Debates between Lord Kennedy of Southwark and Baroness Williams of Trafford

There have been 158 exchanges between Lord Kennedy of Southwark and Baroness Williams of Trafford

1 Wed 30th September 2020 Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill
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2 Wed 30th September 2020 Lightweight Polyethylene Chest Plates
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3 Tue 29th September 2020 Licensing: Closing Time
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4 Wed 16th September 2020 Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill
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5 Mon 14th September 2020 Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill
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6 Wed 9th September 2020 Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill
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7 Mon 7th September 2020 Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill
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8 Wed 2nd September 2020 Immigration (Persons Designated under Sanctions Regulations) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020
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9 Wed 22nd July 2020 Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill
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10 Mon 20th July 2020 Business and Planning Bill
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11 Thu 16th July 2020 Covid-19: Human Trafficking
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12 Mon 13th July 2020 Business and Planning Bill
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13 Wed 8th July 2020 Surrender of Offensive Weapons (Compensation) Regulations 2020
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14 Mon 29th June 2020 Covid-19: Domestic Abuse
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15 Mon 15th June 2020 Extradition (Provisional Arrest) Bill [HL]
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16 Tue 5th May 2020 Domestic Violence
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17 Wed 29th April 2020 Domestic Abuse
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18 Tue 21st April 2020 Windrush Compensation Scheme (Expenditure) Bill
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19 Wed 18th March 2020 Operation Midland
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20 Mon 9th March 2020 Immigration (Citizens’ Rights Appeals) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020
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21 Mon 9th March 2020 Extradition Act 2003 (Amendments to Designations) Order 2020
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22 Thu 5th March 2020 Extradition (Provisional Arrest) Bill [HL]
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23 Wed 4th March 2020 Historic Sexual Offences: Investigations
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24 Mon 2nd March 2020 European Arrest Warrant, Europol and Eurojust
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25 Mon 10th February 2020 Planned Deportation Flight to Jamaica
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26 Tue 4th February 2020 Extradition (Provisional Arrest) Bill [HL]
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27 Mon 3rd February 2020 Terrorism: Contest Strategy
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28 Mon 27th January 2020 Facial Recognition Surveillance
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29 Thu 16th January 2020 Asylum Claims: Child Trafficking
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30 Tue 22nd October 2019 Crime: Police Numbers
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31 Mon 21st October 2019 Visas
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32 Mon 7th October 2019 Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill
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33 Tue 1st October 2019 Terrorism Act 2000 (Proscribed Organisations) (Amendment) (No. 2) Order 2019
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34 Mon 9th September 2019 Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament
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35 Tue 9th July 2019 Children: Criminal Exploitation
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36 Tue 25th June 2019 Child Refugees
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37 Tue 11th June 2019 Hate Crime: Homophobic and Misogynistic Attacks
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38 Wed 5th June 2019 Illegal Seaborne Migration
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39 Tue 14th May 2019 Emergency Services Network
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40 Wed 8th May 2019 Freedom of Movement
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41 Wed 10th April 2019 Offensive Weapons Bill
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42 Wed 10th April 2019 Passports
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43 Wed 3rd April 2019 Windrush Compensation Scheme
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44 Wed 3rd April 2019 Freedom of Expression
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45 Tue 2nd April 2019 Police: Recruitment Criteria
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46 Mon 25th March 2019 Independent Child Sexual Abuse Inquiry
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47 Wed 20th March 2019 Refugees
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48 Tue 19th March 2019 Child Sexual Exploitation Victims
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49 Tue 19th March 2019 Offensive Weapons Bill
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50 Mon 18th March 2019 Terrorist Attack: New Zealand
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51 Mon 18th March 2019 Immigration (European Economic Area Nationals) (EU Exit) Order 2019
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52 Mon 18th March 2019 Law Enforcement and Security (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019
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53 Mon 18th March 2019 Children: Covert Human Intelligence Sources
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54 Tue 12th March 2019 Law Enforcement and Security (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019
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55 Mon 11th March 2019 Shamima and Jarrah Begum
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56 Wed 6th March 2019 Prevent Strategy
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57 Mon 4th March 2019 Knife Crime
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58 Mon 4th March 2019 Offensive Weapons Bill
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59 Fri 1st March 2019 Anonymity (Arrested Persons) Bill [HL]
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60 Fri 1st March 2019 Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registration etc) Bill
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61 Tue 26th February 2019 Offensive Weapons Bill
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62 Wed 20th February 2019 Citizenship Status
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63 Thu 14th February 2019 Immigration (Leave to Enter and Remain) (Amendment) Order 2018
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64 Thu 14th February 2019 EU Settlement Scheme
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65 Wed 13th February 2019 Zimbabwe: Asylum Seekers
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66 Mon 11th February 2019 Crime (Overseas Production Orders) Bill [HL]
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67 Wed 6th February 2019 Deportation: Jamaica
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68 Wed 6th February 2019 Migrant Crossings: Naval Assets
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69 Tue 5th February 2019 Windrush Scheme
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70 Tue 5th February 2019 Westminster: Security
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71 Thu 31st January 2019 Domestic Abuse Bill
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72 Wed 30th January 2019 Offensive Weapons Bill
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73 Tue 29th January 2019 Brexit: Security
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74 Mon 28th January 2019 Offensive Weapons Bill
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75 Wed 23rd January 2019 Shop Workers: Protection
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76 Tue 22nd January 2019 Homophobic Hate Crime
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77 Wed 16th January 2019 Brexit: Proposed UK–EU Security Treaty (European Union Committee Report)
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78 Wed 16th January 2019 Brexit: EU Citizens in the UK
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79 Mon 7th January 2019 Migrant Crossings
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80 Mon 7th January 2019 Offensive Weapons Bill
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81 Mon 7th January 2019 Migration: International Students
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82 Wed 19th December 2018 Future Immigration
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83 Mon 17th December 2018 Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill
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84 Mon 17th December 2018 Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill
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85 Thu 13th December 2018 Police Funding Settlement
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86 Mon 3rd December 2018 Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill
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87 Thu 29th November 2018 Violent Crime
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88 Mon 12th November 2018 Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill
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89 Tue 6th November 2018 Police Pension Liabilities
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90 Wed 31st October 2018 Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill
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91 Mon 29th October 2018 Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill
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92 Mon 22nd October 2018 Crime (Overseas Production Orders) Bill [HL]
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93 Mon 22nd October 2018 Sexual Offences
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94 Mon 22nd October 2018 Youth Crime: London
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95 Tue 16th October 2018 Regulation of Investigatory Powers (Juveniles) (Amendment) Order 2018
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96 Tue 9th October 2018 Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill
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97 Thu 13th September 2018 Children: Covert Human Intelligence Sources
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98 Wed 12th September 2018 Windrush
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99 Mon 10th September 2018 Crime (Overseas Production Orders) Bill [HL]
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100 Mon 10th September 2018 Immigration Policy: Children and Parents
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101 Wed 5th September 2018 Crime (Overseas Production Orders) Bill [HL]
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102 Tue 4th September 2018 Windrush
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103 Fri 20th July 2018 ONS New Crime Statistics
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104 Wed 18th July 2018 Investigatory Powers (Codes of Practice and Miscellaneous Amendments) Order 2018
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105 Thu 12th July 2018 Visit of President Trump: Policing
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106 Thu 12th July 2018 Immigration: Hostile Environment
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107 Thu 5th July 2018 Amesbury Incident
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108 Tue 3rd July 2018 Saddleworth and Tameside Moors
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109 Thu 14th June 2018 Immigration: Hostile Environment
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110 Thu 7th June 2018 Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme
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111 Wed 6th June 2018 Immigration: “Right to Rent” Scheme
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112 Tue 5th June 2018 Home Office: Data Breaches
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113 Mon 4th June 2018 Peru: Visa Requirements
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114 Mon 4th June 2018 Police: Firearms
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115 Wed 16th May 2018 Immigration Applications
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116 Fri 11th May 2018 Refugees (Family Reunion) Bill [HL]
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117 Thu 10th May 2018 Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2013
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118 Wed 9th May 2018 Renewal of G4S Contracts
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119 Wed 9th May 2018 Asylum Seekers: Students
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120 Tue 1st May 2018 Licensing Act 2003 (Royal Wedding Licensing Hours) Order 2018
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121 Tue 1st May 2018 Windrush
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122 Mon 30th April 2018 Muslims: Population Growth and Sharia Law
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123 Thu 26th April 2018 Home Office Removal Targets
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124 Tue 24th April 2018 Windrush Generation
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125 Wed 28th March 2018 Manchester Arena Attack Review
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126 Wed 28th March 2018 Immigration: Asylum Claims
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127 Tue 27th March 2018 Police Powers of Designated Civilian Staff and Volunteers (Excluded Powers and Duties of Constables) Regulations 2018
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128 Tue 27th March 2018 Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) (Custodial Premises) Subordinate Provisions Order 2018
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129 Thu 22nd March 2018 Domestic Abuse
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130 Thu 22nd March 2018 Police: Emergency Calls
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131 Wed 21st March 2018 Gender Equality: Pay
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132 Wed 21st March 2018 Police: Undercover Officers
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133 Mon 19th March 2018 Trafficked Children: Asylum
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134 Thu 15th March 2018 Passport (Fees) Regulations 2018
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135 Thu 15th March 2018 Online Hate Speech
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136 Thu 8th March 2018 Incident in Salisbury
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137 Mon 5th March 2018 Air Guns
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138 Thu 1st March 2018 Security and Policing: Facial Recognition Technology
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139 Tue 27th February 2018 Yarl’s Wood: Hunger Strike
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140 Thu 8th February 2018 Brexit and the Labour Market (Economic Affairs Committee Report)
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141 Thu 8th February 2018 Nurseries and Schools: Protection from Terrorism
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142 Tue 6th February 2018 Refugees: Teaching of English
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143 Thu 1st February 2018 Investigatory Powers (Codes of Practice) Regulations 2018
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144 Tue 23rd January 2018 Crime: Scooter and Moped Gangs
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145 Mon 22nd January 2018 Transfer of Responsibility for Relevant Children (Extension to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland) Regulations 2017
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146 Mon 22nd January 2018 Policing and Crime Act 2017 (Maritime Enforcement Powers: Code of Practice) Regulations 2017
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147 Wed 20th December 2017 Licensing Act 2003: Post-Legislative Scrutiny (Licensing Act 2003 Report)
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148 Wed 13th December 2017 Data Protection Bill [HL]
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149 Thu 30th November 2017 Online Hate Speech
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150 Wed 29th November 2017 Drug Dealing Telecommunications Restriction Orders Regulations 2017
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151 Wed 15th November 2017 Data Protection Bill [HL]
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152 Mon 13th November 2017 Data Protection Bill [HL]
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153 Tue 10th October 2017 Data Protection Bill [HL]
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154 Fri 8th September 2017 Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill [HL]
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155 Mon 17th July 2017 Brexit: UK-EU Movement of People (EUC Report)
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156 Tue 4th July 2017 Brexit: Acquired Rights (EUC Report)
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157 Tue 27th June 2017 Queen’s Speech
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158 Thu 22nd June 2017 Terrorist Attacks
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Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill

Debate between Lord Kennedy of Southwark and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Wednesday 30th September 2020

(1 day, 9 hours ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Home Office
Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab Co-op) - Hansard

No. In their contributions, the noble Lords, Lord Horam and Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, referred to think-tank reports. I will be interested in the reports from those think tanks. I should declare that I am the treasurer of a think tank—the Fabian Society—but I am a bit concerned about these bodies because, unlike the Fabian Society, a lot of them are quite opaque. We do not know who funds them, where the money comes from or who is behind these reports, so I would be a bit more interested in what those bodies had to say if we knew who paid for what. The noble Lord, Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, will speak on the next group, so maybe he can tell us who funded the report to which he has referred many times. I will be interested to hear that.

The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, made an important point about the number of EU migrants coming to the UK. In fact, that number has fallen. I carefully read the debate in Committee on this and on many points I found myself in agreement with the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Trafford, and I have heard nothing so far in the debate to persuade me otherwise.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con) - Hansard

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Green, for retabling his amendment; I acknowledge and respect his expertise in this area. I also apologise for allowing the noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Newnham, to intervene because I have now set a precedent. I should never have done that. No one is allowed to intervene.

The amendment effectively intends to reintroduce an annual limit on the number of people who may be granted permission to enter the UK to take up skilled employment. The existing cap, which the Government have committed to suspending, is set at 20,700, and is administered on a monthly basis to those seeking entry clearance as a skilled worker. As outlined in Committee, this sounds like a very sensible measure to control and limit migration to the UK, but we cannot know how many people will seek to come to the UK using the new skilled worker route. The impact of some of the key changes, including the expansion of the skills threshold and the reduction of the general salary threshold, is also unknown. Where possible, Home Office analysts have tried to predict possible impacts, and the points that the noble Lord, Lord Green, made so eloquently may well come to pass.

The amendment provides an opportunity for me to reinforce the importance of implementing a flexible immigration system. Our proposals will do that and ensure that the system can be adapted and adjusted, subject to social and economic circumstances—to which the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, alluded—but we cannot get away from the fact that the amendment would add to the burden on businesses, considerably slow the process of recruiting a skilled migrant, and create uncertainty among employers.

Any cap, including the one we have at present, creates an odd dynamic when it binds us to consider a migrant a valuable addition one month but unwanted the next. This may only be a perception based on the mechanics of a cap, but it is a perception that we want to address, instead focusing on our commitment to continue to attract those with the skills and talents that we need.

The noble Lord highlighted three issues with suspending the cap. The first issue is that an estimated 7 million UK jobs will be open to new or increased international competition. However, these jobs are currently under more competition due to freedom of movement. The imposition of any control, instead of allowing free movement to continue, protects those jobs. Ending free movement and requiring an employer to meet the requirements of being a Home Office licensed sponsor and pay relevant immigration charges, including the skills charge, makes the employment of a resident worker the simpler option. Again, I draw your Lordships’ attention to the Migration Advisory Committee’s September 2018 report on the impact of EEA migration in the UK. It said that it did

“not believe that the welfare of existing residents is best served by a cap for two reasons. First, the cap, when it binds, constrains inflows of a group of migrants which the evidence suggests are the most economically beneficial … Second, the cap creates unpredictability when it binds as there can be sharp increases in the minimum salary threshold that skilled visa applications face.”

The salary requirements rise as this is the mechanism for selecting which roles are granted permission.

The noble Lord’s second issue is that the number of potential applicants is huge. That has always been the case. The advancements in education around the globe and the increase in populations inevitably mean that more people can qualify as skilled migrants. Addressing the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, the MAC also said:

“We believe that if the Government wants to reduce migration numbers it would make more economic sense to do so by varying the other aspects of the scheme criteria”.

Therefore, we have retained the immigration skills charge in the future system and will continue to operate a range of salary thresholds.

Thirdly, the noble Lord advocates that there would be a great incentive for employers to go for cheap, competent, non-unionised workers. To this end, we are maintaining the position in our new immigration system that those under the skilled worker route be paid a minimum salary level, which has been calculated so as not to undercut domestic workers. The level and operation of salary thresholds has been based on the advice of the MAC. I am sure that the noble Lord would agree that considering the impact of policies on the UK’s economy is an area that the MAC excels in.

Maintaining a sponsor licence also requires compliance with UK employment laws on treating employees equally. We completely accept that the first stage in our plans for the points-based system will need monitoring to assess the impact of the changes on the resident labour market and key sectors, and we are committed to doing just that. On the basis that we are maintaining robust protection for resident workers and providing certainty for UK businesses and employers, and because the key expert advisers have said that we should not apply an annual cap on skilled workers, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Green, is happy to withdraw his amendment.

Break in Debate

Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab Co-op) - Hansard

My Lords, Amendment 7, proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Green of Deddington, was discussed in Committee. I am all in favour of maximising opportunities for British workers to have employment and skilled employment. Good companies invest in their staff, and it makes good sense to do so. It is much more sensible, when possible, to recruit and train staff locally, for all the reasons given by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, including the charges that employers incur when recruiting workers from abroad.

This amendment adds a test and a further layer of bureaucracy. For me, the case has not been made for why we should support it. Again, I find myself in agreement with the Minister and her position, as well as with the position of the MAC, which concluded that the likely bureaucratic cost would outweigh any economic benefit of bringing this test back in.

I should say that I have enormous respect for the noble Lord, Lord Horam. We are good friends; we served together for many years on the Electoral Commission. My only point about think tanks—and I am heavily involved in one—is that for some we are unclear about where their funding comes from. I am pleased that we now know that the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, generously funded his own report. Sadly, of course, we do not know where the money of many of the think tanks that we refer to comes from. With all due respect, it is good of him to fund himself.

I do not think that the case has been made for this amendment in any sense, and I look forward to the Minister’s response. So far, I have heard nothing that could persuade me to support it.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, I again thank the noble Lord, Lord Green of Deddington, for the return of this amendment, on which we had an interesting and mixed debate in Committee; it has been no different on Report.

As I outlined in our previous debate on this matter, this amendment would have the effect of reintroducing into regulations a resident labour market test for EEA and Swiss nationals and reversing a government decision to abolish this test under the UK’s new points-based immigration system. I have to say to noble Lords that the Government did not take this decision lightly or indeed in isolation. On the face of it, it sounds absolutely fair and sensible to require a job to be advertised in the UK for 28 days to establish whether there is anyone suitable in the domestic labour market before the job can be offered to an overseas migrant. However, we should be imposing a resident labour market test only if we think it would genuinely offer extra protection to resident workers and, in turn, support UK employers and organisations to access the skills and talents they need. The Government do not think that is the case. Not only does it add a burden on business and considerably slow down the process of recruiting a skilled migrant, without any guarantee of a vacancy being filled from the resident workforce, but it does so at a time when we are seeking to streamline and simplify the system and give UK employers and organisations the certainty they need.

My noble friend Lord Lilley—I am glad he is in the Chamber—rightly drew our attention in Committee to his experience of visiting Nissan, highlighting its enthusiasm and drive for training and retaining people in the UK. I am sure all noble Lords would agree that this is something to be celebrated and encouraged. Indeed, it fits with the Government’s clear assertion that immigration must be considered alongside investment in and development of the UK’s resident labour force.

However, I recognise the valid point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, who is not in the Chamber today, about the immigration system not being the way to enforce and encourage training of domestic workers. Where I would respectfully stray from her view is to say that while our immigration system should not be considered a silver bullet, it absolutely has its part to play in supporting businesses and ensuring that they invest in training to encourage staff retention. We must achieve a sensible balance.

That view and the decision to abolish the existing resident labour market test is not just a government opinion; it is based on the clear economic advice of the Migration Advisory Committee. The noble Lord, Lord Green, and others in this House are correct in saying that the MAC’s expertise is focused on economics, but one strength of the MAC is that it does not represent any one sector or industry. The MAC is well used to running large-scale consultations and assimilates evidence from many employers, businesses and sectors to produce carefully considered conclusions that apply to the best interests of the whole of the UK. This is exactly what the MAC did in reaching its findings and recommendations in its September 2018 report. I note the point that the noble Lord, Lord Green, made about the MAC’s view on the salary threshold at the time.

The decision to abolish the resident labour market test was not simply a U-turn undertaken given pressure from businesses. I highlighted this during our debate on this subject in Committee, but it is worth reasserting what the MAC said given the concerns of many Peers—which I and the Government share—around the uncertainty that many UK workers will face as a result of the current pandemic.

In addition to the economic arguments, as part of its September 2018 report the MAC said:

“We do think it important to have protection against employers using migrants to under-cut UK-born workers. The best protection is a robust approach to salary thresholds and the Immigration Skills Charge and not the RLMT.”

The Government agree, and that is why we are maintaining a firm requirement in the new points-based system for migrants who come under the skilled worker route to be paid a salary which does not undercut domestic workers.

We are also retaining the immigration skills charge. The requirement to pay that charge—alluded to by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick—the proceeds of which contribute directly to the UK skills budget, helps ensure that employers are unlikely to employ a migrant when there is someone more suitable to undertake the role within the domestic labour force. Given the expansion of the skills threshold and the fact that UK employers will no longer be able to rely on recruiting EEA citizens coming to the UK under free movement, we consider it very likely that the charge will create an appropriate barrier and will result in businesses thinking twice before looking immediately to the overseas labour force.

On the basis that we are maintaining robust protection for resident workers, and because the key expert advisers have said that we should not apply a resident labour market test, which echoes views heard by the Government from extensive engagement with stakeholders across the UK, I hope that the noble Lord will feel happy to withdraw his amendment.

