exercised within the period of one year from the day on which this Act is passed.

(1B) Regulations made under subsection (1) shall cease to have effect after a period of two years from the day on which this Act is passed.”

This amendment would restrict the use of the Henry VIII powers contained in Clause 4 to a period of one year from the date of the Act being passed; and would prevent any changes to primary legislation made by exercise of these powers having permanent effect unless confirmed by primary legislation.

Amendment 4, in clause 4, page 3, line 6, leave out subsection (5).

This amendment would narrow the scope of the powers provided to the Secretary of State in Clause 4, as recommended by the House of Lords Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee in connection with the equivalent Bill introduced in the last session of Parliament.

Amendment 15, in clause 4, page 3, line 8, at end insert—

‘(5A) The Secretary of State may make regulations under subsection (1) only if satisfied that the regulations would have no detrimental effect on the children of EEA and Swiss nationals resident in the United Kingdom.

(5B) Before making regulations under subsection (1) the Secretary of State must lay before Parliament, and publish, a statement explaining why the Secretary of State is satisfied as mentioned in subsection (5A).”

Amendment 22, in clause 4, page 3, line 8, at end insert—

‘(5A) Regulations under subsection (1), in relation to persons to whom the regulations apply under this Act, shall be made in accordance with the following principles—

(a) Promotion of family life, particularly that between children and their parents and that between partners;

(b) That persons in the United Kingdom should have a right of appeal to the First-tier Tribunal against any decision to refuse leave remain, to curtail leave to enter or remain or to make a deportation order;

(c) that where leave to remain is given—

(i) on account of a person’s long residence in the United Kingdom; or

(ii) to a person whose continuous residence in the United Kingdom includes five years of that person’s childhood; or

(iii) to a child who has lived in the United Kingdom for a period of seven continuous years;

that leave is given for an indefinite period;

(d) that leave to enter or remain given to a person for the purpose of establishing or continuing family life in the United Kingdom is not subject to a condition restricting work, occupation or recourse to public funds; and

(e) ensure that no change to immigration rules or fees is made—

(i) unless sufficient public notice has been given of that change to ensure any person affected by the change who is already in the United Kingdom with leave to enter or remain has reasonable opportunity to adjust their expectations or circumstances before the change takes effect; or

(ii) that would require a person given leave to enter or remain for the purpose of establishing or continuing family life in the United Kingdom to satisfy more restrictive conditions for the continuation of their stay than were required to do so at the time the person was first given leave for this purpose.”

This amendment seeks to ensure that exercise of the delegated powers in clause 4(1) is guided by certain principles.

Amendment 12, in clause 8, page 5, line 40, at end insert—

‘(4A) Section 4 and section 7(5) expire on the day after the day specified as the deadline under section 7(1)(a) of the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020.”

Kevin Foster Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Kevin Foster)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship this afternoon, Mr Stringer. This group of amendments raises important issues about the scope of the regulation-making power in clause 4. I would like to thank the hon. Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East for speaking to his amendments and for the effort he has put into them. I know that he has a strong interest in the use of the power in clause 4, as he had when the Bill was previously in Committee, in 2019. However, despite the explanations given to him then, he appears still to be misinformed about how the Government are planning to use this power, and I hope that my response will help. A lot has been said today and in the evidence sessions about this power granting Ministers a blank cheque. That is not the case, and if you will permit me, Mr Stringer, I will set out how we intend to use the power and respond to the hon. Member’s amendments as I do so.

The power is intended to enable three broad things via regulations. The first is to ensure that our laws operate coherently once freedom of movement ends and the relevant provisions in schedule 1 are repealed. There are references across the statute book to EEA citizens, their free movement rights and their status under free movement law, which need to be addressed through regulations made under this power.

For example, regulations made under section 126 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 list the documents that must be provided in support of various types of immigration application. One type relates to applications under the Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2016, which implement the free movement directive. That reference needs to be removed because those regulations are revoked by schedule 1, so there will no longer be applications under them. It is therefore important that the power is wide enough to ensure that all references to the EU and free movement rights in primary and secondary legislation can be amended appropriately as a consequence of, or in connection with, the ending of free movement.

That is why the Government do not and cannot accept amendments 2 and 3, as they would prevent us from meeting our manifesto commitment of ending free movement and introducing a new, fairer points-based immigration system. We also do not want the provision drafted so narrowly as to lead to challenge and uncertainty about whether an amendment is “appropriate” or “necessary” “in connection with” or “in consequence of” the end of free movement. Such an amendment would enable those who oppose the principle of ending free movement, which I accept the Scottish National party does, to seek to achieve that through the courts by challenging these regulations, since they were not able to achieve it at the ballot box in December.

The second reason that the power is important is to align the immigration treatment of EEA and non-EEA citizens for those who arrive from 1 January 2021, after the end of the transition period. That will enable us to deliver the new global points-based immigration system under which everyone is treated equally—for example, by removing EEA citizens’ exemption from the immigration skills charge. We also intend to use the power to align the rules on access to benefits, so that EEA citizens and non-EEA citizens are treated the same under the new global points-based system. It is worth me clarifying that the detailed requirements for the future points-based immigration system will be set out in the immigration rules made under the Immigration Act 1971 and subject to parliamentary scrutiny of those changes, not through regulations made under clause 4. Control has been taken back by Parliament and will be there.

Thirdly, the power will enable savings and transitional provisions to be made—for example, to protect EEA citizens’ existing appeal rights under the EEA regulations. That is in addition to the protections to be delivered for EEA citizens resident in the UK by the end of the transition period through statutory instruments, which the Government will bring forward under the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020.

I understand that clause 4 is a complex, technical power. That is why the Government have already produced information to help the Committee understand the power, through the factsheet published on gov.uk. I have also given examples of changes that we intend to make under the regulations. It is absolutely right that Parliament pays close attention to delegated powers such as these. I noted the recommendations of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee in the report on the Bill in the previous Parliament.

Amendment 4 would remove the provision to make changes in relation to fees and charges. Regulations made under this power may only modify legislation relating to the imposition of immigration fees and charges where that is as a consequence of or connected with the provision in part 1. That enables the application of fees and charges to EEA citizens, who are currently exempt from them, such as the immigration skills charge, which is paid by the employer.

Amendments 20, 21 and 22 would further limit the scope of the regulations made under clause 4. Let me set it out again that we need this power to ensure that our laws operate coherently once free movement ends, to align the immigration treatment of newly arriving EEA citizens and non-EEA citizens from 1 January 2021, and to make relevant savings and transitional provisions for resident EEA citizens that cannot be made under powers in the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020.

Amendment 20 would prevent the regulations from being used to make amendments that are in consequence of or in connection with clause 2, which protects the unique position of Irish citizens in the UK once free movement ends. I understand the queries about that point. To be absolutely explicit, we intend to use that power in a very limited way to amend provisions in the Immigration Act 1971 that cover entering the UK via the common travel area. We will not use them for wider changes. As I said this morning, the Belfast agreement is fundamental international law, as well as a fundamental part of our constitution.

Amendment 21 is intended, first, to sunset the power in clause 4 by setting a deadline for its use of one year after the Bill is passed and, secondly, to ensure that regulations made under the power expire after two years. As the hon. Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East is, I suspect, aware, regulations will need to be made under clause 4 to coincide with the repeal of free movement law by part 1. We have endeavoured to ensure that they make all the changes required by primary and secondary legislation, to come into effect by the end of the transition period. Beyond that, I assure him that we would make further changes under the power only if that were required, and Parliament will be fully engaged whenever it is used.

The power cannot be used to make amendments relating to the consequences of exiting the EU more generally; it can be used only in consequence of or in connection with ending free movement and the clarified status of Irish citizens. Changes cannot be made indefinitely, as they would not be in consequence of or in connection with that purpose. For example, the powers cannot be used to amend future primary legislation or general immigration policies.

The second limb of amendment 21 provides that any regulations made under clause 4 would expire after two years. That would mean that the legislation that had been amended reverted to its former state, creating confusion for the public and leading to a partial revival of elements of free movement, which I suspect is the outcome that the hon. Gentleman is partly hoping for. This is not an outcome that we can accept.

Amendment 22 would require that regulations made under the power in clause 4 complied with a specified set of principles. It would have the effect of continuing to treat newly arriving EEA citizens differently from non-EEA citizens. That is not consistent with establishing a new global points-based immigration system focused on the skills and contributions that people have to offer the UK, not where their passport is from.

Amendment 12, which was tabled by the hon. Member for Torfaen (Nick Thomas-Symonds), is also intended to sunset the power in clause 4 by setting the end date for its use as the day after the end of the grace period, on 30 June 2021, by which time EEA citizens and their family members resident in the UK by the end of the transition period must have applied for status under the EU settlement scheme unless, as we constantly repeat, there are reasonable grounds for missing the deadline.

I hope that I have reassured hon. Members concerning the important limitations on the use of the power in clause 4. I emphasise that it cannot be used to make amendments that relate to the consequences of exiting the EU more generally, but only in consequence of or in connection with ending free movement and the clarified status of Irish citizens provided by clause 2.

We will endeavour to make all the changes required to primary and secondary legislation in the forthcoming regulations to be made under clause 4 later this year. However, should we identify the need to make further regulations related to part 1, it is important that we have the power to do so, subject to the full scrutiny and approval of both Houses.

When a power to make regulations expires, so do any regulations made under it, so if the amendment were passed legislation that had been amended would revert to its former state, creating confusion for the public and leading to a partial revival of elements of free movement, which may have been the intention. However, that is not an outcome that the Government can accept.

Amendment 15, which was tabled by the hon. Member for Stretford and Urmston, would ensure that children of EEA and Swiss citizens resident in the UK were not adversely affected by the ending of free movement rights. She asked specifically about numbers, and I had an opportunity over the break to get the figures for the period up to 31 March 2020—they are published quarterly. Of the under-18s who have applied to the European settlement scheme, and where a decision has been taken, by 31 March, 261,880 were granted settled status and 150,940 were granted pre-settled status. That compares with just 20 refusals of applications from applicants aged under 18. Those refusals may well be on grounds purely of eligibility—that is, not having proof of living within the United Kingdom.

Given the hon. Lady’s specific query, I thought it would be helpful to give that clarity. It is not possible to say exactly how many people may be eligible, because free movement rights and rights relating to those who become eligible to apply to the European settlement scheme still operate up to 31 December. It is impossible to say exactly who will arrive tomorrow, for example, and be entitled under the withdrawal agreement to apply to the European settlement scheme. I hope that gives her some reassurance on where we are. It is worth saying that the overall level of applications to the European settlement scheme is now over 3.5 million and the number of decisions taken is over 3 million, which puts the numbers we are talking about into context.

Amendment 15 would create a two-tier system of family migration, with one set of requirements for the children of EEA and Swiss citizens and another for children of non-EEA citizens. It would lead to EEA citizens potentially being given preferential treatment inconsistent with the new points-based immigration system and with our aim of having a new single approach to migration rules, regardless of where a passport comes from.

The Home Office has, as the hon. Lady touched on, a very clear statutory obligation to take into account the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of children in the UK when carrying out immigration functions. That extends to all children, not just the children of EEA or Swiss citizens. This is contained in section 55 of the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009. That, together with article 3 of the UN convention on the rights of the child—part of international law, as she pointed out—means that consideration of the child’s best interests must be a primary consideration in immigration decisions affecting them.

The amendment could create a separate and preferential family migration system for the family members of EEA or Swiss citizens compared with the family members of non-EEA citizens. The proposed condition under clause 4—that the Secretary of State is satisfied that there would be no detrimental impact on the children of EEA or Swiss citizens—could lead to non-EEA citizens with children and the children themselves being treated less favourably for no reason other than their nationality and with no justification for that, given that the United Kingdom has now left the European Union. This is not a basis on which a new global immigration system can be founded.

The Bill’s core focus is to end free movement. The design of the new points-based immigration system will be developed consistent with our international and domestic obligations to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. For that reason, as set out in our published policy equality statement on the immigration measures in the Bill, we have committed carefully to consider all equalities issues, including the impact on children, as these policies are being developed, but not on the basis of a two-tier approach between non-EEA and EEA children.

It is important to debate the appropriate use of delegated powers, and I welcome this, but the Government are committed to ending free movement now that we have left the EU and this clause is an essential part of delivering that. It will be used to deliver a clear and coherent statute book and level the playing field for future migration by removing the preferential treatment of EEA citizens and their family members under EU freedom of movement rules.

In future, the UK’s immigration system will be firmer, fairer and global, rather than one based on where someone’s passport comes from. I suspect that I might not have been able to fully reassure Opposition Members on the power under clause 4, but I ask them not to press their amendments, which the Government cannot accept.

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Division 4

Ayes: 6


Labour: 5
Scottish National Party: 1

Noes: 8


Conservative: 8

Holly Lynch Portrait Holly Lynch (Halifax) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I beg to move amendment 13, in clause 4, page 3, line 8, at end insert—

“(5A) Regulations under subsection (1) must provide that EEA nationals, and adult dependants of EEA nationals, who are applying for asylum in the United Kingdom, may apply to the Secretary of State for permission to take up employment if a decision at first instance has not been taken on the applicant’s asylum application within six months of the date on which it was recorded.”

May I say what a pleasure it is to serve under your chairmanship again this afternoon, Mr Stringer? The amendment would give European economic area and Swiss nationals who apply for asylum in the UK the right to apply to the Secretary of State for permission to work if a decision has not been taken on the applicant’s asylum application within six months of the date on which it is recorded as having first been made.

The amendment is the legislative outcome of the Lift the Ban campaign, a movement headed up by Refugee Action and with the support of more than 200 organisations, including the likes of Oxfam and the British Red Cross; trade unions, including the National Education Union, Unison and the TUC more broadly; industry players such as Ben & Jerry’s and the Confederation of British Industry; and organisations such as the Adam Smith Institute. We worked on the drafting of the amendment with Refugee Action, as well as with legal professionals, and we are of course truly grateful, as ever, to the Committee Clerks. The proposal is limited to EU nationals to ensure that it falls within the scope of the Bill.

This amendment was tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Stretford and Urmston in the Bill Committee on the previous version of this Bill during the 2017-19 Parliament. At that point, the Government argued that the UK is allowed to treat an asylum claim made by a citizen of an EU country as automatically inadmissible unless exceptional circumstances apply, and that a claim made by a non-EU EEA national would be considered on the basis that it is likely to be clearly unfounded. The implication was that there would be no one who would benefit from the amendment, and in any case treating asylum seekers from the EEA differently from those from the rest of the world on the grounds of their nationality was not only illogical but discriminatory.

The Minister and I know, though, that the amendment sets out the proposal in principle, within the bounds of what is permissible in respect of the scope of the Bill. It gives us the opportunity and the platform to outline the case for change, and I am delighted that it also has the support of SNP Members.

In August and September 2018, the Lift the Ban coalition conducted a survey with a group that had direct experience of the asylum process and found that 94% of all respondents said they would like to work if they were given permission to do so. We have all met asylum seekers: they are people not dissimilar to ourselves who have often had to flee their own countries when faced with immediate danger. They are often skilled, able to work and want to work. Rose is one example. She is currently in the asylum system, so I appreciate that she is not an EU national, but hers is the experience that we could start to change and transform if the Government accept the merits of the amendment.

Rose has been waiting for a decision on her asylum claim for three years. Not having the right to work while she waits for a decision on her asylum claim is not only putting pressure on her family life but damaging to her children, who are unable to understand why she cannot work. She said:

“Not being able to work, it cripples you…As a parent, you feel that you are not good enough…When you have kids, their daily needs—there are things that you need to give them. If I were working, I would not have to go to charity shops all the time to get hand-me-downs for my kids.”

Rose wants to be given the opportunity to be productive and show what she is capable of. She said:

“I want to work so I can prove myself to my children.”

The amendment would give people in the future asylum system from EEA countries the opportunity to use their skills and make the most of their potential. It would improve the mental health of people such as Rose in the asylum system by giving them a sense of worth and purpose, and it would enhance the opportunities for integration into their new communities, as well as allowing them to satisfy the strong work ethic that Rose clearly has and wants to pass on to her children.

The impetus for this change has only been intensified by the coronavirus pandemic. The brilliant campaigning and advocacy from the group Freedom from Torture has shone a light on the pittance that asylum seekers receive in support rates. At present, people in the asylum system receive a little over £5 a day per person in allowances. While at the onset of the crisis the Chancellor increased universal credit by £20 a week to “strengthen the safety net”, no proportional measures have yet been introduced for asylum support rates.

The uncertainty and rise in demand for specific items due to the pandemic has only exacerbated the difficulty faced by asylum seekers in finding the supplies they need to keep themselves and their families healthy and safe. Even before the onset of coronavirus, 52% of Refugee Action survey respondents reported having to use a food bank at some point within the last 12 months. If the Government are not minded to increase asylum support rates, it is both moral and logical to grant asylum seekers the right to work after six months. To forbid both options is to back some of the most vulnerable people in our society into an unescapable corner.

The Government could transform the financial health of a vast number of asylum seekers by accepting the amendment. Additionally, it would allow asylum seekers to play an active role in getting the British economy moving again, following the immense disruption caused by the pandemic. Refugee Action estimates that this change in policy could benefit the UK economy through net gains for the Government of £42.4 million. This would also be an overwhelmingly popular policy. Refugee Action carried out a survey of the public where 71% agreed that people seeking asylum should be allowed to work.

Accepting the amendment would help to fix the structural and deeply entrenched problems that exist with the current system. People seeking asylum in the UK can only apply for the right to work after they have been waiting for a decision on their asylum claim for over a year. The UK is the global outlier in time taken to give people in the asylum system the right for work. Ireland, Hungary, France, the United States and Poland, to name just a few, all have a much swifter process.

