Debates between Lord Rosser and Baroness Williams of Trafford

There have been 114 exchanges between Lord Rosser and Baroness Williams of Trafford

1 Wed 23rd September 2020 Immigration (Health Charge) (Amendment) Order 2020
Home Office
2 interactions (1,440 words)
2 Tue 22nd September 2020 Brexit: Refugee Protection and Asylum Policy (EUC Report)
Home Office
2 interactions (4,165 words)
3 Wed 16th September 2020 Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill
Home Office
8 interactions (3,659 words)
4 Mon 14th September 2020 Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill
Home Office
11 interactions (5,870 words)
5 Wed 9th September 2020 Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill
Home Office
14 interactions (4,665 words)
6 Wed 9th September 2020 Investigatory Powers (Communications Data) (Relevant Public Authorities and Designated Senior Officers) Regulations 2020
Home Office
2 interactions (197 words)
7 Mon 7th September 2020 Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill
Home Office
2 interactions (664 words)
8 Mon 7th September 2020 Digital Evidence
Home Office
3 interactions (172 words)
9 Thu 3rd September 2020 Channel Crossings in Small Boats
Home Office
2 interactions (275 words)
10 Wed 2nd September 2020 Investigatory Powers (Communications Data) (Relevant Public Authorities and Designated Senior Officers) Regulations 2020
Home Office
2 interactions (1,642 words)
11 Wed 29th July 2020 Hong Kong British National (Overseas) Visa
Home Office
3 interactions (170 words)
12 Wed 22nd July 2020 Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill
Home Office
2 interactions (3,341 words)
13 Tue 21st July 2020 Knife Crime
Home Office
3 interactions (256 words)
14 Thu 16th July 2020 Terrorism Act 2000 (Proscribed Organisations) (Amendment) (No. 2) Order 2020
Home Office
2 interactions (1,403 words)
15 Wed 15th July 2020 Metropolitan Police: Racism
Home Office
3 interactions (151 words)
16 Fri 10th July 2020 Port Examination Codes of Practice and National Security Determinations Guidance Regulations 2020
Home Office
2 interactions (2,348 words)
17 Tue 7th July 2020 Immigration: Detainee Support
Home Office
3 interactions (197 words)
18 Tue 30th June 2020 Covid-19: Support and Accommodation for Asylum Seekers
Home Office
2 interactions (285 words)
19 Mon 22nd June 2020 Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse
Home Office
3 interactions (230 words)
20 Mon 15th June 2020 Black Lives Matter: Protests
Home Office
3 interactions (319 words)
21 Wed 10th June 2020 Quarantine: Scientific Advice
Home Office
3 interactions (294 words)
22 Thu 4th June 2020 Child Sex Predators
Home Office
3 interactions (175 words)
23 Wed 6th May 2020 Windrush Compensation Scheme
Home Office
2 interactions (4,427 words)
24 Wed 6th May 2020 National Asylum Support Service
Home Office
3 interactions (229 words)
25 Tue 5th May 2020 Policing: Covid-19 Guidance and Legislation
Home Office
3 interactions (313 words)
26 Thu 19th March 2020 Windrush Lessons Learned Review
Home Office
2 interactions (2,256 words)
27 Thu 19th March 2020 County Lines Drug Trafficking
Home Office
3 interactions (298 words)
28 Tue 17th March 2020 Anti-terrorism Policy
Home Office
3 interactions (216 words)
29 Mon 16th March 2020 Metropolitan Police: Live Facial Recognition
Home Office
3 interactions (180 words)
30 Tue 25th February 2020 Immigration: Points-based System
Home Office
2 interactions (2,399 words)
31 Mon 3rd February 2020 Net Migration
Home Office
3 interactions (202 words)
32 Mon 3rd February 2020 Operation Midland
Home Office
3 interactions (258 words)
33 Tue 21st January 2020 Health: Alcohol Abuse
Home Office
3 interactions (243 words)
34 Wed 15th January 2020 Extinction Rebellion: Prevent Programme
Home Office
3 interactions (228 words)
35 Wed 8th January 2020 Queen’s Speech
Ministry of Justice
2 interactions (4,326 words)
36 Wed 23rd October 2019 EU Settlement Scheme
Home Office
3 interactions (259 words)
37 Mon 21st October 2019 Queen’s Speech
Home Office
2 interactions (2,329 words)
38 Wed 16th October 2019 Metropolitan Police: Use of Section 14 of the Public Order Act 1986
Home Office
3 interactions (421 words)
39 Tue 8th October 2019 Sir Richard Henriques Report
Home Office
3 interactions (249 words)
40 Tue 8th October 2019 Visa Applications: Dr Mu-Chun Chiang
Home Office
3 interactions (326 words)
41 Mon 7th October 2019 Operation Midland
Home Office
3 interactions (845 words)
42 Mon 7th October 2019 Asylum Seekers: Employment
Home Office
3 interactions (244 words)
43 Tue 23rd July 2019 Immigration: Children
Home Office
3 interactions (200 words)
44 Thu 18th July 2019 Immigration Detention: Victims of Modern Slavery
Home Office
3 interactions (943 words)
45 Thu 18th July 2019 Immigration Staff: Recruitment
Home Office
3 interactions (386 words)
46 Mon 15th July 2019 Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 (Amendment) Order 2019
Home Office
10 interactions (1,675 words)
47 Thu 11th July 2019 Public Spaces Protection Orders
Home Office
3 interactions (297 words)
48 Tue 9th July 2019 Migrant Children: Welfare
Home Office
2 interactions (2,858 words)
49 Thu 4th July 2019 Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse
Home Office
3 interactions (355 words)
50 Thu 27th June 2019 Knife Crime
Home Office
2 interactions (4,488 words)
51 Wed 26th June 2019 Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006 (Specified Scottish Authority and Barred Lists) Order 2019
Home Office
5 interactions (1,764 words)
52 Wed 26th June 2019 Homophobic Attacks
Home Office
3 interactions (352 words)
53 Wed 19th June 2019 Immigration and Asylum Applications
Home Office
3 interactions (393 words)
54 Mon 10th June 2019 Asylum Seekers
Home Office
3 interactions (305 words)
55 Tue 14th May 2019 Grooming Gangs
Home Office
2 interactions (1,157 words)
56 Tue 7th May 2019 Places of Worship: Protective Security Funding