Break in Debate

Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab Co-op) - Hansard

My Lords, Amendment 8, proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Green of Deddington, is the third amendment that he has proposed; we considered them previously in Committee. I shall not detain the House for long, but I will say that I listened to the debate on 9 September and I have listened carefully to the debate today, but I am not persuaded by the arguments made so far. These matters are kept under review and if the problem the noble Lord is alluding to is a problem, I am sure that the Government would act. We are probably a bit constrained by our procedures in this debate; in many ways these amendments could all have been debated as one group.

Like the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, I am disappointed by the noble Lord, Lord Green of Deddington, and other noble Lords on the Benches opposite. I just do not accept the assertion behind these amendments—that the UK will be flooded with migrants from the European Union when we have heard that the numbers are actually going down, given the difficulties that will be in place at the conclusion of the Brexit deal. I am not prepared to accept what has been suggested. I may be wrong, but I do not believe that Tesco and the Co-op are going out to recruit all over Germany, France and elsewhere for people to come and work here, given all the charges that would involve for these companies. All those sorts of companies recruit their staff locally. They have huge staff turnover and they engage people locally.

I am also happy to say that this country has benefited hugely from immigration over many years and we should never forget that. However, the one thing I agree strongly with the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, about is his point about Bills and regulations. He is right to say that over the past 30, or perhaps 40, years there has been a drift, so that Governments of all persuasions produce skeleton Bills with more and more stuff being dealt with in regulations. There are many times when we have all felt frustrated by how we are dealing with these issues. I accept that.

I note that the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, was interested in and concerned about the position of the Labour Party. I thank him for that. The Labour Party will be fine and we will put forward our position at the next general election. However, I thank him for his concern. I should say, however, that in all the amendments to which the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, has spoken, his own Front Bench does not agree with him. He has a problem, I suggest, with the Conservative Party as well. Maybe he should look there.

I take exception to the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Green of Deddington, that I care little for ordinary working people. I care greatly about workers in this country and their families. We do not agree in this House—that is fine—but to suggest that I do not care, or that the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, with whom I agree, does not care, is wrong. That suggestion from the noble Lord, Lord Green, is regrettable. We can disagree on politics and policies. I come from a family of people who have worked hard in this country and care about how the working people in this country are looked after and protected. I will leave it there and look forward to the Minister’s response.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con) - Hansard

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Green of Deddington, for retabling his amendment and all noble Lords who have spoken in support or opposition.

The noble Lord, Lord Green, seeks to put in place separate parliamentary approval for regulations allowing EEA and Swiss nationals who are new entrants to the labour market to be paid less than other skilled workers. I recognise the intention behind this amendment. He is absolutely right that, in using salary thresholds as a mechanism to control immigration, protect the domestic workforce from being undercut and ensure the UK’s economy prospers, we must have confidence that salary requirements are set at the right level. It is for these objectives, in addition to ensuring that migrant workers are not exploited and that a skilled migrant is coming to the UK for genuine skilled employment, that a system of salary thresholds will form a critical part of our new skilled worker route.

In Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Green of Deddington, and my noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe spoke about the risk of losing control of our borders and disadvantaging young people and the unemployed in the UK. The noble Lord also mentioned the Government’s recently launched Kickstart programme and his concerns that its benefits would be reduced due to our young people facing further difficulties and unlimited competition from those overseas migrants who meet the new entrant definition. I hope I can reassure noble Lords that this is simply not the case. Our salary requirements for all skilled workers are based on national earnings data for UK workers. Furthermore, while new entrants will benefit from a reduced salary rate, recognising these individuals should not be disadvantaged by the fact that they typically earn around 30% less than experienced workers, they will still need to meet other mandatory requirements to be successfully granted leave. Namely, along with all other skilled workers, they must have a sponsoring employer, a job at the appropriate skill level and be able to speak English to an accepted standard. Furthermore, the new entrant rate is not an indefinite offer. It is designed for those essentially at the start of their careers.

The noble Lord, Lord Green, also voiced concerns about settlement, given that the new skilled worker route will be a route that allows this, subject to meeting relevant requirements. While this is indeed the case, I can confirm that individuals will need to be paid at least the going rate for their occupation by the time they reach settlement. While it may not sway the views of some noble Lords, the Government did not agree this proposal in isolation. We sought independent advice from the MAC, outlined in its January 2020 report on salary thresholds and a points-based system and, following careful consideration of its findings and our own extensive engagement, accepted its recommendations.

I should like to put on the record that reduced rates for new entrants are not new; they have been a part of the immigration system since 2013. While we intend to continue the new entrant salary rate, in future the Immigration Rules will set a more consistent 30% reduction across all occupations. As the MAC identified, the differences in the current system are very large for some occupations. New entrant quantity surveyors, for example, may be paid 69% less than more experienced migrant workers in the same profession.

Turning to the crux of this amendment, the noble Lord is right that there should be parliamentary scrutiny of these requirements, but there is already a long-established procedure for that. The Government are required to set out their immigration policy in the Immigration Rules. This includes salary requirements and reduced rates for new entrants which can determine whether an immigration application succeeds or fails. Changes to the rules must be laid before Parliament, either House may disapprove the changes by negative resolution within 40 days of them being laid and the Secretary of State shall make any changes that appear to her in the circumstances to be required. Any such changes will be laid before Parliament within a further 40 days. I do not think it is necessary or proportionate to introduce a new procedure for salary requirements for new entrants, particularly at a time when the Government are committed to simplifying and streamlining arrangements. Furthermore, there seems to be no particular reason for the procedure for new entrant salaries to be different from the procedure for the general salary requirements or, indeed, any other requirements for skilled workers.

Additionally, as is made clear in recently published policy statements on the UK’s new points-based system, measures will be introduced in a phased manner and we will retain the ability to make adjustments based on experience and, crucially, to respond to the needs of the UK economy. New regulations under an affirmative procedure would lessen this responsiveness and could risk splitting up interconnected policies which together create a robust element of control, protect domestic workers and ensure that those who have the skills and talents that we need and who want to make a positive contribution can come to the UK.

For the reasons that I have set out, and on the basis that we will continue to lay before Parliament the full details of the requirements, including those for new entrants, I hope that the noble Lord will be happy to withdraw his amendment.

Break in Debate

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, I hope I made it very clear at the beginning of this debate that I want each child to have secure status, and a declaratory system does not ensure that, both now and in the future.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab Co-op) - Hansard

Just to pursue that point, can the Minister set out why that is the case? If you have the children—you know who they are and you have their details—the Government can then set out that the children have settled status, and then you would have records. The problem with Windrush was that there were no records, and that was the dispute, but if the Government actually set out to create records then you have got that system there.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con) - Hansard

The noble Lord will appreciate that an application to the EU settlement scheme is an application, with a result of settled status being either confirmed or not. A declaratory scheme confers a deemed leave on a sort of blanket basis, as opposed to each individual applying to the scheme. Therefore, children in years to come might have to prove that they were in the scope of that declaratory scheme; that is what I mean. We are not seeking different ends in this; we are just talking about different ways of going about it. I am trying to explain why an actual application is a more secure way of going about it.

Lightweight Polyethylene Chest Plates

Debate between Lord Kennedy of Southwark and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Wednesday 30th September 2020

(1 day, 9 hours ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con) - Hansard

The noble Lord suggests that there is a problem. I am saying that the testing has not raised any problems with the new lighter equipment. As I have said—I will do this—I will go back and ask when the testing was last done.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab Co-op) - Hansard

My Lords, this equipment is vital to protect officers in dangerous situations in the line of duty. How can both the testing and procurement processes run their course and then serious concerns be raised as to the effectiveness of the equipment by the officers who wear these protective plates? Does the Minister not agree that this is potentially an appalling failure of process and procedure, and that an urgent investigation must take place? I do not want that to satisfy myself; I want the officers who wear this equipment to be satisfied that when they go out and put their lives on the line, they have the best possible equipment helping them.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, I do not think that anyone could disagree with the noble Lord’s point. I have said that these things are routinely tested. I will find the exact date when they were last tested. The DSTL does not believe that the Mail on Sunday tests demonstrate a weakness in the equipment that it has approved.

Licensing: Closing Time

Debate between Lord Kennedy of Southwark and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Tuesday 29th September 2020

(2 days, 9 hours ago)

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con) - Hansard

Coming from a county authority, the noble Lord will know that quite often the powers lie at county level regarding planning and other things. It is important that, whether we represent organisations or individuals, everyone plays their part in ensuring that the restrictions can be lifted as swiftly as possible.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab Co-op) - Hansard

My Lords, I refer the House to my relevant interests as set out in the register. While I full support the intent behind the restrictions announced by the Prime Minister, there is a real problem with how this is playing out. Shop workers are at the forefront of dealing with violence, threats and abuse, as people who in many cases have had more than enough to drink seek to buy more alcohol from shops, supermarkets and off-licences. Can the Minister today commit to a proper and urgent review taking account of the additional risks that shop workers face, as the shop workers’ union, USDAW, have called for?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con) - Hansard

I cannot commit to a review, as the noble Lord will know, but I acknowledge that, whether it is a shop worker or a publican whom people are frustrated at, and whether through the lack of freedom over the last few months or because they have drunk too much, these things are happening in shops. I will certainly take this back and I am very happy to speak to him further about this.

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

(Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard): House of Lords)
Debate between Lord Kennedy of Southwark and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Wednesday 16th September 2020

(2 weeks, 1 day ago)

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Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab Co-op) - Hansard

My Lords, I fully support Amendment 56, moved by my noble friend Lord Dubs, which would add a new clause to the Bill. This clause would provide for children who are EEA and Swiss nationals and in care, along with those entitled to care-leaving support, to be granted automatic indefinite leave to remain under the EU settlement scheme.

This amendment has wide cross-party support. The idea behind it had support in the other House, and it has that today. Every speaker so far, from different sides of the House, has spoken in support of the amendment. I am sure the Minister has taken that on board and will want to give us a positive response.

As my noble friend Lord Dubs said, there are vast numbers of these children and the amendment would ensure that none of them become undocumented. Identification is a serious problem, as my noble friend outlined. The different practices adopted by different local authorities is a real problem in itself.

The amendment would speed up the process and enable social workers, who do a fantastic job—we all know that they are under extreme pressure—to apply directly to the Home Office without having to deal with consulates and embassies and all the bureaucracy you have in dealing with another country when trying to get the right documents identified. You would avoid all that work, paperwork and bureaucracy, and go straight to the Home Office.

My noble friend Lord Dubs also asked the Minister about the safeguards in place for children who have pre-settled status, and that question deserves a careful response. As the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, said, this is a sensible amendment that really deserves a positive response from the Government.

I agree with all the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Kerr of Kinlochard, on this amendment. It is the decent thing to do for these children. We are talking about a relatively small number of children, but it would ensure that nobody falls into the trap of becoming undocumented. As the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Bennachie, said, children in care face all sorts of additional challenges; they are not with their parents and the local authority in effect is looking after them. All this amendment seeks to do is to ensure that they do not have further issues to deal with; a young person leaving care, or in many years’ time, may have the problem of being undocumented and unable to establish their identity properly. This is a very small measure which the Government should give way on.

Like my noble friend Lady Lister of Burtersett, I commend the work of the Children’s Society to identify and raise the plights of these children. The society has campaigned to ensure that they have protection and that their problems are not added to by becoming undocumented. As I say, it is the decent thing to do. Equally, I am sure that we will get a response from the Minister on the amendment, and on the issue in Lesbos.

I should also draw the attention of the House to the fact that I am a vice-president of the Local Government Association. Local authorities do a fantastic job. Certain authorities, particularly Kent, are under particular pressure regarding children’s issues, but they generally do a fantastic job. This is one small measure which the Government could accept to help authorities and make it a bit easier for them in the work that they do. I hope that the Minister can give a positive response to us today, and maybe we can come back to this on Report.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, for moving his Amendment 56, which calls for children in care and care leavers who have their right of free movement removed by the Bill to be granted indefinite leave to remain.

May I say at the outset that I absolutely agree with the noble Lords, Lord Dubs and Lord Kennedy, and others that no child should be undocumented, and with the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, that we should not create any cracks? So that I do not disappoint the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, yet again, I will immediately address the issues that he raised.

First, he asked if we should do as the Germans do. I think we should do as we do. As far as reputational risk is concerned, I do not think we should help these children because it has an influence on our reputation; I think we should help children because it is the right thing to do, and in fact this country has a very long history of helping children who need our support.

The noble Lord asked me if I agree that it is an emergency. Absolutely, I agree that it is an emergency. Of course, I also agree that it is a humanitarian issue. One could not fail to be moved by the plight that these children and their families sometimes go through.

The noble Lord then asked me the million-dollar question: what the Government are doing about it. On 22 April, the UK and Greece signed a joint historic migration plan that reaffirms our commitment to closer co-operation with Greece on a range of migration issues. On the direct help for some of those people on the Greek islands, we have given £500,000 for urgent humanitarian help for the most vulnerable.

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con) - Hansard

What I said was that we did not participate in the EU relocation scheme; I am not sure whether we ever have. I am saying that we will absolutely meet our obligations under Dublin, and if a request comes from the UNHCR for us to take displaced people from Greece who are eligible to come under Dublin, we will of course consider that.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab Co-op) - Hansard

My Lords, the Minister will correct me if I am wrong, but I understand her position to be that the amendment we are discussing is not necessary and could make the situation worse. Apparently the Home Office supports the aims of the amendment but it is not going to act, because there are measures already in place to deal with this question, and it does not want any children to end up undocumented. Maybe I am wrong, but I am sure that if I am, the Minister will correct me. If I am correct, is she giving a cast-iron assurance that the Home Office will not let any of those children become undocumented, and that in the period ahead it will not take decisions that undermine what she has said to us today?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con) - Hansard

What I am saying is that the Home Office, in conjunction with other departments, will ensure that we can identify every child, or indeed adult, in that vulnerable category and that they are assisted where possible. As I said the other day, the EU settlement scheme will not close and reasonable grounds for late applications will not end, so if any people—either adults or children—are identified in future as coming into the category that noble Lords have spoken about, they will be documented.

Break in Debate

Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab Co-op) - Hansard

My Lords, I fully support Amendment 81 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Morrow. Like others, I pay tribute to him for his work in the Northern Ireland Assembly, and in your Lordships’ House, combating the evil of modern slavery and human trafficking.

The noble Lord made a very compelling case for the Government to agree to his amendment today, and I do hope the Minister will be able to give us some hope that the Government will meet the issue that the noble Lord addressed the House on. I equally agree with the comments of the noble Lord, Lord McCrea of Magherafelt and Cookstown, and again commend the work he has done on combating modern slavery.

The new clause, as we have heard, seeks to ensure that proper consideration is given to the impact of the new regulations on the victims of modern slavery and human trafficking. It is most important that we consider the effect on victims that these changes will make. That is really very important. As the noble Lord, Lord Alton, said, rules, regulations, processes and overdue immigration procedures must work to prevent modern slavery and human trafficking and, obviously, not weaken the position at present.

The noble Lord, Lord McColl of Dulwich, again referred to the anti-trafficking directive, and the risk of what is going to be lost on 1 January. I do hope the Minister will address that. It is a huge concern, for many noble Lords, that at any point next year we will find ourselves with weaker provisions and weaker laws that will benefit only criminals and criminal gangs, and really harm victims.

Finally, I want to pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord McColl of Dulwich, for all his work. It is high time that the Government stood up and backed the noble Lord. His Private Member’s Bill is absolutely right: all he is asking for is that England and Wales have the same provisions that endure in Northern Ireland and Scotland. The Bill sailed through this House, but then what happened to it? It crashed on the rocks in the other place. The Government did nothing to support it last time, and it is wrong. The Government really should stand up now and back the noble Lord on his Bill.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, I will start by assuring the noble Lord, Lord Morrow, that I am not going to trot out the line that he suspects I am. Moreover, I will actually thank him for his contribution to this incredibly important debate, and for his continued commitment to the really important objective of ensuring the impacts on victims of modern slavery are considered in changes to the Immigration Rules following this Bill.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, said an interesting thing just before she closed, which is that we should consider modern-day slavery across legislation. I think it is absolutely crucial that we consider it across government, because it affects and infects almost every aspect of modern-day life. Noble Lords mentioned William Wilberforce, who is actually one of my heroes. It is over 200 years since we abolished slavery, and yet we have the terrible blight of modern-day slavery in our society. We are committed to tackling this terrible crime. We are now identifying more victims of modern-day slavery and doing more to bring perpetrators to justice than ever before. I will just say to the noble Lords, Lord McColl and Lord Kennedy, that there is going to be no diminution in directly affected rights.

We will replace freedom of movement with a points-based system. We remain committed to protecting individuals from modern slavery and exploitation by criminal traffickers and unscrupulous employers. I will not answer the question put by the noble Lord, Lord Alton, because I cannot. Has there been an increase in trafficking during Covid? I think we can all safely say is that there has been an increase in a lot of behind the scenes-type activity that is unpalatable to us all, including things such as domestic violence. I am sure that will reveal itself as time goes on.

We are definitely committed to considering the impact of our policies on vulnerable people, including by fulfilling our public sector equality duties under Section 149 of the Equality Act 2010. As the noble Lord, Lord McCrea of Magherafelt and Cookstown, said, on 13 July we published an equalities impact assessment on the points-based system, which considers the impact of our policy on protected characteristics. To answer the noble Lord, Lord Morrow, I can send that to him if he wishes. We will continue to iterate this document. Our work ensures that we keep at the forefront of our minds the potential consequences of our policies on those who may be susceptible to exploitation.

Across the board, it is crucial that we understand the groups and communities affected by our policies. As the Home Secretary highlighted in her Statement to the House on Wendy Williams’s Windrush Lessons Learned Review on 21 July, she has set out clear expectations that she expects officials to engage with community organisations, civil society and the public and to provide evidence in all advice to Ministers. To answer the noble Lord, Lord McColl, who asked if I would meet him: of course I will meet him to discuss his Private Member’s Bill.

Through the Home Office’s advisory groups, we have undertaken engagement with organisations on the design and development of the future immigration system, including those representing potentially vulnerable individuals. These groups, which include experts on modern slavery, including the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, have been fundamental in helping us to shape our policies and to design the future system. I understand that the Home Secretary has asked officials to facilitate a dedicated session with members of the Vulnerability Advisory Group and experts from the modern slavery sector, to better understand the possible impacts of the new immigration system on potential victims of modern slavery.

The noble Lords, Lord Morrow and Lord Alton, asked me about the seasonal workers pilot. A key objective of the pilot is to ensure that migrant workers are adequately protected against modern slavery and other labour abuses. It requires operators to ensure that all workers have a safe working environment—I think he alluded to that—that they are treated fairly, paid properly including time off and breaks; that they are housed in safe, hygienic accommodation; that their passport is never withheld from them; and that robust systems are in place for the reporting of concerns and rapid action. The operators of the scheme are and must remain licensed by the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority.

In addition, the Home Office and Defra also monitor the scheme closely to ensure that operators adhere to the stringent requirements set out for ensuring the safety and well-being of seasonal workers. We work with the sector, including the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority, to achieve these aims. Should either of the selected operators fall short in their duties as a sponsor, action will be taken, up to and including the revocation of their sponsor licence. Other criminal sanctions will be considered as well, as appropriate.

The noble Lord, Lord Morrow, asked me what the Government were doing to ensure that EU exit does not adversely affect efforts to tackle modern slavery. We already exceed our international obligations to victims under the Council of Europe Convention on Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings, which will not be affected by EU exit. We will continue our work with European partners to eradicate modern slavery, no matter what shape our relationship with the EU takes. This is an international problem, not just a UK problem, and it is in everyone’s interest that we reach an agreement that equips operational partners on both sides with those capabilities that help protect citizens and bring criminals to justice.

Finally, the noble Lord, Lord McColl, questioned pre-settled status in terms of the right to benefits. Pre-settled status maintains the right to benefits, and a person would not need discretionary leave to remain under the modern slavery provisions because they would have five years’ leave to remain.

I hope that those explanations satisfy noble Lords and that the noble Lord will be happy to withdraw his amendment.

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

(Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords)
Debate between Lord Kennedy of Southwark and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Monday 14th September 2020

(2 weeks, 3 days ago)

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Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab Co-op) - Hansard

My Lords, this debate has focused on several new clauses which are to be inserted after Clause 4. I have signed up to Amendments 39, 40, 41 and 94, along with my noble friend Lord Rosser and the noble Baronesses, Lady Ludford and Lady Hamwee, who opened this debate last Wednesday. I am also supportive of Amendment 70, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham.