Even then, the few people who are granted such permission are rarely able to work in practice because their employment is restricted to the list of professions included on the Government’s shortage occupation list. This is the equivalent of putting square pegs in round holes, and disregards the skills and potential of many people in the asylum system. Refugee Action found that 74% of survey participants had secondary level education and 37% had an undergraduate or postgraduate degree. People in the asylum system can and should work in a wide variety of jobs that are hugely beneficial to both the UK economy and public wellbeing.

My involvement with the campaign is largely thanks to two amazing women in my own constituency. I pay tribute to Veeca Smith and Florence Kahuro, who set up the wonderful and incredibly effective local campaign group Sisters United. I am sure they would be delighted to meet the Minister in the not-too-distant future—I am sure he would struggle to get a word in edgeways. They are absolutely brilliant. They both sought asylum in the UK and founded the group to offer peer support to others in their situation and campaign for simple things such as accommodation that is not plagued by health and safety issues, and the right to go out and earn for themselves.

I hope that the Minister will appreciate the broad consensus that exists behind this amendment and accept the multitude of benefits that adopting the amendment would bring. It is time we treated people in the asylum seekers with dignity and as people with unrecognised potential to contribute to our society.

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Kate Green Portrait Kate Green (Stretford and Urmston) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I, too, endorse the speeches we have heard in relation to this amendment. I only want to make two points to the Minister. First, the long delays in processing asylum applications and then appeals is, I think we can agree, a real concern for everybody in this House. The problem with having a ban on asylum seekers working is that there is very little incentive for the Home Office to make rapid progress in dealing with those cases. Indeed, given that 45% of appeals now succeed, it seems that we are taking a very long time to fail to give the chance to work to people who will ultimately obtain it.

Secondly, I want to ask the Minister a question that follows on from the one asked a few moments ago about his personal attitude towards lifting the ban on asylum seekers’ right to work. In the last Parliament, the previous Home Secretary, the right hon. Member for Bromsgrove (Sajid Javid), undertook to carry out a review of the policy and to give consideration to whether it needed to be revised. I do not think we ever heard the outcome of that review. It would be helpful to know whether the Home Office continues to conduct that review, when we might hear the outcome of it and whether evidence to support such a review is being sought from civil society and from parliamentary colleagues who might wish to submit ideas. It has been a long time since that commitment was made to the Home Affairs Committee, and it would be good to hear the status of that review.

Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I could make this a very quick response by saying that EEA citizens’ asylum claims are inadmissible, but given the constructive nature of Opposition Members’ speeches, I will respond more fully than the strict wording of the amendment allows me to. To my knowledge, there is literally no one with an outstanding asylum claim from an EEA country because they are inadmissible and therefore would not have to wait six months for a determination.

To be clear, our rules on the inadmissibility of asylum claims from EU citizens derive from the so-called Spanish protocol—part of the treaty of Amsterdam, dealing with this specific issue—which allows EU member states to treat an asylum claim by a citizen of another EU country as automatically inadmissible, unless exceptional circumstances apply. Those will, by their nature, be very rare. Claims from EEA citizens who are not part of the EU are considered by the UK, but on the basis that they are likely to be clearly unfounded. All EEA citizens, including those not in the EU, are considered to be from safe, democratic countries and are highly unlikely to suffer a well-founded fear of persecution or serious harm there. For those reasons, and because we do not foresee a change in these circumstances given the nature of the countries concerned, we intend to continue our policy on inadmissibility for EU citizens and rules regarding EEA citizens post the transition period. As a consequence, amendment 13 would be inconsistent with our broader policy on asylum claims from EU and EEA citizens.

Turning to Members’ wider remarks, our current policy allows asylum seekers to seek permission to work in the UK if their claim has been outstanding for 12 months through no fault of their own. Those permitted to work are restricted to jobs on the shortage occupation list—to use one example cited by the hon. Member for Coventry North West, a doctor—which is based on expert advice from the independent Migration Advisory Committee. We have recently commissioned the MAC to advise us on the shortage occupation list under the new points-based system. As Members will know, the required skill level is going from RQF6, graduate, to RQF3, A-level, which will potentially expand the number of posts that are available. Given the type of countries and education systems, it is likely that we will have more, for example, skilled chefs, who would be considered to be at level RQF3 and not RQF6.

Holly Lynch Portrait Holly Lynch
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am grateful to the Minister for the constructive tone of his response. We heard in evidence from the Migration Advisory Committee earlier this week that there is quite a significant delay in determining which jobs are on the shortage occupation list. We may well have skills that could be put to good use but have not yet found themselves on that list. Is there not a more dynamic way that we can have another look at that?

Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I appreciate the sentiment. Traditionally the MAC has only operated on commission, when the Home Secretary or the Immigration Minister asks it to look at something. We are in the process of appointing a new chair of the Migration Advisory Committee, and we are looking at how it can work on a more predictable cycle. The call for evidence on the shortage occupation list is open, and with the skills threshold changing, we need to update the list for 1 January 2021. I would certainly encourage any organisations that the hon. Member is in contact with to make submissions, given the quite significant change, which will allow a wider range of practical skills, not just the purely academic skills that the list inevitably reflects by setting the bar at degree level. Senior careworker is a good example of a position that we expect to be between RQF3 and RQF6, rather than not qualifying, and it is worth remembering that that list will apply on a global basis.

Returning to the amendment, it is important to distinguish between those who need protection and those seeking to come here to work, who can apply for a work visa under the immigration rules. Our wider immigration policy could be undermined if there was an incentive for individuals to try to bypass the work visa rules by lodging wholly unfounded asylum claims in the United Kingdom.

Secondly, unrestricted access to employment opportunities may also act as an incentive for more people to choose to come here illegally, rather than claiming asylum in the first safe country they reach, particularly within the European Union. We cannot have a policy that increases that risk, even though it has to be said that clearly an EEA citizen would not be fleeing war or persecution.

Kate Green Portrait Kate Green
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I understand the fear that the Minister is expressing, but does he accept that all meta-analysis of countries that offer asylum seekers a right to work shows that they experience no increase in asylum-seeking, or no relatively higher rate of asylum-seeking, than countries that do not offer such a right?

Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

As I touched on, there is some ability to work for those whose claims have been delayed for a significant period of time, but we are not satisfied, given what we have seen with past attempts to use parts of the migration system to avoid the restrictions or avoid having to come through the appropriate process to work here, that what the hon. Lady said would not be the case. We cannot readily dismiss the impact that removing such restrictions would have, nor its impact on our capacity to support genuine refugees who are in need of our protection, given that our system also has to deal with those claims that are unfounded and are more about intending to acquire a right to work in the United Kingdom.

I will take this opportunity to make it clear that I acknowledge the well expressed concerns of Opposition Members. The Government are committed to ensuring that asylum claims are considered without unnecessary delay, to ensure that individuals who need protection are granted asylum as soon as possible and can start to rebuild their lives. As the hon. Member for Halifax will know, once someone is granted asylum they are given immediate and unrestricted access to the labour market.

I heard the points that were made eloquently by the hon. Members for Coventry North West, and for Stretford and Urmston about the time that it can take to make some of these decisions. That is also a concern for me as a Minister and for the Government, because if people have a founded claim, we want it brought to a resolution as quickly as possible, so that they can move on and rebuild their lives. Similarly, if a claim is wholly unfounded or based on—if I might put it this way—inaccurate information being provided by the applicant, we want to come to a speedy decision to facilitate their removal from the United Kingdom, to ensure that our system is fair as well as firm.

The new service standard for asylum applications, which is intended to try to bring back some balance to the system, is currently being developed. UK Visas and Immigration is engaging with stakeholders as part of these plans and considering any insight that those stakeholders offer as it tries to shape a new service standard, which was touched on by the hon. Member for Coventry North West, as a start in attempting to tackle some of these issues.

Finally, the hon. Member for Stretford and Urmston asked about the review commissioned under a previous Home Secretary. We are in the process of reviewing the right-to-work policy, with officials looking at the body of evidence available. Therefore, it would be inappropriate for me to comment further until that review is complete, other than to say that that process is ongoing.

Having made those comments, the Government cannot accept the amendment and we hope that it will be withdrawn.

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Division 5

Ayes: 6


Labour: 5
Scottish National Party: 1

Noes: 8


Conservative: 8

Stuart C McDonald Portrait Stuart C. McDonald
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I beg to move amendment 5, in clause 4, page 3, line 9, leave out subsection (6).

This amendment would narrow the scope of the powers provided to the Secretary of State in Clause 4, as recommended by the House of Lords Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee.

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Holly Lynch Portrait Holly Lynch
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

As the SNP spokesperson says, this group of amendments, like most of those in the previous group, continues to seek to limit the transfer of powers to the Executive and away from Parliament. We have gone over the arguments against such sweeping Henry VIII powers in principle at length, so I will not repeat those. This group largely seeks to ensure that regulations made under clause 4 are subject to the affirmative procedure, and to leave out subsection (6).

Martin McTague from the Federation of Small Businesses was I think the only witness who said in his evidence on Tuesday that he actually did see some merit in the powers in clause 4, yet when asked further, he was keen to stress that

“the Home Secretary will be answerable to Parliament about the decisions that she or he has made. That would be a way in which Parliament could ensure there was proper scrutiny.”––[Official Report, Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill Public Bill Committee, 9 June 2020; c. 14, Q29.]

However, as the Bill stands, proper scrutiny will be missing.

As has been said, proper scrutiny is exactly what we are in the business of in this place. It is why the Government say they have thrown caution to the wind in returning to a physical Parliament when we could have been undertaking our duties from home, as is still the public health advice. If the Leader of the House is such a big fan of parliamentary scrutiny, why are we going to such lengths to avoid it with these powers? Putting changes through the affirmative procedure has to be the way forward if we are to shape legislation for the better and deliver on parliamentary democracy. That is why we support this group of amendments.

Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the hon. Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East for speaking to his further amendments on clause 4. Amendments 5, 6, 8 and 9 deal with the parliamentary procedure for regulations made under the clause 4 powers, as has been outlined. The made affirmatory procedure is needed in the event that there is a short window between the Bill’s Royal Assent and the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020. This is why the provision for the affirmative procedure that the hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for Halifax have suggested would not work. Free movement must end on 31 December at the end of the transition period, and it is important to ensure that regulations made under this power align the treatment of European economic area and non-EEA citizens who arrive in the UK from 1 January 2021.

To clarify, under the made affirmative procedure, Parliament will be asked to approve the regulations within 40 days of their being made to enable them to continue in force, so Parliament does have scrutiny of the use of this power. If either House does not approve the regulations, they will cease to have effect, but subsection (10) preserves the effect of anything done under these regulations before that point to ensure legal certainty—in essence, for someone who is granted immigration leave after applying under a rule that would come into effect on 1 January.

Using this power does not mean avoiding parliamentary scrutiny. The secondary legislation to be made under this power is still subject to full parliamentary oversight under the established procedures, although I expect the hon. Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East may actually be disappointed at just how limited and benign they end up being. It is important to debate the appropriate use of delegated powers, but the Government are committed to ending free movement now that we have left the EU, and this clause is an essential part of delivering that and ensuring that it can be done, with the new system in place, on 1 January 2021. We therefore cannot accept these amendments.

Stuart C McDonald Portrait Stuart C. McDonald
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am grateful to the Minister for his explanation. I am not convinced that there will be a time problem between the Bill coming into force and the end of the transition period, so I insist on pressing amendment 5 to a vote.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

Division 6

Ayes: 6


Labour: 5
Scottish National Party: 1

Noes: 8


Conservative: 8

Stuart C McDonald Portrait Stuart C. McDonald
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I beg to move amendment 1, in clause 4, page 3, line 28, at end insert—

“(11) Regulations made under subsection (1) must make provision for admission of EEA nationals as spouses, partners and children of UK citizens and settled persons.

(12) Regulations made under subsection (1) may require that the EEA nationals entering as spouses, partners and children of UK citizens and settled persons can be ‘maintained and accommodated without recourse to public funds’ but in deciding whether that test is met, account must be taken of the prospective earnings of the EEA nationals seeking entry, as well as an third party support that may be available.

(13) Regulations made under subsection (1) must not include any test of financial circumstances beyond that set out in subsection (12)”.

This amendment would ensure that UK nationals and settled persons can be joined in future by EU spouses and partners and children without application of the financial thresholds and criteria that apply to non-EEA spouses, partners and children.

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Holly Lynch Portrait Holly Lynch
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

We are enormously sympathetic to all the points that the Scottish National party spokesperson has just made on amendment 1, but I want to focus my comments on new clause 34, which we support. It would ensure that EEA and Swiss spouses of UK nationals were not ineligible for visas because of job cuts and furloughs resulting from the coronavirus. For many families, the coronavirus crisis has already led to loss of livelihood and prolonged separation. Now, families of British citizens with EU spouses fear that they will be permanently separated if their partner cannot secure a visa because their job security has been affected by coronavirus and they no longer meet the income threshold to settle in the UK.

We feel strongly that we should at this time give families as much security as possible. In the crisis, unemployment has crept up significantly, and there are limited work prospects. A recent publication for the Institute for Public Policy Research, using data from the labour force survey, found that migrants to the UK are far more likely to be working in industries affected by the crisis, including accommodation and food services. Migrants are also more likely to be self-employed and in temporary work, which puts them at particular risk of losing income, or having diminished income, as a result of the crisis.

We can foresee a ruthlessly competitive job market in the aftermath of the crisis. The new clause seeks only an appropriate grace period for the duration of the crisis on the minimum income requirement, for those who were working hard to ensure that they met it. It seems entirely appropriate to use the expiration of the Coronavirus Act 2020, as set out in the new clause, to set that.

A constituent of mine who worked at McDonald’s needed to meet the threshold so that his wife could stay in the country, and will fall short, having been furloughed. Another woman who contacted me has a one-year-old and is pregnant with her second child. Having been furloughed, she has had to get a second job to top up her income, to meet the minimum income requirement for her partner to join her. A raft of visa issues have been exacerbated by coronavirus, and I do not think that I am being unreasonable in saying that the Government have not been particularly swift in offering clear, effective advice about the status of citizens throughout lockdown. That is causing huge additional and unnecessary anxiety for affected families at what is already a worrying time.

We have heard that there has been ambiguity about information on the Government website this week. The Home Office issued information for those on furlough, announcing on 9 June that if someone had earned enough to meet the minimum income requirement in the six months before March 2020 but their salary had dropped on being furloughed, they could still apply as if they were earning 100% of their income. That is welcome, but are the Government minded to extend consideration to those who lost their jobs entirely, and to grant them a grace period of some kind?

I should be grateful if the Minister responded to those points and considered the new clause as a way not to pile further worry and uncertainty on to families who are looking to reunite.

Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I appreciate the intention behind amendment 1, which is to create a means whereby, in future, EEA citizens would be able to join a spouse, partner or parent in the UK who was either a British citizen or settled here, without being subject to the current and established financial requirements for family migration. I also appreciate the intention behind new clause 34, which is to extend the concessions that the Government have already put in place for people subject to the minimum income requirement who are affected by covid-19 and the measures necessary to tackle it.

So that those subject to the requirement will not be unduly affected by circumstances beyond their control, a temporary loss of income during the pandemic will be disregarded. I hope that members of the Committee will appreciate that it would be difficult, and probably not appropriate, for me to go through an exhaustive list of circumstances that we might consider. However, new guidance is certainly online; I have just checked. I have summarised some of the details at least in one answer to a parliamentary question this week. It is my clear understanding that if someone is furloughed and, under their contract of employment, their potential earnings at 100% would be over £18,600—there are a couple of caveats to that, but we will stick with £18,600 for now—but the 20% furlough effect takes them below that figure, that drop in income will be disregarded. It is their substantive income that we will take into account, if they are still in their job and able to return to it when furlough comes to an end. For convenience, I will write to the Committee setting out the guidance we have given so that Members have it to hand, given the concern and interest that has been shown.

Let me be clear from the outset that the effect of amendment 1 and new clause 34 would be to create a separate and preferential family migration system for EEA and Swiss nationals and their families when compared with the situation of British or settled people’s family members who are non-EEA citizens. That is the intention of the amendments. That would lead to a perception that non-EEA family members were being discriminated against for no reason other than their nationality and would likely be regarded as unlawful for that reason, given that we have now left the European Union and the basis for having a two-tier immigration system has fundamentally been removed. I accept that Members would argue that they would like to change the rules overall, not just for EEA citizens, but the focus of the Bill is EEA citizens; it is not a general migration Bill.

Holly Lynch Portrait Holly Lynch
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Does the Minister not accept, however, that the difference for British citizens in EU countries is that when they took decisions to form relationships and families elsewhere in Europe, they did not envisage that the rules would change and that free movement rights would be taken away from them? The immigration rules have changed for them in a way that they have not for other British citizens in other countries around the world.

Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

When anyone takes the decision to go and live abroad, there is no guarantee that migration rules will not change while they are living abroad; rules have changed over the years for British citizens living outside the EEA. However, we have put in place a longer transitional period, which I think will be to 2022—it will be nearly six years after the referendum by the time that is implemented—for those who have moved abroad on freedom of movement. Even then, they will still have the ability to move back under the family migration rules, the same as UK citizens living anywhere else.

It is also worth noting that someone who might apply for a spousal visa could also apply under tier 2. To touch on the point about potential earnings in this country, someone who qualified for a skilled work visa would be able to apply through that route if they were not able to apply through the spousal visa route. They would not, for example, be barred from settling with a UK citizen here because they were on a tier 2 visa rather than a spousal visa. Actually, under some of the provisions, particularly if they were a healthcare worker, they would potentially be quicker to settlement overall if they took that opportunity. I know that is a point that has been raised about those who might have an earning potential.

Let me go into some of the details of why we do not think amendment 1 is the right approach. The amendment seeks to replace the minimum income requirement for British citizens and settled persons to sponsor EEA family members with a test that has three separate components: being able to maintain and accommodate the family without recourse to public funds; taking account of the prospective earnings of the EEA nationals seeking entry; and taking into account any third-party support available. Let me address those in turn.