Home Office
2 interactions (1,531 words)
57 Tue 30th April 2019 Overseas Students: TOEIC Tests
Home Office
3 interactions (1,030 words)
58 Wed 5th December 2018 Religious Hate Speech
Home Office
3 interactions (391 words)
59 Mon 3rd December 2018 Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill
Home Office
10 interactions (1,500 words)
60 Wed 28th November 2018 Investigatory Powers Tribunal Rules 2018
Home Office
2 interactions (954 words)
61 Wed 28th November 2018 Immigration (Health Charge) (Amendment) Order 2018
Home Office
4 interactions (1,147 words)
62 Wed 21st November 2018 Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 (Amendment) Order 2018
Home Office
9 interactions (1,002 words)
63 Wed 21st November 2018 Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire (Fire and Rescue Authority) Order 2018
Home Office
6 interactions (1,806 words)
64 Tue 20th November 2018 Crime (Overseas Production Orders) Bill [HL]
Home Office
2 interactions (202 words)
65 Thu 15th November 2018 Police: Serious and Violent Crime
Home Office
3 interactions (251 words)
66 Wed 14th November 2018 Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill
Home Office
19 interactions (3,939 words)
67 Mon 12th November 2018 Stop and Search Powers
Home Office
3 interactions (590 words)
68 Mon 12th November 2018 Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill
Home Office
10 interactions (1,609 words)
69 Mon 5th November 2018 Brexit: Arrangements for EU Citizens
Home Office
3 interactions (604 words)
70 Mon 5th November 2018 Knife Crime
Home Office
3 interactions (361 words)
71 Wed 31st October 2018 Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill
Leader of the House
5 interactions (1,415 words)
72 Mon 29th October 2018 Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill
Home Office
4 interactions (212 words)
73 Thu 25th October 2018 Immigration
Home Office
2 interactions (2,177 words)
74 Thu 25th October 2018 Border Force: Heathrow Airport
Home Office
3 interactions (218 words)
75 Mon 22nd October 2018 Crime (Overseas Production Orders) Bill [HL]
Home Office
2 interactions (235 words)
76 Mon 15th October 2018 Asylum Applications
Home Office
3 interactions (216 words)
77 Tue 9th October 2018 Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill
Home Office
2 interactions (5,029 words)
78 Tue 11th September 2018 Brexit: Europol
Home Office
3 interactions (155 words)
79 Mon 10th September 2018 Crime (Overseas Production Orders) Bill [HL]
Home Office
17 interactions (3,558 words)
80 Wed 5th September 2018 Crime (Overseas Production Orders) Bill [HL]
Home Office
21 interactions (4,257 words)
81 Tue 24th July 2018 Immigration Detention: Shaw Review
Home Office
2 interactions (2,244 words)
82 Tue 24th July 2018 Immigration (Provision of Physical Data) (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2018
Home Office
8 interactions (1,661 words)
83 Tue 24th July 2018 Rendition of UK Citizens
Home Office
3 interactions (876 words)
84 Mon 16th July 2018 Cannabis: Medicinal Use
Home Office
3 interactions (231 words)
85 Thu 12th July 2018 Operation Conifer: Funding
Home Office
3 interactions (241 words)
86 Wed 11th July 2018 Crime (Overseas Production Orders) Bill [HL]
Home Office
2 interactions (2,813 words)
87 Mon 9th July 2018 Amesbury Update
Home Office
2 interactions (1,443 words)
88 Fri 29th June 2018 Registration of Marriage Bill [HL]
Home Office
2 interactions (333 words)
89 Thu 28th June 2018 Police and Crime Commissioners
Home Office
2 interactions (4,153 words)
90 Wed 27th June 2018 Immigration (Guidance on Detention of Vulnerable Persons) Regulations and the Detention Centre (Amendment) Rules 2018
Home Office
4 interactions (2,307 words)
91 Tue 26th June 2018 Airports: Border Force
Home Office
3 interactions (225 words)
92 Thu 21st June 2018 EU Settlement Scheme
Home Office
2 interactions (2,342 words)
93 Tue 19th June 2018 Drugs Licensing
Home Office
2 interactions (1,555 words)
94 Mon 18th June 2018 Home Office: Immigration
Home Office
3 interactions (313 words)
95 Thu 21st December 2017 Terrorism Act 2000 (Proscribed Organisations) (Amendment) Order 2017
Home Office
2 interactions (409 words)
96 Fri 15th December 2017 Immigration Control (Gross Human Rights Abuses) Bill [HL]
Home Office
2 interactions (1,796 words)
97 Fri 15th December 2017 Refugees (Family Reunion) Bill [HL]
Home Office
2 interactions (2,824 words)
98 Thu 7th December 2017 Islam: Tenets
Home Office
2 interactions (1,489 words)
99 Mon 27th November 2017 Randox and Trimega Laboratories
Home Office
3 interactions (1,043 words)
100 Thu 2nd November 2017 Calais: Refugees
Home Office
2 interactions (1,258 words)
101 Tue 31st October 2017 Hamas
Home Office
3 interactions (176 words)
102 Mon 30th October 2017 Deaths in Police Custody
Home Office
2 interactions (2,768 words)
103 Tue 24th October 2017 Daphne Caruana Galizia
Home Office
3 interactions (302 words)
104 Mon 23rd October 2017 Banks: Immigration Act 2016
Home Office
3 interactions (173 words)
105 Wed 11th October 2017 Operation Conifer
Home Office
3 interactions (268 words)
106 Tue 10th October 2017 Immigration: International Students
Home Office
3 interactions (253 words)
107 Thu 7th September 2017 Cannabis
Home Office
2 interactions (1,640 words)
108 Wed 6th September 2017 Psychoactive Substances Act 2016
Home Office
3 interactions (251 words)
109 Wed 6th September 2017 Prevent Strategy
Home Office
3 interactions (293 words)
110 Wed 19th July 2017 Refugees
Home Office
2 interactions (2,344 words)
111 Wed 19th July 2017 Immigration Act 2016
Home Office
3 interactions (788 words)
112 Mon 10th July 2017 Security in the UK
Home Office
2 interactions (5,392 words)
113 Tue 4th July 2017 Immigration Centre Detainees: Pay
Home Office
3 interactions (273 words)
114 Thu 29th June 2017 Police: Senior Posts
Home Office
3 interactions (351 words)