The risk here—it is all about risk—is that many people will not have their status sorted and will not have put a claim in, and are then at risk of detention. Immigration detention is something that should happen only in the most necessary cases and for the shortest period of time possible. My noble friend Lady Lister of Burtersett set out, with examples, the effect of detention and the damage of not knowing when you are going to be released on individuals and their mental health. We need to think about that: we can all accept that being locked up and not knowing when it is going to end is not a good place to be.

Taking that into account, can the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Trafford, when she responds to the debate, tell us what safeguards will be put in place to ensure that the minimum number of people are detained and for the shortest possible time? The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, said she expected to be told that most people are released from detention after a short period of time, but we need to think about those who are not.

There is also the risk of redetention: when a person reports who is required to do so and then finds themself detained by the authorities. How long will it take for an application to remain to be considered? As we have heard, Amendment 39 would impose a strict time limit of 28 days and ensure that detainees could not be redetained unless—I emphasise “unless”—there has been a specific change in circumstances.

Amendment 40 sets out the conditions for a person to be detained in the first place and Amendment 41 provides for bail hearings during the initial detention period of 96 hours. Amendment 94 brings in the provision six months after the Bill comes into force. This gives the Government time to get all the procedures and regulations correct. I agree with the comments made in that respect by the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich.

As I said earlier, I am supportive of Amendment 70, spoken to by the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, and others. This amendment raises the issue of those individuals in immigration detention who are segregated and at risk of being locked in their cells for up to 23 hours a day. I fully accept that there must be rules and that people must be protected from either themselves or from others, or from causing harm to others. However, we also must be mindful of the effects that detention—of being locked in a cell for long periods of time—can itself have on someone’s mental health. Again, my noble friend Lady Lister of Burtersett made reference to this in her contribution. I look forward to the response from the noble Baroness.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham said in his contribution that these people have committed no crime. They themselves may be the victims of horrific crimes, and periods of detention can be long and re-detention is a real risk. When considering these amendments, we have to think about the effect of the risk of being re-detained on individuals who may, in the end, be given leave to remain in the United Kingdom. We must remember that these people have committed no crime here in the UK.

I will leave my remarks there; I look forward to the Minister’s response.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate. To address the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, about regretting the hybrid procedures, I am very glad of them; they protect noble Lords from the numbers, which are clearly going up.

This is another group of amendments that are not relevant to the Bill. I am sure that noble Lords know that, and I know that they are keen to discuss this issue. They feel very strongly about immigration detention, which has been discussed at great length in this Chamber, but that makes it no less important.

We must have an immigration system which encourages compliance and protects the public. Where people no longer have the right to be in the UK, we must be able to carry out their removal if they do not take the opportunities we provide them to leave the UK voluntarily.

The noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, and the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, talked about the concept of unlimited detention. The noble Lord asked me to list the safeguards to ensure that decisions to detain and to maintain detention are not unlimited. When someone is referred for detention, an independent detention gatekeeper assesses that person’s suitability for detention. Since 2016, the gatekeeper has rejected more than 2,300 referrals for detention. After an individual is detained, their continued detention remains under regular review at increasing levels of seniority, especially where there are any significant changes in circumstance.

Anyone detained can apply to either the Home Office or the courts to be released on immigration bail at any point during their detention. In addition, independent panellists and specialists within case progression panels provide really important oversight of the appropriateness of anyone being detained under immigration provisions at three-monthly intervals. Automatic referrals for bail also occur at the four-month detention stage for non-foreign national offenders, providing additional external oversight of detention decision-making. Immigration removal centres also provide those who are detained with access to legal advice should they need it.

The introduction of a detention time limit would severely limit our ability to remove those who refuse to leave voluntarily, as the noble Lord, Lord Green of Deddington, pointed out. It would encourage and reward abuse and, as I have said, there are a number of measures in place to safeguard against any prolonged or unnecessary use of immigration detention.

The decision to detain people who no longer have the right to be in the UK is an integral part of the removal process, but we do not detain indefinitely. There must always be a realistic prospect of removal—I see the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, shaking her head—within a reasonable timescale, and this requires a case-specific assessment to be made for every single person whose detention is considered. It is already used sparingly: 95% of people who are subject to removal from the UK are at liberty in the community, and the detention estate is now almost 40% smaller than it was five years ago, with 8,000 fewer people entering detention in the year ending December 2019 than in 2015.

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Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab Co-op) - Hansard

I thank the Minister for her detailed explanation. The problem that I have here is that this Bill will become an Act of Parliament, things will move along very happily and then, many years from now, when we are all no longer doing what we are doing now, all these problems will arise whereby things are not done properly. We could have immigration centres with Italian and French citizens, people who have lived here but have not regularised their situation, being locked up and held for days and things—and that is just an anathema. My worry is that sometimes things are done and then, many years later, different people come along, things are not done so well, and there is a problem.

I am concerned about the innocent people. I am not concerned about people who have committed offences, who need to be dealt with—this is about innocent people who have done absolutely nothing wrong. They potentially could have been our friends and neighbours, living in our country, who have not regularised their situation. Unfortunately, mistakes happen, for all the assurances, and people find themselves taken away, probably quite unfairly, locked up and stuff. I want to hear a bit more about how we are going to deal with those sorts of situations. I am talking about the innocent people. How are we going to look after those people, who have done nothing wrong? We are all agreed on those who are criminals and have done bad things, but what about the innocent people, who are treated unjustly? That is what I want to hear about.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con) - Hansard

We will be talking about the EU settlement scheme in future groups. As I will go on to explain, the scheme does not end, in the sense that, if people are here, certainly between now and 2020, and want to regularise their status, they can do. Of course, the reasonable excuses rule will go on indefinitely as to why people have not regularised their status.

Obviously, these amendments have nothing to do with the Bill, but I hope that I have outlined the various degrees of safeguards that will guard against people being detained indefinitely. We will go on to talk about the EU settlement scheme and some of the safeguards that go around that, particularly ongoing, with people who have missed the boat. I hope, with those explanations, the noble Lord is happy.

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Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab Co-op) - Hansard

My Lords, Amendment 49, moved by the noble Lord, Lord Oates, inserts into the Bill a simple new clause that gives peace of mind to the individuals who request it. As the noble Lord said, it is very specific. I fully understand why someone would want physical proof that they have the right to remain here in the United Kingdom.

In his introduction, the noble Lord, Lord Oates, set out a number of examples of problems you may need to deal with. One is the whole question of being able to rent a property. You may be required to prove your status, and I can understand a landlord being reluctant. Of course, the Government have made sure that landlords will pay a heavy price if they rent out properties to people who are not entitled to rent them. I can see the same problem for employers. When you take somebody on, you need to check and confirm that they have the right to work here. Again, I can see an employer being worried that they could take somebody on and then find that they themselves have potentially committed an offence. There are real issues here.

The problem is that it probably will not happen next week but in 10 or 20 years when we are no longer involved, all the officials have moved on and God knows where the records are. That is part of the problem. If I was in this situation, I would want to have some physical proof that I could keep safe and that, if necessary, would protect me in future if my status were at some point questioned. The noble Lord, Lord Oates, said we have to understand the stress and anxiety of people not having that physical document that they can put away, knowing they have this proof. With the Windrush scandal we have already seen cases of documents not being around and people who have lived in this country for many years, often coming here as children, really struggling to provide proof. I also support the call for it to be free of charge.

The noble Baroness, Lady Bull, made a powerful argument about people who flee abusive relationships, which are all about control. If you do not have control of yourself—being able to rent that property or to get another job—you are almost forced to get back in contact with the person you have already left, fearing for your safety. It cannot be right that the Government are creating conditions that cause those problems for people.

Amendment 51, in my name and those of my noble friend Lord Rosser and the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, seeks to do the same thing with slightly different wording. It says “must make provision”, whereas the amendment from the noble Lord, Lord Oates, says proof must be available on request, but it is basically the same issue.

While sitting here, I was thinking about some of the things I do. I do not know whether other noble Lords have ever done a citizenship ceremony. It is very interesting. I have done hundreds of these ceremonies and spoken to hundreds of people who have been given citizenship. What happens is that you go into the council chamber in Lewisham Town Hall, I walk in, and then the official—normally one of the registration officers—explains carefully to the new citizens what it means to be a British citizen. They then have to swear or affirm an oath and we sing the national anthem. The final part of it is that they walk up and I hand them a certificate signed by the Home Secretary. I have handed them out signed by Theresa May, Amber Rudd and Sajid Javid. The official tells them that this is a really important document and says, “Before you leave, please check that your name and those of your children are correct. It’s your right to be a British citizen”. Then we have our photograph taken. There are hundreds of photographs all over Lewisham of me handing out certificates to new citizens.

We have this situation in which if you are a British citizen you get a certificate, but if you have settled status you cannot have one. That is utterly ridiculous. I hope the Minister will see how nonsensical that is, go away and deal with this and come back on Report.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, I thank you all, including the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, who made a rousing speech, but I fear we will go over old ground here. However, I thank the noble Lords, Lord Oates and Lord Rosser, for providing the House with the chance to discuss the amendments on physical documents. I do not think they are necessary. I would like to reassure noble Lords that we already provide people who are granted settled or pre-settled status with a formal written notification of their leave. It is sent in the form of a letter, by post, or a PDF, by email, and sets out their immigration status in the UK. They can retain the letter, or print it, or electronically store the PDF and keep it as confirmation of their status for their own records and use it if they wish when contacting the Home Office about their status. I must say, it is not proof; it is confirmation. This should reassure individuals about their status when dealing with the Home Office in the future, but it should not be necessary because they will always have online access to information about their status, stored electronically by the Home Office.

Other countries, including Australia, as the noble Lady, Lady Hamwee, mentioned, issue physical documents in the form of biometric cards as they can otherwise be lost, stolen or tampered with.

On the point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, about how the EU settlement application works, I had a session on this with noble Lords and I am happy to share that presentation with her. We are developing an immigration system whereby all migrants can demonstrate their immigration status via an online service, which they can access securely via the view and prove service on GOV.UK. It is accessible to them at any time and it allows them to share relevant information with third parties who need to check their status, such as employers and landlords, as noble Lords have mentioned. If necessary, EEA citizens can show third parties their written confirmation of status, so the person checking is made aware that there is an online service. Where there is a checked status, written confirmation must not be accepted by third parties as evidence of immigration status.

We are also developing services to make the relevant immigration status information available automatically through system-to-system checks at the point at which the person seeks access to public services such as healthcare and benefits. This will reduce the number of occasions when individuals need to prove their rights or need a document to do so.

In moving to a digital system, we recognise there are people who cannot access online services and will need additional support. The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, cited cases and others were cited, such as the Roma community or indeed another category of people altogether. The noble Baroness, Lady Bull, spoke about those in coercive or abusive relationships. We are committed to delivering a service that reflects the diverse needs of all users. Help on how to use the online services and share status information is available through our contact centre, and we provide a free assisted digital service where applicants to the EUSS or others making online applications in the UK are unable to get support. The assistance is tailored to an individual’s circumstances.

We provide a telephone helpline for landlords and employers in order to provide guidance on conducting right-to-work and right-to-rent checks. We are exploring additional support for those using our online services to ensure they can demonstrate their rights in the UK.

We will require EEA citizens to use their online evidence of immigration status only after 30 June 2021. We have designed the service to be easy to use, but guidance will be available should it be required. It will include guidance on those who care for vulnerable users and on use by a range of stakeholders working with local groups, including vulnerable groups.

The full package of measures that I have described will be available before EEA passports and national identity cards cease to be valid for proving rights in the UK after 30 June next year. In answer to the point on two systems that was made by the noble Lords, Lord Oates and Lord Paddick, we will replace physical and paper-based evidence of status with digital products for all migrants, starting with EEA citizens, in the next few years. These changes are being introduced gradually in a way that builds confidence for users and provides opportunities for adaptations and improvements informed by user feedback. At the same time, we are developing an extensive package of communications to ensure that everyone, from individuals to employers, landlords and other third parties, is fully aware of the move to digital and how online immigration status can be accessed and used.

Right-to-rent and right-to-work checks are not new. I have double-checked and right-to-work checks have been law since 2007. That is 13 years since they were introduced—14 by the time that online evidence of immigration is mandatory in June 2021—albeit they will now be in an online format. This move to become digital is not new. The UK public has learned to access many government services online, from applying for a UK passport to paying their vehicle excise duty. In July this year, 87% of vehicle tax renewals were made using the digital service, dispensing with the need for a physical disc on your car. The feedback from users indicates high satisfaction. UK driving licence holders are able to share online with third parties, such as car rental companies, whether they have driving-related convictions.

Employers are able to conduct right-to-work checks on foreign national employees remotely, without the need for physical documents to be handed over. Holders of biometric residence cards or biometric residence permits have already been able to prove their right to work to an employer by using an online service, instead of using their card, since January last year—the first step in our journey to make evidence of immigration status accessible online. The “view and prove” service is popular with users. In the last reporting period, from April to June this year, there have been over 400,000 views on the service by migrants. In the same period, there have been over 100,000 views of EU settlement status by organisations checking status. The average user satisfaction is very high, at a positive 88%.

It is hard to imagine how a country would have coped during Covid without the digital technologies which have enabled so many of us to work from home, shop and obtain government services remotely. We have seen a sharp uptake in digital provision by service providers and digital adaptation by the general public. Most visa applications are made online. Providing immigration status information online has enabled us to simplify and standardise the system of checks for employers, by providing information about an individual’s status in a format that is easy to understand and accessible to all users, removing the need for employers and others to interpret myriad physical documents, complex legal terminology or confusing abbreviations.

The EU settlement scheme has been at the forefront of the transition from biometric residence cards to secure online access to immigration status information. The online system is operating in parallel with existing document checks of passports or identity documents. This approach is helping employers, landlords and EEA citizens to transition from using physical documents to online services. Ultimately, all migrants coming to the UK, whether from other European countries or the rest of the world, will have access to online services which will enable them to show their immigration status without needing a document or biometric card.

On resilience, digital services are designed to be highly resilient, with rigorous testing to build assurance before services are seen by a user. Multiple security controls are in place to protect against cyberattacks and we have employed third-party organisations to conduct vulnerability and penetration testing to provide additional assurance that our online services cannot be compromised.

I shall not detain the House much further, other than to say that we will always send a formal written notification of the individual’s immigration status by email, in the form of a printable PDF document, or by post where a paper application has been made. As set out previously, I can assure noble Lords that we are committed to delivering an online service that reflects the diverse needs of all users. We recognise there are vulnerable people, such as the victim of domestic abuse and coercive control that the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, talked about or others in the Roma community that the noble Lord, Lord Alton, talked about, who may need additional support to use our online service to share their status.

Finally, on the policy equality statement that the noble Lord, Lord Oates, asked about—I think the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, mentioned it as well—I am very sorry to say that I cannot add to other Ministers’ comments. The statement will be published shortly as outlined by them.

I hope that with those comments the noble Lord will feel happy to withdraw the amendment.

Break in Debate

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con) - Hansard

I think the noble Lord knows very well that I cannot give him that figure. However, I take his point that the letter is a confirmation and not a proof—I think I said that in my remarks. The digital proof is a very good way of sharing specific information with people such as employers or landlords as proof of status, but I conclude that we will not agree on this one.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab Co-op) - Hansard

My Lords, I do not think that anyone in this debate spoke out against the digital rollout or suggested that it was somehow new to require people to provide evidence of their right to rent a property or to work. What is new is that European citizens living here will be required to provide that evidence very shortly.

The Minister did not address at all my points about the staggering inconsistency of the Government. They issue certificates to all British citizens at citizenship ceremonies —hard, paper-copy certificates signed by the Home Secretary. Everyone has them handed out; I have handed out many. At the same time, the same Government and department will not issue any paper certificates to people with settled or pre-settled status. Will the Minister please go away and find out why the Government are acting so inconsistently? If she could write to me I would be happy to receive that letter, but it is ludicrous that there are those two things from the same department at the same time.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con) - Hansard

Yes, I would be happy to do that.

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

(Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords)
Debate between Lord Kennedy of Southwark and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Wednesday 9th September 2020

(3 weeks, 1 day ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab Co-op) - Hansard

My Lords, Amendments 14, 15 and 16 in the names of the noble Baronesses, Lady Hamwee and Lady Ludford, seek to bring more clarity to the powers that the Government are taking to make regulations, and that, for me, is a very good thing. As we have heard, words such as “supplementary” and “transition” and the phrase

“to make different provisions for different purposes”

are very unclear, wide-ranging and open to interpretation. These probing amendments today will give the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Trafford, the opportunity to add some clarity to the situation and set out for the record the intention and the scope of the powers that the Government are seeking from Parliament. As for Amendment 17, which would remove Clause 4(4), again an explanation from the Minister as to why the Government need the new power would be very welcome.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, made some very good points and made them very clearly. As she asked when referring to the noble Lord, Lord Beith, what instructions were given to the parliamentary draftspersons? We need to understand that because clarity is important when you are deciding on legislation. Without it you get yourself into all sorts of problems: courts can get involved and there can be all sorts of other difficulties. What we have been hearing from the other end of the Corridor—certainly the comments from the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland—about where we are going to be on certain things gives us particular worry. That is why clarity is so important. I look forward to the Minister putting the matter right for us.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, I thank noble Lords for speaking to the amendments in this short debate. I agree that clarity is absolutely necessary when scrutinising the scope and extent of any Bill, as your Lordships do. Amendments 14, 15 and 16 would restrict the scope of the power by removing what are standard provisions in regulating powers concerning transitory and supplementary provisions. Because both the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, asked what they mean, I shall go through them.

The current illustrative draft instrument does not contain a transitory provision, but it is standard legal drafting to include scope for such a provision should it be identified as necessary. Examples of supplementary provisions can be found where we are retaining some of the references to regulations transposing EU law in benefits legislation. Supplementary provisions update the references to reflect amendments to those regulations, so references to the Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2006 become references to the Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2016, et cetera. I hope that clarifies the provision on “transitory” and “supplementary”.

I come to Amendment 17. As I explained in response to Amendment 18 and 19, Clause 4(4) allows the regulation-making power to make provision for those who are not exercising free movement rights at the end of the transition period but who are eligible for status under the EU settlement scheme and are therefore still affected by the repeal of free movement. The regulation-making power in Clause 4 is restricted to matters that are as a consequence of or in connection with the ending of free movement. Subsection (4) needs to be read in conjunction with subsection (1). It does not allow changes to the statute book for migrants from the rest of the world, who are not affected by the repeal of free movement. Amendment 17 would hinder our ability to make appropriate provision for all those affected by that appeal.

I hope that with those incredibly clear clarifications, noble Lords will feel happy not to press their amendments.

Break in Debate

Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab Co-op) - Hansard

I did email; I do not know where it has gone. Oh sorry, I did not email Question Diary.

I thank the Minister for explaining how certain words have been used in previous legislation, but it would be helpful if she could write to me and place a copy in the Library of the House with some examples, just so that we are absolutely clear. I know she was able to give an example now, but that would be very helpful.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con) - Hansard

I gave an example of “supplementary”; I did not give any examples of “transitory”. I will write a list and send it to noble Lords.

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

(Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard): House of Lords)
Debate between Lord Kennedy of Southwark and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Monday 7th September 2020

(3 weeks, 3 days ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab Co-op) - Hansard

My Lords, there are two amendments in this group: Amendments 8 and 58. Amendment 58 is proposed by myself, the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie of Downpatrick, and my noble friend Lord Rosser. The purpose of this amendment is clear and was ably illustrated by the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie, a moment ago.

We often discuss matters around Ireland and Irish citizens, and I am always conscious that the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Trafford, who is first-generation Irish, usually speaks for the Government, and I, who am second-generation Irish, respond for the Opposition. In addition, if you look at the number of people connected to Ireland around the House or in the other place, it sets out the great contribution that Irish people have made to this country and the great links we have there, whether in the Republic, Northern Ireland or elsewhere. Those links have done wonders for both our countries, and we must always ensure that we underpin that so the strength grows. My own parents lived in the UK for many years and have now retired back in the Republic. Amendment 58 seeks to add clarity to the situation for citizens that could be affected, which is always important when it comes to people’s rights. People could lose their rights, so clarity is important.

The Bill as it stands ends EU free movement and establishes a stand-alone right for Irish citizens to enter and reside in the UK. As noble Lords have heard, under the Good Friday agreement citizen provisions people in Northern Ireland have a birth-right entitlement to be either British or Irish or both. Equality of treatment is regardless of that choice, which is a very important underpinning. Nothing must be allowed to unpick that. The Government’s position is that Irish citizens do not need to apply to the EU settled status scheme; they can rely on the associated reciprocal rights of the common travel area, but they can apply if they wish. We have heard talk about the common travel area’s rights being written in sand. It is fair to say that we need clarity here, and that is the purpose of this amendment.