The first component—the simple ability to maintain and accommodate without recourse to public funds—would take us back to the policy that was in place before the minimum income requirement was introduced in 2012. It was partly because the test for whether a family could maintain and accommodate themselves without recourse to public funds was difficult to apply consistently that the minimum income requirement was introduced. The minimum income requirement provides certainty to all by ensuring that family migrants are supported at a reasonable and consistent level that is easy to understand. As Opposition Members have alluded to, the minimum income requirement has been based on in-depth analysis and advice from the independent Migration Advisory Committee.

I turn to some of the points about differentials across the United Kingdom. The Migration Advisory Committee found no clear case for differentiation in the level of the minimum income requirement between the UK’s countries or regions. A single national threshold provides clarity and simplicity. Data also show that the gross median earnings in 2018 exceeded the minimum income requirement in every country and region of the United Kingdom.

--- Later in debate ---
Holly Lynch Portrait Holly Lynch
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Once again, we are very sympathetic to the amendment. As we have already heard, it is not dissimilar to amendment 1, and it would offer reassurance to the 1.2 million British nationals who live in EU countries. Failure to implement measures such as those proposed in the amendment would show the Government’s indifference to British citizens who decided to make their homes and lives in Europe and, as in the example we have just heard, could force people to choose between loved ones there and loved ones here.

The example provided by British in Europe paints a picture of something that is affecting thousands of people and has the potential to affect thousands more in future, as family members age and their circumstances change. The amendment characterises the significance of forming laws and policies; what is discussed and decided on in this building has far-reaching implications and consequences affecting vast swathes of people in their day-to-day lives.

Until March 2022, any citizen going to live in an EU 27 country did so with the security of knowing that if they were to form a relationship and/or have a family, they would have the right to return to the UK with their partner and family, with no or very few conditions attached. That was the point I made to the Minister in challenging and seeking further clarification on some of his points about differences being potentially discriminatory against returning UK citizens and spouses from other parts of the world, not just EEA countries.

As I am sure we can all appreciate, families and relationships can be complex. The provisions afforded to British citizens through freedom of movement would allow any citizen to return to the UK with their partner and family if a situation arose where they needed to do so, potentially at quite short notice. If the UK citizen returned to be either employed or self-employed, there would be no conditions on their return; if they returned to be a student or to be non-economically active, they would have to have sufficient resources not to become a burden on the social assistance system of the UK, and have comprehensive health insurance.

In comparison, under the proposed new immigration rules, spouses and partners who wish to enter the UK with their British partner will have to meet the minimum income requirement of £18,600, and the figure is increased if the family have children. That is a wholly restrictive requirement that will severely deter families from returning and coming to the UK. In some cases, it may stop British citizens returning to the UK altogether.

As highlighted in evidence by Jeremy Morgan, the right of citizens to return with their families to their country of origin was deemed outside the scope of the UK-EU withdrawal negotiations, resulting in a serious inequality between UK citizens in the EU and EU citizens in the UK. Bizarrely, the UK Government are discriminating against their own citizens in this instance, since nationals continue to enjoy their right to return to their countries of origin with their non-EU family members.

Furthermore, EU citizens resident in the UK and covered by the withdrawal agreement also have an unconditional lifelong right to bring in family members, including non-EU members, to the UK, provided that the relationship existed before the end of the transition period. The amendment tabled would address that discrepancy.

The coronavirus pandemic has only heightened the need for the Government to carry out their basic duty to support UK citizens living abroad. What if the pandemic had occurred after 29 March 2022? As countries began lockdown, British citizens in Europe would have been faced with the unenviable choice of remaining or hastily returning to the UK. The minimum income requirement would have meant that many British citizens and their families would have been simply unable to return, despite both global and personal crises.

Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I again thank the hon. Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East and his colleagues for tabling amendment 14 and allowing us to have this discussion. As the hon. Gentleman has said, the amendment would require the Government to include in regulations, made in consequence of this Bill ending EU free movement law, lifetime rights for UK nationals to bring their close family members to the UK on EU free movement terms, where the UK national was resident in the EEA or Switzerland in accordance with EU law by the end of the transition period at the end of this year. Those family members would thereby continue indefinitely to bypass the immigration rules that otherwise apply to family members of UK nationals.

I will set out the Government’s policy for this cohort of family members before I explain our reasons for rejecting the amendment. In certain circumstances, family members of UK nationals who have resided together in the EEA or Switzerland are able to come to the UK under EU free movement law. That applies where a UK national has exercised free movement rights in the host state—as a worker or self-employed person, for example—for more than three months. That is sometimes referred to as the “Surinder Singh route”, after the relevant judgment of the Court of Justice of the European Union.

Surinder Singh family members are not protected by the withdrawal agreement, as was said. None the less, as a matter of domestic policy, the Government decided that UK nationals resident in the European Economic Area or Switzerland under EU free movement law until the end of the transition period, which is the end of this year, will have until 29 March 2022 to bring their existing close family members—a spouse, civil partner, durable partner, child or dependent partner—to the UK on EU law terms. The family relationship must have existed before the UK left the EU on 31 January 2020 unless the child was born or adopted after that date, and it must continue to exist when the family member seeks to come to the UK, for obvious reasons.

--- Later in debate ---
Holly Lynch Portrait Holly Lynch
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Yet again, I rise to echo a great deal of what has already been said by the SNP spokesperson. The Opposition have spoken consistently in favour of a declaratory approach, and the Home Affairs Committee has also tabled an amendment outlining its preference for that approach, so, while we have sought to deal with the scheme in front of us by way of our amendments and new clauses, should he push amendment 16 to a vote, he would certainly have our support.

In our 2019 manifesto, we committed ourselves to ending the uncertainty created by the EU settlement scheme by granting EU nationals the automatic right to continue living and working in the UK. This new declaratory system would allow EU nationals the chance to register for proof of status if they wished, but they would no longer have to apply to continue living and working in this country. This would help to secure reciprocal treatment for UK citizens living in the EU, prevent a repeat of the shameful Windrush scandal and avoid unnecessarily criminalising hundreds of thousands of EU nationals.

Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

This has been a useful debate. As has been pointed out, amendment 16 would require the Government to establish a declaratory system for those eligible for residence rights under the withdrawal agreement or the immigration rules for the EU settlement scheme. That was touched on by the hon. Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East, who speaks for the SNP. It is a familiar argument we have been having over the last couple of years, and I suspect we will continue having it over the next year or two.

As the hon. Member alluded, EEA and Swiss citizens resident in the UK by the end of transition period and their family members can secure their rights here through the EU settlement scheme and through applications that are free of charge to make. So far, more than 3.5 million applications have been received and more than 3.2 million concluded, despite the efforts of one or two people to encourage people not to take part, as my hon. Friend the Member for Moray highlighted. This is with still more than a year to go before the deadline for applications on 30 June 2021 for those resident here by the end of the transition period on 31 December.

It is worth pointing out that the UK’s immigration system has long been predicated on individuals applying to the Home Office to be granted leave to enter or remain, under what we call a constitutive system. The Government have repeatedly made it clear that the constitutive system, introduced through the EU settlement scheme, is the best approach to implementing the citizens’ rights elements of the withdrawal agreements. It provides EEA citizens and their family members with clarity about what they need to apply for and by when, and with the secure evidence of their status that they need.

A requirement to apply for individual status by a deadline provides a clear incentive for EEA citizens living here to secure their status in UK law and obtain evidence of this, whereas a declaratory system, under which individuals acquire an immigration status under an Act of Parliament, would significantly reduce the incentive to obtain and record evidence of status. Indeed, the amendment does not include any requirement to do that, so in decades to come it could result in some of the issues we saw in the Windrush scandal: people with a status that has been granted, but for which there is no clear or recorded evidence.

Stuart C McDonald Portrait Stuart C. McDonald
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am happy to take on board what the Minister says and redraft the amendment to include, for example, a £50 fine if somebody does not have a document proving their settled status. That would be much less serious than leaving them without any right to be in this country at all. Would he consider a declaratory system on that basis?

Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Well, I do not think I would. Like I said, we would be reasonable in accepting late applications—for example, if somebody did not have EU settled status because they were a child in care or mentally incapable at the time when they should have applied. I suspect that when we publish the guidance those two situations will be among the list of reasonable reasons for late applications. It would be rather odd, however, to then issue them with a £50 fine. We think it right that at some point a line be drawn, although we would be reasonable in respect of the circumstances of a late application. Certainly, in the early stages after the deadline, it is likely that the bar to cross will be fairly low, in terms of what is a reasonable reason for not having made the deadline.

As was touched on, we are up to more than 3.5 million applications already. It has been a very successful scheme. It is slightly ironic that the organisation representing EU citizens in the UK calls itself the3million, because the Home Office has already found 3.5 million and there is still a good stream of applications coming in every day, as there has been throughout the recent period. The Government are confident that we have already found many more than 3 million, and all of them are our friends and neighbours. We want them to stay, and we welcome the fact that they have taken the opportunity to apply to the European settlement scheme to guarantee their rights.

The Government are adamant that we must avoid a situation where, years down the line, EEA citizens who have built their lives here find themselves struggling to prove their rights and entitlements in the UK. That is why we have set up this system. I fundamentally believe that changing a system that is working well would have the opposite effect to that which the amendment is intended to achieve. It would reduce the certainty of a grant of status under the EU settlement scheme, which has already been given to more than 3 million EEA citizens and their family members.

The amendment provides that a right of permanent residence would be automatically acquired by EEA citizens resident here before 5 March 2020—when the Bill was introduced—regardless of how long they had been continuously resident in the UK. I do not wish to speculate about why the amendment is designed to exclude people who arrived on 6 March, or about why the Bill being introduced is a more significant moment than the end of the transition period or the day that Britain left the European Union. The general requirement under the EU settlement scheme to have been continuously resident here for five years before becoming eligible for a right of permanent residence—settled status—reflects the rights under the free movement directive, which are protected by the withdrawal agreement. To reassure hon. Members that we are talking to people who work with the EUSS, there will be efforts put in place, using the contact details provided to the EUSS, to prompt people should they be approaching the five-year period.

It is right that someone should demonstrate sufficiently long residence in the UK, in line with our current EU law rights, before being eligible for all the benefits and entitlements that settled status brings, including access to those provided by public funds. The amendment would mean that any length of residence in the UK prior to 5 March 2020, however short, would be sufficient. I do not believe that is the right approach. It is a rather strange date to choose, even though it is the introduction. Why would that be logical? It is worth explaining why someone was not covered on 6 March but was covered on 5 March. I therefore suggest to the Committee that we should not accept the amendment; we should stick with a system that is working and doing a great a job at getting those who are our friends and neighbours the status they need for the long term and the surety that brings. I therefore suggest that the hon. Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East withdraw his amendment.

Stuart C McDonald Portrait Stuart C. McDonald
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Again, I am grateful to the Minister for his reply. The amendment would not negate the good work that has happened in managing to process applications from EU nationals and provide them with digital proof of their status; it would build on it.

The Minister always insists that such a system would give people less of an incentive to apply, but that is just not the case. We would not say to anyone who was a victim of the Windrush fiasco that they did not have an incentive to apply for documentary proof. In fact, all the Windrush citizens had the right to be in this county, but that was not enough. They had to get documents, and the result of not being able to access documents was that they went through absolute hell. That is a lesson that we must learn. If we make the system declaratory, people will still apply because they need digital proof of their status to access work, social security, education and whatever else.

I do not accept the Minister’s explanation of why we retain the constitutive system. If he wants to talk about incentives, there is a big problem for anyone who misses the deadline of 30 June 2021. When they find out that they have missed it, they suddenly think, “I thought I was British, but I am not. I thought I had rights here because I had status under the old EU system, but it turns out I don’t.” Those hundreds of thousands of people will be absolutely petrified of applying to the Home Office because they have no assurance that they will be granted status here. There are vague words about being reasonable, but that did not really cut it for the Windrush generation, and this is a much bigger problem. I will press the amendment to a vote.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

Division 7

Ayes: 5


Labour: 4
Scottish National Party: 1

Noes: 8


Conservative: 8

Question put, That clause 4 stand part of the Bill.

Division 8

Ayes: 8


Conservative: 8

Noes: 6


Labour: 5
Scottish National Party: 1

Clause 4 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill (Third sitting)

(Limited Text - Ministerial Extracts only)

Read Full debate
Committee stage & Committee Debate: 3rd sitting: House of Commons
Thursday 11th June 2020

(4 years, 1 month ago)

Public Bill Committees
Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Act 2020 Read Hansard Text Amendment Paper: Public Bill Committee Amendments as at 11 June 2020 - (11 Jun 2020)

This text is a record of ministerial contributions to a debate held as part of the Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Act 2020 passage through Parliament.

In 1993, the House of Lords Pepper vs. Hart decision provided that statements made by Government Ministers may be taken as illustrative of legislative intent as to the interpretation of law.

This extract highlights statements made by Government Ministers along with contextual remarks by other members. The full debate can be read here

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

Kevin Foster Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Kevin Foster)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Edward, and I will take on board the comments you have just made. If you will permit me, I would like to make a few introductory remarks—at the start of Committee proceedings and before we begin to debate the detail—on the purpose of the clauses.

The Bill delivers the ending of free movement of people and lays the foundations for introducing a fairer, firmer skills-led immigration system. The coronavirus pandemic is the biggest crisis we have faced in our lifetime. We need people, regardless of nationality, to continue coming together, using their skills and expertise to support the United Kingdom’s recovery.

As you will know, Sir Edward, legislating is not an academic exercise; there must be a point to it. The point is that we will introduce a new system by ending preferential treatment for EEA citizens. That will mean a system that prioritises the skills people have to offer and how they will contribute to the United Kingdom, not where their passport comes from.

The Government recognise the tremendous contribution people are making to keep vital services running during this incredibly difficult time and the dedication shown by millions demonstrates to employers the skills and work ethic we have here. Colleagues may well recall that this Bill was introduced in the previous Parliament. There have been no substantial changes to the content since it was previously considered. The only changes made are minor drafting clarifications in places and updates to the list of retained EU law to be repealed.

We remain committed to delivering a points-based immigration system that benefits the whole UK from January 2021. We will open key routes from autumn 2020, so people can start to apply ahead of the system taking effect on 1 January 2021. I want to clarify that the details of the future system will be set out in the immigration rules and not in the Bill, as is the case now for the non-EEA immigration system and has always been the case under previous Governments. The rules will be laid before Parliament later this year.

Turning specifically to clause 1, this introduces the first schedule to the Bill, which contains a list of measures to be repealed in relation to the end of free movement and related issues. The clause fulfils a purely mechanistic function to introduce the schedule.

Holly Lynch Portrait Holly Lynch (Halifax) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Edward, as we start line-by-line scrutiny of this particularly important legislation in these highly unusual times.

I thank the Minister for his opening speech on clause 1 and schedule 1. Early in proceedings, I want to put on the record my thanks to the Clerk of the Bill Committee. He has been absolutely invaluable to all Committee members with assistance on the amendments and new clauses before us.

I also want to put on the record—I am sure that the Minister will join me, in the spirit of some early unity, as might you, Sir Edward—an expression of our disappointment about the audio arrangements for Tuesday’s evidence session. The poor sound quality was problematic not only on the day, as on occasion exchanges between Members and witnesses were seriously restricted, but for Hansard during the afternoon sitting. Colleagues worked incredibly hard to make that Hansard report available, but, unfortunately, it was not published until after 11 o’clock last night. That made preparations for today’s line-by-line scrutiny based on that evidence incredibly difficult.

That said, I turn to clause 1 and schedule 1. As the Minister is aware, we voted against the Bill on Second Reading, and the clause is the Bill in a nutshell. We will go on to discuss in great detail the various clauses and to outline our reservations at the different stages, but, ultimately, we fear that the Bill—right now, and in this form—holds none of the answers to the problems facing the country and actually stands to exacerbate them.

It is not difficult to see how implementation of the Bill could have severe consequences for the health and social care sector, a point made by several of the witnesses on Tuesday. The sector will require special consideration. The policy statement published in February on what comes after clause 1 specifically comes into effect simply saying to those earning less than £25,600:

“We will…end free movement and not implement a route for lower-skilled workers.”

Many of the people on the frontline fighting the coronavirus earn less than that. We need them now, and we need them to recover. The policy paper and the Minister state that they are looking to the domestic workforce to plug those gaps, but on Tuesday we heard from the Migration Advisory Committee—we can all see and feel this—that systemic failures underpin the problems in social care, and those will not be resolved by January. If we put a hard stop on free movement without having resolved some of those issues, there will be consequences when the country can least afford that.

Concerns about the clause fall into two distinct groups: ensuring that we have done the right thing by the some 3.5 million EU citizens who are already here under free movement rules when those come to an end, and certain groups in particular, and looking ahead to the future impact of restricted migration flows. Since the Bill’s predecessor was presented to the House in the 2017 to 2019 Parliament, the EU settlement scheme has come into effect to give European citizens who reside in the UK a pre-settled and a settled status.

The numbers coming through the scheme are positive, but there are concerns about certain groups, some with specific vulnerabilities. Eligible children in care, for example, are one cohort that we will return to under the new clauses. The impact of coronavirus on Home Office capabilities alone, in addition to its impact on applicants, inevitably has heightened our concerns that some groups will need more support than ever to access the scheme.

Turning to the impact that ending free movement will have on migration flows in key sectors, the Bill provides more questions than answers. It is incredibly narrow in scope, as we have discussed, which is extraordinary given that it will create the biggest change to our immigration system in decades. Instead of putting forward a new immigration system, which Parliament could discuss, debate, amend and improve, the Bill grants powers to Ministers to introduce whatever system they like with extensive Henry VIII powers.

The Government’s February 2020 policy statement indicated what such a system might be like. Properly debating most of that new system will be deemed out of scope for this Bill and this Committee, but we will do what we can within scope to set out principles and solutions for when clause 1 comes into effect.