Immigration (Health Charge) (Amendment) Order 2020

Debate between Lord Rosser and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Wednesday 23rd September 2020

(5 days, 12 hours ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Home Office
Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who contributed to what was quite a quick debate; nevertheless, they were thoughtful and insightful contributions. The health charge remains an attractive offer for migrants. It provides near comprehensive access to NHS services without further charge, regardless of the amount of care needed. It is not there to reduce migration, as the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, attests; moreover, it ensures that migrants do not need to worry about meeting the cost of unexpected treatment or arranging health insurance, which, for some people with health conditions, must be costly.

I turn to some of the specific issues that were raised. As set out in our manifesto, the Government believe that the health charge rate should broadly reflect the cost of treating those who pay it. However, the rates for students and those eligible for the youth mobility scheme will continue to be discounted. As I said, a new discounted rate for children will be introduced. The increased surcharge will continue to represent a very good deal for migrants who pay it, given the range of NHS services that can be accessed without further charge. The cost compares favourably to private medical insurance here and abroad, which is a common requirement for individuals wishing to migrate to many other countries.

We are really grateful to our essential workers and key workers who have performed such a public service throughout this pandemic, including emergency service workers, transport workers, teachers, delivery drivers, supermarket workers and many others. However, it is only fair to expect people arriving in the UK who work in non-healthcare roles to make a contribution to the full range of NHS services they can access from the point of arrival.

I will talk a bit about the reimbursement scheme, because the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, touched upon it. Tier 2 migrants who paid the health charge on or after 31 March 2020, but who would have qualified for the new health and care visa had it been in operation at this time, are being refunded. Migrants who work in the NHS and the wider health and care sector and who paid the charge on or after 31 March but who do not qualify for the health and care visa may be eligible for reimbursement of the charge. In July of this year, the Minister for Health announced that this scheme would be launched in October. As I said earlier, more details will be published by the Department of Health and Social Care shortly.

Volunteers have been raised today and previously, and we absolutely pay tribute to the contribution they make to our communities. The Department of Health and Social Care is considering who will be eligible to apply for the surcharge reimbursement scheme and will publish that information shortly.

On tier 2 refunds, tier 2 migrants and their dependants who paid the health surcharge on or after 31 March of this year are, as I said previously, being refunded. Those who believe they are eligible for a refund on this basis may contact the Home Office; the relevant contact details are available on the GOV.UK website.

The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, and others talked about the impact on families and young people and the total cost of the applications people are faced with paying. I am absolutely aware of concerns regarding the combined costs—I think the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, raised this—of both the health charge and the visa fees, and the impact that this might have on families and young people in particular. The Government are committed to ensuring that the surcharge remains affordable for family groups and intend to provide, through this draft order, a reduced surcharge rate for children. The Government are clear, however, that migrants must pay the charge when they make an immigration application and should plan their finances accordingly.

The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, talked about those in a vulnerable situation, perhaps facing destitution. There is a fee waiver in place for those making specified human rights applications who are destitute or at risk of imminent destitution. Where the fee is waived, the requirement to pay the health charge is accordingly waived also. If you can demonstrate that you do not have adequate accommodation or any means of obtaining it, or cannot meet other essential living needs, that would be considered destitution.

The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, asked what cut the Home Office takes of the £624. I do not know if the Home Office does take a cut; he is asserting that it does. I do not have the answer today, and I will find that out for him. However, as to how the Government estimate the cost to the NHS of treating the charge payers, that was produced by the Department of Health and Social Care. Not to buck-pass, but the cost was produced by the DHSC, based on analysis it carried out in April 2019 using—the noble Lord is absolutely right—2017-18 NHS England data. I do not know how that data differs from the following year, but I will find out, and therefore get a more up-to-date picture for the noble Lord. The small increase from the previous analysis was mainly driven by health inflation and updated data. Mindful of the need to ensure that the surcharge is not set above cost recovery, the Government have decided to set the surcharge at £624 per person per year.

The noble Lord, Lord Mann, asked about recharging. It is something that has exercised me in the past: we pay ever so much and we get so little back. I do not know what the up-to-date figures are—he tells me £49 million versus £600 million, which is quite a gap indeed—but clearly it is a matter for the NHS to collect the money. The noble Lord is nodding in an exasperated way—he knows that. If I can, I will get him more information on what the up-to-date figure might be.

The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, asked how we are targeting people affected by the change. We are looking to engage as many eligible people as possible through various means of communication.

The noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, talked about other people who may not be eligible but who have played their part in tackling the pandemic. While currently a subcategory of the tier 2 immigration route, the health and care visa offer will form part of the future skilled workers route. We intend to review the list of eligible occupations that can benefit from the offer to reflect the introduction of the expanded skills threshold, ensuring that those health and care professionals who meet the skills threshold can benefit from this offer.

I hope that I have answered all the questions. If I have not, I will follow up in writing.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) - Hansard

I thank the Minister for her reply and thank all noble Lords who have contributed to this debate. I will be brief. I am not sure that I have really had an answer to my question. Bearing in mind that some people coming into the country under the tier 2 visa will get automatic exemption, why can that not apply to all those in the health and care sector? I asked why we had to have refunds and why there could not be an exemption for all, but I did not get a very clear answer.

I also raised the specific issue of why it is necessary to make a dramatic increase in the healthcare charge now, when we are in the middle of a pandemic? A lot of those affected will be financially very stretched, and in certain circumstances will potentially have to pay the increase. I have not had an answer as to why that increase must be brought into effect now. The Minister quoted a manifesto commitment, but manifesto commitments do not all have to be implemented immediately. I do not suppose that when the manifesto was written it was envisaged that we would be in the middle of a pandemic crisis at this time. I have not really had an answer as to why it is necessary to make these substantial increases now.

However, I will leave it at that. I have made our two points, which are reflected in the amendment. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, for indicating that if I pushed it to a vote, I would have the support of the Liberal Democrats. I do not intent to do so. It has been an interesting debate and I have made clear the basis of our regrets about this SI. I am very grateful to noble Lords for their contributions and thank the Minister for her response. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Brexit: Refugee Protection and Asylum Policy (EUC Report)

Debate between Lord Rosser and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Tuesday 22nd September 2020

(6 days, 12 hours ago)

Grand Committee
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Home Office
Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) [V] - Hansard

It is hardly satisfactory to be debating an EU Committee report nearly 12 months after it was published. While I am more than aware that there have been major difficulties this year, equally, I can recall that there were times this summer when this House did not have a full day’s business. Nevertheless, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Jay of Ewelme, and the former Home Affairs Sub-Committee on their measured and informative report, which seeks to bring both calmness of thought and the facts to bear on an issue that is all too often the subject of exaggeration and excessive emotion.