The amendment seeks that, within 30 days of the Bill becoming an Act, the Secretary of State must publish a report setting out in detail the rights of citizens under the common travel area, EU rights and benefits under the EU settlement scheme, and then delineate between the two so that we know exactly where we stand. This is necessary due to the inconsistency of the Government on a whole range of policy areas. Let us be clear: matters can be changed, clarified, replaced, restored, reversed, revisited, substituted, switched, U-turned and varied with such speed that, even when the Prime Minister was on his feet in the other place, the latest Government U-turn was under way. To expect people to rely on what the Government announce is not credible. We need this amendment on the face of the Bill, and we need the Secretary of State to produce the report.

Amendment 8, in the names of the noble Baronesses, Lady Hamwee, Lady Ludford and Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, seeks to put the protections enjoyed by our citizens on the face of the Bill. If the Government are not prepared to accept that amendment, can the noble Baroness set out how the rights as expressed in Amendment 8 will be protected and guaranteed by the Government?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con) - Hansard

I thank all noble Lords who have spoken to these amendments. As the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, says, I often speak as first-generation Irish and he speaks as second-generation Irish, so I think one could say that we have a personal interest in getting this right and reiterating those rights in the Bill. Both the UK and Irish Governments have committed to maintaining the common travel area, which I will now call the CTA. It is underpinned by deep-rooted, historical ties and, crucially, predates our membership of the European Union.

It has been agreed with the EU that the UK and Ireland can continue to make arrangements between themselves when it comes to the CTA. This means that we will continue to allow British and Irish citizens to travel freely between the UK and Ireland and reside in either jurisdiction, and commit to protecting a number of wider rights and privileges associated with the CTA. These include the ability to work, study and access healthcare and public services. Both Governments confirmed that position on 8 May last year, through signing a CTA memorandum of understanding, referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford. The Government has included Clause 2 in the Bill to ensure that Irish citizens can enter and remain in the UK, without requiring permission, regardless of where they have travelled from, except in a limited number of circumstances.

Amendment 58 also seeks to require the Government to publish details of the rights and benefits provided by the EU settlement scheme. The European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020 protects the residence rights of EEA citizens and their family members for those individuals who are resident in the UK before the end of the transition period and for eligible family members seeking to join a relevant EEA citizen in the UK after that time. By applying for UK immigration status under the EU settlement scheme, they can also continue to work, study and, where eligible, access benefits and services, such as free NHS treatment, as they do now.

While Irish citizens resident in the UK by 31 December 2020 can apply to the EU settlement scheme if they want, they do not need to. Their eligible family members can apply to the scheme, whether or not the Irish citizen has done so. However, Irish citizens resident in the UK by 31 December this year may wish to apply to the scheme to make it easier to prove their status in the UK in the event that they wish to bring eligible family members to the UK in the future.

The Government have therefore already made it clear that both the CTA and the EU settlement scheme provide Irish citizens with a number of rights following the end of free movement, and we will continue to emphasise that commitment. I hope that that gives the noble Lords, Lord Rosser and Lord Kennedy, and the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie, comfort enough not to move Amendment 58.

Turning to the question of deportation raised by either the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, or the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee—it is getting late—Amendment 8 seeks to make additional provision with regards to the deportation of Irish citizens and their family members. First, subsection (6) seeks to ensure that the Secretary of State may not conclude that the deportation of an Irish citizen is conducive to the public good, unless she concludes that, due to the exceptional circumstances of the case, the public interest requires deportation.

Subsection (7) seeks to ensure that the family member of an Irish citizen can be deported only on the grounds that their family member is or has been deported, where the Secretary of State has concluded that the deportation of the Irish citizen is conducive to the public good and, due to the exceptional circumstances of the case, the public interest requires their deportation.

I use this opportunity to reiterate our approach to deporting Irish citizens. While Clause 2 disapplies the right to enter and remain in the UK, without leave, for those Irish citizens who are subject to a deportation order, in light of the historical, community and political ties between the UK and Ireland, along with the existence of the CTA, Irish citizens are considered for deportation only where a court has recommended deportation or where the Secretary of State concludes that, due to the exceptional circumstances of the case, deportation is in the public interest—much in the way that was pointed out by the noble Baroness.

The Government are firmly committed to maintaining this approach. Irish citizens were exempted from the automatic deportation provisions in the UK Borders Act 2007 by the Immigration, Nationality and Asylum (EU Exit) Regulations 2019, which were laid in February 2019, as the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, pointed out.

Under the Immigration Act 1971, the family member of an Irish citizen would not be considered for deportation on the grounds that their family member is or has been ordered to be deported, unless a deportation order was made in respect of that Irish citizen. The amendment also seeks to prevent the deportation or exclusion from the UK of an Irish citizen if they are among the “people of Northern Ireland” entitled to identify as Irish citizens by virtue of Article 1(vi) of the British-Irish agreement of 1998.

I make it absolutely clear that the Government are fully committed to upholding all parts of the Belfast agreement, including the identity provisions which allow the “people of Northern Ireland” to identify as Irish, British or both, as they may so choose, and the citizenship provisions which allow the “people of Northern Ireland” to hold both British and Irish citizenship. Recognising the citizenship provisions in the Belfast agreement, we would consider any case extremely carefully, and not seek to deport a “person of Northern Ireland” who is solely an Irish citizen. Exclusion decisions are taken on a case-by-case basis by Ministers. Exclusion of a person from the UK is normally used in circumstances involving national security, international crimes—including war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide—serious criminality or corruption and unacceptable behaviour. It is essential to the security of the UK that Ministers retain the power to exclude in such serious circumstances, although of course all cases are considered extremely carefully.

I hope that with these explanations, the noble Baroness can withdraw her Amendment 8.

Break in Debate

Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab Co-op) - Hansard

My Lords, this group of amendments is concerned with the purpose, scope and extent of delegated powers conferred on Ministers by Parliament. I am grateful to the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee for its report on the Bill and to the members of the committee who have spoken, including their chair, the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra.

The report raises serious concerns about the inappropriateness of the delegation of powers to the Executive and proposes changes which I fully support and endorse. However, it is disappointing that, as the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, highlighted, the committee has over some considerable time produced such reports but then the next Bill has come along and the same issues have been identified.

During the Brexit campaign, we kept being told about taking back control and the sovereignty of our Parliament, but here lots of things are being passed on to Ministers and that does not quite seem to me to be taking back control. It is a bit like the pledge about the NHS on the side of the leave campaign bus that has quietly been forgotten about.

Amendments 9 and 10 seek to deal with the first two points raised by the committee by removing the word “appropriate” and inserting “necessary”, and removing the words “or in connection with”. They are amendments to which I have put my name and which I fully support.

Amendment 11 seeks to put on the face of the Bill what the power to make regulations is intended to do. I look forward to hearing the Government’s explanation if they are not prepared to accept this.

Amendment 13 again adds “only”, seeking to ensure the powers taken are used only for what they are intended to do. That seems sensible to me. I hope the Government will accept it.

Amendment 32, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, also seeks to ensure that the Bill does only what the Government say they want it to do. Like other amendments in this group, that seems a very sensible and proportionate measure, and I hope the Government will support it.

Amendment 35, which I have signed, seeks to implement the recommendations of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee and ensure that SIs under Clause 4(1) are affirmative. Amendments 36, 37 and 38 follow on from that. The clause takes considerable powers for the Executive, as we have heard from a number of noble Lords tonight. These powers are not justified, and I support those noble Lords, including my noble friend Lord Rosser, who have opposed the clause standing part of the Bill.

Your Lordships need only look at some of the points raised by the committee to see why noble Lords have tabled their opposition to the clause standing part. In paragraph 19, the committee is “disturbed” that the Government would use words to grant and confer permanent powers on Ministers to make whatever legislation they considered appropriate. In paragraph 26, the committee argues that

“transitional arrangements to protect existing legal rights … should appear on the face of the Bill”.

In paragraph 28, its expressed view is that

“clause 4(1) contains an inappropriate delegation of power”.

I hope that, in the response to the debate, we will see considerable movement from the Government and that they take on the comments from the committee, which I fully support.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, I think I get the committee’s views on the delegated powers in this Bill, and they are not pretty. However, I thank the committee for making them.

I first thank the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, for speaking to this group of amendments and my noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe for speaking to Amendment 32. These amendments seek to limit the scope of the regulation-making power in Clause 4 and address the parliamentary procedure for the regulations. It is right that Parliament pays close attention to the provision of delegated powers. I have noted the recommendations made by the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee in its latest report of 25 August.

I am pleased that we have been able to share draft illustrative regulations to be made under this power later this year, subject to Parliament’s approval of the Bill. The draft regulations—which I understand will not be subject to any significant change, to answer the point of the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, from tonight and the other day—will, I hope, provide some reassurance as to how the Government intend to use the regulation-making power in Clause 4.

There are clear constraints on the use of the power in Clause 4. It can be used only to make regulations that amend primary or secondary legislation

“in consequence of, or in connection with”

Part 1 of the Bill on ending free movement and protecting the rights of Irish citizens. It cannot be used in relation to the UK’s withdrawal from the EU more generally or to make wider immigration changes.

Amendment 9 seeks to limit the use of the power to making changes that are considered “necessary”, not “appropriate”. Amendment 10 seeks to limit the power to changes that are only a consequence of Part 1 of the Bill and not in connection with it. I invite noble Lords to consider the illustrative draft of the regulations and take comfort that this power is specifically to deliver the end of free movement; it is not to be used for general changes to the immigration system.

The regulations will make the statute book coherent on the repeal of free movement, align the treatment of EEA citizens arriving from next year with that of non-EEA citizens and implement our obligations to afford equal treatment to those within scope of the residence provisions of the withdrawal agreement—nothing more than that.

Furthermore, Amendment 10 prevents the Government making changes required to align the treatment of EEA and non-EEA citizens in the immigration system, which would undermine the new global points-based system. We cannot, therefore, accept these amendments.

The Government have made every effort to specify in the delegated powers memorandum the type of changes to legislation required as a result of ending free movement and protecting the rights of Irish citizens, and to make provision for them in draft regulations. However, Amendment 11 would prevent the Secretary of State from making appropriate provision and would unacceptably narrow the scope of the power. Amendment 13 would have the effect of restricting the scope of the power to the powers listed in Clause 4(3).

Amendment 32, tabled by my noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe, seeks to confine changes to fees and charges to EEA and Swiss citizens. That is already the principal purpose of Clause 4(5). However, the amendment would then prevent us from applying the skills charge to non-EEA family members of EEA citizens and from exempting from the skills charge a non-EEA family member with rights of residence and equal treatment under the withdrawal agreement. It would amount to a breach of the UK’s commitments under those agreements, and for that reason alone we cannot accept the amendment.

It is the will of the British people that we bring free movement to an end. This means ending the bias in our immigration system that favours EEA citizens over the citizens of any other country, which is the primary purpose of the Bill. Limiting the Government’s ability to apply a skills charge to EEA citizens in the same way as they apply to non-EEA citizens would mean that certain elements of free movement had not been fully repealed by the Bill, and that EEA citizens still had an advantage in our immigration system. That is not an outcome that the Government can accept.

On Amendments 35, 36, 37 and 38, to which the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, has spoken, the first set of regulations made under this power will be subject to the “made affirmative” procedure, whereby they must be approved by both Houses within 40 days of being made if they are to remain in force. The “made affirmative” procedure is needed in the likely event that there is a short window between Royal Assent to this Bill and the end of the transition period. For that reason, the affirmative procedure proposed by the noble Baroness does not work.

The people of the UK voted to leave the EU and take back control of our laws and our borders. It is therefore imperative that this House helps to deliver on that democratic mandate by ensuring that free movement is brought to an end by 31 December. It is important to ensure that regulations made under this power commence by then. Under the “made affirmative” procedure, both Houses will be asked to approve the regulations within 40 days of them being made for them to continue in force, so Parliament has scrutiny over the use of this power. If Parliament does not approve the regulations then they will cease to have effect, but subsection (10) preserves the effect of anything done under them before that point in order to ensure legal certainty. Using this power does not mean avoiding parliamentary scrutiny—far from it—as the secondary legislation to be made under the power is subject to full parliamentary oversight using established procedures.

I think it is right that Parliament should set the scope of the power in Clause 4 in terms that are appropriate to the purpose of the Bill in ending free movement and protecting the rights of Irish citizens. It is also right that Parliament should retain appropriate oversight over the exercise of this power. However, the Government are committed to ending free movement now that we have left the EU, and this parliamentary procedure is an essential part of delivering that. I hope the noble Baronesses and my noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe have been assured of the content of the draft regulations and the explanation of how the Government will use the delegated power. I therefore ask the noble Baroness to withdraw her amendment.

Furthermore, some noble Lords have spoken to oppose that Clause 4 stand part of the Bill. I must emphasise the importance of this power for the effective implementation of the Bill. I trust that sight of the draft regulations provides further reassurance that the power does not give Ministers a blank cheque to make wide-ranging changes to immigration policies. The power can be used only to make provision as a consequence of or in connection with Part 1 of the Bill on the ending of free movement and protecting the status of Irish citizens, but without the power we cannot align immigration treatment between EEA and non-EEA citizens, and cannot then build up our global points based system.

The regulations will be subject to full parliamentary scrutiny using well-established procedures. Free movement must end on 31 December and the “made affirmative” procedure is needed to ensure regulations made under this power align the treatment of EEA and non-EEA citizens who arrive in the country from 1 January 2021. 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 it.

Immigration (Persons Designated under Sanctions Regulations) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020

Debate between Lord Kennedy of Southwark and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Wednesday 2nd September 2020

(4 weeks, 1 day ago)

Grand Committee
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Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab Co-op) - Hansard

My Lords, I thank the Minister for setting out clearly the purpose of the regulations. As other noble Lords have said, this matter is technical but important. I do not intend to speak for very long.

It is important that we recognise that the current process for considering a human rights or protection claim is retained for those new individuals who are subject to these travel bans, and that it is not conflated with the review and challenge mechanism for the sanctions. It is important that we delineate and set out the boundaries clearly so that we keep separate the routes for appeal, the immigration consequences of the sanction and the challenge to the sanction.

My only question concerns powers and how the Government intend to ensure that the system works as it devised to work. I know that the idea is to keep the system as it is at present, but this would not be the first time that things have gone wrong, that there have been unintended consequences or that people have unintentionally been treated unfairly or unlawfully—or, on the other hand, are able to avail themselves of something incorrectly. I very much agree with the comments that the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, made in connection with our friends and colleagues in the European Union. We need to ensure that, although we are outside the European Union, we still work closely with it. Should we not keep people safe?

I see this as two sides of the same coin. It is about treating people fairly and justly while at the same time dealing effectively with those who are alleged to have committed serious offences in terms of their movements being restricted and action being taken against them. I am looking for assurance from the Minister that this has been thought about and will continue to be thought about as we move forward.

The noble Lord, Lord Randall, talked about loopholes. It is important that we focus on them. They are not the subject of these regulations but I am of course reminded of them; indeed, we are regularly reminded of them in the Chamber. One appeal mentioned property. We often talk about the fact that, allegedly, a lot of property in London and elsewhere in the UK is owned by questionable people or organisations with no problem whatever; there is no issue at all. It is almost as if illegal or dodgy money is put into a safe jurisdiction because the criminals want to keep their money safe—and they come here. That is bad. I know that they are not part of these regulations as such, but that issue is of concern. We are lucky to live in a safe jurisdiction but equally, it should not be safe for criminals and people who want to act badly. It would be useful if the Minister could address that point to ensure that, where people have done wrong, they are dealt with and restricted properly while at the same time ensuring that people who have not are treated fairly and properly.

I will leave it there. Noble Lords have asked a number of questions. I look forward to the Minister’s response.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con) - Hansard

I thank noble Lords for their contributions.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, asked about the different types of sanctions that might be imposed. First, they can be used to fulfil a range of purposes, including supporting foreign policy and national security objectives, maintaining international peace and security and preventing terrorism. They do not operate or succeed in a vacuum. The noble Lords, Lord Singh and Lord Randall, alluded to the fact that this is not just about people. It can be about states and how those who are sanctioned elsewhere—we can think of some very obvious cases—can find succour in the UK. That is absolutely right. Think about the extradition process: a judge will look into whether any extradition request has been made maliciously or whether there would be a threat to a person’s life if they were extradited to a country where they would certainly face torture and, in some cases, death.

I will go through some recent asset freezes and travel bans to illustrate the point. Some 25 Russian nationals involved in the mistreatment and subsequent death of Sergei Magnitsky were subject to them, as were 20 Saudi nationals involved in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. So were two high-ranking Myanmar military generals involved in the systematic and brutal violence against the Rohingya population and other minorities by the Myanmar armed forces, and two organisations involved in forced labour, torture and murder in North Korea’s gulags. Those are just some examples of the types of organisations and people that we have imposed asset freezes and travels bans on.

Several noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, and, I think, the noble Lord, Lord Cormack —although I cannot be sure—talked about the almost hiding in plain sight of assets that sit in our capital city, which may or may not be the product of dirty money, for want of a better expression. Of course, they will also have shared the experience of taking through legislation the year before last on how we can get hold of assets that people have attempted to hide and how we ensure that proceeds of crime are uncovered.

The noble Lord, Lord Singh, asked if these sorts of sanctions would cover cybercrime. Yes, they very well could do given some of the effects that cybercrime can have. The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, asked whether someone can appeal from abroad. The answer is yes. What if someone is here unlawfully? Obviously, there are two things to untangle: first, someone’s immigration application or, indeed, asylum appeal, and then a sanction, if indeed one is necessary.

On Crown dependencies, a revised Explanatory Memorandum was laid today and the Crown dependencies confirm that they do not need regulations extended to their jurisdiction. However, we do not ignore our international obligations. Those who claim fear of persecution or a breach of their fundamental rights still have a statutory right of appeal against a decision to refuse those claims.

I reiterate that these regulations do not change the status quo and, on that note, I ask that the Motion be approved.

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

(2nd reading (Hansard): House of Lords)
Debate between Lord Kennedy of Southwark and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Wednesday 22nd July 2020

(2 months, 1 week ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab Co-op) - Hansard

My Lords, I start, as did the noble Lord, Lord Purvis of Tweed, by paying tribute to all the immigrants who have come to our country and worked in essential services and elsewhere. They have made a great contribution to the United Kingdom. They have made it richer, better, more diverse and a better place to live. Bills such as this are scant reward for that.

This has been an interesting debate, to say the least. It continues the path the Government have taken of inflicting harm on our country based on obsessive dogma rather than what is right. Dogma is the problem here. That is a tragedy and, working with colleagues across the House, I will work to improve the Bill and send it back to the other place in a better state than it arrived in here.

As we have heard, the Bill repeals retained EU law on free movement and brings nations which benefited from that status into a single immigration system. I suppose bringing things together in one system is probably the best thing you can do, but it is the Government’s attitude, and of the Home Office in particular, that concerns me when it comes to these matters. We have often heard the Government say that they have learned lessons and apologise for the latest scandal, but when you see a Bill such as this, you begin to ask yourself whether the lessons have really been learned.

We are in the middle of the biggest health emergency in our lifetime. We have clapped health workers, care workers and others who have kept the country going, including those who have picked our fruit and vegetables in the hot sun and worked in food processing and other essential jobs. Many are just the sort of people who in future will be materially affected by the proposals in the Bill. In turn, that puts our citizens at risk. The Bill creates a system which falls way short of meeting our needs in such sectors as health, social care, hospitality and food production. It imposes bureaucratic and financial barriers to recruiting skilled healthcare workers from the EEA. If they get past all the red tape, their rights and entitlements are diminished and, for the carers and other essential workers we have relied on during the pandemic, who have also put their lives on the line, there is no route to work in London or elsewhere because they will not meet the minimum income requirement.

The saying “shooting yourself in the foot” comes to mind. We need to look carefully at the powers of the Secretary of State to make immigration policy by way of the Immigration Rules. The noble Baroness, Lady Altmann, made an excellent speech. We have a serious problem which the Government must address. We must improve the position of workers coming from abroad to work in the health and social care sectors—they are vital to the proper functioning of our society and to ensure that people are looked after properly in old age and when they are ill—along with an affordable, simple, effective and clear route to residency and citizenship if they want to take that.