A number of the witnesses on Tuesday were critical of the Government’s planned £25,600 threshold—not just on health and social care—and transitioning on to a visa system and sponsorship routes will cause headaches and shortages for a range of businesses, exacerbating economic uncertainty. For example, the Bill fails to address the UK’s need for migrant workers to allow the agriculture sector simply to function, which is another issue that we will explore when we debate the new clauses.

To be clear, Labour has no problem with an immigration system that treats all migrants the same, no matter where they come from, but that is not the system the Government propose. A points-based immigration system could be effective. However, it would be predicated on receptive analysis of occupation shortages, parallel education and skills strategies that seek to fill long-term job gaps with domestic talent, and a pragmatic yet empathetic Border Force. The Bill fails to do any of that, and we will seek to remedy this, within the bounds of its scope, through our amendments and new clauses.

--- Later in debate ---
Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I will reply briefly. I recognise the position of the Scottish National party on the Bill and on these particular proposals. There is a fundamental difference, but I assure the hon. Gentleman that he is always worth listening to, even when we disagree. He laments the absence of the tourism and hospitality industries on Tuesday. Regardless of our views on the Bill, we all look forward to an era when those industries will be able to think about recruiting again, rather than being in the position that we expect them to be in of significant job losses, including in my constituency, over the coming weeks and months, given the impact of recent weeks.

To turn to the comments of the hon. Member for Halifax, I was listening on Tuesday to the evidence from Professor Brian Bell, interim chair of the MAC, particularly on social care, and I cannot remember him saying that a general route for employers in the social care sector to recruit abroad at or near the minimum wage would be good news for the social care sector. In fact, I think he said precisely the opposite. To be clear, the general salary threshold is being reduced to £25,600, but where an occupation is deemed to be in shortage, it will be subject to a lower salary level of £20,480 a year.

It is also worth pointing out that for more than 20 categories of healthcare professional and allied healthcare professional, their eligibility will be based on the national salary scales paid in the NHS, rather than the general salary scales set out in the wider immigration rules. That is linked to the creation of what we are looking at as a healthcare visa to give fast-track access and reduced fees to people under that scheme. It is important that we keep placing those facts on the record so that people are aware of them, given some of the not very well informed commentary we have seen in the media, such as the claim that nurses will not be eligible, when in fact they will be fast-tracked and prioritised under our system.

Holly Lynch Portrait Holly Lynch
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am concerned that the Minister has put words in my mouth in relation to what the MAC said about social care. What we did hear loud and clear from a number of witnesses, however, was that there is no plan to address workforce issues in social care when free movement ends. Is he minded to have specific remedies for social care in his future plans, before we end free movement?

Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Again, if people think, from what we have seen in the last few weeks, that the remedy for social care is to recruit more people at or near to the minimum wage from abroad, that is an odd conclusion to draw.

Holly Lynch Portrait Holly Lynch
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Domestically.

Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

We will certainly talk to the Employment Minister. Again, I am conscious of the scope of the Bill and not going off more widely into our labour market strategies.

One conversation I recently had with the Employment Minister was about how, sadly, a lot of people in my constituency, and I am sure in the hon. Lady’s constituency as well, need to find new employment opportunities. Social care, and the healthcare sector more widely, will be part of providing some of those opportunities, not just through entry level jobs, but by ensuring that education, colleges and others are training people towards skilled jobs and providing real career progression.

For me, that is the solution for social care, rather than looking to the migration system as the overall labour market solution. I am sure we all share the sentiment, whatever any of us thinks of ending free movement, that the sector needs to be more invested in and more valued, and that there need to be clearer paths of career progression that people can see when they are deciding what they want to do for a job and a career.

I am conscious, Sir Edward, of what you said about the scope of the Bill. We could have an interesting discussion about the overall labour market strategy, but for now, this is a focused debate about why clause 1 is important and delivers the core of what the Bill is about.

Question put, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Division 1

Ayes: 8


Conservative: 8

Noes: 5


Labour: 4
Scottish National Party: 1

Clause 1 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
--- Later in debate ---
None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

Before I call the Minister, does anybody else wish to speak? In that case, over to you, Minister.

Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Thank you, Sir Edward. I just thought I would be courteous, in case there was another hon. Member who wished to speak.

Amendment 18, which stands in the name of the hon. Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East, and his colleagues, would remove paragraph 4(2) from schedule 1 to the Bill, which disapplies provisions of the workers regulation, which conflict with domestic immigration law. This would mean that the UK remained bound by EU law in relation to the rights of EEA citizens to access the UK’s job market, which might in part be the hon. Gentleman’s intention, given his well-known view on that subject.

The Government, therefore, cannot support this amendment, because it would effectively result in free movement rights for workers and their families continuing after the end of the transition period. The Government are committed to ending the free movement of people now that we have left the EU, so therefore this proposal is incompatible with that. The Government are committed to ending the free movement of people now that we have left the EU, so therefore this would be incompatible with that.

We have made it clear that we will bring free movement to an end on 1 January, and introduce an effective and fairer points-based immigration system that takes into account the needs of the whole of our United Kingdom and works for the whole of our United Kingdom. It will be a system that reflects the skills and contributions that someone has to offer, not where the person comes from.

Stuart C McDonald Portrait Stuart C. McDonald
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Minister is right that I would love to see all these rights retained, but that is not the motivation behind this amendment. I accept that the Government want to go about repealing some rights, but the Bill does not really do that. It says, in a peculiar way, that the rights are “sort of repealed” and one has to check back through immigration legislation for decades to work out to what extent. Why has it been done in this way rather than setting out specifically which rights are retained and which are not?

Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The answer is partly that it is not possible to draw up an exhaustive list of directly affected law in terms of the EU because court judgments will affect that. One reason for the wording is to make it clear that it relates to the Immigration Act 1971 and does not create a wider enabling power around the workers regulation. I am also clear that those who are subject to the withdrawal agreement are covered by those provisions.

During the passage of the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020 we discussed in great detail the provisions for protecting the rights of EEA citizens resident in the UK by the end of the transition period, which is 31 December this year. The EU settlement scheme, which was fully opened on 13 March 2019, was specifically introduced for this purpose. One of the rights protected by the status granted under the scheme is equality of access to employment, benefits and services, in the manner outlined by the workers regulation.

Retaining sub-paragraph (4)(2) of schedule 1 will in no way compromise our commitments to upholding the rights of resident EEA citizens already working in the United Kingdom. It will simply ensure other provisions of the workers regulation, which are not specific to immigration, do not have ongoing effects on UK immigration law, but continue to have their effects for other purposes, hence the wording of the sub-section. Otherwise the UK would be required, for example, to provide all EEA citizens with an offer of employment as though they were British citizens, meaning they could not be subjected to any restrictions on access in the UK labour market, directly undermining the new points-based immigration system, which will not provide preferential treatment for EEA citizens.

The changes made by sub-paragraph (4)(2) only relate to immigration aspects of the workers regulation and will not affect any other rights provided by that regulation. For example, the right to equal treatment in respect of positions of employment and work, and the right to join a trade union are unaffected by the provision, because this Bill is not the appropriate vehicle in which to consider them or to look for a power to alter or amend them.

It is less than six months since the British people voted to take back control of our borders and introduce a new points-based system to control immigration, which will deliver for the UK for years to come. This provision, ending the immigration rights provided by the workers regulation, is one the steps needed to pave the way for the new system. For those reasons, the Government cannot support this amendment and I ask the hon. Gentleman to withdraw it.

Stuart C McDonald Portrait Stuart C. McDonald
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the Minister for his explanation. I absolutely understand what the Government are trying to achieve and that some of the rights in the workers directive have been put in legislation, including in the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020. However, that is not the point that this amendment is trying to make. The point is about how the Bill is—or is not—going about repealing the workers directive.

It is essentially a point about the rule of law. When I intervened, the Minister said that it would not be possible to draw up an exhaustive list of exactly how these rights were affected by Immigration Acts and other provisions. If the Government cannot do that, how on earth is the ordinary citizen supposed to be able to tell what their rights are? I think we should take this paragraph out of the schedule and, if the Government are unhappy with the implications that has in leaving things on the statute book, they should come back on another occasion with a clear list and fix it that way. I would like to push the amendment to a division.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

Division 2

Ayes: 5


Labour: 4
Scottish National Party: 1

Noes: 8


Conservative: 8

Question proposed, That the schedule be the First schedule to the Bill.
Kate Green Portrait Kate Green (Stretford and Urmston) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Edward. I would like to ask the Minister some questions about paragraph 6 of schedule 1, which potentially disapplies any retained EU law relating to the immigration context. It is a similar set of questions to those we were discussing a moment ago in relation to amendment 18, but with a different focus. It arises from evidence that was given to us on Tuesday afternoon by Adrian Berry on behalf of the Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association, which I thank for its help in preparing for this Committee.

I apologise that it was not possible to get an amendment tabled on this paragraph. As my hon. Friend the Member for Halifax pointed out, we have been doing a number of things in relation to this Bill at a rush, and we did not have the transcript of Tuesday afternoon’s sitting until last night. I am very grateful to the Hansard writers for the work they have been doing—I know they have a lot of Bills on—but that has caused part of our problem.

My concern is that the breadth of the wording in paragraph 6 could lead to the repeal of legal protections that go far beyond the realm of free movement, which is the purpose of this Bill. I hope the Minister may be able to put some assurances on the record in relation to my concerns about the Government’s future intentions. As we heard a few moments ago, certain provisions of EU law, as retained EU law, have been brought within UK law by a number of different instruments—some EU law has been brought into domestic law through statutory instruments and so forth. They are saved by section 2 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. Direct EU legislation is saved as retained EU law by section 3 of the 2018 Act. It is explicitly defined and does not include treaties or directives; it is things such as EU regulations with direct applicability.

Any other powers, liabilities, obligations, restrictions, remedies and procedures that could be enforced in the UK because of EU law are carried over by section 4 of the 2018 Act. That includes things like treaties and directives that are directly effective. It is, however, important to note that section 4(2)(b) limits the enforceability of directives to the extent that retained EU law is only the rights, powers, liabilities, obligations, restrictions, remedies or procedures arising under an EU directive that are of a kind that have been recognised by the European Court or any court or tribunal in the United Kingdom in a case decided before the end of the transition period.

Paragraph 6 of schedule 1 disapplies those provisions of EU law to the extent that they are either inconsistent with or otherwise incapable of affecting the interpretation, application or operation of any provision made by or under the Immigration Acts, or otherwise capable of affecting the exercise of functions in connection with immigration. The problem is that the carve-out basically all EU immigration law retained by virtue of paragraph 4, because

“capable of affecting the exercise of functions in connection with immigration”

could basically mean just about anything. The question I am asking the Minister is what EU law that paragraph applies to. What exactly are the Government trying to target?

We get some help from paragraphs 68 and 69 of the explanatory notes to the Bill, which suggest the Government may be trying to affect what we have come to call derived rights cases, in the free movement context. For example, cases of so-called Zambrano carers. These are situations where the European Court has recognised that, because of rights within the European treaties available to European nationals, certain rights must be given to those nationals and their family members or carers in order to ensure that the European national can actually enjoy their EU rights. I accept that, if one is trying to get rid of free movement, as the Bill is, these categories would need to be removed from UK law. That is exactly what ending free movement means, but if that is the scope of the Government’s intentions, it should be much clearer in the Bill.

Unfortunately, paragraph 6 goes much wider than that, addressing not only provisions made under the Immigration Acts, as the Minister suggested a few moments ago, but any matter capable of being seen as in connection with immigration. That could include, for example, the anti-trafficking directive, which prohibits removal of a victim of trafficking if they never received sufficient support and assistance under article 11 of the directive. Other directives that could be caught under involving the exercise of functions in connection with immigration include the reception conditions directive, which supports asylum seekers, the EU victims’ rights directive, and potentially others.

One way of protecting all these directives would be simply to say that paragraph 6 of schedule 1 does not affect directives that form part of retained EU law. After all, the Government’s own explanatory notes do not identify any directives that they wish to disapply in the immigration context, even though I accept that the list in paragraph 69 is described as non-exhaustive. Alternatively, the Government could list the directives specifically to be protected, as set out in the explanatory notes, directly within schedule 1 of the Bill.

I have to say that if the Government do not follow either of those paths, vital protections for vulnerable people could be at risk of becoming collateral damage in the ending of free movement. I am absolutely not suggesting that the Government intend to remove those protections, but if they do not intend that, I hope the Minister can give us clear assurances to that effect today and explain why they appear to fall within the scope of the Bill as drafted.

As things stand, the breadth of the language in paragraphs 6 and a lack of sufficient objective parameters to ascertain its intended targets make it impossible to accurately predict which areas of retained EU law could be affected by the Bill. That is exactly the problem we were discussing a moment ago in relation to paragraph 4. It raises fundamental legal concerns. Migrants and their representatives, Home Office caseworkers and judges must be able to ascertain with a reasonable degree of certainty what the law is. Indeed, that is one of the core lessons learned from the Windrush review carried out by Wendy Williams. I do not believe that this provision meets that standard.

Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the hon. Lady for her speech and her interest in this section of the Bill. To be clear, paragraph 6 disapplies the directly effective rights deriving from the EU law that will form part of retained EU law at the end of the transition period if they are inconsistent with immigration legislation or affect immigration practices. They are being repealed so that people cannot in the future attempt to rely on such directly effective rights to bypass the system to enter and reside in the UK, other than under the points-based system. We have been clear that provision will be made in the EU settlement scheme for those currently exercising their EU derivative right of residence in the UK, and that has now been provided, as I touched on.

Some people have asked for examples of rights that paragraph 6 would disapply. They include the rights of Turkish nationals to preferential immigration treatment under the European Economic Community-Turkey association agreement. They also include, as the hon. Member for Stretford and Urmston said, derivative rights of residents under EU law such as Zambrano carers, and the Chen, Ibrahim and Teixeira cases, which will cease from the day that paragraph 6 comes into force. Those rights stem directly from the treaty on the functioning of the EU and need to be disapplied because otherwise people could continue to cite and rely on them to bypass the future immigration system.

The Government do not intend to use the provisions to avoid our responsibilities under international law. We are very clear that our system of protection routes will continue to operate separately from the system of migration rules, as they always have. Family migration will not form part of the points-based system; it will be based on the family migration rules. The wording has to be the way it is so that the paragraph is not too wide in scope. This is about citing it in relation to immigration—trying to cite an EU right to work in the UK rather than applying the provision in a situation where we would, for example, be breaching our international obligations. As I said during the evidence session on Tuesday, under statutory instruments and regulations, Ministers cannot act against international law. We could have a long constitutional debate about whether Parliament can still pass primary legislation in relation to international law, but that is probably not relevant to this particular schedule.

In essence, the schedule is about being clear that it will not be possible to use a range of rights to undermine the points-based immigration system that we are putting in place. We want to make it clear that EEA and non-EEA citizens should look to migrate under the points-based system.

Question put, That the schedule be the First schedule to the Bill.

Division 3

Ayes: 8


Conservative: 8

Noes: 5


Labour: 4
Scottish National Party: 1

Schedule 1 agreed to.
--- Later in debate ---
Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.
Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I do not expect this clause to be controversial, but given some of the evidence that we heard, it may be useful to set out one or two responses, especially the Government’s long-standing policy on deportation of Irish nationals. As Committee members will know, clause 2 protects the status of Irish citizens in the UK when free movement ends. British and Irish citizens have enjoyed a unique status and specific rights in each others’ countries since the 1920s as part of the common travel area arrangements.

Under clause 2, when free movement ends, Irish citizens will continue to be able to come to the UK without permission or restrictions on how long they can stay. British citizens, as you are probably aware, Sir Edward, enjoy reciprocal rights in Ireland, again reflecting the unique historical position of the Republic of Ireland and the UK.

The clause provides legal certainty and clarity for Irish citizens by inserting a new section 3ZA into the Immigration Act 1971. New section 3ZA will ensure that Irish citizens can enter and remain in the UK without requiring permission, regardless of where they have travelled from. This is already the position for those entering the UK from within the common travel area, but Irish citizens travelling to the UK from outside the common travel area currently enter under EEA regulations. This clause will remove that distinction by giving Irish citizens a clear status once free movement ends. While that may not have been impactive, it is there in a technical, legal sense, which is why this clause is necessary.

--- Later in debate ---
Stuart C McDonald Portrait Stuart C. McDonald
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Given what the Minister and shadow Minister have said, I can, I hope, be helpfully brief. I am grateful to the Minister for clarifying the position on deportation, but the shadow Minister raises a reasonable point. The Minister has clarified the policy— but why not put it on the face of the Bill? I very much welcome the Minister’s confirmation of how Irish nationals will be able to come from outside the CTA with family members. It is a welcome clarification.

I want briefly to refer to the broader issue of common travel area rights. We are often told about the historic common travel area, and the fact that the rights go back many decades. That is true, but in recent years most of those rights have become embedded in and entangled with free movement rights. In the Bill, we are repealing those rights but not replacing them with common travel area rights. The Government keep talking about reciprocal rights, but we need them to be set down in statute.

So far, as the Minister said, there seems to be a non-binding memorandum of understanding with the Government of Ireland, and a Government position paper, setting out the fact that there will be rights to work, study, social security and healthcare access, and vote. For the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, essentially those CTA rights are “written in sand” and for the Committee on the Administration of Justice the CTA can be characterised by loose administrative arrangements of provisions that can be altered at any time. So we need to return to this issue of when we will actually see a detailed scheme of rights for the common travel area.

There is some urgency about this matter, because at the moment, for example, there are people in Northern Ireland who choose to be Irish citizens and who have the option of applying under the EU settled status scheme, but they will have to make that decision without really knowing how the benefits of the EU settled status scheme compare with the benefits of the common travel area scheme, because that has not been spelled out in great detail yet. There are practical issues that have been flagged up by the organisations I have mentioned about cross-border rights to access healthcare and education, and so on. All these questions need to be answered, and fairly urgently.

