Gavin Robinson contributions to the Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Act 2020

Mon 19th October 2020 Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill (Commons Chamber)
Ping Pong: House of Commons
3 interactions (939 words)
Mon 18th May 2020 Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill (Commons Chamber)
2nd reading: House of Commons
Money resolution: House of Commons
Programme motion: House of Commons
Ways and Means resolution: House of Commons
3 interactions (748 words)

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

(Ping Pong: House of Commons)
Gavin Robinson Excerpts
Monday 19th October 2020

(3 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber

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Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Eleanor Laing)
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Order. After the next speaker the time limit will be reduced to four minutes. I give that warning in advance so that Members can prepare if necessary.

Gavin Robinson Portrait Gavin Robinson (Belfast East) (DUP)
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It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton), who made a powerful contribution not only on amendments 3 and 6 but right the way through his comments. It is a testament to the House that almost every contribution thus far has been on the right track and has exuded the compassion that we want to show as a country, and none more so than that of the right hon. Member for Staffordshire Moorlands (Karen Bradley); I was greatly enthralled by what she had to say and agree with the sentiments she expressed.

On amendment 5, the Government have engaged financial privilege. They are asking this House to disagree on the grounds of the financial implications of the proof of status document and for no other reason: engaging financial privilege means that is the rationale for asking us to disagree to amendment 5. I ask the Minister to reflect on that in his comments. If the only issue is finance—if he recognises that a biometric residence permit, for example, is available for less than £20—I hope that, should there be a subsequent attempt in the other place to insert a similar amendment without proposed subsection (2), the Government will agree to it, because the argument is not only about digitalisation and the difficulties associated with online information, but about people’s sincere desire to hold a permit outlining their status. The Government should engage with this issue thoughtfully.

I have spoken on a number of occasions in this House on indefinite detention, and the Minister knows that I have quite a rigid position on the issue. I supported more keenly amendments that were previously before this House that at least gave the opportunity for an extension of an additional 28 days. I thought that gave Government more latitude in exceptional circumstances, but I still believe that indefinite detention is immoral and unjustified. I have not heard a justifiable rationale for it yet; it is unjustifiable.

We hear about the difficult and hard stories and we hear about the excessive cases. If someone breaks the law in this country, then we should arrest them and put them through due process. If somebody is going through an immigration application process, we should not put them in custody without any sense of how long the process will take. We should treat them as we would wish to be treated: humanly and humanely.

I will use the remainder of my speech to touch on amendment 9. I am pleased to speak in support of this amendment, which was supported in the other place through a powerful speech made by my colleague Lord Morrow, who as a private Member in the Northern Ireland Assembly brought through our seminal Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Criminal Justice and Support for Victims) Act (Northern Ireland) 2015. To those who talk about the United Kingdom Government bringing forward modern slavery legislation that is the best in the world, I say that it started in Northern Ireland. We are proud of that record. We are the first devolved Administration to bring forward such legislation, and we are proud of what was achieved.

I listened carefully to the opening remarks made by the Minister. I am grateful to him for a telephone conversation we had earlier today, and for the subsequent correspondence that he has shared. I think he knows from the tenor of contributions made by the right hon. Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Sir Iain Duncan Smith) and others that there is still work to be done on amendment 9, and on changing the terms of the guidance available. I recognise the development that he has brought forward this afternoon, but I am still not sure from what we have heard that we should be convinced that that is a good enough reason for this House to agree with the Government and disagree with the Lords amendment.

The challenge is that any trafficked person from an EEA territory who arrives in the UK after 31 December will only have one long-term route to recovering discretionary leave to remain, whereas today, they have two. While the commitment to automatic consideration is progress, it does not change the fact that the then Government Minister spoke to the Select Committee on Work and Pensions in 2017 as part of that Committee’s inquiry on victims of modern slavery, and said that there must be

“exceptional or compelling reasons to justify a grant”

of discretionary leave to remain. One has to go through freedom of information requests—it should not be so difficult to get this information from the Home Office—to establish that 8% to 9% of applications from those certified as victims of modern slavery get discretionary leave to remain. That is far too low, and it is something that the Government need to consider. I fail to see why confirmed victims losing their right to recovery through treaty rights will be particularly reassured by the commitment that they will automatically be considered for something that, unlike recourse to public funds through their treaty rights, is only given in an exceptional situation.