The Minister referred to the long-term plan for social care in her opening remarks. I was not aware that we had a long-term plan for social care. Perhaps she will outline it in her response to the House.

The other line I got from the Minister—and heard from many noble Lords today—was that the system has allowed wages in the care sector to be kept low, and that this new system will allow us to ensure that wages can increase. Of course, that is good to hear, but it is an interesting line from the Government. I have not heard it many times from the Benches opposite in the 10 years I have been in this House. It will be interesting to see campaigns from those Benches to ensure that wages for healthcare workers are increased, because we need to deal with the scandal of poverty pay. I cannot recall such a campaign, but I have contacts at the GMB, UNISON and the TUC. If any noble Lords opposite need them, I am sure we can get a campaign going for the Government to call on employers to ensure that they pay their workers better. But, of course, the Government have not used the powers they have now to do that. They have the powers to increase wages and so on, and they have chosen not to do so or to deal with these issues.

Many noble Lords have referred to the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee of your Lordships’ House. It raised concerns about the previous version of the Bill, as did many noble Lords, including my noble friend Lord Rosser and the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. It is important that we deal with this issue. I kept hearing “take back control”, but it never seemed to me to mean what we have now. It seems a very funny “take back control” where you do not like scrutiny by Parliament, engagement or challenge. That is what Parliament is here for. It is strange that the Executive seem to be shying away from those things. We need to remember that because what we have now is bad government. It is not good government; it does not get the balance right. This is a Government who do not like scrutiny, challenge or being accountable. They are a Government who will reap what they have sown. Their intolerance of scrutiny will leave us with all sorts of traps, which the Government will be dragged into. We shall sit here year after year, after all sorts of changes and moves backwards and forwards, because they would not listen and take part in that scrutiny. They will find difficulties in years to come.

The noble Lord, Lord Russell of Liverpool, made some excellent points about the importance of proper, accurate data to make the decisions you need to make. I hope he gets a detailed response from the Minister on that.

A number of noble Lords referred to skills and the need to upskill our workforce. I agree with the comments of my noble friend Lord Blunkett. In his previous roles as leader of a major local authority, Education Secretary and Home Secretary, he has an impressive track record of improving the life chances of citizens, reducing class sizes, improving schools’ infrastructure, increasing literacy and numeracy and keeping us safe. I also agree with the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Bowness, and thought he raised a number of important questions that need careful answering.

My noble friend Lady Sherlock raised concerns about the parts of the Bill that deal with social security entitlements. Can the Minister confirm how we will ensure that eligible residents take advantage of the settled status scheme? I have raised this before. The real risk, of course, is that people do not realise they need to take advantage of this scheme and potentially end up in our country illegally. That cannot be right.

As entitlements to benefits, healthcare and other services are denied or deferred here in the UK, how will that affect British citizens living in the European Union? A number of noble Lords made the point that they are our citizens living abroad and we need to ensure we protect them. If the EU sees its citizens having their rights denied or taken away here, there is a risk of changes to the rights of our citizens living abroad in Europe.

I support the calls of a number of noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Morrow, to support the Private Member’s Bill of the noble Lord, Lord McColl of Dulwich. It is a very good Bill, and I have supported him many times in the past. It would be good to bring the protection afforded to victims of modern slavery in England and Wales up to the same standards we have in Scotland and Northern Ireland. I ask the Minister to address the issue of victims of modern slavery and why the Government are just not engaging with it. The loss of important EU protections is a risk to victims of modern slavery, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Bristol said.

My noble friend Lady Kennedy of Cradley asked a number of questions about the status of child EU citizens in care in the UK. The Government have a responsibility to ensure that these children’s immigration status is resolved properly and that the path to residency and citizenship is mapped out for them.

The noble Lord, Lord Balfe, asked me about our attitude to voting on Bills in this House. I am always happy to divide the House and defeat the Government on issues where I think they have not listened or are wrong and need to be given the opportunity to reconsider in the other place and come back. I think I have a reasonably good record of defeating the Government, but I am also happy to engage with them, work constructively and seek to persuade them of the need for change. I hope the Government would confirm that I am always constructive, as I am with all members of the governing party.

On the Business and Planning Bill I made it clear on Second Reading and in Committee that I was prepared to divide the House if necessary. I was successful in winning a number of concessions, such as the 11 pm cut-off for off-sales, protections for pavement users and issues on which we felt the Government had unintentionally forgotten bodies such as the mayoral development corporations and TfL—for example, not allowing them to meet virtually. We raised those issues and the Government agreed. When considering the Business and Planning Bill or any other Bill, I have to weigh up what is right and get the right balance between further demands, important issues to be raised, engagement and when it is right to vote or accept the concession. Sometimes you can get that wrong, but I think I got it right this week. I am always happy to engage with noble Lords on that basis.

Moving on to other areas of the Bill, I warmly welcome the part that protects the rights of Irish citizens. There are historic links between Britain and Ireland, and that is to be welcomed. My parents came from the Republic of Ireland to work in London and then, some years ago, they retired back to the Republic. Like many others, I have a great love of both the UK and Ireland. We have many shared values and a shared history. My mum came to this country to work as a nurse in the NHS. Many years later she ended up working in the Members’ Tea Room in the House of Commons, and there will be many Members here who knew her when they were in the other place. The links between our two countries are to be treasured.

A number of noble Lords raised the issue of immigration detention. We have heard some horrific stories of people being treated unfairly and unjustly, and that does nothing but bring shame to our country— we have to do better than that. My noble friend Lady Kennedy of The Shaws, the noble Lords, Lord Roberts of Llandudno and Lord Alton of Liverpool, and others raised concerns about this issue, and I agree with them.

In conclusion, this is a dreadful Bill and I hope that we will have made it a little better when we send it back to the other place. I will very happily join other noble Lords in dividing the House if necessary. I believe that the Government will reap what they sow with this Bill. I predict that over the next few years there will be many retreats, U-turns and changes, with the Government saying, “We didn’t really mean that”. I look forward to the noble Baroness’s response to the debate.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford - Hansard

I thank noble Lords for all their contributions over the course of four or five hours, and I am sure that they will understand that I will not be able to answer every single question. We have covered a wide range of issues, and the fact that there has been either support for the Bill or comments such as “tragedy” and “squalid” shows that there is a wide range of views in this House. That demonstrates to me the importance attached to many immigration issues, and rightly so. I guess that there is a further irony, in that a first-generation Irish immigrant Front-Bencher is winding up the debate with a second-generation Irish immigrant; such is the importance that we attach to Irish immigrants.

My noble friends Lord Hodgson and Lord Lilley reflected on the trends of the last couple of decades—which are very important in the context of immigration —and the consequences that immigration has had for those trends, whether they be in housing or infrastructure or indeed in attitudes among society. I was most intrigued that both the noble Lords, Lord Adonis and Lord Green of Deddington, who are probably on quite different parts of the spectrum on a number of matters, put down the marker of the importance of getting this system right—or else. In fact, the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, outlined—quite openly, I thought—the problems and consequences of immigration in the early 2000s.

Many noble Lords expressed concern about the detailed policies proposed under the points-based immigration system and the immigration delegated power set out in the Bill. It is important to note at this point that the Bill is narrow. It is focused on ending the EU’s rule on freedom of movement now that we have left the EU. It is a short, technical Bill that does just that and it does not deal with wider immigration issues.

I must also make it clear that the delegated power in the Bill will not be used to make wide-ranging policy reforms; it will merely switch off the free movement rights that EU citizens currently enjoy so that we can align the immigration treatment for EU and non-EU citizens. The Immigration Rules will continue to be used to set out the detailed requirements that a person must meet in order to live, work and study in the UK under the new points-based immigration system.

The Immigration Rules are well established and their use is based on the powers in the Immigration Act 1971. That process is therefore nearly 50 years old, so it is not a novel concept in this Bill. The Immigration Rules are subject to parliamentary scrutiny and enable flexibility, so that policies can be adapted to respond to changing circumstances—for example, as we have done during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Bill does not legislate on the details of the points-based system, nor does it legislate on detention, asylum or compliant environment policies. These are important matters and I know that we will discuss them in Committee and on Report, whether they are in the Bill or not—I have been in this House long enough to know that. They are not part of the Bill, but I look forward to discussing them.

My final point in my introduction is that it is four years since the British people voted to leave the European Union. We must deliver on the will of the people, much as some people may not like it.

The topic that has probably been discussed most in this Second Reading debate is health and care workers. My friend, the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy of Southwark, asked about the long-term social care plan. I am afraid that that is out of my powers. However, I know that down the other end of the Corridor, the various sides of the House are trying to come to some sort of consensus on the way forward. I should say that I got into local government more than 20 years ago, and it was a conundrum then and remains so to this day. All parties to the matter, whether from this House or that House, need to find a way forward on this. We should all be incredibly grateful for the work of health and care workers and for the lives that they have saved over the past few months in the fight against coronavirus. They should be valued more than they are.

The Home Secretary has introduced a free one-year automatic visa extension to approximately 3,000 key front-line health workers, including an exemption to the immigration health surcharge. The Home Secretary has also expanded the bereavement scheme to all NHS health and social care workers to include offering indefinite leave to remain for immediate family members and bereaved hospital support workers and social care workers.

On 29 April, we announced that we will extend the visas of NHS front-line workers and their families whose visas expire between 31 March and 1 October. We are working with all NHS trusts and the wider independent health and care sector across the whole of the UK to identify who will benefit. The extension to NHS visas will be automatic. There will be no fee attached and it will be exempt from the immigration health surcharge. We have extended this offer to more key front-line workers, including midwives, social workers and medical radiographers. Social care workers who are employed by NHS trusts, or independent health and care providers, and working in one of the defined occupations, will benefit from the automatic visa extensions offer where visas are due to expire between 31 March and 1 October 2020.

There has been much discussion about the ability of migrant workers to undercut UK workers. Much has been made of the idea that we cannot train people up between now and the end of the year. However, there is a challenge to employers across this country around the easy option of migrant labour, which has undercut our own home-grown workforce for far too long. I cannot remember which noble Lord it was who said that people in this country do not want to work in care, but I do not agree with that. Employers need to support this very worthwhile profession on which so many of us rely, both at the beginning of our lives and towards the end of our lives. That is a challenge for employers in this country.

I come next to unaccompanied asylum-seeking children and family reunion. The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, challenged me on this, as of course did the noble Lord, Lord Dubs—I am sure he will continue to do so. I have said it before and I will say it again: the UK has a long and proud tradition of providing safety to those who claim asylum and it will not be affected by our exit from the EU. We will continue to provide protection to those who need it, in accordance with our international obligations.

I have trotted out the statistics at this Dispatch Box time and again. Under national resettlement schemes we have resettled more people than any other state in the EU—we are incredibly generous to those who need our help. During the transition period, the UK will continue to reunite unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in Europe with family members in the UK under the Dublin regulation. During the coronavirus pandemic, we brought over 52 people from the Greek islands, and I think we might be the only state in the EU that did that. We will continue to process all those transfer requests.

We have now presented a genuine and sincere offer to the EU on a new reciprocal arrangement for the family reunion of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. On 19 May, we published our draft legal text as a constructive contribution to negotiations. Additionally, children with immediate family members in the UK will still be able to join them under the refugee family reunion rules and part 8 and appendix FM of the Immigration Rules. These routes are unaffected by our departure from the EU. Finally, noble Lords will have heard the Prime Minister’s pledge to resettle a further 5,000 vulnerable people seeking refuge, from not just Syria but anywhere in the world. That actually goes way beyond the asks that some of the NGOs have made of us. I am proud of the record that we have.

The noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of Cradley, talked about children in care being denied EU settlement scheme status. Across government, we are working to ensure that all eligible children obtain the UK immigration status they are due. The Home Office has already spent £9 million funding third-party organisations across the country that support families and the hard-to-reach with the apps that they produce. In March, we announced a further £8 million to support this work. It is wrong to say that children will be subject to restrictive measures; they will not. Up to 31 March 2020, there have been almost half a million applications from under-18s. That is a really good figure. There is still plenty of time to apply before the June 2021 deadline.

In that vein, the noble Baroness, Lady Falkner of Margravine, asked me about the EU settlement scheme grace period and reasonable grounds. We will publish the guidance on what constitutes reasonable grounds for missing the deadline; we intend to do so in early 2021. However, I will give her examples of what might be included. It will include children whose parent, guardian or local authority failed to apply on their behalf; people in abusive or controlling relationships who perhaps could not apply; and those who lack the physical or mental capacity to apply. I think that I might have talked to her about that earlier.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Bristol talked about looked-after children. I think I am repeating myself, because I just mentioned that in response to the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of Cradley. We are liaising very closely with local authorities.

The noble Lords, Lord Morrow, Lord Foulkes of Cumnock and Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale, and my noble friend Lord Wei all asked about regional variation. Our new points-based system—I am very pleased that the noble Lord, Lord Judd, I think it was, supported this—will work for all parts of the United Kingdom. We will not establish different visa arrangements for different nations or regions of the UK. The MAC has repeatedly said that the economic situations in different parts of the UK are not sufficiently different to warrant different immigration arrangements.

The noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie of Downpatrick, referred to Northern Irish citizens and the Good Friday agreement. A person of Northern Ireland, as defined in the Belfast agreement, has the right to hold British and Irish citizenship, and the right to identify as British, Irish or both, as they may so choose. The Irish rights clause in the Bill is focused on protecting the rights of Irish citizens under existing CTA arrangements. Irish citizens in any part of the UK and British citizens in Ireland enjoy reciprocal rights. Maintaining these rights supports provisions in the Belfast agreement, specifically the right to identify as British, Irish or both.

The noble Baroness, Lady Barker, and others asked about fees—I think maybe the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, did as well. On the face of it they seem high, particularly when we are talking about children, but application fees for border, immigration and citizenship services play a vital role in our ability to run a sustainable system. The income helps to deliver the funding requirements to run the border, immigration and citizenship service and substantially reduces the burden on UK taxpayers. I am sure that noble Lords and members of the public rightly expect that. Any decisions regarding future fees payable or funding of the system should be taken in the round and outside the passage of this Bill.

Lots of noble Lords, including the noble Lords, Lord Kennedy, Lord Dubs and Lord Ramsbotham, the noble Baroness, Lady Barker, and others talked about a detention time limit. The main rationale put forward for a time limit is that, in the absence of one, individuals are detained indefinitely. Although I know that noble Lords have cited cases, it is not the case that the law actually permits indefinite detention. A time limit is not only unnecessary; it would severely limit our ability to use detention as an effective means of removal. A time limit would encourage those who seek to frustrate the removal process—and there are those who do—to run down the clock until the limit is reached and release is guaranteed.

Quite a few noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Morrow, my noble friends Lord Randall and Lord McColl of Dulwich, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Bristol, spoke about modern slavery. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham also spoke to me yesterday about this. Modern slavery and human trafficking have no place in this society, and we are committed to fortifying our immigration system against these crimes while ensuring that victims are protected and offenders prosecuted. Decisions made through the national referral mechanism regarding whether someone is in fact a victim of modern slavery are not affected by their nationality or their immigration status. In fact, I might say that many victims of modern slavery are citizens of the United Kingdom. Support for suspected victims is provided through the NRM regardless of nationality and, although the UK has left the EU, our core international obligations to victims remain unchanged.

I had questions from the noble Baroness, Lady Coussins, and the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, about specific sectors. The noble Lord asked about the creative industries and the noble Baroness asked about modern foreign language teachers. The shortage occupation lists are set on the advice of the independent MAC. It has considered the position of teachers in a specific report in 2017 and in a general view of the shortage occupation lists last year. Teachers of Mandarin are on the shortage occupation list, as I think the noble Baroness might have said, but the MAC did not consider that the case was made for MFL teachers. I can tell her and the noble Lord that the MAC is currently undertaking a further review of the lists and will keep them under regular review so, if they have concerns about this and the sector, I would encourage them to submit evidence to the MAC.

I turn now to another sector, that of ministers of religion, which the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark asked about. We greatly value the contribution that migrants make to faith communities in this country, and that is why there are two routes for religious workers within the current immigration system which will be continued under the future points-based system. When we made changes in 2019, the then Immigration Minister hosted a round table with representatives of all the major faiths, and just in the past week the current Immigration Minister hosted a further meeting with representatives of the Catholic church.

I turn to the points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Russell of Liverpool, on data. This means that I now have a third friend in the House of Lords who is interested in this subject. On a much more serious point, however, the data that we collect on people coming into this country and going out again, along with noting the number who have applied for the EU settlement scheme—a figure that is much higher than we first thought—is absolutely crucial to some of the retrospective and future decisions that we make. We do not agree that Home Office data on immigration is poor. It may be criticised, but we publish some of the most comprehensive immigration statistics of any country and their quality is overseen by the UK Statistics Authority which has been clear that the data is good. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, made a point about exit checks. These are crucial to enhancing the robustness of our data and I believe that we have been collecting data on them since 2015.

The noble Lord, Lord Oates, and a number of other noble Lords talked about physical proof of status. I smiled a little at that point because, just the other day, the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, and my noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe were absolutely adamant about digital proof of status. We are developing a broader immigration system that, going forward, will be digital by default. As I told the noble Lord on a previous occasion, individuals will receive notification of their immigration status by email or letter. However, the one thing about digital status, as the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, pointed out, is that you cannot lose it.

The noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, asked about the data for higher education and he noted that the vast majority of students return to their home countries after they have completed their studies. They do that and they are incredibly compliant. He quoted from published Home Office statistics. I agree that it is true for the current crop of students that the current sponsorship is working well. We do not want to return to the pre-sponsorship days, when there were significant concerns about the quality of some of our education establishments, particularly in the FE sector.

I have probably come to the end of my time. I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in the debate, and I look forward to considering in Committee some of the issues that I know will be brought forward, whether they are in this Bill or not.

Business and Planning Bill

(Report stage (Hansard): House of Lords)
Debate between Lord Kennedy of Southwark and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Monday 20th July 2020

(2 months, 1 week ago)

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Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab Co-op) - Hansard

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for tabling the government amendments. As other noble Lords said, a convincing case was made for the ending off-sales at 11 pm under these new licences. This was first raised in the other place by my honourable friend the Member for Hackney South and Shoreditch, Meg Hillier. She raised the problem she is having in her constituency even before these powers will come into play. There were huge problems in London Fields, and she raised the concern that if the Bill as it was then had been passed, it would have exacerbated the problem. I thank the Government for listening to that. I also thank the Covent Garden Community Association and the Soho Society. Weymouth Town Council was also concerned about this, as was everybody else who got in touch with me. It was also pleasing to see that we had the leaders of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, the City of Westminster, Camden and Southwark, two Conservative and two Labour boroughs, coming together because they had a number of premises that would be affected by these proposals. It is good that the Government listened and I thank them very much for that.

On the question of containers, I see the point that the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, is making, but there is also the issue of buying beer to drink outside, which the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, touched on. I sometimes go to the Shipwrights Arms in Tooley Street, and if you go in there and ask for two pints of bitter, they will ask, “Inside or outside?” If you say “Outside”, you will get it in two plastic containers—you do not get glasses outside. You will meet a big, burly security guard, and you will not get past him if you are carrying glasses. I take the point that glasses are dangerous and can be used as weapons, and we need to be mindful of that. However, in many cases we have those plastic containers, which you often see at sporting venues. However, I see the point the noble Lord is making.

My noble friend Lord Mann made a point about policing resources. I remember being a young councillor in Southwark in the 1980s. At that point, the council gave the music and dance licence, and the magistrates gave the alcohol licence—of course, that has all changed now. I remember that the police came along to us, exasperated, and said, “You’ve granted all these music and dance licences, then of course the pubs are getting all these licences. On the Old Kent Road on a Friday and Saturday night, we have to put in a huge amount of resources when we do the weekly rosters. Then at the same time you’re moaning at us that you want more officers on the beat. We can’t physically manage it all.” I remember how that was important at the time.

However, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for the government amendments that she has spoken to, I am delighted that the Government have listened, and I look forward to her response to the debate.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford - Hansard

My Lords, I am grateful to all those who have spoken on this group of amendments and to those who have welcomed the government amendments. I take the opportunity to reiterate to the House that the government amendments in this group will introduce a standard cessation time of 11 pm for operators to trade under the new off-sales permissions or—I reiterate to my noble friend Lord Balfe —until the current licensing hours for that premises end, whichever is earlier. If that is 10 pm in Cambridge, that is the time it will be. As has always been the case with this measure, the new provisions will not affect premises’ underlying licences. They provide for new permissions that will apply to the holders of on-sales-only licences, and more restrictive dual licences that allow for off-sales under more restrictive conditions than are provided for under the new permission.