Finally, I will echo what the shadow Minister said about Alison Harvey’s evidence on the right of abode, and I would be interested to know whether the Government are considering achieving some sort of resolution of these issues by using the right of abode. However, we will return to these issues when we debate the new clause that the shadow Minister has tabled.

I welcome clause 2, but we still have a considerable way to go in making sure that the common travel area persists and works properly, and that folk know where they stand.

Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the SNP and Labour spokespersons for their overall support of the clause. I think I have been clear that there is a very strong commitment to the common travel area. Elements of its operation are inevitably required due to the provisions of the Belfast agreement, which is actually international law; it is a treaty between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, so it is not something that can just be amended on a whim. Far from it—it is underpinned by the strong consent of both communities, north and south, as expressed in referendums at the time it went through.

The commitment of both Governments to the common travel area has persisted for decades and will continue to do so. Irish citizens can apply to the European settlement scheme. I do not see any detriment that would come to them from doing so, but neither is there a requirement for them to do so, given the clarity that the clause brings to their rights within the United Kingdom. To be absolutely clear, the clause looks to remove that difference in the technical definition between an Irish citizen who has arrived in the United Kingdom on, for the sake of argument, the Eurostar from France, as opposed to arriving in the United Kingdom on a plane from Dublin.

It is probably worth saying that it would be interesting to work out how that definition could have actually affected someone’s life, apart from some of their more theoretical rights. However, I will be clear on that front that the Bill removes that difference. For an Irish citizen within the United Kingdom, it applies regardless of which country they travel from—whether they have travelled to the United Kingdom from within the common travel area or, for example, from the United States of America—[Interruption.] I am glad that the hon. Member for Halifax was reassured by that.

Effectively, Irish citizens become identified —I accept that this is perhaps a slightly controversial thing to say in the context of people’s identity—as British in our system of migration. Effectively, their Irish passport becomes equivalent to a UK national’s passport.

As for the provisions around deportation, I was asked whether there was a particular example. My officials in the Home Office have spent some time over the last week or two trying to find an example under current legislation —not under legislation, perhaps, from previous eras—of someone being deported from the United Kingdom to the Republic. We struggled; so far, I cannot find a specific example. I do not see any Member of the Committee who is about to jump up and give me an example, in order to contradict me on that point.

In particular, we are not aware of there ever having been, even at the heights of the troubles, a particular stream of deportation from Northern Ireland into the Republic. Partly, that is because we would all have to question the practical effect of deporting someone from County Londonderry to County Donegal; how on earth would anyone effectively enforce that in any way? Also, however, the spirit between the two Governments has been very much that we respect the rights of those who are there and, to be clear, that is set out in a 2007 written ministerial statement. That was not done under a Government formed by my party. The written ministerial statement has been there for 13 years. I wrote to the Irish Government about the fact that the provisions were in the Bill, and we have not received negative representations. The minimum threshold would have to be an offence that carried a 10-year prison sentence, so we are talking about very serious criminal offending, or the court would have to recommend it.

--- Later in debate ---
Question proposed: That the clause stand part of the Bill.
Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The clause is minor and technical in its nature, but it is important for the implementation of the Bill and for a fully functioning statute book. Effectively, it states that the Bill will be one of the Immigration Acts. I commend the clause to the Committee.

Holly Lynch Portrait Holly Lynch
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

There is so little in clause 3 that we will not make a contribution to it.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 3 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 4

Consequential etc. provision

Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill (Fifth sitting)

(Limited Text - Ministerial Extracts only)

Read Full debate
Committee stage & Committee Debate: 5th sitting: House of Commons
Tuesday 16th June 2020

(4 years, 1 month ago)

Public Bill Committees
Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Act 2020 Read Hansard Text Amendment Paper: Public Bill Committee Amendments as at 16 June 2020 - (16 Jun 2020)

This text is a record of ministerial contributions to a debate held as part of the Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Act 2020 passage through Parliament.

In 1993, the House of Lords Pepper vs. Hart decision provided that statements made by Government Ministers may be taken as illustrative of legislative intent as to the interpretation of law.

This extract highlights statements made by Government Ministers along with contextual remarks by other members. The full debate can be read here

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

Obviously, we will maintain social distancing. Like last week, the Hansard reporters would be grateful if Members sent copies of their speeches to hansardnotes @parliament.uk. We will continue line-by-line consideration of the Bill—the selection list is available in the room.

Clause 5

Power to modify retained direct EU legislation relating to social security co-ordination

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Kevin Foster Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Kevin Foster)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Edward. Given the nature of the clause, I will spend a few minutes outlining its impact to the Committee. The clause and associated schedules 2 and 3 provide an essential legislative framework to ensure that the Government can make changes to our social security system when the transition period ends, alongside the launch of the future immigration system. The provisions will enable the Government to amend the retained European Union social security co-ordination rules and to deliver policy changes from the end of the transition period.

The clause provides a power to the Secretary of State, the Treasury or, where appropriate, a devolved authority to modify the social security co-ordination regulations. Those EU regulations provide for social security co-ordination across the European economic area, and will be incorporated into domestic law by the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 at the end of the transition period. Clause 5(4) gives the Government the ability to make necessary consequential changes to other primary legislation and other retained EU law to ensure that the changes given effect by the main power are appropriately reflected. That power may be used, for example, to address technical matters, inoperabilities or inconsistencies. Schedule 2 sets out the power of the devolved authorities under clause 5.

This social security co-ordination clause confers powers on Scottish Ministers and the relevant Northern Ireland Department to amend the limited elements of the social security co-ordination regulations that fall within devolved competence. It is important that we provide the devolved Administrations with the powers that they need to amend the aspects of the regulations for which they are responsible, just as it is right for the UK Government to have the powers for the laws that affect the UK as a whole. The powers are equivalent to those conferred on UK Ministers and will allow the devolved Administrations to respond to the UK’s withdrawal from the EU in areas of devolved competence, either to keep parity with Westminster or to deviate in line with their own policies.

Without the powers in the Bill, the devolved Administrations would need to bring forward their own parallel legislation to give them equivalent powers to amend the retained EU social security co-ordination regulations in areas of devolved competence. Before the Bill was introduced, letters were sent to the devolved Administrations to seek legislative consent in principle, in line with the Sewel convention.

Schedule 3 provides further detail on the form that regulations will take under the clause, whether as statutory instruments, statutory rules or Scottish statutory instruments. The schedule provides that the use of the power is subject to the affirmative procedure. It also gives clarity on the procedures that the devolved Administrations will need to follow. Paragraph 5 permits other regulations, subject to the negative procedure, to be included in an instrument made under the clause.

Without the clause and associated schedules 2 and 3, the Government and relevant devolved authorities will have only the power contained in the 2018 Act to fix deficiencies in the retained system of social security co-ordination, restricting our ability to make changes. I reassure the Committee that the power in the clause will not be exercised to remove or reduce commitments made either in relation to individuals within the scope of the withdrawal agreement, for as long as they remain in the scope of that agreement, or in relation to British and Irish nationals moving between the UK and Ireland.

We are currently in negotiations with the EU about possible new reciprocal arrangements on social security co-ordination, of the kind that the UK has with countries outside the EU. The clause will enable the UK to respond to a variety of outcomes in those negotiations, including when no agreement is achieved by the end of the transition period. The clause will be necessary to deliver policy changes to the retained regime that will cover individuals who fall outside the scope of the withdrawal agreement, to reflect the reality of our new relationship with the European Union.

The Government have been clear that there will be changes to future social security co-ordination arrangements, including, as announced at Budget 2020, stopping the export of child benefit. The social security co-ordination powers in the Bill will enable the Government to deliver on that commitment and to respond to the outcome of negotiations with the EU to deliver changes from the end of the transition period. I therefore beg to move that clause 5 stands part of the Bill and that schedules 2 and 3 are agreed to.

Kate Green Portrait Kate Green (Stretford and Urmston) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Good morning, Sir Edward. It is a pleasure once again to serve under your chairmanship. Social security arrangements set out in EU regulation 883 of 2004 and elsewhere are currently directly applicable in the UK. They cover the co-ordination of social security, healthcare and pension provision for people who are publicly insured who move from one EU state to another.

The regulations ensure that individuals who move to another EEA are covered by the social security legislation of only one country at a time and are, therefore, liable only to make contributions in one country; that a person has the rights and obligations of the member state where they are covered; that periods of insurance, employment or residence in other member states can be taken into account when determining a person’s eligibility for benefits; and that a person can receive benefits that they are entitled to from one member state, even if they are resident in another.

The co-ordination regulations cover only those social security benefits that provide cover against certain categories of social risk, such as sickness, maternity, paternity, unemployment and old age. Some non-contributory benefits fall within the regulations but cannot be exported, and benefits that are social and medical assistance are not covered at all. Universal credit, for example, is excluded.

As we heard from Jeremy Morgan of British in Europe in his oral evidence to the Committee last week, most UK nationals resident in the EU are of working age. It is important to note that the number of people claiming the working-age benefits that are covered by the regulations—jobseeker’s allowance or employment and support allowance—has declined sharply since the introduction of universal credit. We might therefore expect social security co-ordination arrangements to apply to a declining number of working-age adults. The regulations will, however, still be of importance for a sizeable number of individuals, and not least for pensioners.

The co-ordination regulations also confer a right on those with a European health insurance card to access medically necessary state-provided healthcare during a temporary state in another EEA state. The home member state is normally required to reimburse the host country for the cost of the treatment. Under the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020, protection of healthcare entitlements is linked to entitlement to cash benefits.

Clause 5(1) provides an appropriate authority with the power to modify the co-ordination regulations by secondary legislation. The power is very broad, placing no limits on the modifications that appropriate authorities are able to make to the co-ordination regulations. By virtue of subsection (3), the power explicitly

“includes power—

(a) to make different provision for different categories of person to whom they apply…

(b) otherwise to make different provision for different purposes;

(c) to make supplementary…consequential, transitional, transitory or saving provision;

(d) to provide for a person to exercise a discretion in dealing with any matter.”

The power is further enhanced by subsection (4), which provides for the ability to amend or repeal

“primary legislation passed before, or in the same Session as, this Act”

and other retained direct EU legislation.

Since the UK left the EU at the end of January this year, the relevant EU regulations pertaining to social security, pensions and healthcare have been retained in UK law by section 3 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. I accept that the Government need to be able to amend co-ordination regulations to remedy deficiencies in them resulting from the UK’s exit from the EU, but the 2018 Act already contains a power in section 8 to modify direct retained EU law. Indeed, the Government have already exercised this power for four of the co-ordination regulations. Any changes that do not fall within the scope of the power in section 8 of the 2018 Act must necessarily, therefore, not relate to any ability for the law to operate efficiently or to remedy defects, but be intended to achieve wider policy objectives. I think the Minister acknowledged as much in his opening comments.

I was, however, surprised that the Minister said that only the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 provided such powers. My reading of the legislation is that the Secretary of State has further powers as regards social security, healthcare and pension rights for those who are protected by the withdrawal agreement under the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020. Section 5 of that Act inserts new section 7A into the 2018 Act so as to secure withdrawal agreement rights in domestic law, and that protection is buttressed by section 13 of the 2020 Act, which confers a power to make regulations in respect of social security co-ordination rights protected by the withdrawal agreement. Given the powers that already exist under the European Union (Withdrawal) Act and the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act, as well as the fact that those powers have already been used by the Government, why does the Minister feel they are inadequate?

Paragraph 30 of the delegated powers memorandum is instructive. It states that the Government want to use the power in clause 5 to

“respond flexibly to the outcome of negotiations on the future framework and make changes to the retained social security co-ordination rules.”

--- Later in debate ---
As far as I can see, the issue raised this time last year has not been addressed in the Bill, which has simply been reintroduced as before. Will the Government comment on that and consider committing to amending the Bill so that there is at least a duty on UK Ministers to consult Scottish Ministers before choosing to exercise the clause 5 powers in relation to devolved social security competencies? I look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say in that regard.
Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank hon. Members for their contributions. On the powers under clause 5, the Government have been given clear advice that they are necessary, particularly when we look at the ongoing negotiations. There are two parties to the negotiations, and the purpose of having a wider scope is to reflect whatever the outcome of the negotiations is. Hopefully, we will quickly be able to implement an agreement, in the same way that we have an agreement with Ireland bilaterally in terms of the co-ordination of social security, given the unique position of Irish citizens in the UK and UK citizens in Ireland, who are considered settled from day one. That is where we are.

One of the examples Opposition Members gave was of those protected by the withdrawal agreement. It is worth noting that this measure looks towards those who arrive after the end of the transition period and starts to look towards changes there, rather than at those who specifically have their rights protected by the withdrawal agreement.

In terms of the scope and whether the powers would be used in a devolved area, the UK Government continue to respect the devolution settlement. We are in discussions —officials certainly are, and I and my colleague in the Department for Work and Pensions wrote to the relevant Scottish Minister last week to set out where we are. We hope to have a legislative consent motion from the Scottish Parliament, but we have also set out what the position is if we do not get an LCM—for the Committee’s benefit, the Government would amend the Bill on Report to remove the powers in relation to devolved matters in Scotland.

Fundamentally, the clause is intended to ensure that we can implement powers and make the changes necessary, as outlined, to deliver the specific policy changes that we made clear in our manifesto, particularly around the export of child benefit, and also to ensure that we do not end up in a bizarre position where the UK is trying unilaterally to implement what is meant to be a reciprocal system, should we not be able to get a further agreement or if we have an agreement but are not able quickly and promptly to implement it.

Again, I would point out that using the affirmative procedure means that both Houses of Parliament will scrutinise any regulations and will have the opportunity to block them if they felt they were inappropriate. To be clear, if a Minister made wholly inappropriate regulations, such matters in secondary legislation, unlike primary legislation, can be reviewed in the courts as well.

It is therefore right that we stick with the clause as it is, certainly to ensure that we can implement whatever the outcome of the agreement is, including if we need to look at putting in place a system that reflects the fact that there has not been a further agreement.

Stuart C McDonald Portrait Stuart C. McDonald
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I just want to clarify whether the Minister would at least consider putting in a requirement that, before UK Ministers exercise these powers in relation to devolved competencies, they would consult Scottish Ministers. A cross-party Scottish Parliament Committee made that recommendation this time last year. It is surely at least worthy of consideration before Report.

Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

To be clear, we will continue with our position of respecting devolution in areas of social security, hence the respect we have shown to the Scottish Government by consulting them about the Bill. We have also set out the Government’s position, were there not a legislative consent motion from the Scottish Parliament, in the letter we sent last week to the relevant Scottish Ministers. Obviously, separate discussions are going on with the Executive in Northern Ireland.

This is the right process. Parliament still has the appropriate ability to scrutinise how the powers are used and, if it wishes, may block the use of those powers under the affirmative procedure. This is about ensuring clear certainty that we can deliver whatever we can agree with the European Union on, we hope, a continuation of a reciprocal arrangement, which we cannot do if we do not have the powers in the clause. In other areas, powers are more restricted.

These are wide powers, but that reflects the wide range of outcomes that are still possible in the next six months. It is right to have a functioning and effective social security system and co-ordination of it. That is why the Government have brought the power forward in this Bill, as in the previous one. We maintain that the clause and the attached schedules are appropriate to the Bill.

Kate Green Portrait Kate Green
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Does the Minister anticipate, in the event of an agreement and treaty before the end of this year, a further piece of primary legislation to give effect to that? If so, would it not be possible at least to encompass the principles agreed into that primary legislation?

Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

A lot would depend on the nature of the agreement. If it is part of a wider treaty, we may well see further legislation. However, our understanding is that if we can achieve agreement on this area, we would look to implement it rapidly through regulation, which is why the power is in the Bill. Our priority would be to avoid a situation where something is agreed of benefit to both UK citizens going to live in the European Union and EEA citizens coming to live here, with which we and the European Union are happy, but we are unable to provide that benefit because we are still going through a parliamentary process to implement it. That is why we believe the clause to be appropriate. It allows us to react to circumstances as necessary.

Question put, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Division 9

Ayes: 8


Conservative: 8

Noes: 5


Labour: 5

Clause 5 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
--- Later in debate ---
Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East and his hon. Friends for tabling the amendment and new clause. Having said that, there was a certain predictability about them given the SNP’s aim of separating our United Kingdom and wish for borders to be created across this island.

I turn to some of the more specific points. I have had direct contact with the hon. Member for Na h-Eileanan an Iar. He is very passionate about the Gaelic language and the role it plays in contemporary life. I have also had representations from Ministers and Members in Wales about the strong role that the Welsh language plays in our culture today, enriching our Union as a whole. Certainly, we will see what we can do to incorporate Welsh, Irish and Gaelic into our migration system. It is probably worth noting that the vast majority of fluent speakers of those three languages are either citizens of the United Kingdom or the Republic of Ireland, and therefore effectively not subject to migration control; they have rights to live and work within the United Kingdom and settle in any part of it they choose.

It was interesting to hear the comments of the hon. Member for Halifax, my Labour shadow, about how separate systems would be enforced. Like me, she does not want to see an economic version of Hadrian’s Wall between England and Scotland, although I recognise that others on the Committee perhaps do.

We are looking at how to make the Migration Advisory Committee’s role responsive and how it can choose some of its own reports—we will come on to that when we discuss some of the new clauses. The issue is not purely about a commission. I am thinking particularly about how the MAC can send out a more regular drumbeat of reviews, and commentary on reviews, for the shortage occupation list. That should fit in with our wider labour market policies rather than being considered apart from our skills and training policies. I hope we can find some sensible consensus on that.

The MAC has launched its call for evidence for the shortage occupation list and the advice that it is going to give Ministers about the new points-based system. I hope people will engage with that; there is certainly good strong engagement from many businesses. It would be good to see the Scottish Government promote the idea that businesses in Scotland should be getting involved and positively engage in the process—not least given that the MAC has indicated its intention for there to be shortage occupation lists for each of the four nations of the United Kingdom. It will probably not be a great surprise if many of those are very similar, given the similar types of skill shortages across the United Kingdom.