The other difficulty with the idea that the introduction of automatic assessment for discretionary leave to remain is an effective replacement for recourse to public funds through treaty rights is that discretionary leave to remain is discretionary. It is not a right, but clause 12 makes it a right; Lords amendment 9 makes it a right. If a confirmed victim of modern slavery who is an EEA national meets the criteria in subsection (2), their access to leave to remain will no longer be discretionary, and that is what we should strive to achieve.

Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Eleanor Laing)
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Order. The time limit is now reduced to four minutes.

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

(2nd reading: House of Commons)
(Money resolution: House of Commons)
(Programme motion: House of Commons)
(Ways and Means resolution: House of Commons)
Gavin Robinson Excerpts
Monday 18th May 2020

(8 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber

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Tom Hunt Portrait Tom Hunt (Ipswich) (Con)
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18 May 2020, 12:05 a.m.

Is a pleasure to be back in the Chamber to speak on Second Reading of this Bill, which will end the EU freedom of movement and pave the way for a new points-based immigration system that treats everyone equally. Let me say at the outside that the Bill has my full support. Taking back control of our borders was one of the central reasons, if not the main reason, why millions of people up and down the country voted to leave the European Union almost four years ago. The Bill brings us one step closer to finally delivering on that historic verdict.

The desire to take back control of our borders is not to deny the immense contribution made by many people who have come here from overseas and will continue to do so in future; in fact, ending freedom of movement and building a points-based immigration system based on equality and individual merit will allow us to welcome more people from around the world who have so much to offer this country, On the contrary, taking back control is about ending the uncontrolled mass immigration that has disproportionately affected our working-class communities in recent decades. These communities have seen the increased pressure on their schools and hospitals, their wages have remained low, and there have been rapid cultural changes in the towns in which they live.

Although it is undoubtedly clear that the vast majority of those who have moved to our country under EU freedom of movement rules have made a positive contribution and integrated fully, the simple truth is that that has not been the case for everyone who has taken advantage of those rules, and many of our communities have been adversely affected because of that.

Today’s Bill gives us a power to continue to welcome into our country all those who wish to make a positive contribution to not just our economy but our society, while allowing us to say, “No,” to those whose impact is likely to be more dubious. That is the reality of the Bill, and it is a reality to be welcomed. For too long, those issues were known but locked inside the EU treaties. There was no way to address them through our traditional democratic process. Immigration was an issue snatched out of people’s democratic control, undermining their confidence in our political system, as well as in our ability to execute our fundamental responsibility as a nation to decide who enters our country.

We have an unmissable opportunity to restore the public’s confidence by building an immigration system that welcomes the best and the brightest from around the world while retaining democratic control and the consent of the people. Despite the clear support in the country for such reforms, the Labour party of today remains wedded to open borders and uncontrolled, mass immigration. During his leadership campaign, the right hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Keir Starmer) set out his full support for bringing back freedom of movement in the future, clearly disappointed that his attempts to reverse the decision of the 2016 referendum were not successful. If given the chance, it appears that he would do everything in his power to dilute and frustrate the decision instead. In other words, why set yourself against many of your party’s traditional supporters once when you can do it twice? By voting against the Bill tonight, the Labour party takes yet another step in its long march away from the people it once faithfully represented.

When we debate the future of our immigration system, we need to touch on illegal immigration, although I appreciate that that will be dealt with in a separate Bill. For public confidence in the system today, tackling illegal immigration must be one of the key issues that we confront. While thousands of people continue to break our laws by operating outside of our legal immigration system, the public will not have full faith that we have control of our borders. I urge the Government to build on the important work in this Bill by giving further consideration to how we tackle illegal immigration over the coming weeks and months.