Amendment 45 will further help to ensure that the new permissions work for and not against local communities, as I said. It will do this by limiting the ability of premises to carry out off-sales under the new permissions where they are already limited from selling alcohol for consumption in an outdoor area of the premises. That is, if a premises cannot use its outdoor area beyond a particular time, it will not be permitted to carry out off-sales beyond that time under the new permission either. Where such restrictions apply, it is likely that a licensing authority has imposed the conditions to reduce the risk of noise nuisance or anti-social behaviour to local residents. These conditions should therefore remain in place. I hope that noble Lords will welcome these amendments, and again I thank those who led to their tabling today.

Amendments 30, 35 and 37 from the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, seek similarly to restrict the hours when the new off-sales permissions apply. I thank the noble Lord for his constructive engagement as the Bill has moved through the House and hope that, given my explanation of our amendments, he will feel that he does not need to move his amendments when they are called.

Briefly, I know that my noble friend Lady Stowell did not move her amendment, but I will relay some of the points that we have discussed. For the sale of alcohol for consumption in outside areas already part of the licensed premises, such as a beer garden, those sales are defined as on-sales and premises will therefore not require a new permission to carry out this function. However, if premises wish to sell alcohol for consumption in bordering outside areas that are not on the premises plan as part of the existing licensed premises, they will still require an off-sales permission in order to do so. That might include an area they seek to occupy following the successful application of a pavement licence.

Break in Debate

Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark - Hansard

My Lords, I support the amendments in the names of the noble Lords, Lord Holmes of Richmond and Lord Addington, relating to small breweries and sporting clubs. I am a bit disappointed that the Government have not found a way to do something here. We hear lots of talk about supporting small business, but we seem to be in a rigid situation, where we cannot move out of where we are. I do not see why we could not do something and it is regrettable that we could not find a way. I accept that breweries do not have licences now, but they could be given something temporarily. The noble Lord, Lord Addington, made the point that sports clubs are often open only a couple of nights a week. Why have we not sorted them out? In this emergency Bill to deal with Covid-19, we have chosen to ignore them, and that is regrettable. I do not see why the Government have done that. They could have moved a bit more on that. I support the amendments, and it is regrettable that there will be no progress on them.

A convincing case has been laid out for Amendment 52, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, and other noble Lords. I supported the idea in Committee. Equally, I see some of the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, and I accept that this is a temporary Bill; perhaps doing something permanent in a temporary Bill may be a problem, but the least we should get tonight is a commitment. Technically, this can be done and the Government should get on and make sure that it happens.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford - Hansard

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate, particularly for the interest in Amendment 52, tabled by my noble friends Lady Neville-Rolfe and Lord Bourne and the noble Lords, Lord Stevenson and Lord Clement-Jones, on digital age verification. I could agree with virtually everything said in the debate on this amendment. I am very keen to progress this agenda, and it was in discussing this that my noble friend and I realised that we had a mutual interest in moving this agenda forward—she as a former Digital Minister and me dealing with data and identity in the Home Office.

The Government have carefully considered the concerns raised by this amendment. We support its aims, and we believe that a more holistic approach is needed to enable the use of digital identity in compliance with age-verification requirements in the Licensing Act for the sale of alcohol. As I explained in Committee, the protection of children from harm is an objective that all licensed premises should promote. Age verification plays a critical role in this and it is essential that we have confidence in the forms of identification presented as proof of age to promote this licensing objective. As my noble friend Lady McIntosh of Pickering said, the PASS accredits a number of national and local suppliers of ID cards, offering retailers flexibility to choose an appropriate card to fit their needs and fulfil their licence condition.

At present it is not possible to use a digital ID as proof of age for the purchase of alcohol in the UK due to the lack of an agreed industry standard for digital ID. Without trusted digital identity standards in place, licence holders cannot know that market solutions are fit for purpose. This would make it very difficult for them to meet the reasonable precautions and due diligence requirements described in Amendment 52. The lack of an equivalent national standard for digital ID would lead to uncertainty.

The noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, was correct in saying that movement on this is slow. I share his frustration and I know that my noble friend, a former Digital Minister, does too, but we do not think it is right to place licence holders in a position in which they are being asked to accept proof of ID without a set of agreed standards, even on temporarily. To do so may place them at risk of committing a criminal offence.

Although the Government are resisting this amendment, we do not disagree with—in fact we are very supportive of—the principle of digital ID. I set out in Committee some of the steps we are taking to progress work in this area. A call for evidence was launched last summer and the responses overwhelmingly agreed that the Government have a role in developing a framework for digital ID use in the UK. Respondents stressed the need for legal certainty on how to use digital identity. The Government will consult on developing legislation to set provisions for consumer protection relating to digital ID, specific rights for individuals, an ability to seek redress if something goes wrong and where responsibility for oversight should lie. The Government will also consult on the appropriate privacy and technical standards for secure digital identity. Sufficient oversight of these standards needs to be established to build trust and to facilitate innovation, which will provide organisations with a handrail to develop new, future-facing products, which I know is exactly what my noble friend seeks.

The Government plan to update existing laws on identity checking to enable digital ID to be used in the greatest number of circumstances. However, it is only when the framework and, most importantly, the standards are in place that we can expect industry and citizens to trust and have confidence in using and accepting digital IDs. Now, knowing our mutual interest in this subject, I hope that the Government and I will be able to draw on my noble friend’s considerable experience in this area as plans develop. I invite her to engage with Ministers and officials on this work as it develops. I am happy to give a commitment, on behalf of my noble friend Lady Barran, that we will work together with my noble friend towards our shared aspiration. To be honest, after four years in the Home Office I am glad that I have found someone interested in my policy area of digital ID and data. I hope that, with that commitment, my noble friend will support me in my longer-term vision for digital identities and will not move her amendment when it is reached.

I now turn to the amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Addington, and my noble friend Lord Holmes. As noble Lords will be aware, the provisions in the Bill add permission for off-sales to most premises with an existing on-sales premises licence. It is not a mechanism to amend the process by which premises licences are granted.

I shall deal with Amendments 42, 43 and 50, tabled by my noble friend Lord Holmes, first. My noble friend has spoken passionately in support of small breweries. He is right to say that they have thrived over the past few years and we do not want to lose that. They are important. I note his point that his amendments could help breweries to sell alcohol to the public. However, as I said in Committee, we feel that any proposal that a business should be given a full premises licence without proper scrutiny by the local licensing authority, the police or the public is a step too far.

Similarly, with regard to Amendment 51, we are not currently seeking to make changes to the number of temporary event notices available for application in one year. Temporary licences granted for a limited period should not be used as a route to a permanent licence. As I have set out, there are crucial scrutiny mechanisms in place for granting them to ensure that all premises are selling alcohol responsibly.

Covid-19: Human Trafficking

Debate between Lord Kennedy of Southwark and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Thursday 16th July 2020

(2 months, 2 weeks ago)

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford - Hansard

I agree with the noble and learned Baroness in the sense that we have paused an awful lot of the processes that might be in place for people seeking asylum. Protecting people during this period and making sure they get the support that they need is at the heart of our endeavours. She has a point—children need specific intervention. I am not entirely sure what the position is with regard to NRM, but the Home Office is very focused on supporting children who might be vulnerable.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab Co-op) [V] - Hansard

My Lords, will the Minister first join me in paying tribute to the work of the Clewer Initiative and the leadership shown there by the right reverend Alastair Redfern, the former Lord Bishop of Derby, whose wise words are much missed in this House? Secondly, does the Minister accept that the exploitation of vulnerable people has continued and increased during the pandemic, with victims finding it more difficult to escape their abusers as front-line services have been either reduced or shut down? Can the Minister tell the House what remedial action will be taken to help victims as the country reopens?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford - Hansard

I join the noble Lord in his praise for the Clewer Initiative. We feel that victims have been more in danger not because local services are not available to them but because we fear that many of them, particularly in situations of domestic abuse and slavery, are actually locked in with the exploiter or the abuser.

Business and Planning Bill

(Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard): House of Lords)
Debate between Lord Kennedy of Southwark and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Monday 13th July 2020

(2 months, 2 weeks ago)

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Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab Co-op) - Hansard

My Lords, I refer the House to my relevant registered interests as a vice-president of the Local Government Association and as president of Pubwatch.

Group 1 deals with a range of amendments relating to premises and alcohol licensing, including Amendment 39 in my name and that of my noble friend Lord Berkeley on temporary event notices and Amendment 41 in my name, which seeks to add a new clause on health and safety to the Bill after Clause 11.

The noble Lord, Lord Balfe, referred to there being no votes today. We do not often vote in Committee—I have now been in the House for 10 years. I have made it clear in all my dealings with the Government, at Second Reading and in my meetings with them, which have been very helpful, that I will divide the House on Report if necessary. I have been very clear on that. I hope that we will get some resolution today so that it will not be necessary, but I am certainly not averse to having a vote. I would not be accused of that.

The first amendment in this group, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Balfe, raises the issue of cumulative impact zones, which are areas defined as contributing to community problems because of alcohol. The noble Lord rightly seeks to stop premises in these zones applying for pavement licences. I look forward to the response from the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Trafford, explaining how she has consulted with groups such as Pubwatch and other groups representing towns and city centres.

I hope that the noble Baroness will also detail the wider assessment the Government have made of the impact of these changes on crime, and in response to Amendment 11, on police consultation, I hope she will confirm that dialogue with police, local authorities and other interested parties will continue after measures in the Bill are implemented.

The noble Lord, Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth, made the point, which I agree with, about the need for the new street drinking to be controlled and managed safely. People can then relax and support the local economy while doing so safely and helping to avoid a second spike. That is very important.

My Amendment 39, plus two amendments in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Holmes of Richmond, deal with how the provisions can help businesses which do not have the necessary licence presently, as they rely on temporary event notices. This would also help street vendors who have been hit particularly hard in this crisis and have seen their doors close, some for good. Up to 15,000 businesses have lost all their income overnight and many tens of thousands of pounds have been tied up in rent for music festivals and rolled over to 2021.

The amendment would also help small breweries, which have suffered. Many noble Lords have spoken about the support for the small brewery industry. As we have heard, small breweries have seen up to 82% of their sales reduced because of Covid-19. They have not received the same level of financial support as pubs and the hospitality sector, and that is a matter of regret. One in four breweries—about 500 of the 2,000—does not currently have any way to sell directly to the public. The Government should adopt this measure as a way of helping them in the months ahead. The noble Lord, Lord Holmes of Richmond, and my noble friend Lord Berkeley, made a convincing case for the need to help small breweries, as did my noble friends Lady Kennedy of Cradley and Lord Wood of Anfield. As my noble friend Lord Berkeley said, these small breweries have made a fantastic contribution to the variety and type of beers sold in the UK; they employ local people, and they have been devastated. We need to do something and I hope the noble Baroness will be able to give us a positive response.

My Amendment 41 seeks to highlight the importance of workers’ safety in the hospitality sector, which the noble Lord, Lord Sheikh, also referred to. I am grateful to the support I have had from the Bakers, Food, and Allied Workers’ Union for its contribution about how to address this issue. I hope the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Trafford, will address issues such as the handling of cash and how that can be limited. In pubs and other small venues, small amounts of money are handed over. There are payment companies like Worldpay and Shopify, but in many cases if you go into a pub or a small shop and want to pay by debit card, or if you spend less than £10 or £15, they charge you. There needs to be some way in which the companies will not charge the 10p that they presently do. What contribution can they make to ensure that people use less cash and pay by debit card more? Companies would need to step up to the plate and maybe the Government could ask them to do that. It would certainly help reduce the amount of cash being used, with the benefits that that would bring.

It would be interesting to hear about the protection of security staff at entrances to licensed premises. That is very difficult normally, but particularly now that we are talking about social distancing. What support are the Government going to give those staff to ensure they can do their job properly as well as being safe?

How do we ensure that toilets are safe for staff and customers? What discussion has the Minister had with the British Toilet Association including advice on keeping toilets clean and safe? This will be of paramount importance for staff who need to ensure their toilets are kept clean and safe for their customers. Can the noble Baroness also explain what guidance the Government will offer to pubs on these other issues?

Other amendments in the group raise important points, and I hope that we will get a detailed response, particularly on Amendment 44, from the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, and the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones. They both made a clear case about allowing better enforcement of the drinking regulations, which would be welcomed. It will be interesting to see whether it is possible to bring that forward quickly. The noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Pickering, made it clear that there is support in the sector for bringing these matters in quickly.

I will leave my comments there and look forward to the detailed response from the Minister.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate and particularly to the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, who manages to get cannabis into every debate—I admire her tenacity. If she is agreeable, I will respond to some of her comments in group six.

The general tenor of this debate is that people support the context in which this Bill is proposed, to get the economy moving and, crucially, the fact that it is sunsetted to next September. As my noble friend Lady Noakes clearly articulated, this is not about the norm but about emergency measures to get the economy moving again. As this mistake has been made a couple of times, it is important to distinguish between pavement licences and off-sales licences, which of course supermarkets have got anyway.

Amendment 1 in the name of my noble friend Lord Balfe seeks to prevent the granting of pavement licences to businesses in cumulative impact zones. It is right that cumulative impact and potential for nuisance and disorder be considered when granting these pavement licences. That is why the Bill gives local authorities the ability to effectively manage risks in their local area. If a local authority thinks problems related to alcohol or anything else could occur, they can refuse an application for a pavement licence. In granting these licences, they may also impose conditions and if these conditions are breached, the local authority may issue a notice requiring the breach to be remedied. Local authorities can also revoke pavement licences in several situations including when the licence is causing risk to public health or safety or causing anti-social behaviour and nuisance. I hope my noble friend will agree it is important to retain local authority discretion in this area and he will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Amendment 3 is also in the name of my noble friend, and I appreciate the points he has made. We expect the pavement and alcohol licencing measures to benefit cafes, restaurants and pubs primarily. However, it is important that the Government support economic recovery whenever they can, which is why this fast-track route is available to all businesses selling and serving food and drink. It will mean that a range of businesses, including some shops, theatres, and galleries, will be able to apply for pavement licences and off-sale licences, maximising the economic impact of these temporary measures. For the reasons I have set out I am not able to accept this amendment and I hope that my noble friend will not press it to a vote.

Amendment 11 is the last of the amendments tabled by my noble friend Lord Balfe. I assure noble Lords that the Bill requires local authorities to consult such persons as the local authority considers appropriate before determining an application for a pavement licence.

To answer my noble friend Lord Sheikh and the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, the Government expect that this would include the local police force, but believe that the local authority can and should use its discretion and local knowledge to decide who to consult. To answer the question from the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, directly: yes, we have spoken to the police. We have engaged with them throughout. The most recent time that I spoke directly to Martin Hewitt was last Friday, just before we went into super Saturday. We will continue to engage with them throughout.

Surrender of Offensive Weapons (Compensation) Regulations 2020

Debate between Lord Kennedy of Southwark and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Wednesday 8th July 2020

(2 months, 3 weeks ago)

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Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab Co-op) - Hansard

My Lords, I am happy to support the regulations before the House and endorse many of the comments made by noble Lords in this short debate. Like my noble friend Lady Kennedy of Cradley, I sometimes think that these weapons are illegal so should just be handed in. I see no reason why anyone would need to own a zombie knife. Equally, I can see the point about compensation, particularly the points made by the noble Earl, Lord Shrewsbury, and the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, about people who own antique weapons, but that is almost a different case. I certainly do not know why anyone would ever want to buy a zombie knife or what you would need one for.

As we heard in our debates on the Offensive Weapons Bill, my fear is that when we quite rightly ban these weapons, I suspect you will still be able to buy them over the internet. You can probably log on, buy these weapons abroad and have them posted to you. That was one of the issues we discussed many times during the passage of the Bill. What will we do about that? This is again a question of the internet companies that host these sites. What are they doing? Why are weapons that can do huge damage to people allowed to be sent into our country?

My noble friend Lord Mann mentioned the excellent work of the National Crime Agency in shutting down that illegal communication system last week. I think we were all very pleased and pass on our thanks for the work done by the Metropolitan Police. I hope that by that being shut down, the trading of the illegal weapons mentioned here will be reduced, so that was very good.

I also endorse the comments of my noble friend Lady Wilcox of Newport about working with young people. A couple of years ago I was very lucky and did the parliamentary police scheme. I spent many days out with the Met in different parts of London. One day I had an excellent day out with the Met in Greenwich, with some of the teams that work with young people. They showed me in a container the knives they had collected. It was like a huge sweet jar of all sorts of weapons they had collected. They were doing lots of really good work with children in schools. They also used to do searches around schools. As they were going into the schools, some of the children involved in knife crime were burying the knives in their local council estate and would dig them up on the way home. We went around digging on the council estate, collecting all the knives. They were ingenious. It was really good work, getting these knives off the street but also talking to the children and trying to get them away from using knives.

As we know, knife crime destroys lives when people lose their lives, but it also destroys the life of the person using the weapon. As many other noble Lords have said, it is important that we try to ensure we deal with it. I will leave my comments there. As I said, I very much support the regulations and look forward to the Minister’s comments.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford - Hansard

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords for their constructive comments. I will start with those of the noble Lords, Lord Kennedy and Lord Mann, about the NCA operation only a few days ago, which took so many dangerous weapons and drugs off our streets.

There has been a bit of a debate about amnesty versus compensation. An amnesty is generally for weapons that were already illegal, whereas the compensation scheme we have laid out today is for weapons that were legal and are now illegal. I understand that it might stick in the craw of some noble Lords for us to pay compensation for weapons that are now illegal.

The noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, also talked about the importance of internet importation, and he is quite right. We discussed this at length—buyers, sellers and all that stuff we talked about in the Bill—and worked together on a good remedy for that.

The noble Lord, Lord Adonis, questioned why we were paying only for stuff worth over £30. We have to start at a base compensation payment, or I foresee things such as children going through their parents’ knife drawers to hand things in. We have to start somewhere, and £30 is the starting point. He also asked whether knife crime incidents were down during the pandemic. The answer is that they absolutely were, because of course there were fewer people on the streets and less gang activity.

The noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of Cradley, and other noble Lords asked about the general crime figures over the last year. The latest police-recorded crime figures published by the ONS on 23 April, for the year ending December 2019, showed that the police recorded 45,627 offences involving a knife or sharp instrument. That is a lot of knife incidents and a 7% increase. It was of particular concern when we passed the Bill; knife crime seemed to be going up.

My noble friend Lord Shrewsbury asked what types of firearms will qualify for compensation, how many there are and what the costs will be. The firearms concerned are those that meet the definition in the relevant provisions of the Offensive Weapons Act 2019. Sections 54 and 55 covers any rifle with a chamber from which empty cartridge cases are extracted using energy from propellant gas or energy imparted to a spring or other storage device by propellant gas, other than a rifle chambered for .22 rimfire cartridges, such as MARS—manually activated release system—rifles and lever-release rifles. To answer my noble friend and the noble Lord, Lord German, we understand that five such rifle types have been listed on the draft compensation claims form. It allows a claim to be made for an item not listed within it, if the weapon in question meets the definition in the Act when the relevant details are provided. It is not a definitive list.

We must wait to see how many of these items are surrendered to the police. The impact assessment published alongside the Offensive Weapons Act puts the number of MARS rifles at 700, and we assess that there are up to 1,500 more lever-release rifles that could be surrendered, but component parts could also be included. Ancillary equipment may be claimed for under the scheme, and for these purposes that means equipment, other than prohibited ammunition, designed or adapted for use in connection with this type of rifle and which has no practical use in connection with any firearm that is not a prohibited weapon.

We have set out a list of ancillary equipment in the draft supporting documents, and we will consider representations from stakeholder groups and affected parties on this matter, and on the relevant component parts of the firearms, as the arrangements are finalised.

My noble friend and other noble Lords asked whether adequate funding is being allocated to the scheme. The short answer is yes, and to answer the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, funding for the compensation will come from Home Office budgets. To answer another of her questions, we are making great strides with the 20,000 police officers. The figure I last saw was 6,000 so far, but I will update that if it is wrong. The total cost of the compensation scheme is not yet known. It will depend on the number of weapons and the value of the items surrendered, but we will ensure that the funding required to pay fair compensation to those who surrender their lawfully held weapons is available.

A number of noble Lords, including the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, my noble friend Lord Naseby and the noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, asked about the communications campaign. We are very keen to publicise the surrender and compensation scheme arrangements, including through the issuing of national press releases, deploying force level communications, the use of social media and providing full details of the scheme on the government website in the run-up to commencement of the arrangements. We will continue to talk to our partners outside of government, and any steps noble Lords can take in helping to spread the word to those who might be affected would be welcome.