I was interested to hear the comments from the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute, in particular the idea that we could start having immigration policy for individual council areas. That is interesting. It is worth saying that the MAC suggestion was about remote areas. We both went to see the first HM naval base on the Clyde, in his constituency; as he knows, he is not exactly remote from the vibrant heart of culture and economy that is Glasgow—that is rather different from the concept of, let us say, eastern and western Australia in terms of distance.

I will be very clear: a range of powers is available to the Scottish Government. If the same pull factors that created the challenges today still exist, this look into the migration system is not going to provide a solution. With other Members from Scotland, including my hon. Friend the Member for Moray, we have looked at the fact that there is a determined drive—luckily, the Scottish Government have the powers around economic development—to create those strong opportunities in communities. Ultimately, if we create a migration opportunity but the pull factors are still there and have not been addressed, the situation will become a revolving door. That is why we have to look at those core issues first —why people are moving out—and not just look to a migration system as a magic bullet for those problems.

Brendan O'Hara Portrait Brendan O'Hara
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

At the risk of giving a geography lesson, I point out that when the Minister visited Argyll and Bute he visited the easternmost tip of the constituency, nearest to Glasgow. The constituency spreads over 7,500 sq km, has 26 remote island communities and is not part of the vibrant central belt hub. That is why it and many other areas of the highlands and islands of Scotland need a bespoke solution. The problems we face in Argyll and Bute are not those that many large conurbations in the United Kingdom face. There is a need to recognise that.

--- Later in debate ---
Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Perhaps the point has been made, then, that this is not about having an immigration system based on a council area, but about having one for an area smaller than that of a council. I think that that would lead to confusion, with multiple areas.

There are many issues across large stretches of the highlands, and also rural parts of the rest of the United Kingdom. The fact that there are challenges in ensuring that younger people in particular have opportunities, and options to stay, is a facet of the issue that is not unique to parts of Scotland. However, if we do not deal with the core issues, most of which fall under the remit of the devolved Administration in Edinburgh, those pull factors will still exist, and the migration system is not a magic cure for them.

Stuart C McDonald Portrait Stuart C. McDonald
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is a question of having strategies in place to address the challenges, but I want to pin the Minister down on the question of the remote areas pilot. That is a recommendation from the MAC. Can the Minister say categorically that this morning he is ditching it, and that there will not now be a remote areas pilot scheme? That would be really bad news.

Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

We made it clear in the policy statement that we put out in February that we were not planning a remote areas pilot. Again, the thing that we must focus on is that many of the pull factors exist. It is within the competence of the Scottish Government to deal with those issues, and to create something and tackle them.

I have seen how Members of Parliament in the north-east of Scotland, including my hon. Friend the Member for Moray and my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, the Member for Banff and Buchan (David Duguid), are pushing for the creation of those economic opportunities that they want in parts of rural Scotland. Perhaps the one hope that we have on this point is that there is a Scottish Parliament election coming next year. I hope that there will be a more business-focused, opportunity-based Administration in Edinburgh, which will be focused on developing Scotland, not separating it.

Douglas Ross Portrait Douglas Ross
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I agree wholeheartedly with the Minister’s point about the number of factors that are within the remit of the Scottish Parliament and on which the Scottish National party Government of Scotland have failed.

We have heard from SNP Members that they want their own immigration system. Indeed, the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute said that they would design and tailor one. Does the Minister share my concern that we heard similar reassurances from the SNP Scottish Government about social security—yet they had to tell the UK Government that they could not take those powers because they could not implement the changes quickly enough in Scotland?

Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My hon. Friend, as always, hits the nail straight on the head with his arguments. Yes, we had many demands for devolution of policy, but then the Scottish Government did not want to take them up. Suddenly there was a new group of Unionists wanting the United Kingdom Government to deal with something in Scotland.

Stuart C McDonald Portrait Stuart C. McDonald
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Will the Minister do us the favour of explaining how his immigration policies will make the challenges easier rather than harder for Scotland?

Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The first thing that our immigration policy will do is provide a points-based system on a global basis, based on RQF3 and on having a shortage occupation list. Businesses in Scotland can recruit globally on that basis. Also, we can look at the first reform, which we have already carried out—a route that I was pleased to launch in Glasgow. I have seen it at first hand—the best talent being brought into our universities, and particularly into the University of Glasgow. Under that system, on a global basis, teams can be recruited to tackle and research some of the most challenging questions that mankind faces. On the occasion in question the issue was tackling malaria, and the huge impact of that.

Those are the sorts of benefits we want: high value and high skill—the attractions are there. It is a vision for Scotland, whose natural beauty is second to none, based on skills and the attractiveness of a high-skill, high-value economy—not on saying that the main thing Scotland’s economy needs is the ability to put more people on the minimum wage on a global basis.

Stuart C McDonald Portrait Stuart C. McDonald
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Minister mentions his visit to Glasgow all the time. While he was there, did he speak with Universities Scotland, which is among the organisations that has spoken out in favour of a differentiated system? This is not just coming from the SNP. The Minister has also spoken about the benefits of his new system, but his own risk assessment says that it will cause levels of immigration to Scotland to fall. How is that in Scotland’s interests?

Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

We engage strongly with partners, particularly our high-compliance Scottish universities that are sponsors of tier 4 visas. We very much welcome the contributions they make, as well as those that they make as part of wider groups, such as the Russell Group, that operate on a UK-wide basis.

There are two visions, I suppose. There is one that my hon. Friend the Member for Moray and his colleagues from Scotland bring us: a high-productivity, high-value Scotland, an attractive place to live with a thriving economy, recruiting on a global basis. Then there is the Scotland that the Scottish National party brings us; the only reason someone would go there would be to pay low wages or recruit at, or near, the minimum wage on a global basis. That, to me, is not a particularly inspiring vision.

Many of the powers to deal with the pull factors that lead to depopulation in rural areas are already in the hands of the Edinburgh Administration. As with so many other things—this has been touched on in relation to social security—it is time to see the Scottish National party getting on with the job of governance, rather than the job of grieving or looking to separate the United Kingdom.

The hon. Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East will not be surprised to hear that the Government’s position has been made very clear on this issue, but I will briefly set it out again. Immigration and related matters, such as the free movement of persons from the EU, are reserved matters, and the immigration aspects of the Bill will therefore apply to the whole United Kingdom. The Government are delivering an immigration system that takes into account the needs of the whole of our United Kingdom and works for the whole of it, not for the political needs of those whose goal is its separation.

We do not believe that it would be sensible, desirable or workable to apply different immigration systems in different parts of the United Kingdom, and the independent Migration Advisory Committee has repeatedly advised that the labour markets of the different nations of the United Kingdom are not sufficiently different to warrant different policies. That was an independent report—the type that people seem to want, but then do not seem to want to listen to.

Stuart C McDonald Portrait Stuart C. McDonald
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Will the Minister give way?

Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

No, I have given way many times. As we heard in the evidence sessions, the simplistic argument saying that Scotland is different from England for political reasons ignores the variation within Scotland itself, given the strength of the economy in Edinburgh compared with the economies of more rural areas.

I do not propose to address new clause 33 in detail; as I say, we have seen the MAC’s conclusions on this issue. The Government’s objection is one of principle: immigration is, and will remain, a reserved matter. We will introduce an immigration system that works for the whole of our country and all the nations that make up our United Kingdom by respecting the democratically expressed view of the people in the December 2019 general election and the 2014 vote of the Scottish people, which rejected separation. Both Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon used the phrase “once in a lifetime” or “once in a generation” about that vote; now, only six years later, we see how short a generation has become. Free movement will end on 31 December, and we will introduce a points-based immigration system that ensures we can attract the best talent from around the world to Scotland, based on the skills and attributes they have, not where their passport comes from.

It will come as no surprise that SNP Members and I will have to agree to differ, as we regularly do on issues that relate to the constitutional future of Scotland. I obviously hope that the hon. Members for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East and for Argyll and Bute and the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh South West will withdraw their amendments—although I have a sneaky feeling that they may not—and I particularly hope that others on this Committee who have also voiced their opposition to separatist politics will join the Government in opposing these amendments if they are put to a vote.

Stuart C McDonald Portrait Stuart C. McDonald
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I sort of thank the Minister for at least making a contribution, but I have to say that, having shadowed about six or seven immigration Ministers for five years, I think that is probably the most regrettable speech I have heard from any of them at any time; the second most regrettable was the one the Minister made during the Opposition day debate a few months ago. It might play well with some MPs in this place, but I watched the faces of some Scottish Conservative MPs that night, and they were not impressed.

The Minister is speaking not just to the SNP, but to business groups and public service organisations—a whole host of concerned organisations in Scotland. He might get away with it in this Committee, but he cannot really get away with dismissing their concerns as “nationalist nonsense” or “separatist rubbish”. These are very serious people with very serious concerns about the implications of his Government’s migration system for Scotland. It seems to be not so much a case of, “We hope it will be all right on the night”, but one of, “We don’t care—stuff you!”

--- Later in debate ---

Division 10

Ayes: 2


Scottish National Party: 2

Noes: 14


Conservative: 9
Labour: 5

Clause 7 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
--- Later in debate ---

Division 11

Ayes: 7


Labour: 5
Scottish National Party: 2

Noes: 9


Conservative: 9

Stuart C McDonald Portrait Stuart C. McDonald
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I beg to move amendment 11, in clause 8, page 5, line 41, leave out subsection (5) and insert—

‘(5) This Part of the Act shall not come into effect until a Minister of the Crown has laid a report before each House of Parliament setting out the impact of this Act on faith communities in the UK.

(6) A report under subsection (5) must consider in particular the ability of members and representatives of faith communities from the EEA and Switzerland to enter the UK for purposes related to their faith.

(7) A Minister of the Crown must, not later than six months after the report has been laid before Parliament, make a motion in the House of Commons in relation to the report.

(8) In this section,

“faith communities” means a group of individuals united by a clear structure and system of religious or spiritual beliefs.”

This amendment requires the government to report to Parliament on the implications of this Bill for faith communities, including the ability of members of faith communities to come to the UK for reasons connected with their faith.

Some 18 months or so ago, the then Minister of State for Immigration issued a written statement announcing changes to immigration rules. Apparently, those changes were to ensure that ministers of religion could no longer apply for a tier 5 religious worker visa; instead, they would have to apply for a tier 2 minister of religion visa. As I understand it, that was done because of a fear at the Home Office that people were coming in under the tier 5 visa route and leading worship while not having the level of English that the Home Office decided would be necessary to perform such a function. The explanatory memorandum said:

“The Immigration Rules currently permit Tier 5 Religious Workers to fill roles which ‘may include preaching, pastoral work and non-pastoral work’. This allows a migrant to come to the UK and fill a role as a Minister of Religion without demonstrating an ability to speak English.”

For some reason, the Home Office also decided to introduce a cooling-off period. The explanatory memorandum said:

“The ‘cooling off’ period will ensure Tier 5 Religious workers and Charity Workers spend a minimum of 12 months outside the UK before returning in either category. This will prevent migrants from applying for consecutive visas, thereby using the routes to live in the UK for extended periods, so as to reflect the temporary purpose of the routes better.”

I have been in discussions with representatives of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference about migration to both Scotland and England. They tell me that most Catholic dioceses previously used tier 5 religious worker visas for priests to come here on supply placements while parish priests were away for short periods because of sickness, training or annual leave. Those supply placements were essential, as they allow Catholics to continue attending mass while keeping parish activities running smoothly. That allows the parish to continue to function while the parish priest is off through illness, going on a retreat or accompanying parish groups on outings, or even just taking a holiday.

A supply placement priest will lead the celebration of holy mass, including the celebration of the sacrament of marriage. He will lead funerals, including supporting bereaved family members, and visit the sick and elderly of the local community. In an age when social isolation and loneliness are increasing, the parish is a place where people can gather as a community to support one another and engage in friendship. It is not just about worship, but about the community hub that the church provides by offering spiritual and practical help and supporting the sick, the elderly, the needy and the vulnerable.

--- Later in debate ---
Kate Green Portrait Kate Green
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I support the sentiments expressed by the hon. Members for Argyle and Bute and for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East. There have been considerable benefits to our faith communities from their ability to take advantage of freedom of movement and welcome EEA nationals into their communities. Faith communities, especially Churches of all denominations, have congregations with many EEA nationals among their membership and they are also often individuals who act as pastors, counsellors, youth workers and musicians.

As we have heard, many faith organisations have needed EEA nationals to cover short-term or sometimes longer-term appointments into leadership positions. That is especially true in areas where it has been hard to recruit. Free movement has also allowed faith communities some flexibility in terms of shared mission work, with UK nationals working overseas, undertaking mission trips, musicians performing in Europe at faith-based events or running camps and youth conferences. Faith communities have been able to bring EEA speakers and volunteers to help communities and to run events without the associated costs and rules around visitor visas and the tier system.

There will be a number of consequences for those communities as a result of the loss of free movement. First, while many faith groups have been effective in pointing their members to the EU settlement scheme where that is relevant, uncertainty remains about the scheme, what it means for families, for continuity of residence and for faith communities who are trying to keep people in their communities.

Faith communities looking to employ or to bring in volunteers from the EEA will now have to navigate the tier system, as they would for non-EEA nationals. As we heard, that brings complexity. With the greatest of respect to the right hon. Member for Scarborough and Whitby, I do not think it is the case that all faith communities have found that an easy system to navigate or to get the relevant approvals. There are also significant additional costs for sponsorship licences and visas. Indeed, it will not be cheap, especially when we include the additional NHS surcharge. A religious worker will be able to stay for up to two years. The cost for a one-year visa before administration costs is around £244, plus the NHS surcharge of £624, added to that the sponsorship licence fee and associated costs. On top of that, the community will have to fund any dependant costs and may also be providing the cost of flights, accommodation and training for the religious workers, and sometimes a small stipend. For smaller faith communities, that starts to become a very significant expense.

Many faith communities that rely on overseas workers tend to be found in the poorer parts of the UK. Poorer communities and poorer congregations are part of a poorer overall landscape and so the faith organisation itself will be less well resourced. It cannot draw on a wealthy congregation. That has a particular impact on smaller denominations and diaspora Churches, which will find that the loss of free movement will mean that poorer communities, who could benefit most from additional pastoral support, will feel the impact the harshest.

Proof of savings is difficult for some orders, which have vows of poverty, making it difficult for individuals to prove they can sustain themselves even if the order will cover all their living arrangements. If a person is needed quickly to cover a gap—the hon. Members for Argyle and Bute and for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East talked about the potential absence of a priest for a range of personal reasons—the procedure will now mean that there will be delay in bringing in that cover. I am not talking here about roles that fall short of being a full minister of religion, but there are roles that will still involve some level of religious duty. For example, there continues to be uncertainty about those coming in to work with children, and about pastoral work and preaching, and an understanding of the definitions of what those roles encompass, which is a particular issue with some particular faiths of particular traditions.

There is also a concern, as I have said, among faith communities that bring in musicians who may be self-employed and who may work in multiple settings. As the hon. Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East pointed out, seminaries that conduct formation in English are not necessarily regarded as meeting the English language requirement.

I hope the whole Committee will agree about the benefits of facilitating religious workers to come in to support our faith communities. In that spirit, I will ask the Minister a number of questions. What assessment have the Government made of the level of upscaling needed in the Home Office to process additional sponsorship licences for the purposes of ministers of religion or religious workers, or charity workers and faith communities, due to the removal of free movement?

Echoing the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute, what conversations are the Home Office having with faith groups regarding preparation for the immigration system that will affect them post-December? What help will be provided with regard to navigating sponsorship licences and understanding the costs that faith communities will have to meet?

At times, non-EEA nationals who have wanted to come to the UK for a short-term conference or to speak at an event have been denied visas; I have seen that in my own constituency. What assurance can the Minister give to faith communities that EEA nationals entering the UK for a conference or event for short-term study will not be restricted from doing so, and that appropriate decision-making will take place?

Will the Minister commit to reviewing the definitions of “minister of religion” and “religious worker”, and actively consult a wide variety of denominations and faith communities? What will the Home Office do to improve faith literacy among decision makers? I have to say that the asylum system has not given me much confidence that religious literacy in decision-making is where it needs to be.

What assessment have the Government made of the impact on creatives, such as musicians used by faith communities? Will they still be able to come to the UK? Will those in a different visa route be able to transfer if they take on a role in a faith community? For example, could someone who has arrived in the UK as a student transfer routes if they become a religious worker? Will it be possible for individuals to come to the UK as volunteers in faith communities and, if so, what restrictions will be applied to their activities? What discussions have the Government had with faith communities about their responsibility to carry out right-to-work checks?

This is an important issue for an important element of all our communities. I do not think the Government intend the impact of the removal of free movement to harm the operation of our faith communities, but the changes will cause real difficulties across a range of faiths, and particularly in those communities that most need the support that visiting religious workers can provide. I hope the Minister will be able to reassure the Committee.

Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I genuinely thank the hon. Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East for tabling this amendment. He always speaks with real passion, even when we disagree, as we did in the last debate, and his comments on this amendment have been no exception. We can perhaps be slightly more consensual now, even if the Government do not agree with the amendment.

I will deal briefly with a couple of points that have just been raised. First, in relation to decisions that would be taken on visitor visas for EEA nationals visiting faith groups, we have already made it very clear that EEA nationals will be non-visa nationals. Therefore, those looking to make visits to the United Kingdom would not be required to apply for a visa. They would be able to come through the e-gates and their visiting experience would be very similar, for example, to that of a New Zealander, a Canadian or a Japanese citizen at the moment, who can come through the e-gates and be granted visit leave. In a moment, I will come on to speak in a little more detail about the range of activities that a visitor can perform.