In the light of the Government revoking the Dublin III regulation at the end of the transition period and not keeping it as retained EU law, the committee considered what the impact would be of the UK ceasing to participate in the Dublin system after Brexit. It concluded that it

“would result in the loss of a safe, legal route for the reunification of separated refugee families in Europe. Vulnerable unaccompanied children would find their family reunion rights curtailed, as Dublin offers them the chance to be reunited with a broader range of family members than under current UK Immigration Rules.”

The report also stated:

“After Brexit, the UK is also likely to find it more difficult to enforce the principle that people in need of protection should claim asylum in the first safe country that they reach. Without access to the Eurodac database, it is unclear how the UK would be able to identify asylum applicants who have already been registered in another European country. And a new returns agreement (or agreements) would be needed for the UK to be able to send asylum seekers back to their first point of entry to the EU.”

A further issue raised by the committee was the potential impact of Brexit on our bilateral relationships with EU member states and, in particular, on the arrangements with France and Belgium, which allow us to check passengers and freight en route to the UK before they begin their journey, and on the co-operation between UK, French and Belgian border agencies to address the issue of migrants attempting to cross the channel in small boats. The committee recommended:

“Future UK-EU asylum cooperation should take the Dublin System as its starting point and would ideally be based on continued UK access to the Eurodac database … All routes to family reunion available under the Dublin System should be maintained”.

In their response to the committee in March this year, the Government said that

“the UK does not intend to replicate the Dublin Regulation”

although they were seeking, as has been said, a close partnership with the EU on asylum and illegal immigration, as well as a new agreement with the EU for the family reunion of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in the EU with family members in the UK. However, the Government’s European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020 removed the previous legal obligation to seek to negotiate such an agreement.

The EU Committee has since raised further questions in a letter last May arising from the Government’s response to its report in March of this year. A feature of that letter was the number of occasions in which it was stated that, despite waiting five months for the Government’s response to the report we are now debating, a number of recommendations or specific points had not been addressed. Can the Government explain in their reply to this debate why that happened and whether the Home Office response to a report is seen and cleared by Ministers before it is sent?

Can the Government also say why the response to the further letter from the EU Committee was apparently received only some months later, earlier this afternoon? I have not seen it but, subject to what the Government may say in response, the last-minute reply just before this debate tends to sum up their negative attitude to the role of Parliament. I noted with interest the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Ricketts, on Ministers’ non-attendance at committees.

It would be helpful if the Government in their reply to this debate could give their responses to the questions raised in the follow-up letter of May this year, some of which I want to repeat so that the answers are on the record in Hansard. The committee wanted to know whether the Government would seek to negotiate an interim agreement to support refugee family reunion, as urged in its report, in the event of no deal on asylum and immigration matters being reached by the end of the transition period. Are the Government seeking to maintain all routes to family reunion currently available under the Dublin system as part of the

“ambitious new partnership on asylum and immigration”

they were seeking?

In its report, the committee concluded that a future agreement with the EU on asylum and immigration should uphold a range of minimum standards for refugee protection. Are the Government committed to including such minimum standards in a future agreement? If so, what minimum standards are the Government seeking? How would the parties’ adherence to these minimum standards be supervised? How and by whom would they be enforced?

The EU committee report referred to the EU Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund and said that the UK had been the largest recipient of funding, having been allocated—I seem to remember—€370 million to spend on national priorities, such as improving Home Offices processes and the returns programme, and in support of refugee resettlement programmes and integration measures. Can the Government in their reply to this debate today say whether they plan to replace the support provided by the EU Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund? Can the Government, either today or subsequently, say how much funding the UK has received from the EU Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund over the past 10 years, with a breakdown of how, and on what, it has been spent?

The EU committee supported the Government’s intention to establish a single global refugee resettlement programme this year by consolidating existing schemes. My noble friend Lord Dubs and the noble Lord, Lord Kerr of Kinlochard, both referred to this. Can the Government indicate, if they have not already done this, when they will be providing a detailed summary to local authorities of how the new global resettlement scheme will operate and what that information will include? Can the Government also say in their response what they think were the factors that led many local authorities not to participate in the previous resettlement schemes and how they intend to encourage more authorities to participate in the global resettlement scheme?

The report we are considering urged the Government to offer the same package of financial and other integration support to all recognised refugees in the UK, irrespective of whether they arrived through a resettlement programme or as an asylum seeker. Can the Government say whether they will ensure that all recognised refugees in the UK receive equality of support, no matter how they arrive in this country?

On agreements with third countries, on readmission or co-operation to address the causes of migration, the committee recommended that all such agreements should be subject to formal human rights assessments. Can the Government say whether they will be doing this and, if so, which human rights standards will be applied? Will the Government’s assessment be subject to independent verification and, if so, by which body?

A number of issues and points have been raised by noble Lords on refugee protection and asylum policy over the past two hours or so. I hope government answers will now be forthcoming because we are approaching the deadline day for determining our future immigration policy, including on this issue, with some rapidity and even more uncertainty. It looks as though the role of Parliament in influencing and determining that policy will be as minimal as the Government can make it because future policy depends on the outcome of negotiations with the EU, negotiations that will be concluded, at best, very late in the day, and over which Parliament has little or no meaningful say or influence, with the essential specifics of our future immigration policy, including refugee protection and asylum policy, being laid down in secondary legislation, which cannot be amended, rather than in primary legislation. Quite sweeping powers are being grabbed by the Government, which they can then exercise with little meaningful challenge or direct accountability. Specific answers from the Government to the many questions and points raised in this debate today would therefore be both welcome and much needed. I hope I am wrong in suspecting that those answers will also prove elusive.

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 Jay, for tabling a discussion on the report published last year by the EU Home Affairs Sub-Committee on Brexit: Refugee Protection and Asylum Policy. I start by issuing two apologies: first, that the letter to noble Lords arrived only this morning, and secondly, that a Home Office Minister is not available to appear at the Select Committee next week. I will take that second point away and see what can be done for this time next week. I am grateful to noble Lords for alerting me to that. I hope the letter proves useful. There is only one part of it where I am going to have to provide figures. The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, asked about the replacement of the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund. The breakdown of the numbers is not in the letter, but I will try to provide that breakdown, if I can.

I thank the members of the committee for their very thoughtful contributions this afternoon and for the work they have done in producing this report. It made a number of conclusions and recommendations, and I will look at each in turn. The noble Lords, Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale and Lord Roberts of Llandudno, my noble friend Lady Warsi, and other noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Dubs—I think—made the important point about how we treat those who need our refuge being a reflection on us as a nation. I agree with that. The noble Lord, Lord Bhatia, talked about the Ugandan Asians and how we gave them our refuge all those years ago. He also asked me for the published figures on 319X, which I am afraid I do not have. I agree with the committee’s principle that the way that we treat others is a reflection of ourselves.