As I said at the start of my speech, the Bill has my full support because it ends freedom of movement, gets us ready for a new global immigration system and helps to restore public confidence in the integrity of our borders. There is still more work to be done, and we cannot count on the Labour party’s support in doing it, but the era of uncontrolled and undemocratic mass immigration is certainly coming to an end, and that should be welcomed.

Gavin Robinson Portrait Gavin Robinson (Belfast East) (DUP) [V]
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18 May 2020, 12:06 a.m.

It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Ipswich (Tom Hunt). I understand that there are no reasonable, reasoned amendments being taken this evening. Although I understand that there are those who will vote against the Bill, it is important that they not only hear and share their concerns but listen to Members such as myself, who share many of the frustrations about the omissions and areas for improvement in the Bill but recognise that it will pass in any event. I therefore encourage them, over the weeks to come, to collaborate with Members who share some of their concerns.

It is also right to recognise that controlling the borders of the United Kingdom was a fundamental reason why the majority of people in our country voted to leave the European Union. We support the principle of ending uncontrolled immigration and treating those wishing to enter the UK from the European economic area and the rest of the world fairly and equally. However, we are not ignorant of the impact that such a sharp and poorly tailored approach to ending free movement could have, particularly in Northern Ireland, on the growth of certain important economic sectors such as agriculture and hospitality, if current access to labour is not replicated in an appropriate way.

I welcome the elements of the Bill that reiterate the rights afforded to UK and Irish nationals to work, reside and access Government benefits in each other’s jurisdiction. Such provision was enshrined in national law well before either country joined the EU and was never going to be threatened by the UK’s exit from the EU.

We do, however, express concern at the Government’s recent decision to amend the settlement scheme to allow family members of British and British-Irish citizens dual citizenship. This was intended to placate certain aspects where a spouse or partner was a British citizen as a result of being born in Northern Ireland and therefore was not eligible for a scheme explicitly for EU27 nationals. The reality is that citizens born in Northern Ireland under the Belfast agreement have the right to both Irish citizenship and British citizenship, but it is in addition to British citizenship, not instead of it. That issue strikes at the very heart of the principle of consent.

On the settlement scheme, we believe there is a duty on Government to honour the provisions of the citizens’ rights chapter of the withdrawal agreement in good faith, with compassion and clarity. At the same time, we do not believe it would be helpful to use this Bill as a vehicle to reopen, replace or expand the terms of that chapter. EU citizens need clarity and continuity at this time, not uncertainty or false expectations. Much depends on the outcome of the negotiations on the future relationship. I ask that the Home Office steps up its efforts to fill any void with information in respect of the operation of the settlement scheme, including in terms of the effectiveness of appeals, how applications still pending on 31 June 2021 will be dealt with and how local authorities are proactively seeking to ensure that looked-after children are treated fairly and sensitively.

We need to ensure that EU citizens—many of whom have contributed to UK society on a level far surpassing the minimum requirements set out in the settlement scheme, including in the NHS and as careworkers during the current crisis—are not disadvantaged. Officials should be looking at reasons why status should be granted, as opposed to reasons why it should not be, and clarity is required on the reasonable grounds for missing an application.

The DUP supports a compassionate and open approach to refugees from communities in other countries affected by terrorism, war or persecution. We appreciate the need to review routes for individuals and believe that it would be best to get international co-operation outside the free movement debate. We believe that consideration should be given to mitigations for family members of EEA citizens who have been convicted of domestic abuse and whose status in the UK could be linked to their perpetrators.

In terms of the new points-based system, the intention to implement a single skills-based system of immigration in the UK, treating all migrant workers from anywhere in the world on a fair and equal basis, is a welcome development. As the Bill progresses, we will be seeking change, but we want to see a regime that is fair, sensible and will be to the benefit of our country and its contingent parts.