I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, who asked about contacting registered gun owners. We have a list of registered gun owners and I imagine that we will be contacting them, but I do not know for certain, so I will double-check.

The noble Lord, Lord German, and the noble Baronesses, Lady Wilcox and Lady Hamwee, asked why this has taken so long. We are learning lessons from the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997 and the handgun surrender and compensation scheme. We are engaging further with weapons specialists and those with expertise in this area in the lead-up to the scheme to make our response as robust as it can be. To answer the question from the noble Baronesses on the timescale of the scheme, it will be in late autumn.

The noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, and others asked about a wider amnesty. In fact, through answering a Written Question from the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, today, I know that the last amnesty was in 2019, and the one before that was in 2011. The point here is that if there are people who are scared to hand in weapons that are no longer legal, amnesties are a good time at which to do so.

The noble Lord, Lord Mann, asked about online sales. These will be restricted through wider measures in the Act; that also goes also to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy. As we discussed during consideration of the Bill, we cannot prevent sellers from abroad selling their wares on the internet. Some of these will of course be legal in other countries, and Border Force will intercept others. The Act will focus on restricting sale and delivery, as the noble Lord will well remember.

I think I have answered all noble Lords’ questions. I beg to move.

Covid-19: Domestic Abuse

Debate between Lord Kennedy of Southwark and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Monday 29th June 2020

(3 months ago)

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Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab Co-op) [V] - Hansard

My Lords, additional funding is welcome, but I do not believe that it is enough to cope with the surge of domestic abuse during the pandemic. Following on from the noble Lord, Lord Polak, what specific additional work are the Government funding to help children who could be victims or who witness this criminal behaviour, because of the trauma it causes and the risk that it will be normalised in the home as acceptable behaviour and carried on into future generations?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford - Hansard

I agree with the noble Lord. He is absolutely right that what an adult experiences as domestic violence the child will also feel, whether directly or indirectly, from that domestic violence. Children are part of the support package, so if the mother is safe—it is usually the mother—the child will be safe. But various charities are working with women and children to ensure their safety during this pandemic.

Extradition (Provisional Arrest) Bill [HL]

(3rd reading (Hansard): House of Lords)
Debate between Lord Kennedy of Southwark and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Monday 15th June 2020

(3 months, 2 weeks ago)

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford - Hansard

My Lords, I thank noble Lords who have spoken to this amendment. Amendment 2 deals with the proposed statutory requirements for a consultation, the laying of statements before Parliament setting out the risks of any amendment to add, vary or remove a territory to the Bill and, in the case of additions, confirming that a territory does not abuse the Interpol red notice system prior to laying any regulations which seek to amend the territories subject to the Bill.

The Government are committed to ensuring that Parliament has the ability to question and decide on whether any new territories should come within scope. Therefore, it is mandated in the Bill that any Government wishing to add a new territory should do so through the affirmative resolution procedure. Any statutory instrument laid before Parliament will, of course, be accompanied by an Explanatory Memorandum that will set out the legislative context and the policy reason for the instrument. This procedure will give Parliament the opportunity to scrutinise proposals and allow the House to reject any proposals to add, remove or vary any territory to, from or in the Bill. The reasoning put forward will need to satisfy Parliament that the territory in scope does not abuse Interpol red notices or create unacceptable risks.

While extradition is a reserved matter, relevant officials are engaged in regular discussions with their counterparts in the devolved Administrations about how it should operate in practice. They would of course engage with them as a matter of good practice were any secondary legislation to be introduced in relation to it. Similarly, several relevant NGOs and expert legal practitioners have been consulted by officials in the normal way; this answers the questions of the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford. All external stakeholders are able to make direct contact with parliamentarians so that their views are included in all debates connected with secondary legislation associated with the Bill, as they have done during its current passage by contacting several noble Lords in this House.

A number of noble Lords, including the noble Baronesses, Lady Hamwee and Lady Ludford, talked about the abuse of Interpol channels. I will expand on that a bit. In arguing that maybe a power should not be enacted, given previous abuse of Interpol channels by some hostile states, the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, cited the case of Bill Browder. International organisations like Interpol are critical to international law enforcement co-operation and are aligned with our vision of a global Britain. Interpol provides a secure channel through which we exchange information on a police-to-police basis for action. The UK continues to work with Interpol to ensure that its rules are robust, effective and complied with. The former chief constable of Essex was recently made the executive director of policing services for Interpol, which I was delighted about. It is the most senior operational role in that organisation. A UK government lawyer has also been seconded to the Interpol notices and diffusion task force, to work with it to ensure that Interpol rules are properly robust and adhered to by Interpol member states.

In terms of the specification of non-trusted countries, the power will be available only in relation to requests from the countries specified in the Bill—countries in whose criminal justice systems we have a high level of confidence, and that do not abuse Interpol systems. The Government will not specify any country that is not suitable. The addition of any country must be approved by both Houses, and I trust that neither House will be content to approve the addition of a country about which we have concern.

I will try to make it easy for the House, because we will now have our first ever virtual vote in the House of Lords. I understand that noble Lords would like to divide on this, and I hope that they will join me in resisting the amendment.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark [V] - Hansard

My Lords, this has been a good short debate. I thank my noble friends Lady Kennedy of Cradley, Lord Foulkes of Cumnock, Lady Wilcox of Newport and Lord Adonis, as well as the noble Baronesses, Lady Ludford and Lady Hamwee, and the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, for their support. All noble Lords carefully set out the need for this amendment in a most convincing way. I am not persuaded by the response of the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Trafford, which I found disappointing. I will not disappoint her, and I will make it very clear that I certainly wish to test the opinion of the House in this first ever virtual vote.

Break in Debate

Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark [V] - Hansard

My Lords, I support Amendment 3, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge. As noble Lords have heard, this issue has been considered by the House as the Bill has made its progress through the various stages. What is proposed here today is simple, effective and, I contend, good government.

Surely it must be right that when we are designating countries that we wish to form an extradition agreement with, after the detailed work has taken place, Parliament should have the opportunity to accept or reject the designation for an individual territory. Parliament generally, and this House in particular, does not often vote down regulations. We may pass Motions to Regret or debate the merits of what is proposed, and many may express deep reservations, but fatal Motions are very rare.

This amendment is important; it is good practice and what good government should be all about. It guards against this or any future Government, of whatever political persuasion, seeking to group together a number of countries and push them through en bloc where, for example, nine of the 10 countries proposed have good reputations, a good track record and respect for the rule of law, do not persecute dissidents, do not abuse human rights and do not abuse Interpol red notices, but the remaining country has a more questionable record on one, or a number of, the issues I have raised. In such a case, it would be wrong for the Government to try to force through an agreement under the cover of Parliament not wanting to reject the other territories, and would give the country about which questions have been asked some form of protection that it does not deserve, making the approval a fait accompli. Parliament should, in all circumstances, guard against that.

If passed, this amendment would allow Parliament, on the rare occasion that it rejects regulations, to do so quite clearly on the record of the individual territory that the Government propose to sign an agreement with. That is right, proportionate and the sensible way to deal with this important part of public policy; no other agreement will be put at risk. It is good government, and I hope noble Lords will support the amendment if it is put to the vote.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford - Hansard

My Lords, on previous occasions this House has spoken at length on the question of what constitutes appropriate parliamentary scrutiny, in the wider sense, in relation to the addition of any territory, and has just done so again on Amendment 2. I will now expand further in addressing Amendment 3, in the names of the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, which seeks to mandate that this be done by individual statutory instrument for each suggested country.

I was slightly dismayed to hear noble Lords talk about mutual extradition arrangements because, as I have clarified on several occasions, this has not, and never has been, about mutual extradition arrangements. We do not do this on behalf of other countries, and if, for example, we did it on behalf of Turkey, the courts would throw it out—even if the Government could get it through Parliament, the courts would throw it out.

When this issue was debated in Committee, it was pointed out that statutory instruments that seek to specify new territories are not amendable. Some feel that this may create a difficulty for this House if regulations were laid which sought to specify multiple countries. As I have said before, the process of potentially listing multiple countries already exists for adding territories to both parts of the Extradition Act 2003.

Break in Debate

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford - Hansard

My Lords, I thank the noble Lords who engaged very constructively with the Bill, particularly the noble Lords, Lord Kennedy and Lord Paddick, the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, and my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay of Clashfern. The Chief Whip’s beeper is going so I think he wants me to keep my comments short.

Extradition is not an easy subject, but this has been most interesting legislation, with very well-drafted and thoughtful amendments. Everyone will benefit from the work done on this. I particularly thank officials from the Home Office, who have supported me so brilliantly throughout. I beg to move.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark [V] - Hansard

My Lords, I echo the noble Baroness’s comments. I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in the proceedings on the Bill. I enjoyed working with everybody concerned. I think that we have made the Bill better. As always, the noble Baroness has been courteous and kind and always prepared to engage with me constructively. I also thank all her officials from the Home Office for the way they have worked with me during the Bill’s passage.

Domestic Violence

Debate between Lord Kennedy of Southwark and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Tuesday 5th May 2020

(4 months, 4 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, the Government are monitoring and responding to domestic abuse issues arising during this period, and £28 million of the £750 million announced by the Treasury for charities will go to domestic abuse charities to help victims to continue to access their services. The Home Office has separately provided £2 million to support helpline and website provision, and the recently launched #YouAreNotAlone campaign is helping to raise awareness of this crime while directing victims to support services.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab Co-op) - Hansard

We all look forward to the Domestic Abuse Bill becoming law, but that will not be for several months. Victims of domestic abuse need additional support and help immediately. Will the Minister agree to go back, speak to the Home Secretary and explore the possibility of a series of public information films on TV channels in the UK setting out that domestic abuse is a crime, that victims are not alone, that help and support is at the end of the phone and that by texting or clicking on a website we will come to their aid?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford - Hansard

The noble Lord will know the web facilities that are available, and the Home Office has separately provided £2 million to support helpline and website provision. On his broader question about a mainstream public broadcasting campaign, I most certainly will go back to the Home Secretary, but at this time I would like to avoid—I know the noble Lord will agree with me—having perpetrators and their victims sitting side by side while such information comes on the television. It might create additional tensions within the home. However, I will take the idea back and discuss the matter with the Home Secretary.

Domestic Abuse

Debate between Lord Kennedy of Southwark and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Wednesday 29th April 2020

(5 months ago)

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford - Hansard

I think the noble Baroness will agree that we have always had a cross-government approach on domestic violence. Certainly, some of the round tables that we had before coronavirus, in the lead-up to the Domestic Abuse Bill, were very consensual and collaborative. It is certainly something that I will continue to promote. We have been meeting and engaging virtually with charities right from the start of the outbreak of this pandemic.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab Co-op) - Hansard

We are also concerned about children trapped in dangerous domestic situations. What measures are the Government taking to protect those children? More widely, can the Minister say what they are doing to protect children at risk of sexual and other abuse?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford - Hansard

I recognise the noble Lord’s point about children—they are at the brunt of abuse, or are witnesses to abuse. As I meant to say to the noble Baroness, Lady Burt, I am on a call every day with the Home Secretary and her operational partners, who are very alive to what might be going on behind closed doors. In the last four weeks, the NCA has developed and disseminated 1,060 child sexual abuse packages for police forces to investigate. Those figures are horrific, but it is testament to the good work of our police forces.

Windrush Compensation Scheme (Expenditure) Bill

(2nd reading (Hansard): House of Lords)
(3rd reading (Hansard): House of Lords)
(Committee negatived (Hansard): House of Lords)
Debate between Lord Kennedy of Southwark and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Tuesday 21st April 2020

(5 months, 1 week ago)

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Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab Co-op) - Hansard

My Lords, this has been a short but very good debate, with some very powerful contributions from around the House, and I am delighted to be able to speak in it today. At the outset, I offer my full support to the Government for this short, two-clause Bill, which gives them the necessary parliamentary authority to make payments under the Windrush compensation scheme.

As we have heard, there would normally have been a much longer debate on the Bill. Like other noble Lords, I am really pleased that we will have a virtual debate on 6 May, when I know that many other noble Lords from all sides of the House will make the points that they would have made today. We know that there has been a ministerial direction to allow compensation payments to be made ahead of this Bill becoming law. However, as we have heard again today, there has not been a huge number of payments and we have to be a little concerned about that. As we have also heard, people have suffered terrible injustice, and the sooner that financial compensation and a proper and fulsome apology is made to them, the better. I concur with the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Trafford, about the contribution that the Windrush generation has made to our country, and we will forever be grateful to them for that.

Any financial compensation and apology can go only so far to alleviate the hurt and injustice that has befallen people who have been treated so badly, as was highlighted by many noble Lords. That is something that we should not forget. What of the people who have since passed away and are not alive to see the action being taken today to at least correct the wrong that was done to them?

When we discussed these matters previously, I made the point that it is important to have a robust communications plan so victims are informed that there is a scheme in place to compensate them and to right the injustices they have suffered. The Government have been very imaginative with their communications plan. I welcome the Minister outlining that a fund has been made available. That is very important, because we will not get away with a few Facebook posts and a couple of tweets; that would not be good enough. Particularly when we look at the age now of some of the people who suffered this injustice, careful thought has to be given to how we are going to contact people and get in touch with them so that they understand, first, that they have suffered an injustice and, secondly, that the Government want to put this right and that there is a scheme in place.

People have suffered real financial and other hardships. They have been split from their families and friends. It may well be that people have lived or are living very difficult lives elsewhere in the world; we should not forget that. It may well be that people are living off-grid, as it were, where they are presently. We must recognise that.

There also needs to be an acceptance from the authorities that claims for compensation have to be as easy as possible and that excessive form filling, an insistence that items must be submitted online and other bureaucratic obstacles will not be accepted. The description of the form by the noble Lord, Lord Newby, is an example of a bureaucratic obstacle; that is just not acceptable. We cannot have a situation in which people have to fill in these forms and submit them online, or cannot get the file through because the file of evidence is so big that the server will not take it. That is just not acceptable. I look forward to the Minister answering the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Newby. We have to get this right. If these obstacles become another source of grievance, we are just making a dreadful, terrible situation even worse. I know that many noble Lords in this House will not accept that.

The noble Lord, Lord Hastings of Scarisbrick, asked the key question of where communities will be. How can they be assured that the officials operating this scheme will now get this right? What assurance can the Minister give that the Home Office will now get this right? People are genuinely worried about that.

The noble Baroness, Lady Watkins of Tavistock, made the powerful point that we need to be flexible in accepting people’s claims. We will also need an extension of the scheme. I understand why maybe they do not want to extend it over a number of years, but I do not believe that everyone will be covered in the relatively short time the Government have outlined. It will have to be extended, and I fully support the noble Baroness’s call for an extension of the scheme. That would just be plain common sense. I hope Ministers will make sure that the attitude of the officials administering the scheme is right. The last thing we want to hear of in this House or anywhere else is further injustices. Perhaps the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Trafford, can outline how she will assure the House how she, other Ministers and in particular the Home Secretary will review what is happening. How will they apprise themselves of the scheme as it develops, keep it under review and ensure that nothing is mentioned ever again about hostile environments and how people are treated? It would also be good to hear from the Minister what has been going on since the scheme has been up and running. What has the Home Secretary done to ensure that it is being administered properly? It would be good for the House to hear that.

The noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Warwick, highlighted the contribution his parents made—a contribution typical of people who came from the Commonwealth to fight in our wars and to work in our armed services, the NHS and our other public services.

The noble Baroness, Lady Bull, made a similar contribution on the Windrush generation. Her speech and that of the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, reminded me of my friend Sam King, who came from Jamaica, fought in the RAF in the Second World War, then came back and served as a postman. He was a councillor in Southwark—I was privileged to know him—and was its first black mayor. He was a wonderful man who did so much for the Caribbean community and the wider community in Southwark and beyond. He was awarded the MBE for his contributions. He died in June 2016, an example of service and a life well lived. It was a privilege to know him.

We also need to remember that we live in a great country. I am very proud to live in this country and to have been born here, but when you look at our country and its achievements, you see that they were made by immigrants who came here to make a better life for themselves and their families and to contribute to their country. Quite a lot of Members of this and the other House are immigrants, or the children of immigrants. I know that the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, is an immigrant, and I am the child of immigrants. Her parents came here as doctors; my mum came here to work as a nurse in the National Health Service. That is quite typical. I recall the Irish embassy a few years ago doing some work which identified how many Members of the other place had parents who were nurses who came over from Ireland to work in the health service. That highlights to me how lucky we are.

As we battle this terrible Covid-19 pandemic, I am struck by how many people in our police and other blue light services, how many people keeping us safe in our hospitals and care homes, how many people ensuring that our bins are emptied, keeping our children safe from abuse, protecting women from domestic abuse, working in local authorities, keeping the shelves filled in our supermarkets are immigrants. What a disaster would fall on us if they were not here keeping us safe and looking after us. I have seen NHS staff many times holding up signs saying what countries they have come from. That shows what a small world we live in and how lucky we are that they are here.

I am very pleased that the purveyors of awful politics have been silent recently. I hope we hear less and less from these people. They are absent from our screens, and long may that continue. They are not elected and they are appointed to nothing. I certainly hope we never see them again.

I give my full support to the Government on this Bill. Clearly more needs to be done, but it is a step in the right direction. I thank the Government for that and I look forward to the contribution of the noble Baroness in answer to the points we have made.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford - Hansard

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, and everyone who has spoken in this debate. Several things came to mind as I heard the various speakers.

First, my noble friend Lord Taylor of Warwick commented on “no blacks, no Irish, no dogs”. Were that still in force—the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, and I were babies then—half the speakers taking part in this debate would not be allowed in your Lordships’ House. It was lovely to hear the noble Baroness, Lady Watkins, on the back of my noble friend’s point, talk about some of her inspirations as a student nurse.

I also support the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Newby, and the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, about our BME friends who have worked in the fight against Covid-19, many of whom have died in the fight. Many people in this country owe them their lives, and we are eternally grateful to them.

This is rightly a money Bill, because it focuses on matters of financial regularity. The Home Secretary has said that there are still people out there who need our help but whom we have not yet reached—many noble Lords have referred to them today. That is why we have confirmed that we will launch an expanded cross-government Windrush working group to develop programmes to improve the lives of those affected. That might be through employment support programmes, dedicated mental health support or specialist education and training schemes. We will continue to listen to stakeholders as we take forward establishing this group.

Most noble Lords talked about the scope of the scheme. My noble friend Lady Verma, who cannot be here today because she is self-isolating, has asked me to talk about certain aspects of it. The Windrush Compensation Scheme is not limited to men and women who originally came to the UK from the Caribbean Commonwealth and have struggled to demonstrate their lawful status. It is open to Commonwealth citizens who arrived in the UK before 1 January 1973 and who are lawfully here because they have a right of abode or settled status or are now British citizens. It is open also to Commonwealth citizens overseas who settled in the UK before 1 January 1973 and to any person of any nationality who arrived in the UK before 31 December 1988 and is lawfully here because they have a right of abode or settled status or are now a British citizen. The scheme is open also to the children and grandchildren of Commonwealth citizens in certain circumstances, to the estates of those who are now deceased but who would have otherwise been eligible to claim compensation, and to close family members of eligible claimants where there is evidence of certain direct financial losses or significant impact on their life. The noble Lord, Lord Hastings, asked about mental health. Mental health would be covered by this aspect of impact on life.

Data published by the department on 27 February demonstrates that claims are being made by individuals of a range of nationalities, spanning the Commonwealth beyond the Caribbean. The scheme covers a broad range of losses: there are 13 categories under which claims can be made, such as impact on life, which I have just mentioned. There is also a “discretionary” category, which will enable people to claim for other losses not necessarily identified within the scheme. We want to be as flexible about this as possible.

The Government are committed to making sure that everyone who is due compensation can receive it. In designing the scheme, 650 responses to a call for evidence and nearly 1,500 responses to a public consultation informed our approach. We held several public events. Martin Forde QC, who is an experienced barrister on all aspects of health law, was appointed by the previous Home Secretary to advise on the design of the compensation scheme. We have made the evidential threshold as low as possible and will work with claimants to support them in providing as much information as possible to support their claim. However, it is important that we spend public money appropriately and therefore a minimum level of information and evidence is required. Where awards are for actual losses, it is right that we seek to obtain an appropriate level of assurance that those losses were incurred so as to fulfil our duty properly to manage public money.

