|Thu 16th January 2020||
European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill
Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
|9 interactions (1,721 words)|
|Tue 14th January 2020||
European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill
Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
|16 interactions (1,252 words)|
To touch on the final point of the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, in yesterday’s debate we discussed hard-copy documentary evidence. I hope that we can make progress on that as well.
The Minister said that UK pensions will be uprated “while they have the right to reside in that state”—I think I quote him correctly. But what if they move to another EU state?
Can the Minister clarify something that I think he said? He referred to UK citizens who are not yet of retirement age but become entitled to a UK state pension and then move to one of the 27 countries of the EU. Will their pensions be uprated?
My question was whether, if someone who is currently working and then retires, receives the UK state pension outside the European Union after 1 February but then moves to an EU country after that date, their pension will be uprated in that country. Is that what the Minister said?
Will the attitude to citizenship ever change? The British Government will of course always listen to the EU about benefits that might come to UK nationals. However, as the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, alluded to, to date, associate citizenship has not been formally proposed to the UK in the negotiations as we leave the EU and I do not believe that it is our place to propose new policies that would require making changes to fundamental and significant EU legal principles such as EU citizenship. But we always keep an open mind to suggestions from our EU partners and I reassure the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, that that open mind remains.
European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill DebateFull Debate: Read Full Debate
Lord BethellMain Page: Lord Bethell (Conservative)
Department Debates - View all Lord Bethell's debates with the Home Office
My Lords, Clause 13(5) contains a Henry VIII power; it is admittedly constrained by the specific subject matter and context of the Bill, but is none the less within those constraints a wide-ranging power:
“The power to make regulations … may … be exercised by modifying any provision made by or under an enactment.”
Henry VIII clauses are in principle objectionable, and in principle the Government ought always to explain to us why they think they are justified.
The Minister pointed out that the regulations are extraordinarily complex. Would he accept that, the greater the complexity, the greater the need for accountability?
That is a serious statement to make. My noble friend is saying that Parliament cannot do its job. Does that not mean that these matters need to be considered by the commission on the constitution—and preferably a royal commission?
If there is no intention to change policy, why is Clause 13(5) in there?
Can the Minister point us to where in the clause we can find reassurance that, if there is a change in policy, it will not be dealt with through regulations?
It is important to note that the power is restricted to making provisions which implement, supplement or deal only with matters arising out of the relevant sections in the agreement relating to social security co-ordination; I reassure the House on that point. That is why we cannot accept this amendment, which would sunset the powers to make regulations only two years after the end of the limitation period, whereas the withdrawal agreement social security co-ordination provisions have no such sunset and potentially may last decades for many people. To put an expiration date on the power could therefore prevent the UK ensuring—
I understand the point the Minister is making and that the scope of action is limited to the areas covered in the withdrawal agreement—I understand all that. However, would it not be more reassuring to recipients if the sunset clause were there, and if changes could be made only after the expiry of the period by primary legislation? I understand the argument, but if the argument is reassurance, surely it is more reassuring to people that changes could be made only by primary legislation than that they could be made using these Henry VIII powers laid out in these provisions.
I welcome the noble Lord, Lord Bethell, to the Bill; I assume that this is only the first of his outings on it. I thank my noble friend Lord Howarth, the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham. I urge the Government to listen to what they say.
Perhaps the Government are saying that there will be so many small technical changes—but we would need to know that. If there was a sunset clause—possibly for longer than two years, as the noble Viscount suggested —we could see whether we are talking about lots of changes, but the Minister has not answered the question of why this cannot be dealt with more properly in a detailed statutory scheme where we will have a greater handle, or a greater grip, on these sorts of amendments.
I am concerned about what is referred to as “complex” or “technical” or a “tweak”. Over the past 10 or 15 years, we have seen pension regulations change: as we brought in civil partnerships, the right to a pension or the age of dependants also changed. These are big issues. These are not small tweaks where you report to this pension authority rather than that one. As has been said, some big issues could be addressed here without giving people outside this House enough time to comment on them. Remember, we are talking about people in Spain and Luxembourg, for example; by the time they hear that a statutory instrument is coming, it will probably have been passed. We are talking about a group of people who are very disparate and yet could be seriously affected by what is said to be a tweak.
I am still slightly concerned that, by enabling this to be there for all time, changes may be made to people’s death benefits, pensions or health provision, for example, without a proper discussion here. It would be a good idea, after I withdraw the amendment, for the Government to look closely at our Select Committee’s recommendation on whether there is a better method of achieving what the Government want to achieve, perhaps through moving an amendment to put in a sunset clause. Perhaps it could be for five years; in that time, we really would be able to see whether it is working as envisaged. Just having an open-ended commitment for all time on issues that will possibly affect people’s pensions or benefit payments seems to be a wide-ranging Henry VIII power.