Aaron Bell Portrait Aaron Bell (Newcastle-under-Lyme) (Con) [V]
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It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Belfast East (Gavin Robinson). This Bill is one of many landmark Bills that the Government have introduced to establish Britain’s new post-EU framework. We had the Third Reading of the Agriculture Bill last week and will debate the Trade Bill this Wednesday; I would be keen to speak in that debate too, if you could put in a good word for me, Mr Deputy Speaker.

Collectively, these new Bills represent a transfer of power, authority and, crucially, responsibility back to this place and back to the British people. If the British people decide they want a different approach in future to agriculture, trade or immigration, they can now vote for it at a general election. My neighbour, my hon. Friend the Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Dr Mullan), spoke brilliantly about this earlier. I wholeheartedly endorse his comments about the misrepresentation and weaponisation of the term “low-skilled” by some Opposition Members. I had hoped that the cynicism of Corbynism might depart with its figurehead, but clearly the new Leader of the Opposition cannot stop its momentum.

It is unsurprising that those who were always against leaving the European Union and sought to overturn the referendum result are now seeking to oppose these Bills. They did not listen to the people then, and they are still not listening. Even now, they are playing for time and hoping, like Mr Micawber, that something will turn up to derail the transition process. But we have left the European Union, which means that, for the first time in more than 40 years, we can deliver control of immigration by ending freedom of movement and replacing it with a considered and considerate approach that will command the trust of the British people. The Bill will introduce a new system that is fair and simple and that will level the playing field, attracting the brightest and best to live, work and make their lives here in the UK, regardless of where they are from. When we do that, we will give top priority to the skilled workers we need to boost our economy and support our public services.

We will continue to welcome doctors and nurses from around the world to support our NHS, which is particularly welcome at this moment of national emergency, as we deal with coronavirus. I pay tribute to all those NHS workers—immigrants or otherwise—who have gone above and beyond in these last few months in helping to respond to this terrible pandemic. The new NHS visa will offer fast-track entry to the UK for qualified overseas doctors and nurses and will provide three to five-year work visas with reduced up-front fees, and we have already removed doctors and nurses from the tier 2 visa cap.

Similarly, as a member of the Science and Technology Committee, I welcome the Government’s intention to make it easier to attract leading scientists, engineers and mathematicians to come and work in the UK. More generally, I know that the Government are listening to advice to ensure that this new immigration system will be flexible enough to meet the needs of businesses and essential services. They have responded to the call from the independent Migration Advisory Committee to lower the general salary threshold, and they have tasked that same committee with keeping the shortage occupation list under regular review. This bodes very well.

It is also important that the Bill will protect the long-held rights of Irish citizens, recognising our deep, historic ties with the island of Ireland and the contribution that Irish citizens have made to the UK. Once free movement ends, Irish citizens will continue to be able to come to the UK to live and work, as they do now, regardless of where they have travelled from. The wider rights enjoyed by Irish citizens in the UK, which flow from the common travel area arrangements, will also be maintained.

The Bill and the new points-based immigration system obviously represent a significant departure for our country, but one that emphasises and reinforces a positive social change. We remain one of the most welcoming and tolerant countries in the world, and, as Ipsos MORI recently found, people are more willing than ever to say that immigration has had a positive impact on Britain, a sentiment I have always shared. Some see this as ironic, or as proof of a buyer’s remorse with regard to the leave vote and the end of freedom of movement, but I believe it is quite the opposite. It is precisely that sense of control and democratic accountability that has driven this change.

It is absolutely clear that delivering control of our borders, with regard to both the total numbers coming and the skills they bring with them, was something that the British people, and my constituents in Newcastle-under-Lyme, were asking for in both the 2016 EU referendum and the 2019 general election. The Government set out in their manifesto at that election that they would deliver a new points-based immigration system to attract the best talent from all around the world, as the Bill enables. The British people have demonstrated in two historic votes that they want an approach that returns control of our borders to this House—to them. We are listening to them, and we are delivering what they asked for.