Lord Moynihan (Con)
My Lords, I am grateful for the opportunity to focus on the issue of sportspeople. I want to ask the Minister a few questions, which I am sure she will be able to clarify for me.
First, the reference to the exemption of “sports players” and “sports coaches, instructors and officials” includes the numbers “3441” and “3442”. I assume that that is for the Office for National Statistics coding system, and that the Home Office set out the requirements and the ONS categorised them. What is crucial overall is the UK points system, and the Home Office policy document about the new rules will formulate that. Indeed, there is reference in an explanatory note to the guidance being forthcoming, but at the moment we do not know what that guidance would be. Therefore, for sportspeople, it is difficult to have clarity on exactly what the regulations will require.
As I understand it, the requirement will be similar to the tier 2 regulations, which require that sports governing bodies decide on the very high standards required. For example, if you came in as the spouse of a researcher, you could take employment in virtually every area. But that is not the case in sport, because in sport you have to go back and satisfy the governing body of the sport that you met the very high standards required to take on employment under these regulations. Should that be the case, I ask whether it is wise to focus exclusively on the governing bodies of sports rather than the clubs, given that it is often the clubs that will be making employment offers to individuals. I hope that will be clarified in the guidance.
Take as an example the world of rowing. As I understand it, somebody like Sir Steve Redgrave might have the opportunity to apply to be performance director of British Rowing, and that as long as the sport’s governing body stated that there was a non-UK applicant who would do the job better, that is sufficient to satisfy the Government under these regulations. However, if it was the Leander Club doing it, I cannot see the system that would apply for the individual who wished to be performance director—say, Steve Redgrave.
It would be very helpful to have a little more clarity on that. I hope my noble friend will say that this will all be clear in the guidance: if she does, I would be delighted, but on the other hand I would be concerned that the House had not had the opportunity to review the guidance, because the devil is sometimes in the detail.
There is a general point. I may be wrong in this, but it seems to me that the definition of “skilled worker” in the 2017 regulations is much tighter than the definition in these revised regulations. Whereas, for example, you have a skill level from RQF level 6 coming down to RQF level 3 under the original 2017 regulations, now the Secretary of State has the right to determine that the skills are “appropriate”. “Appropriate” is a very generic word and is not defined clearly. To give the Secretary of State such powers may well be appropriate, but it is exactly the sort of thing that I imagine the Delegated Powers Committee, on which I used to sit, will look at and say that to talk about “appropriate” skills is a wide delegated power, rather than being very clear in the definition of what the skills should be in any given circumstance.
Finally, the definition of a sports player includes a separate definition and exemption of the cost for “sports coaches, instructors and officials”, but the sports player’s entourage if, for example, they are coming to Wimbledon and training in this country, goes much wider than sports coaches, instructors and officials. It could include sports physiologists, sports doctors or sports scientists that work with that sports player. I just wonder if there could be a catch-all definition for the sportsman or sportswoman’s entourage to be covered in that context.
My final point is a comment that I hope will be helpful to the Home Office in future consideration of draft statutory instruments. A number was provided for us to seek answers to these questions, but when you phone the number, you need a name, and when you ask for the migration policy unit, which is in the guidance to us as Members of Parliament, sadly, you cannot get through to anybody, because they do not have the extension of the migration policy unit. You need the name of somebody there, and that name is not in the guidance. For future assistance to Members of the House of Lords and, indeed, of the House of Commons, it would be useful to have a name associated with the telephone number, or the telephone number of the unit. Either way, that may be useful on future occasions.