The committee calls on the Government to offer public reassurances that they have no intention of curtailing the rights and protections afforded to refugees in the UK after Brexit. I can be quite clear from the outset, and I have said this before: this Government will continue to provide protection to refugees in the UK in accordance with the 1951 refugee convention. We will continue to support refugee resettlement and integration in the UK now that we have left the EU and after the end of the transition period—to answer all noble Lords who have made that point.

The report stated that

“it is vital that refugees and asylum seekers are considered in any agreement on the future UK-EU relationship.”

Notwithstanding the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, the UK has made a genuine and sincere offer on asylum and migration co-operation with the EU. While I do not intend to comment on negotiations, as they are ongoing, the Government have always been clear that our offer is in the interests of both the UK and EU, although I note that the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, is shaking his head. The issue is of the utmost importance to the UK and a core part of the UK’s whole-of-route approach to migration.

The report notes the Government’s position not to participate in burden-sharing measures, although comments that it would be in the UK’s interests to do so. That does not align with this Government’s view. Rather, we are of the opinion that a redistribution mechanism is likely to further increase flows to Europe, continuing the risk of more and more people making dangerous journeys. For these reasons, the UK is unwilling to participate in a voluntary relocation programme and, as such, we would not expect the future EU-UK relationship to be underpinned by such a proposal.

Now that the UK has left the EU, at the end of the transition period the UK will also cease to be party to the Dublin III regulation. The committee commented that Dublin represents a more desirable and realistic foundation for the future UK-EU asylum relationship than new agreements. However, the Government do not intend to replicate Dublin; instead, we are seeking an ambitious new partnership on asylum and illegal migration. Dublin is an EU law and it is right that, as an independent, sovereign country, we form our own arrangements at the end of the transition period. The UK will no longer be subject to EU directives or part of the common European asylum system at the end of the transition period. This includes having our own standards on asylum procedures and reception arrangements. The UK already has high standards for how we operate our asylum system, and we will continue to be a world leader in this area.

The report comments that human rights considerations must be at the heart of any future agreements with third countries on readmissions and illegal migration, and the Government agree wholeheartedly. That is why all returns cases are considered on a case-by-case basis, taking into account relevant case law and country conditions, based on evidence from a wide range of sources, including human rights organisations. We regularly monitor and review the situation in countries of origin, working closely with the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. We will continue to uphold our obligation of non-refoulement under the refugee convention, by which we will continue to be bound.

The Government have proposed that the EU and UK enter into a comprehensive readmissions agreement. This would allow for the return of EU, UK and third-country nationals who have entered the UK directly from an EU country, and vice versa. The UK’s preference is to agree a readmissions agreement with the EU, but this is a two-way negotiation so the outcome will also depend on EU co-operation. The Government have also presented a genuine and sincere offer to the EU for a new, reciprocal arrangement for the family reunion of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in the EU with family members in the UK, where it is in the child’s best interests, and for children in the UK with family in the EU in equivalent circumstances, once the UK ceases participating in the Dublin regulation at the end of the transition period.

On 19 May, we published a draft legal text as a constructive contribution to negotiations. We have tabled a draft legal text for a negotiated agreement for a state-to-state referral and transfer system which would provide clear and consistent processes between the UK and EU member states, ensuring appropriate support for the child, and guaranteeing reciprocity. These guarantees cannot be provided for in UK domestic provisions alone. Even though the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, presses me to, I cannot provide a running commentary on this but, on that point about Eurodac, we are very keen to reach an agreement on biometric data sharing, for very obvious reasons.

The committee commented that it is imperative that the right to reunion for refugee families should not be restricted after we are no longer part of Dublin. The UK already provides safe and legal routes to bring families together through its refugee family reunion policy and under the family provisions in Part 8 and Appendix FM of the Immigration Rules. These routes are not affected by the UK’s exit from the EU. There is no intention to negotiate new arrangements to replace the family reunion provisions of the Dublin regulation for adults and accompanied children at this time, as we believe our domestic family reunion provisions offer sufficient family reunion routes. We recognise that families can become separated because of the nature of conflict and persecution, and the speed and manner in which people are often forced to flee their country. The Government’s family reunion policy allows those granted family reunion status or humanitarian protection in the United Kingdom to sponsor their pre-flight partner and minor children to join them here. To half-answer the question put by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, I say that the Home Office has granted over 29,000 family reunion visas under the refugee family reunion Immigration Rules over the last five years, more than half of which were issued to children. But I shall endeavour to get her figures for the last 10 years.

The report also recommends that the definition of family members eligible for reunion should be expanded to include adult children. I should point out that there are separate provisions in the rules to allow extended family to sponsor children to come here when there are serious and compelling circumstances. Where an application fails under the Immigration Rules, we consider whether there are exceptional circumstances or compassionate reasons to justify granting leave to enter or remain in the UK, outside of the Immigration Rules. We have published guidance which aims to provide advice on the types of cases that might benefit from this discretion, including young adult sons or daughters who are dependent on family here and living in dangerous situations. Refugees can also sponsor adult dependent relatives living overseas to join them when, due to age, illness or disability, that person requires long-term personal care that can be provided only by relatives in the UK.

The committee supports the campaign to expand refugee family reunion to include children being able to sponsor parents. The noble Lords, Lord Ricketts and Lord Jay, and the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, made that point, among others. On this matter, noble Lords will not be surprised to hear that we are quite clear and have repeatedly made clear the Government’s concern that allowing refugee children in the UK to sponsor parents would create further incentives for more children to be encouraged, or even forced, to leave their family to make that journey to the UK to sponsor relatives, in the manner that my noble friend Lord Blencathra points out. They often have hazardous journeys in the substandard vessels that we have seen so often on the television. Our view is that this plays into the hands of criminal gangs, which exploit vulnerable people, and that goes against our safeguarding responsibilities. Meanwhile, the UK will continue to participate in the Dublin III regulation throughout the transition period, including the family reunion provisions. Just to clarify for the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, I say that children do not apply under Dublin; it is a state-to-state transfer referral system.

Under the Immigration, Nationality and Asylum (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 there is a saving provision to explicitly ensure that any Dublin family reunion cases that have entered the system prior to the end of the transition period will continue to be processed beyond that date. The noble Lords, Lord Jay and Lord Loomba, and the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, all made that point. I note that the committee was not satisfied that these regulations would provide sufficient protection against disruption to family reunion routes and suggested a temporary extension of current arrangements. As I have made clear, the UK will be leaving the Dublin regulation at the end of the transition period. It is right that, as an independent, sovereign nation, we are no longer bound by EU regulation. The saving provision offers certainty that those cases that entered the system prior to the end of the transition period will continue to be processed.