The aim of this approach is to reimburse in full those who can evidence actual losses. For those who cannot meet the evidential requirements for an award based on actual loss, a tariff award may be made. Our approach is comparable with employment tribunals’ approach for calculating loss of earnings, where an award to cover actual losses generally would be paid where the claimant was able sufficiently to evidence what those could have been.

We have always said that we will listen to feedback on how the scheme is operating and continue to make improvements where they are identified to make sure that it is delivering for those whom it is designed to compensate. The changes announced by this Government earlier this year demonstrate our commitment to do this and to build on changes made to the rules last October.

I can understand concerns that the department which caused the issues facing these individuals should be the one deciding whether they are eligible to receive compensation. I hope that I can give some comfort on this. The Home Office is determined to learn lessons and right the wrongs experienced by the Windrush generation, and the compensation team is working hard to ensure that people get the compensation they deserve. As the Home Secretary said in her Statement on Wendy Williams’ Windrush Lessons Learned Review, we will continue to do everything possible to ensure that the Home Office protects, supports and listens to every single part of the community it serves.

On the operation of the compensation scheme, moving it from the Home Office would risk significantly delaying payments to claimants. I am sure that that is not what anyone would want. The first stage in deciding a claim for compensation is to confirm an individual’s identity and eligibility, and that is linked to the immigration status of an individual. It would be difficult to decouple this from the Home Office without increasing the time taken to process an individual’s claim and issue payments.

We have established an independent review process for those dissatisfied with their compensation offer. The independent review is conducted by the HMRC adjudicator, a non-departmental public body that is completely independent from the Home Office and can look at, among other things, whether the department has followed its policies and the use of discretion by the Windrush compensation team.

Lastly, as an independent adviser to the scheme, Martin Forde continues to provide external scrutiny and challenge on its operation and implementation, and we continue to listen and respond to feedback received from stakeholders to ensure that the scheme is operating effectively for claimants.

The noble Lords, Lord Newby and Lord Taylor, and others, spoke about funding, the impact assessment, award tariffs and caps on the scheme. I say again that the Government are making sure that everyone who is due compensation can receive it. The Windrush compensation scheme awards compensation according to both actual losses and tariff-based awards. While some categories of awards have an upper limit, there is no overall cap on the amount that an individual can receive in compensation under the scheme. There is also an uncapped discretionary category, which is for significant impact or loss not necessarily identified within the scheme.

Noble Lords referred to the updated impact assessment. Published in February, it outlines the Home Office estimates that the Windrush compensation scheme will cost between £90 million and £250 million, based on 11,500 eligible claims. That answers the question from the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Warwick.

Other noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Newby, talked about the sheer breadth and extent of the spectrum of compensation. It has actually reduced since the previous impact assessment was published, due to lower than anticipated claims to date. However, there remains a high degree of uncertainty around the likely volume of compensation claims and the level of claims against the different categories. As a result, the impact assessment uses a number of different volume scenarios with a wide range of possible costs. The department will continue to review estimates as more payments are made, but I want to make it clear that there is no cap on the amount of compensation we will pay out to individuals.

The noble Baroness, Lady Watkins, asked about data on the number of applicants. There will be a quarterly update on GOV.UK. Given that the last update was in December, I am expecting one fairly soon.

The noble Lord, Lord Newby, talked about the number of payments made and the time to process claims, and I think that his challenge is absolutely fair. Up to the end of December, 36 payments had been made, totalling £62,198. We aim to award compensation as quickly as possible, but it does take time to process each claim, and it will depend on the complexity of individual cases. It is right that we take the time to ensure that they are dealt with properly. Where we can resolve part of a claim more quickly than other parts, we are making interim payments to ensure that claimants receive their awards as quickly as possible. Many of the payments made so far are interim payments, which means that claimants may receive further awards later.

The noble Lord, Lord Newby, and the noble Baroness, Lady Watkins, asked what proportion of claimants are successful. The latest data, released in February, to the end of December 2019, show that nobody had been rejected on eligibility grounds. There were some zero awards to eligible people who had not suffered financial loss or detriment.

The noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, made a very good point about people with no recourse to public funds. Many of the measures that Her Majesty’s Government have put in place will support such people—for example, the coronavirus job retention scheme, the self-employment scheme and statutory sick pay are not public funds and are available to all. The Government have given more than £3.2 billion to local authorities to help them support those in need. Of course, for people with no recourse to public funds, that is quite often where the money comes from. Rental and mortgage protections are also available and people on human rights routes can apply to have their “no recourse to public funds” status lifted if their financial circumstances change.

On the length of time, just as a comparator, the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority website suggests that claims under that scheme take 12 to 18 months to conclude, but that is not a reason to justify this. I recognise the strength of feeling, and we are working very hard to ensure that many more receive what they are due quickly. To the end of December, as I have said, no claims had been rejected. The noble Lords, Lord Newby, Lord Kennedy and Lord Hastings, made very good points about communications efforts. Of course, those efforts are not just by way of a quick tweet, as the noble Lord said; they are across the world and we are working extensively with communities and stakeholders to raise awareness of both the Windrush compensation scheme and the Windrush scheme.

The Home Office has attended or hosted more than 100 engagement and outreach events and surgeries throughout the UK, but there is definitely more to do to fulfil our commitment to those affected. It is essential that we engage with people directly. That is why last month we announced the £500,000 community fund that the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, mentioned, to enable grass-roots organisations to promote these schemes, including provision for advice services. We are committed to working with members of the community to shape the design and principles of the fund. That is why we intend to work with stakeholders to co-design the fund.

One thing that the compensation scheme covers under quite a broad category—I have already alluded to it—is the impact on life. This category is specifically designed to cover non-financial impacts that individuals might have faced as a result of being unable to demonstrate their lawful status; for example, an inability to attend significant family occasions, celebrations or events, or family separation. We have heard awful examples in this House of how that has happened. This category is awarded at a series of levels, with payments ranging from £250 for detriment where the effect on the claimant was fairly short lived, up to £10,000-plus where the effect was profound and likely to be irreversible. The scheme is also open to close family members of eligible claimants who may claim compensation in their own right where they have suffered a loss or impact.

The Government also consider it reasonable to expect that individuals who encountered difficulty evidencing their lawful right to be in the UK would have taken steps to try to resolve this. However, we have listened to feedback from stakeholders and affected individuals, and earlier this year we amended our mitigation policy so that a wider range of circumstances and actions taken by individuals to resolve their immigration status or mitigate losses or impacts are considered when deciding awards. Individuals are no longer expected to show that they took immediate steps to resolve their status, and this was clarified in new guidance published on 5 March. These changes mean that affected individuals may qualify for higher awards, particularly where loss of employment is involved.

The noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Warwick, and others talked about claimant assistance and legal advice. We have designed the compensation scheme to be as clear and simple as possible so that people do not need legal assistance to make a claim. The claim forms have been designed to be simple and easy to use and were tested with users.

Evidential requirements have also been designed to be straightforward and not too onerous. However, for those who want or need support to make a claim, the Home Office has funded Citizens Advice to provide free independent advice and support. This is available to individuals at home and overseas. As I said, yesterday we launched the tender to select an organisation to provide free independent advice and support to claimants for the scheme’s duration.

The noble Lord, Lord Newby, mentioned the length of the form. Claimants need to fill in only the bits of the form that are applicable to them. While it might seem like a long form, they have to fill in only the pieces that refer to them.

Many noble Lords—the noble Lords, Lord Newby and Lord Kennedy, and the noble Baroness, Lady Watkins, in particular—mentioned the duration of the scheme. We want to make sure that everyone who wishes to make a claim can do so. That is why we announced earlier this year that we are extending the duration of the scheme until 2023 and why we are doing all we can to raise awareness of it. However, as the Immigration Minister said at Second Reading in the other place:

“There is a balance to be struck between having a date far enough in the future to enable people to feel confident that they have time to make their claim, but soon enough to encourage people to put in their claim.”—[Official Report, Commons, 10/2/20; col. 668.]

We felt that the two-year extension provides this, but the option remains to further extend the duration if it is required. The rules allow for an extension.

Noble Lords also talked about destitution, immediate need and significant hardship. Where people are in immediate need, we have measures in place to provide that extra support. The task force has a dedicated vulnerable persons team to provide help and advice where safeguarding and vulnerability issues are identified. To the end of February 2020, the vulnerable persons team has provided support to nearly 1,400 individuals. We have a fast-track service with the Department for Work and Pensions to confirm status and residence and to arrange access to benefits. We can also help with securing accommodation for those identified as homeless with local authorities. To provide support to members of the Windrush generation who have an urgent and exceptional need, we may also be able to consider a payment under the support in urgent and exceptional circumstances policy. To the end of February 2020, 33 payments have been made under that policy. Finally, the Home Office also has an agreement with Citizens Advice to provide bespoke professional advice, including debt advice, to anyone experiencing immediate financial problems.

All noble Lords talked about the Windrush Lessons Learned Review. On 18 March, the Home Secretary received the review from Wendy Williams, and updated Parliament and published the review at the earliest opportunity on 19 March. It makes compelling reading. It makes it clear that some members of this generation suffered terrible injustices spurred by institutional failings spanning successive Governments over several decades, including

“ignorance and thoughtlessness towards the issue of race and the history of the Windrush generation”.

We are truly sorry on behalf of this and previous Governments that people’s trust has been betrayed.

The Home Secretary will bring forward a detailed formal response in the next six months, as Wendy Williams recommended. As noble Lords will recall, she specifically asked the Home Secretary to take time to reflect on this before she responded.

Noble Lords talked extensively about the compliant environment. The previous Home Secretary, my right honourable friend Sajid Javid, said that the words “hostile environment” would no longer be part of the way that the Home Office operated. The Government are absolutely committed to a fair and humane immigration policy which welcomes and celebrates those here legally, deters immigration offending and protects the taxpayer.

The noble Lord, Lord Newby, talked about the right to rent. This was introduced under the coalition Government and was about tackling unscrupulous employers and landlords to protect the vulnerable while also protecting good employers and landlords. It is in the interests of a fair society that those who play by the rules are supported while those who would otherwise be exploited are protected. The noble Lord talked about losing the right-to-rent judgment. We did not actually lose the judgment: the appeal has been allowed and we will await its outcome.

Gosh, I have gone on for 24 minutes, but I am sure that the House will indulge me. The noble Baroness, Lady Bull, asked about the stakeholder advisory group and how many times it has met. The cross-government group announced by the Home Secretary has not yet met because of Covid-19, but the Home Office stakeholder advisory group has met three times and has focused on communications campaigns—engagement and outreach, grass-roots campaigns and the new national campaign—and working on digital outreach options in the light of coronavirus. She also made a comparison with the furlough scheme. It is not really comparable because that scheme is just about employment and this is so much broader than that. The Windrush Compensation Scheme is dealing with people’s lives in the round and a lot of this goes back many years.

I hope I have answered all noble Lords’ questions. I am sorry to have gone on for 25 minutes. I thank all noble Lords and commend the Bill to the House.

Operation Midland

Debate between Lord Kennedy of Southwark and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Wednesday 18th March 2020

(6 months, 2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford - Hansard

My Lords, there is quite a lot in my noble friend’s follow-up question. I join him in paying tribute to my right honourable friend the Home Secretary, who took very swift action in dealing with this. It is regrettable that there was no plan in place to deliver sustained improvements after Sir Richard’s review. Both HMICFRS and the IOPC have now found that the MPS has delivered significant improvements but, with respect to keeping track of those improvements, the Home Secretary will continue to seek assurances from the MPS that those improvements are being embedded across the force. On whether we will launch an inquiry into Operation Conifer, Operation Conifer and Operation Midland were quite different investigations. Operation Conifer has been subject to significant scrutiny. As Wiltshire Police has made clear, Operation Conifer did not pursue further inquiries into Carl Beech’s allegations after deciding that there was undermining evidence.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab Co-op) - Hansard

My Lords, I see the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Lexden, about Operation Conifer. In respect of all the allegations of historical sexual abuse, can the Minister tell the House how many convictions there have been to date?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford - Hansard

I am glad that the noble Lord raises this because we need to see this in the broader context of historical abuse against children, of which there have been 11,346 non-recent allegations; that is a significant number. In total, 4,024 convictions have resulted from this. It has most definitely been something worth pursuing.

Immigration (Citizens’ Rights Appeals) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020

Debate between Lord Kennedy of Southwark and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Monday 9th March 2020

(6 months, 3 weeks ago)

Grand Committee
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Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark - Hansard

It is absolutely fine. I shall not repeat them because it would detain the Committee longer than necessary, but the noble Baroness has raised some very important points. I support the regulations and we are pleased they are here, but our concern and worry is that the people who are vulnerable are those who have not picked up on the need to use this system. If they do not use it, they will find themselves, in June 2021, to be in the UK illegally, even if they have been here for many years. That is what we are worried about.

The other point of concern is that there have been a few issues in the Home Office in terms of appeals and other problems in the past. We are very worried that someone might find themselves in difficulty, so what we are looking for from the Minister is some reassurance about that and about how people will be treated. What will the Government do to ensure that people know they need to apply for this? It may well be that some of those people who are here from elsewhere in Europe are in quite low-paid jobs, do not have a lot of money and are just not picking up on it. What we do not want is a situation where people do not understand that they need to apply and find themselves in difficulty with the authorities and potentially being removed from this country when, had they applied, they would have been given the right to stay here. That is the reassurance every noble Lord here is looking for. In principle, I am very happy with there now being a right to appeal, so I will leave it there.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford - Hansard

My Lords, I thank both noble Lords for their points. I thought this would be the easy SI and that every noble Lord would be so happy with the appeal processes. The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, asked why so many appeals are successful. An appeal may succeed where new information is provided.

Break in Debate

Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark - Hansard

I understand that when this came up in the Commons the Minister said the thing should be resolved in a couple of weeks. That was a week ago.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford - Hansard

That is because we will be announcing the arrangements for the financial year 2020-21 shortly—in the Budget, I am guessing. I hope that rather clumsily answers the noble Baroness’s questions.

Break in Debate

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford - Hansard

I totally understand that point. It is frustrating for any group or organisation waiting for future funding announcements to be in this position right at the end of the financial year; I really get that. I just want to answer the last point made by the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, on vulnerable people. As he knows, we have set out some funding for organisations who will help vulnerable people. I think they are the last cohort of people on whom our attention will need to focus: as he says, people who do not even know that they must apply. That work is well under way across the country and, given the number of applicants, which is 3.2 million, it is clearly going well for most people, but he is right to raise that final cohort.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark - Hansard

I am glad that the noble Baroness has recognised that point, but can we have an assurance that the Government will look at them sympathetically? There will be people who do not know that they have to apply and, in a few months’ or a year’s time, find themselves illegally in this country who thought they were here legally. I hope that, at that point, the Government will treat people reasonably and understand that it may well be through no fault of their own—they have not picked it up—they are in these difficult situations.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford - Hansard

Totally, and that is what this reasonable grounds process is all about. We actually want to find reasons to grant people settled status, so the point the noble Lord makes about not being harsh on people is absolutely right. The other day, I came across a Romanian lady who did not know what to do. I helped to point her in the right direction of applying. Yes, those people who still do not know now will need that extra bit of help. I beg to move.

Extradition Act 2003 (Amendments to Designations) Order 2020

Debate between Lord Kennedy of Southwark and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Monday 9th March 2020

(6 months, 3 weeks ago)

Grand Committee
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Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab Co-op) - Hansard

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Trafford, for explaining the order. I have no particular comments to make in respect of Norway and Iceland becoming Part 1, and no longer being Part 2, territories other than that, for me, it illustrates what a stupid decision it is no longer to take part in the European arrest warrant procedure. That is obviously for another time but I think that it will benefit nobody but criminals; I am sure that we will come back to that in other debates.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, outlined, there are some concerns about Kuwait and Morocco. In respect of Kuwait, the treaty was signed in 2016 but, since then, it has resumed executions and is now talking about lowering the age at which someone can be executed. There are genuine concerns about that and it would be helpful if the noble Baroness could explain what the process will be. We are genuinely worried. We do not support the death penalty in any circumstances and it would be very worrying if people could potentially be sent back to face it. In addition, Kuwait outlaws same-sex relationships, with a maximum prison sentence of seven years, so, again, we would be very worried if someone in that situation were to be extradited to Kuwait.

It would be useful to hear from the noble Baroness whether the Government have received any assurances from the Kuwaiti authorities since the treaty was signed in 2016 and since that country changed its laws regarding executions. In this respect, in 2018, my noble friend Lord Collins of Highbury tabled a Motion that was debated on the Floor of the House. It would be useful to know whether anything happened following that Motion being debated. I look forward to the noble Baroness’s reply.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford - Hansard

I thank both noble Lords for the questions on this statutory instrument that they have rightly asked. The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, asked whether our intention in the future is to remain part of the ECHR. At the moment, that is our intention, although, as she acknowledged, I cannot speak about what will happen in the future.

The question that I thought might be brought up was about the death penalty in Kuwait. It is important to make it clear at the outset that extradition is prohibited by statute if the person concerned might face the death penalty, unless the Secretary of State gets adequate written assurance that the death penalty will not be imposed. The UK Government oppose the death penalty in all circumstances as a matter of principle. As we all know, it undermines human dignity and there is no conclusive evidence that it is a deterrent. Any miscarriage of justice leading to its imposition is clearly irreparable, so extradition from the UK is not possible where the person has been, will be or could be sentenced to death, and that is made explicitly clear in the Extradition Act.

Extradition is obviously a very important tool in bringing perpetrators to justice. We can maintain extradition relations with countries that have the death penalty while making it absolutely clear that we will never allow a person to be extradited from the UK if they will face the death penalty elsewhere.

Kuwait and Morocco are not listed as priority countries in the FCO’s human rights report. Therefore, no explicit exchange of human rights assurances was sought in addition to those that make up the extradition treaty. The point made by the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, is all the more reason for us to be explicit on extradition and the death penalty.

Our very good relations with both Kuwait and Morocco provide further comfort, so we can raise a range of human rights issues with them. We do so in the context of ongoing bilateral dialogue.

On LGBT status, it is important to note that the same standard of safeguards applies to UK extradition relations with all Part 2 countries. Whether a request is compatible with a person’s human rights is assessed by the UK’s judiciary in extradition cases. If a court found that a person would, for example, be subject to inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment as a result of their extradition, they would not be extradited. I hope that provides the comfort that the Committee rightly seeks on this statutory instrument.

Extradition (Provisional Arrest) Bill [HL]

(Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard): House of Lords)
Debate between Lord Kennedy of Southwark and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Thursday 5th March 2020

(7 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford - Hansard

We will get on to my noble friend’s point, but we use Parliament to make law rather than to make points. I hope he will respect the point that I make.

The noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, asked about obligation to extradite. He is absolutely right. The Bill creates powers for the police, not obligations to other countries.

Amendment 2 requests the publication of an annual statement on arrests. The NCA already keeps data and publishes statistics around arrest volumes in relation to Part 1 of the Extradition Act. It does it without being required to do so by primary legislation. We have no doubt that it will similarly do so in respect of arrests under this new arrest power, as this is a sensible operational practice. I have sympathy for the amendment, so I have asked officials to look at how we can give the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, some reassurance. I hope he will accept that I will liaise with him between now and Report.

I am not persuaded that the either the Secretary of State or the NCA require a statutory obligation to take these steps. I hope I have been able to persuade the noble Lord not to press his amendments, but we will have further discussions between now and Report.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark - Hansard

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in this short debate. I am obviously happy to withdraw my amendment for the moment.

I agree with the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood. The noble Lord, Lord Deben, has also made some important points, which I know we will come to later.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, mentioned Parliamentary Questions. Sometimes, the Answers we get are not very good, to say the least. That goes across government. I am going to have to start tabling Questions about Parliamentary Answers. I asked one recently of another department. I asked, “What do we here?” and the Answer had no bearing whatever on the Question. I raised that with the Minister concerned and he accepted that. I thought, “Just answer the Question. If you can’t answer it, tell me you can’t answer it.” They had sent back a ridiculous Answer that had no bearing and it is not good enough. Unfortunately, that is a problem across government. Maybe we need a debate in the House about it. I am going to try putting in FoIs and comparing answers between PQs and FoIs. Will the answers be as bad there? We will see. But that is a separate issue. I would love to think that PQs were the answer; unfortunately, in my experience of being here for nearly 10 years, they are not.

Having said that, I am pleased with the Minister’s response, especially to my second amendment. I look forward to further discussions between now and Report. On that basis, I am happy to withdraw my amendment.