As a constituency MP, I have similarly sometimes been involved in decisions about faith communities, particularly a couple of years ago, when there needed to be some representations about how the income of Paignton parish church was considered, and whether a medieval church was an established organisation. I was only too happy to vouch that a church built in the 13th century is an established organisation, and that it was not set up for an immigration purpose, for pretty obvious reasons. I am genuinely always happy to hear representations from particular communities about that, as I did in that instance as a constituency MP.

We published the impact assessment for the Bill. I am clear that a lot of the Churches’ right-to-work checks will be the same as now anyway, because they have to do that for EEA citizens and UK nationals. When there is a right-to-work check, every one of us should be asked to present evidence that shows our right to work, as with right-to-rent checks; I recently had to show my passport to comply with those requirements, and rightly so. We are clear that there should be no discrimination there; those checks should be applied irrespective.

On the other points made, similarly, many faith communities, and certainly the larger faith communities present in the United Kingdom, are already sponsors. Much of that will transfer into the new system, so in many ways the experience of non-EEA nationals—non-visa nationals, to be absolutely clear—will be transferred over with the various concessions and opportunities, such as pay, performance, engagement and other items.

On the specific point made by the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute, I do not have officials’ or my predecessors’ diaries to hand, in terms of meetings, but as I met other faith communities at the invitation of Members of Parliament, I am certainly more than happy to meet the Scottish Catholic bishops representatives and to engage and have a conversation with them. They are a key partner. I certainly recognise the valuable social role that many Catholic churches play in communities across the United Kingdom. I am always happy to have a conversation about some of the definitions, particularly around visitor, tier 5 and tier 2. Some things, as I will come on to in a minute, will actually be covered by our visitor provisions, as well as under tier 5. Again, I am happy to have a conversation with them on those points.

I am genuinely grateful to the SNP for initiating this debate, because it gives me the opportunity to put on the record how the Government value the role faith communities play in this country, and more importantly, the contribution that many people who have migrated here have made and are making to the functioning and wellbeing of our faith communities. Faith communities enhance our national life, and they are stronger because people from around the world come and contribute to every aspect of their work, not least in bringing their skills to leadership in communities across the UK, hence why, in our future points-based immigration system, there will continue to be routes for those connected with faith and religion to come to the UK. Within the current immigration system, there are two routes specially designed for them, and this will continue in the future, to assist with consistency.

As referred to already, the tier 2 route for ministers of religion—effectively a skilled worker route—is for religious leaders such as priests, imams and rabbis, as well as missionaries and members of religious orders, taking employment or a role in a faith-based community. They can come for up to three years initially, which they can extend to six years, and they may qualify for settlement—indefinite leave to remain—after five years. Again, those who receive indefinite leave to remain are then exempted from the immigration health surcharge and will also have a permanent unlimited status within the United Kingdom.

Additionally, we have the tier 5 religious workers’ route. It should be clear to the Committee that this was designed with a very different purpose in mind. It permits stays of up to two years and caters for those wishing to undertake supportive, largely non-pastoral roles. In common with all tier 5 categories, as it is temporary at core, there is no English language requirement.

That last point is crucial. As I indicated, we welcome faith leaders from around the world, and in many communities regular conversations and events bring faith communities together in opposition to those who wish to sow the seeds of division between them. It is therefore right that those who want to lead a faith community, which involves both preaching and helping the faith community to interact with the wider community in their leadership role, should have a proper command of English to enable this—especially the valuable inter-faith work that goes on in so many communities.

I think of what happens locally in Torbay, and of the type of exchanges facilitated in the midlands, particularly by Coventry cathedral, given its background in different faiths. Those exchanges really cannot be facilitated if there is not a good command of a working language within the local community.

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Robert Goodwill Portrait Mr Goodwill
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Will the Minister pay tribute to John Sentamu, the recently retired Archbishop of York, who came from Uganda during the time of Idi Amin and has made a fantastic contribution to religious and general life in our country?

Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am only too happy to do so and to put the Government’s thanks to him on the record. He provided an inspiration and a ministry that will be remembered for a very long time, and he broke the mould of what people expect from someone in such a senior position in the Anglican communion. Such contributions are very welcome and we want them to continue. We want to see that sort of person, particularly from the worldwide Anglican communion, as well as from the See of Rome—we have seen some amazing people come and be part of that community here in the United Kingdom. It is well worth paying tribute to such an example of someone who has achieved amazing things and revealed what he saw as God’s purpose for him as Archbishop of York. I am sure that we all wish him a very long retirement—not from holy orders, of course, which are a calling for life, but from his duties as archbishop.

I have heard the concerns expressed today about those who come to the UK for a very short term to provide cover while the incumbent minister is on holiday. It is worth pointing out our visitor rules, which will extend to EEA nationals as they currently extend to non-visa nationals, as I indicated earlier. In the immigration rules, the list of permitted activities specifically states that visitors may

“preach or do pastoral work.”

That allows many faith communities to hear inspiring preachers or hear about their faith’s work in other countries, especially in support of overseas aid and development work. Visitors are permitted to lead services on an ad hoc basis, which may provide a solution for communities that wish to invite visiting clergy to cover short-term absences, although they may not be paid for it—in many religious communities, that would not necessarily be a bar to providing a period of short-term cover.

It is worth my reminding the Committee that we have confirmed that EU citizens, who are the focus of the Bill, and EEA citizens more widely can continue to come to the UK as visitors without a visa, without prior approval, and use e-gates, where available, on arrival in the United Kingdom.

I hope that the SNP will consider its position on amendment 11. I say gently that we all need to reflect on whether it is appropriate to have faith communities led by those without a command of English adequate for the task—not least at a time when we need to come together more, not be separated by barriers of language. I therefore believe that the review that the amendment would put in place is not necessary. I invite the hon. Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East to withdraw the amendment, but I am always more than happy to discuss further how we can ensure that our faith communities are supported and that there is clarity on the three routes that I have outlined for ministers and those involved in faith communities to come to the United Kingdom and play the role that many have done in an inspiring way over many years.

Stuart C McDonald Portrait Stuart C. McDonald
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Argyll and Bute and the hon. Member for Stretford and Urmston for their detailed contributions to the debate, and to the Minister for his response. We are back in much more convivial and consensual territory, and I much prefer it; I feel much more comfortable there. I am particularly grateful for the Minister’s offer to meet the Bishops’ Conference, which I am sure will be very welcome. This debate has helped us clarify how close we are to making sure the system works for all interested parties.

I scribbled down the fact that the Minister highlighted two routes, but of course there are three. Tier 2 is much more about the longer term, and affects ministers who want to come and settle, and the tier 5 route is not for people who will lead worship. Then there is the visitor category, but, as the Minister said, it does not allow for payment to be made, and the organisations that I have spoken to say that if somebody is here for a couple of months, there are challenges if they cannot offer to pay.

We are close, but those three routes do not quite resolve the difficulties that we have highlighted. If the Minister is able to engage with the bishops’ conferences and other religious organisations, we may be able to tweak one of the three existing routes or come up with another one. It is probably better to fix the three than to come up with a fourth. I hope we will find a resolution, and I am glad that the Minister is engaging positively. For that reason, I see no reason to press for a vote, so I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill (Sixth sitting)

(Limited Text - Ministerial Extracts only)

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Committee stage & Committee Debate: 6th sitting: House of Commons
Tuesday 16th June 2020

(4 years, 1 month ago)

Public Bill Committees
Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Act 2020 Read Hansard Text Amendment Paper: Public Bill Committee Amendments as at 16 June 2020 - (16 Jun 2020)

This text is a record of ministerial contributions to a debate held as part of the Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Act 2020 passage through Parliament.

In 1993, the House of Lords Pepper vs. Hart decision provided that statements made by Government Ministers may be taken as illustrative of legislative intent as to the interpretation of law.

This extract highlights statements made by Government Ministers along with contextual remarks by other members. The full debate can be read here

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

Just before we begin, I should say that if members of the Committee wish to take their jackets off, they have my permission to do so. The hon. Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East and the Opposition Front-Bench spokesperson have spoken. If no Back Benchers indicate that they wish to speak, I will call the Minister. I remind the Committee that with this we are also discussing the following:

New clause 10—Extension of registration for EU Settlement Scheme

‘(1) The EU Settlement Scheme deadline shall be extended by a period of six months unless a motion not to extend the deadline is debated and approved by both Houses of Parliament.

(2) Any motion not to extend, referred to in subsection (1), must be debated and approved no later than three months before the deadline.

(3) In this section, “the EU Settlement Scheme Deadline” means the deadline for applying for settled or pre-settled status under the Immigration Rules.’

This new clause would ensure the EU settlement scheme was not closed to new applications until Parliament has approved its closure.

New clause 11—Application after the EU Settlement Scheme deadline

‘(1) An application to the EU Settlement Scheme after the EU settlement scheme deadline must still be decided in accordance with appendix EU of the Immigration Rules, unless reasons of public policy, public security, or public health apply in accordance with Regulation 27 of the Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2016 (as they have effect at the date of application or as they had effect immediately before they were revoked).

(2) In this section—

“an application to the EU Settlement Scheme” means an application for pre-settled or settled status under appendix EU of the Immigration Rules;

“the EU Settlement Scheme Deadline” means the deadline for applying for settled or pre-settled status under appendix EU of the Immigration Rules.’

This new clause would ensure that late applications to the EU settlement scheme will still be considered, unless reasons of public policy, public security or public health apply.

New clause 25—Report on status of EEA and Swiss nationals after the transition

‘(1) This Act shall not come into effect until a Minister of the Crown has laid a report before each House of Parliament setting out the impact of the Act on EEA and Swiss nationals in the UK.

(2) A report under subsection (1) must clarify the position of EEA and Swiss nationals in the UK during the period between the end of the transition period and the deadline for applying to the EU Settlement Scheme.

(3) A report under subsection (1) must include, but not be limited to, what rights EEA and Swiss nationals resident in the UK on 31 December 2020 have to—

(a) work in the UK;

(b) use the NHS for free;

(c) enrol in education or continue studying;

(d) access public funds such as benefits and pensions; and

(e) travel in and out of the UK.’

This new clause would require Government to provide clarity on the rights of EU nationals in the EU in the grace period between the end of the transition period, and the closure of the EU Settlement Scheme.

Kevin Foster Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Kevin Foster)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship this afternoon, Mr Stringer. These new clauses give us an important opportunity to consider the position of EEA citizens—those who are already here and are covered by the EU settlement scheme, and those who will come to the UK under our future points-based immigration system.

Before the break, I was asked a couple of questions. I can assure my right hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough and Whitby that we are looking at a range of communications materials, and have already done so, in a number of common European languages. We have engaged with diaspora media, and are looking particularly at how we can work with them over the coming year, as we approach the deadline next year, to ensure that as many people as possible hear the message—not just those who need to apply, but their friends and families, so that people feel familiar with the system and realise that it is actually a relatively simple process. The vast majority of people do it via an app on their phone.

I was grateful for the question from the hon. Member for Halifax. She asked what the position would be if someone applied on 20 June 2021 and their application was still outstanding on 1 July 2021. That is a perfectly reasonable issue to raise. As set out in the withdrawal agreement, the rights of someone who has made a valid in-time application to the EU settlement scheme will be protected while that application is pending. The regulations under the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020 will save relevant rights in relation to residency and access to benefits and services for those who make an application before 30 June 2021 until it is finally determined.

The Home Office will clearly not take immigration enforcement action against an individual whose application is pending. That reflects some of the other principles in the migration system. Committee members may be familiar with 3C leave—the concept that if someone has extant leave and applies, their leave is extended until their application is determined.

I assure Members that the statutory instrument making the regulations will be subject to debate and approval by Parliament, and will need to come into force at the end of the transition period. The Government are currently developing those regulations, which will be debated and made in good time prior to their entry into force at the end of the transition period.

On the linked question of what happens in relation to status checks and other things, let me be clear that an individual undergoing an eligibility check while their EUSS application is pending will have the same entitlement to accommodation, work, benefits or services that they had before the grace period ended. The Home Office will confirm whether an application is pending when an eligibility check is carried out—for example, if someone has to prove their status to their employer. Given that it is a digital-only system, it will be very similar to the process that people would use if they had been given pre-settled or settled status. I hope that is of use. Given the nature of the issue, I will set that out in writing for members of the Committee. They may wish to refer to it later.

New clause 9, moved on behalf of our friends in Plaid Cymru by the hon. Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East, seeks to delay the ending of free movement and the introduction of the new points-based immigration system for as long as possible. That is no surprise, given the views of the hon. Gentleman and Plaid Cymru.

My response on behalf of the Government is simple: we must accept the wishes of the people of our United Kingdom. Free movement is ending now that we have left the European Union. It is just six months since the general election, during which my party said that we would introduce a points-based immigration system that will enable us to bring in the best talent from around the world—based on the skills that a person has, not where their passport is from. The Government will therefore reject any attempt to perpetuate free movement or delay the implementation of the new points-based immigration system. The Government have a mandate, and we will fulfil our pledges to the people. We will introduce our new firmer and fairer points-based immigration system from 1 January 2021, when the transition period ends.

Having said that, I appreciate the importance of proper data and information. It is precisely for that reason that the Government have published a detailed impact assessment to accompany the Bill. It was published on 18 May and can be found on gov.uk and the Parliament website. Copies were also placed in the Library, and I know it has been referred to at times during the debates we have had so far.

The impact assessment is slightly unusual because it is not confined simply to the scope of the Bill, which, as Sir Edward and you, Mr Stringer, have reminded us on a number of occasions, is relatively narrow. Instead, it seeks to map out the consequences that will flow from the introduction of the points-based immigration system that was set out in the policy statement, which my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary published on 19 February.

The impact assessment sets out the likely implications for both EEA and non-EEA citizens of the changes that we will make, and it deals with many of the issues raised by the new clause. In particular, it makes it clear that we will develop plans to evaluate policies under the future skills-based immigration system. I remind the Committee that we have expanded the role of the independent Migration Advisory Committee. Not only will the MAC respond to specific commissions from the Government; it will also be able to consider any aspect of immigration policy that it chooses.

We have also asked the MAC to produce an annual report, which will give it the opportunity to comment on what it believes is working well and anything it thinks is working less well in our system. Although it is for the MAC—as I have said, it is independent of Government—to decide how to exercise its new responsibilities, I would be surprised if it did not want to comment on the operation of the new points-based system once it is fully up and running, so that there is further assurance for the public and for the movers of the new clause. For those reasons, the Government cannot accept the new clause.

I will now speak to new clauses 10, 11 and 25, which concern the EU settlement scheme and the grace period that will run from the end of the transition period to 30 June 2021. New clause 10 is designed to extend the deadline for applications to the EUSS by six months, which would happen unless and until Parliament debated and approved a motion not to extend the deadline.

I share the aim of the hon. Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East to ensure that eligible EEA citizens are able to obtain the UK immigration status they need to continue to live and work here. As we constantly say, they are our neighbours and friends—we want them to stay. However, I do not think that is best achieved by the new clause, which has the effect of shifting the deadline for applications to the scheme potentially indefinitely. That would cause confusion. Instead, a clear deadline of 30 June 2021 will encourage applications to the scheme and ensure the greatest number of resident EEA citizens secure their status in a timely manner.

Furthermore, new clause 10 is ambiguous. It is not clear whether it is intended to be a one-off extension of six months or a rolling extension of a six-month period until such a time as Parliament votes to close the scheme with just three months’ notice. Having a clear and well-publicised deadline by which eligible citizens need to apply ensures that the maximum number do so rather than putting it off due to the impact of new clause 10, which could mean that a deadline is set with three months’ notice. The new clause could also mean that applicants face difficulties and delays in demonstrating their rights and entitlements in the future, as they would not be able to distinguish themselves from EEA citizens who arrived after the end of the transition period.

The Government have made it clear that we will continue to support eligible citizens in applying to the EU settlement scheme. In addition, as we have shown with all aspects of the scheme, we will take a flexible and pragmatic approach and allow people with reasonable grounds for missing the deadline a further opportunity to apply. We will set out further guidance on this issue in due course, but with over a year to go until the deadline, our focus is on getting as many applications before it as possible.

On new clause 25, we will bring forward a statutory instrument under powers in the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020 to set the deadline and save the residency rights of people who are eligible to apply to the scheme and who do so before the deadline. I am not sure whether this is the intention of the hon. Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East, but the effect of new clause 10 would be to breach our obligations under the withdrawal agreements. The deadline of 30 June 2023 applies only to EEA citizens and their family members who reside in the UK by the end of the transition period. Their close family members outside the UK at the end of the transition period—where the relationship existed before then and continues to exist when they seek to come here—and their future children have a lifelong right of family reunion with the resident EEA citizen. A universal deadline makes no provision for this group, whether it is 31 December 2021 or any other date, and it would be inconsistent with the provision to enable them to apply within three months of their arrival, as set out in article 18(1)(b) of the withdrawal agreement.

New clause 11 is intended to require the consideration of all applications to the EU settlement scheme made after the application deadline, unless reasons of public policy, public security or public health apply. As the hon. Gentleman will be aware, the withdrawal agreement requires late applications to be considered

“if there are reasonable grounds for the failure to respect the deadline.”

As I said earlier, the Government will adopt a flexible and pragmatic approach to the consideration of late applications. Where an eligible EEA citizen or their family member has reasonable grounds for missing the application deadline of 30 June 2021, they will be given a further opportunity to apply. This approach gives people a clear deadline and incentive to apply while also protecting those who are unable to do so through no fault of their own.

Our collective focus must be on encouraging applications to the EU settlement scheme before the deadline.

Stuart C McDonald Portrait Stuart C. McDonald (Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East) (SNP)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

In terms of intention, I think everybody in this room is at one. The Minister provides assurance in relation to people who miss the deadline through no fault of their own. Would that include people who, because of their complicated immigration nationality situations, had not appreciated that they needed to apply for the scheme?

Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I think it is safe to say that the list will not be an exhaustive one. There will need to be an element of discretion as we cannot list every single possible situation that might reasonably cause someone to be late in their application, but if, for example, they have had a difficult court case or something that meant they had not been able to apply, and a status had then been granted, it is likely that that would be seen as a reasonable excuse. It will be set out in guidance.

Our intention is to set out a list of situations that are not exhaustive but indicative. We can all think of circumstances that would be perfectly reasonable. For example, in the case of a child in the care of a local authority, we would expect the local authority to have made efforts to get them registered. We could make a very long list and still not get to an exhaustive level. The list will demonstrate grounds, but it will not be an exhaustive list of the only situations that we would accept as reasonable grounds for failing to apply on time.

As I say, we will take a flexible and pragmatic approach with those who miss the deadline. We have more than a year to go before the deadline. If people feel that they might need to make an application, the best thing to do is to find the information and make the application. That is our absolute focus at the moment. We are working closely with support groups to ensure that we can reach out to vulnerable communities who might need assistance. We have kept a range of support services running throughout the recent period and have now reinstated all routes for application, including paper applications that are made available to those with the most complex needs.

We want to encourage applications before the deadline. That will ensure that EEA citizens can continue to live their lives here, as they do now, without interruption. To make a commitment now that we would also consider all late applications would undermine that effort.

Where there are reasonable grounds for submitting a late application, we will consider the application in exactly the same way as we do now, in line with the immigration rules for the EU settlement scheme. That includes the consideration of conduct committed before the end of the transition period on the grounds of public policy, public security and public health, and of conduct committed thereafter under the UK conduct and criminality thresholds. As I have mentioned, we will publish guidance for caseworkers on what constitutes reasonable grounds, to ensure consistency of approach. Again, however, with more than a year until the deadline, it is premature to do so now, for the reasons I have given.

--- Later in debate ---
Robert Goodwill Portrait Mr Goodwill
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Thank you, Mr Stringer. The point that I was working up to was that by having an exemption only for EU citizens, we are discriminating against a large number of people who would wish to come and work in the UK from around the world. The ethnic mix of those particular groups would indicate that allowing the new clause would give a land bloc where the majority of people are white an unfair advantage over the rest of the world. I understand the aspiration to abolish the charge completely globally, but if we were to agree the new clause, we would end up in a situation where black and minority ethnic people from around the world would be at a great disadvantage to predominantly white people coming in from the European Union, EEA countries and Switzerland.

Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the hon. Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East for tabling new clause 12 and the hon. Member for Halifax for tabling new clause 42, both of which relate to the immigration health charge, and for the opportunity they provide to debate this issue.

The background, for members of the Committee, is that the immigration health charge ensures that temporary migrants who come to the UK for more than six months make a fair contribution to the NHS services available to them during their stay. Income from the charge contributes to the long-term sustainability of our fantastic health service across our Union, although certain groups are exempt from the requirement to pay the charge and others benefit from a discounted rate.

The health charge is designed to help support the NHS services that we rely on throughout our lives. It raised approximately £900 million in much-needed income for the NHS from its introduction in 2015 to the end of the 2018-19 financial year—income that, I will be clear, has been shared between the four devolved health administrations in line with the Barnett formula, helping to fund the NHS across our United Kingdom.

Turning to the future, all migrants will be treated the same under our new points-based immigration system. The expectation is therefore that all nationals applying, including EEA citizens, will pay the charge if staying for temporary periods of longer than six months, unless an exemption applies. Of course, EEA citizens who are resident in the UK before the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020 are not subject to the immigration health charge. That was agreed as part of negotiations on the withdrawal agreement with the EU, which also protects the rights of UK nationals in the EU.

To touch on the point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough and Whitby, now we have left the European Union, it would be rather hard to defend having an exemption for EEA nationals alone, given that we no longer have freedom of movement in place and will no longer members of the EU, and then applying this to the rest of the world. I respect the SNP’s point—they have made it regularly and I am sure they will make it again at regular intervals—and their principled view on this issue overall, but it would not make sense to have an exemption for one group applying under the points-based system rather than another, based on nationality alone. I appreciate the point and it will be interesting to hear what conclusions the hon. Member for Halifax comes to as part of her review.

The Government believe that new clause 42 is unnecessary. As has already been said, hon. Members will be aware that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has asked the Home Office and the Department of Health and Social Care to exempt NHS and social care staff from the charge. The exemption will apply to the relevant applications regardless of nationality—as I say, we are moving to a global points-based system—once that system is in place.

Officials are currently working through the detail of the exemptions; sadly, I will have to disappoint the hon. Member for Halifax and say that I cannot go into the full details today of where it will be, but hon. Members will appreciate that that is because we want to get this right and are working with our colleagues in the DHSC to do that.

There was a point made about renewals for doctors currently in the NHS. It is worth pointing out that those who are currently working in the NHS as doctors, nurses or in a number of health professions, are subject to automatic extension for a year. If they get an automatic extension for a year, that also waives the immigration health charge. It is not just the visa fee that goes, but the immigration health charge. Someone currently working for the NHS whose visa is due for renewal is getting a free year, and certainly by this time next year we will have the detailed guidance out there for them. I hope that provides some reassurance about the position as we stand here today.

I recognise the concerns about the financial impact of the health charge on people migrating here, including those who contribute to the NHS through tax and national insurance payments. The health charge provides comprehensive access to NHS services regardless of the amount of care needed during a person’s time in the UK, and includes treatment for pre-existing conditions.

The IHS not only represents excellent value when compared with the alternatives, but ensures that individuals do not need to worry about insurance or how they will pay for unexpected treatment while they are here. It compares favourably with the type of health insurance or other health care costs that those migrating to other countries might well face in order to get the same level of services that our NHS provides to all at point of need, free of charge, here.

As I said earlier, the Government is exempting NHS and care workers from the charge in recognition of the enormous contribution they make to the NHS directly. It is, however, only fair to expect people arriving in the UK to work in non-health-related roles to contribute to the range of NHS services available to them, given that they will not have the history of making contributions towards it that most long-term UK residents will have. It is also worth remembering that those who receive indefinite leave to remain—that is, settlement—are exempted from the IHS, in recognition of the long-term commitment to our United Kingdom this represents.

Finally, the Government are in the process of negotiating reciprocal healthcare arrangements with the EU, and it is important that we do not undermine the integrity of those negotiations through this Bill. I therefore invite the Members from the Scottish National party to withdraw the motion.

Stuart C McDonald Portrait Stuart C. McDonald
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am grateful to the Minister for his response. We are essentially debating a fundamental point of principle here: we have different views about the appropriateness of this charge.

To respond to the right hon. Member for Scarborough and Whitby’s intervention, I am of course constricted in what I can table as an amendment or new clause. I would scrap the charge for everybody, not just EEA nationals, but the scope of the Bill prohibits me from tabling a broader amendment. I think that if an assessment of the NHS surcharge’s impact on black and minority ethnic people were carried out, it would make for interesting reading, but that is a debate for another day. I stand by my party’s position that this is a double tax that is completely unjustifiable, and will therefore push new clause 12 to a Division.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time.

Division 12

Ayes: 2


Scottish National Party: 2

Noes: 8


Conservative: 8

New Clause 13
--- Later in debate ---
Holly Lynch Portrait Holly Lynch
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

We support new clauses 13, 36 and 37, which were tabled by the SNP and address immigration and citizenship fee charges that fall within the scope of the Bill. We believe that visa charges should not exceed the cost price, for all the reasons that have already been set out.

Subsection (1) of new clause 13 would prohibit EEA and Swiss citizens from being charged a fee for registering as a British citizen that is greater than the cost of the registration process. As we have already heard, there is enormous cross-party support for this approach.

The Home Office makes a profit of up to 800% on immigration applications from families. The fees are now £1,012 for children and £1,206 for adults, which are really quite significant sums. We have all had constituents come to us because such fees are causing a huge amount of anxiety and stress after a change in circumstances. We have all had casework in which applications have been turned down on technicalities, which we have been able to challenge through our parliamentary offices. Families are often forced to make further appeals and further applications, and to pay again.

EEA and Swiss nationals will soon join the rest of the world in having to pay visa fees or fees for starting the journey towards British citizenship. The British Nationality Act 1981 contains provisions to ensure that no child with entitlement to register for British citizenship should have to pay a fee. Subsections (2), (3) and (4) of new clause 13 are designed to safeguard that Act, in spite of the Bill. I particularly welcome subsection (2), which would provide a further safeguard for children who receive assistance from their local authorities, adding to our proposals in new clause 58. We will come on to clause 58, but those provisions seek to provide automatic settled status for all EEA and Swiss children in care, and for those entitled to care-leaving support.

With that in mind, we welcome the independent chief inspector’s report, “An inspection of the policies and practices of the Home Office’s Borders, Immigration and Citizenship Systems relating to charging and fees”, which was presented to the Home Secretary last September. It set out concerns about the legislative procedure for citizenship and immigration fees, and it recommended that the Home Office undertake to provide considerably more clarity on fee levels, stating that the Government should:

“Either make public any Policy Equality Statements produced for ministers or publish separate statements that show clearly what has been considered when proposing fees levels/increases in terms of equality and diversity, in particular the social and welfare impacts on children, families and vulnerable persons.”

New clauses 37 and 38 would require Parliament’s consent for changes to be made to citizenship fees and immigration fees respectively. As we have discussed, the Government are attempting to grant themselves sweeping Henry VIII powers throughout the Bill; we have rehearsed that debate several times. We believe it is vital that parliamentary oversight is at least afforded to these charges, which will dictate the lives and prosperity of EEA and Swiss migrants in the UK for years to come. Ideally, that should be done through parliamentary legislation rather than through the current framework, which relies on statutory instruments.

Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am grateful to the hon. Members for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East and for Argyll and Bute for tabling new clauses 13, 36 and 37, which provide the Committee with the opportunity to consider fees charged in respect of applications made by those who will lose the right of free movement under the Bill for citizenship, leave to enter or remain in the United Kingdom, the immigration health surcharge, the immigration skills charge and sponsorship licences. I pay tribute to the hon. Gentlemen’s diligence in going through all the points that they wished to highlight.

It may be helpful to provide some background information for the Committee. Application fees for border, immigration and citizenship products and services have been charged for a number of years, and they play a vital role in our country’s ability to run a sustainable system. To put them into context, the current charging framework across the operation delivered £1.98 billion of income in the financial year 2018-19. That income helped to deliver the funding required to run the borders, immigration and citizenship system, and it substantially reduces the burden on UK taxpayers, as I am sure members of the public would rightly expect us to do.

The immigration health charge ensures that temporary migrants who come to the UK for more than six months make a fair contribution towards paying for the NHS services that are available to them during their stay. As was touched on earlier, income from the charge directly contributes to the long-term sustainability of our fantastic health service across our United Kingdom. Certain groups are already exempt from the requirement to pay the charge, and others benefit from a discounted rate.

The immigration skills charge is designed to incentivise employers to invest in training and upskilling the resident workforce to move away from reliance on the UK’s immigration system as an alternative to investment in staff retention, productivity, technology and automation. Income raised from the charge will be used to address skills gaps in the UK workforce, and that will be of benefit to businesses in the long term. Any fees to be charged are already approved by both Houses of Parliament.

New clause 13(1) is designed to limit the Secretary of State’s power to charge a fee for applying for British citizenship to the cost of processing. That would apply to anybody who has enjoyed free movement rights at any point. Imposing such a provision would cut across the existing statutory framework for fees and would risk undermining the funding and coherence of the whole current and future system.

Additionally, making fee provisions that are specific to certain nationalities as part of the Bill would be unfair to all users of the border, immigration and citizenship system, and it could lead the Home Office to discriminating on the basis of a person’s nationality. That clearly goes against our policy, although I accept that part of the rationale for that was to get the new clause into the scope of the Bill.

Stuart C McDonald Portrait Stuart C. McDonald
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Yes, that is absolutely the case. This does not apply even to every EU national exercising free movement; it applies to EU nationals who have the right to British citizenship through registration. It is a very specific subset, to which hugely different considerations apply; they are not in the same position as folk who have chosen to turn up and apply through naturalisation. They have a right, under an Act of Parliament, to British citizenship.

Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I re-emphasise that having this type of provision in the Bill would cut across and create a new precedent. We would be talking about someone whose right of free movement was removed by the Bill. That would create incoherence, particularly once we have left the European Union, with provisions based on rights from being in the EU—a situation that does not now exist. We have put in protections that are appropriate and proportionate.

New clause 13(2) is designed to prevent the Secretary of State from charging the child of a person who has exercised free moment rights a fee to register as a British citizen, if the child is in receipt of local authority assistance. “Local authority assistance” is too broad a term and could include those who access a range of financial and practical support measures offered by local authorities. For example, a child may receive assistance from a local authority if they attend day-care facilities while they are not yet at school. That is quite different from a child who is looked after and in the care of the local authority by way of a care order made by a court, or a voluntary agreement with the parent to accommodate the child.

It is important to remember that any child, irrespective of nationality, who is looked after by their local authority can apply for limited and indefinite leave to remain without being required to pay application fees, ensuring that no child in local authority care is unable to access leave to remain. Although many will choose to pursue British citizenship, having citizenship, as opposed to an award of indefinite leave to remain, is not essential for any individual to work, live, study or access services in the UK .

Stuart C McDonald Portrait Stuart C. McDonald
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I urge the Minister not to pursue that line, which was pursued by a previous Prime Minister and Home Secretary. No one would say to anyone in this room, “You don’t really need British citizenship. Why not just settle for indefinite leave to remain?” The Minister is missing the point—I am talking about people who have as much right to British citizenship as anyone in this room. It is not a substitute to say, “Just become a migrant in your own home country and apply for immigration status here.”

--- Later in debate ---
Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I was talking about the logic of our fee system and the fact that we have exemptions to do with the status of people who need to access public services. Traditionally, our position on citizenship is that it is not something that people need in order to access services. I re-emphasise the breadth of the provisions in the new clause—I notice that that was not disputed.

New clause 13(3) would remove fees for the children of people who have exercised free movement rights to register as a British citizen where the child or the child’s parent, guardian or carer is unable to afford any associated fees. It raises similar points to subsection (1) in respect of fairness, discrimination and suitable legislative structures already being in place. Subsection (4) would require the Secretary of State to take steps to make persons who have exercised free movement rights aware of their rights to obtain British citizenship under the British Nationality Act 1981.

When explaining the rights that are afforded by settled status obtained via the EU settlement scheme, we make it clear that they may include a right to apply for British citizenship, provided that eligibility requirements are met. Of course, there is no charge for applying to the EU settlement scheme. Information about becoming a British citizen is also available in published guidance on gov.uk, and we are committed to ensuring that information of this nature is fully accessible for all. I hope that reassures the Committee that we are taking steps to make people aware of their rights, and that a statutory obligation to that effect is therefore unnecessary.

--- Later in debate ---

Division 13

Ayes: 7


Labour: 5
Scottish National Party: 2

Noes: 8


Conservative: 8

New Clause 14
--- Later in debate ---
Holly Lynch Portrait Holly Lynch
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We very much support the right to access to justice for all, and legal aid is an essential component of that, so we support new clause 14. Cuts to legal aid have been disastrous for access to justice. Time and time again, we have seen that it is the most vulnerable who suffer. Huge swathes of areas of law were deemed out of scope by the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012. Most evidence now suggests that there have been few or no cost savings to the Ministry of Justice from taking those areas of law out of scope, especially in relation to early advice.

When those representing themselves try to navigate complex areas of law without representation, cases are often longer and precarious, and thus more costly to the taxpayer. Indeed, the Williams review found that the withdrawal of legal aid contributed significantly to the problems faced by the Windrush victims. We do not want anyone else to be in a similar position when free movement comes to an end. We therefore support new clause 14.

Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster
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I thank hon. Members for their contributions. The legal aid scheme is designed to target legal aid funding at those who need it most. Legal aid is available for the most serious cases to ensure and maintain access to justice while delivering value for money for taxpayers. The Bill itself does not provide a right to enter or remain for EEA citizens, and the new clause would bring issues relating to the end of free movement, such as applications under the EU settlement scheme, into scope for legal aid.

The EU settlement scheme has deliberately been designed to be streamlined and user-friendly. The majority of applicants will be able to apply without the need for advice from a lawyer. However, we recognise that there will be some vulnerable individuals who may need support in using the scheme, and we have put in place safeguards to ensure that the scheme is accessible to all.

The Government have always been clear that publicly funded immigration legal advice is available to some particularly vulnerable individuals. Individuals who are claiming asylum, those identified as potential victims of modern slavery or human trafficking, separated migrant children and victims of domestic violence are eligible for legal aid funding for immigration legal advice, subject to statutory means and merits tests.

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Division 14

Ayes: 7


Labour: 5
Scottish National Party: 2

Noes: 8


Conservative: 8

New Clause 15
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Holly Lynch Portrait Holly Lynch
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We have one or two unanswered questions on how the new clause would work in practice. We want to ensure that we have done all our due diligence before lending it our support. We may well come back to this on Report.

The new clause gives us the opportunity to say to the Minister that we are incredibly concerned that there are people who, when free movement ends—innocent, ordinary, decent, hard-working people—for the whole raft of reasons that we have already been through in the Committee, may find that they have missed the deadline. They have then not only got a precarious migration status, but could, if they continue to wait, find themselves in the criminal justice system and criminalised. We need to address the issue now.

One example that we have mentioned is that which the BMA raised with me. Its doctors, on the frontline of fighting coronavirus, will potentially leave applying to the EU settlement scheme to the last minute for that reason. If they continue to work as a doctor, would they be criminalised if they had not done their due diligence in making sure they have their applications in, but were continuing to work in our NHS? Will the Minister reassure us that nobody will be criminalised and in our criminal justice system who absolutely does not belong there when free movement comes to an end at the end of this year?