Continuing with unaccompanied children, the committee expressed its disappointment that the Government did not establish a guardianship service in England and Wales for all unaccompanied migrant children. In response to the report’s concern about unaccompanied children, I stress that the Home Office takes its responsibility for the welfare of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children extremely seriously. Comprehensive statutory and policy safeguards and arrangements are already in place for supporting children through the asylum process and ensuring that their best interests are a primary consideration in every decision taken in respect of them.

The noble Lord, Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale, asked about the number of children in detention. I am pretty certain that figure is nought and that that stopped some time ago, but I will double-check and write to him if it is any different.

I differ with the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, on local authorities not supporting unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. All unaccompanied asylum-seeking children are looked after by local authorities, which are their corporate parents. They have a statutory duty to ensure that they safeguard and promote their welfare. Under these arrangements, unaccompanied asylum-seeking children are provided with access to support and services in line with other looked-after children in that local authority’s care.

The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, asked why not all local authorities participated in the resettlement schemes. That is responded to in the letter. We cannot force local authorities to participate in these schemes, but I am very pleased to say that more than 320 have. We are very grateful to them for all the children they have taken and who they care for.

To take the point from the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, children are allocated a social worker, who will assess their needs and draw up a care plan, which sets out how the authority intends to respond to the full range of the child’s needs, including their immigration status. In addition to this support from local authorities, legal advice is available to unaccompanied asylum-seeking children from legal representatives.

In England, unaccompanied asylum-seeking children are referred to the Refugee Council’s children’s advice project, which provides independent advice and assistance to help the child in their interaction with the Home Office and other central and local government agencies. We believe these comprehensive arrangements already provide unaccompanied children with the necessary specialist advice and support that they need.

To speak to the point from the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, in acknowledgment of the likely increased support needs of trafficked children, in July 2018 the Government reaffirmed their commitment to the full national rollout of independent child trafficking guardians across England and Wales. These people are an additional source of advice and support for all trafficked children, irrespective of nationality, and someone who can advocate on their behalf. One-third of all local authorities in England and Wales are now covered by this provision.

The committee urged the Government to provide regular updates on progress of the Dubs scheme. I know that noble Lords are aware that the Government have successfully delivered this commitment and in July we announced that we had completed the transfer of all 480 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children from Greece, France and Italy under the scheme.

My noble friend Lady Warsi and the noble Lord, Lord Roberts of Llandudno, asked me about our future commitments. We have a long and established history of providing refuge to those who need it. We will continue to uphold that tradition in the manner we have historically done. In recent years, the UK has received a significant number of asylum claims from unaccompanied children. In the year ending December 2019, the UK received 3,775 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. That was more than any EU member state and accounted for over 20% of all asylum claims from unaccompanied children across the EU and the UK. This follows previous years that have seen similarly high numbers of unaccompanied children arriving in the UK—3,254 in 2015, 3,290 in 2016, and 2,401 in 2017. In the future we will consider unaccompanied asylum-seeking children’s asylum applications here, as well as prioritising helping children in dangerous countries, rather than in safe EU countries, through our resettlement scheme. I cannot remember who made this point, but our future system will consider vulnerability from a global perspective.

On the Moria camp and the Lesbos fire, noble Lords will have heard in our discussions on the immigration Bill the other day what I had outlined since 22 April. We have taken children and there were flights on 11 May, 28 July and 6 August. We are exploring what more we can do to this end.

I have just been told that my time is almost up. There are quite a lot of other things to cover. I will cover one more thing—the future UK resettlement scheme and the single global refugee resettlement scheme—and then I will stop. The Government will issue an updated policy statement, which will be published ahead of the UK resettlement scheme launch, once we have met our commitment to resettle 20,000 vulnerable refugees through the vulnerable persons resettlement scheme. As noble Lords said, it is right that we continue to offer legal and safe routes to the UK for vulnerable refugees in need of protection, for whom resettlement is the only durable solution.

I apologise that I have run out of time, but I will, as I did I think yesterday, follow up in writing to noble Lords.

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

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

(1 week, 5 days ago)

Lords Chamber
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Home Office
Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) - Hansard

My Lords, in Committee in the Commons, the Government stated that they were

“committed to the principle of family reunion and supporting vulnerable children”

and that they

“recognise that families can become separated because of … conflict and persecution”,

including through

“the speed and manner in which people are often forced to flee their country.” —[Official Report, Commons, 30/6/20; col. 263.]

Eligibility for refugee family reunion is covered in the UK’s Immigration Rules, which provide that refugees in the UK can be joined, via family reunion, by their spouse or partner and their dependent children under the age of 18.

Amendment 62 increases the family members whom EEA and Swiss nationals, who have exercised a right ended by Clause 1 of this Bill and are refugees in the UK, are allowed to sponsor to join them. In reality, the existing UK policy leaves some of the most vulnerable children separated from their parents at a time when they need their families more than ever—an issue that Amendment 62 seeks to address.

Amendment 64, to which my noble friend Lord Dubs’s name is attached, seeks to remedy this by requiring the Secretary of State to make provision for a visa to enter or remain in the UK on humanitarian grounds. This would apply to an EEA or Swiss national—that is done to keep the amendment in scope of the Bill—who requires medical treatment in the UK that is not available where they are resident; who is an orphan child, and a foster family or other foster care is available to the child in the UK and leave to enter or remain in the UK would be in the child’s best interests; or who is a dependent child of someone who has been granted leave to enter or remain in the UK. In their reply, perhaps the Government could say what they estimate would be the number of people entering the UK each year under the terms of such a humanitarian visa, compared with the latest annual net migration figure, for example.

The third amendment in this group provides that a person should be granted leave to enter or remain in the UK if they are an EEA or Swiss national and either have a child with a British citizen or person who has leave to remain in the UK, or are a child of a British citizen or person who has leave to remain in the UK.

I conclude by saying only that if the Government are

“committed to the principle of family reunion and supporting vulnerable children”,—[Official Report, Commons, 30/6/20; col. 263.]

as they said in the Commons when this Bill was being discussed, surely they can accept one or more of the amendments in this group.

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

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, for her amendment and my noble friend Lord Dundee, the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, and the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle. I turn first to Amendment 62 from the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. I note that she has raised this amendment to probe the need to expand the UK’s refugee family reunion rules. I will address each part of the amendment in turn.

Paragraph (a) of the proposed new clause seeks to allow refugees to reunite with their dependent children under the age of 25, as long as they were under 18 or unmarried at the time their parents left their country. The refugee family reunion guidance is clear that where a family reunion application does not meet the requirements of the Immigration Rules, caseworkers must consider whether there are any exceptional circumstances or compassionate factors that may justify a grant of leave outside the Immigration Rules. To this end, particular reference is given in the guidance to the example of children over 18 who are not leading an independent life and would otherwise be left alone in a dangerous situation. I can confirm that this discretion is used to allow dependent adult children to reunite with their parents in the UK where appropriate.

Paragraph (b) of the proposed new clause relates to refugees sponsoring parents. The noble Baroness will know that the Government have been very clear on their established position on this issue, as we are very concerned that allowing children to sponsor their parents would lead to more children being encouraged—even forced—to leave their families and risk dangerous journeys to the UK. However, discretion can be applied where a caseworker feels that a refusal of entry clearance would breach Article 8 of the ECHR or result in unjustifiably harsh consequences for the applicant or their family. Furthermore, Appendix FM of the Immigration Rules already allows refugees to sponsor adult dependent relatives living overseas to join them where, due to age, illness or disability, that person requires long-term personal care that can be provided only by relatives in the UK.

Paragraph (c) of the proposed new clause relates to refugees sponsoring dependent siblings under the age of 25, as long as they were under 18 or unmarried at the time their sibling left their country. I draw noble Lords’ attention to paragraph 319X of the Immigration Rules, which allows extended family, including siblings, to sponsor children to come here where there are serious and compelling circumstances. Again, consideration will also be given to any factors that might warrant a grant of leave outside the rules, where the rules are not met.

I hope this reassures the noble Baroness that there are vehicles within the existing policy framework to reunite the family members her amendment seeks to cover. An expansion of the policy could significantly increase the numbers who could qualify to come here from not just conflict regions but any country from which someone is granted protection. This would mean extended family members who themselves do not need protection being able to come here, which risks reducing our capacity to assist the most vulnerable refugees.

On numbers, I highlight that the UK has now issued over 29,000 family reunion visas in only the last five years, with more than half of those issued to children—a substantial number that should not be underestimated.

I agree with the intention of compassion and humanity that motivates Amendment 64, proposed by my noble friend Lord Dundee. However, we do not support this amendment, which seeks to create a humanitarian visa for EEA and Swiss nationals. It is unclear to me and the Government why those citizens have humanitarian needs that cannot be addressed by their own European country.

The Government have an excellent humanitarian record in assisting vulnerable people, including children. The UK is one of the world’s leading refugee resettlement states, resettling more refugees than any other country in Europe, and is in the top five countries worldwide. Since 2015 we have resettled more than 25,000 refugees, around half of whom have been children.

Once we have delivered our current commitments under the vulnerable persons resettlement scheme, we will consolidate our main schemes into a new global UK resettlement scheme. Our priority will be to continue to identify and resettle vulnerable refugees in need of protection, as identified and referred by the UNHCR. The focus of our humanitarian record is on those most in need, and I suggest that today’s amendment does not cover those most in need.

I turn to each proposed condition of the humanitarian visa in detail. Overall, it is unclear why, regarding the condition set out in subsection 3(a) of the proposed new clause, the UK should pick up healthcare provision for EEA and Swiss citizens, whether they are residing in their country of nationality or not, as these countries have excellent healthcare systems. However, our current discretionary leave policy allows us to grant leave to remain to individuals who do not qualify for leave to remain under the Immigration Rules but where there are exceptional or compassionate reasons for allowing them to remain in the UK, including on medical grounds and ill health.

The discretionary leave policy can, for example, address the needs of those who face a real risk of being exposed to a serious, rapid and irreversible decline in their state of health as a result of the absence of appropriate medical treatment in their home country. The policy also allows us to balance this care, and our international obligations under the ECHR, with the need to protect the finite resources of the NHS. The threshold for a person to be considered for discretionary leave on the basis of their medical condition is very clearly set out in our policy on medical claims and is intentionally high for this reason.

Furthermore, we are already dedicated to ensuring that vulnerable groups can access the NHS without charge. There are several groups applying for leave to remain in the UK who are exempt from the requirement to pay the immigration health charge, including asylum claimants and victims of modern slavery who apply for discretionary leave to remain. Those who are exempt from paying the IHC, or for whom the requirement is waived, are entitled to use the NHS generally without charge.

On the condition set out in proposed new subsection 3(b), the Government are committed to supporting vulnerable children. This amendment fails to recognise the safe and legal routes in the current immigration system for reuniting families, including the previously mentioned refugee family reunion rules, as well as Part 8 and Appendix FM of the Immigration Rules, all of which will remain in place at the end of the transition period.

The proposed amendment would also require the Government to create a new visa route for orphaned children who are EEA or Swiss nationals to come to the UK to be placed in local authority foster care where it is in their best interests. It is unclear why an orphaned child who is German, Italian or Greek, for example, should come to the UK on humanitarian grounds and be placed in local authority care here. These are safe European countries, and it is not appropriate for the UK to take children out of care in their own home countries and bring them here. Local authorities in the UK are already facing significant pressures, currently caring for over 5,000 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children, which is an increase of 146% since 2014.

On the condition set out in proposed new subsection 3(c), child dependants of those with leave in the UK are very well catered for in the Immigration Rules, which means that there is no need for primary legislation to create provision that already exists.

Turning to Amendment 79, I appreciate the noble Baroness’s intent behind the amendment, which seeks to create a means whereby, in the future, EEA and Swiss citizens will be able to join a spouse, partner, parent or a child in the UK who is either a British citizen or holds valid leave here, but without being subject to the current and established financial requirements for family migration.

There are a number of additional factors that I would like to turn to, which are also reasons for objecting to this amendment. I remind noble Lords that the minimum income requirement is based on in-depth analysis and advice from the independent Migration Advisory Committee. It did not find any clear case for differentiation in the level of the minimum income requirement between UK countries and regions. A single national threshold provides clarity and simplicity. Data also show that the gross median earnings in 2019 exceeded the minimum income requirement in every country and region of the UK. So it is true to say that the minimum income requirement is set at a suitable and consistent level and promotes financial independence, thereby avoiding burdens on the taxpayer and ensuring that families can participate sufficiently in everyday life to facilitate integration into British society.

In all family cases, the decision-maker will consider whether the Immigration Rules are otherwise met and, if not, will go on to consider whether there are exceptional circumstances that would render refusal a breach of Article 8 of the ECHR because it would result in unjustifiably harsh consequences for the applicant or their family. Each application is considered on its merits and on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the individual circumstances. The rules also give direct effect to the Secretary of State’s statutory duty to have regard, as a primary consideration, to a child’s best interests in making an immigration decision affecting them. In the future, British citizens and settled persons who want to be joined by family members who are EEA or Swiss citizens will benefit from these considerations without the need for Amendment 79.

Amendment 79 undermines the sound basis on which family migration to this country has been placed in recent years. It would circumvent the need for family migration to be on a basis whereby families are financially independent and able to contribute to the UK. It is for this reason that the income requirement was set out in the Immigration Rules. The Supreme Court has upheld this requirement as lawful and judged that it is not discriminatory. The amendment therefore seeks to contradict this ruling. There is no justifiable reason to avoid this requirement in the future by giving preferential treatment to family members based solely on their nationality. It is also unlikely to be lawful to do so.

The noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, asked if I had figures on the numbers who are affected, or who are projected to be affected. I do not have them on me. If we have them, I will provide them for her.

I hope that, on that basis, noble Lords are happy not to press their amendments.

Break in Debate

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

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have partaken in this debate. I do not disagree that people should have their rights communicated to them and generally should feel part of the communities in which they live, as the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, says.

At this stage, it is worth decoupling two distinct matters: one is the end of the transition period and the other is the consideration of whether someone is British or should become so. However, I do not think the latter is at issue. For the former, which is the subject of this Bill, we have made extensive arrangements to ensure that the rights enjoyed by those who have resided here under free movement can continue until the end of this year.

British citizenship, as noble Lords have said, is determined by the British Nationality Act 1981, which sets out how someone may already be British—for example, through their birth here—and, for those who are not, the means by which a person may seek to become so. This might be through naturalisation or registration, depending on the individual’s circumstances and connections. Any applications submitted will utilise information that we already hold on an individual as far as possible, although there may always be circumstances in which further information may be needed. We treat all applications to become British equally, regardless of the nationality that the applicant may currently hold. The important consideration is whether they meet the requirements set out in statute. Equally, our guidance on the application process is published and available to all.

Last year we received nearly 175,000 nationality applications, which indicates that people generally are aware of the application process, the benefits of becoming British and what it might mean to individuals when they are ready to apply. That does not mean that we cannot consider alternative approaches. Noble Lords will remember, and a noble Lord referred to the fact, that the Home Secretary announced on 21 July in a Statement that alongside the Windrush Lessons Learned Review, she proposed—along with evaluating changes to immigration and nationality laws to ensure that they are fit for purpose for today’s world—to make sure that the changes were now communicated effectively where they had not previously been so. Many of the speeches touched upon that aspect of things.

While there has not been a suggestion by noble Lords that it is a change of law per se that is of concern to them—I absolutely get where noble Lords are coming from—but perhaps more general awareness for a group who may have previously not considered becoming British, I am happy to put on record that I will ask the Home Secretary whether raising awareness of citizenship more generally could form part of that ongoing process and to consider ways how that might be achieved. I will also pass on the request from the noble Lord, Lord Alton, to meet the Home Secretary, but any change should be for all people potentially affected, not only those who would lose freedom of movement rights—I do not think he was suggesting otherwise. He also asked how much the legal cost of court appeals had been. He will not be surprised that I cannot recall that off the top of my head, but I do not disagree with the general principle that an awful lot of money on all sorts of sides is spent on court cases. I hope that with those undertakings, the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) - Hansard

I thank the Minister for her reply. I understand from what she said that she has undertaken to discuss the issue of further raising awareness with the Home Secretary. I also thank all noble Lords who spoke in support of the amendments in this group.

I think I am right in saying that the Minister did not respond to the question as to what the numbers are of those who are still entitled to British citizenship under the British Nationality Act 1981 but have yet to apply. If we are not aware of the number, that in itself is a real case. I know that the Minister has undertaken to look at this matter further, but it makes the real case for making sure that we raise awareness as much as possible to people who might be in that situation to urge them to consider exercising their right to British citizenship. Surely we need to ensure that all those entitled to register for British citizenship either have it confirmed that that is already their status or are advised that they can register for that citizenship to which they are entitled under the 1981 Act.

We are, after all, talking about an entitlement—a right—to British citizenship, as I know the Minister has recognised. Surely, as people who are proud to be British, we should actively want to ensure that all those who have that entitlement are made aware of it and encouraged to exercise it, with the key responsibility for doing so and facilitating that entitlement to citizenship resting clearly with the Secretary of State and the Government. I hope very much that the discussions that I believe the Minister has said that she will have with the Home Secretary will lead to further very strenuous efforts to raise awareness of this right. Indeed, I hope that the Government will go further, as proposed in Amendment 67, to encourage people to exercise their entitlement and to do their utmost to facilitate matters so that the entitlement can be exercised with ease. In the light of that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Break in Debate

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) - Hansard

The mover of the resolution, the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, has explained the background to this amendment and what has prompted it. As has been said, Section 117C of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 provides an exemption against deportation where it would be “unduly harsh” on that person’s partner or child. As the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, explained, the amendment seeks to give what I would interpret as more specific and relevant weight to the impact on a child of the deportation of somebody who may be a foreign criminal with a genuine and subsisting parental relationship with that British child, or other qualifying child, when considering an exemption.

I await with interest the Government’s response, during which I hope it may be possible for the Government to provide information on the number of such exemptions against deportation given under Section 117C of the 2002 Act in each of the last three years for which figures are available. Also, what estimate, if any, have the Government made of the increase, if any, in the number of such exemptions per year that would result from the change provided for in this amendment becoming applicable—a change which, frankly, in the light of some of the legal cases to which the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, referred, would seem quite reasonable?

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

My Lords, next time I stand here, I will bring a series of numbers because the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, and others have foxed me on numbers this afternoon. However, but I will get for him, if I can, the number of exemptions under Article 8. I thank the noble Baronesses for bringing forward Amendment 82A on family life.

The Article 8 ECHR

“right to respect for family and private life”

is a qualified right, which can be circumscribed where lawful, necessary and proportionate in the interest of a number of factors, including national security, public safety, the prevention of disorder or crime and the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. Section 117C of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 provides that when assessing whether deportation breaches Article 8 of the ECHR, the deportation of a foreign national offender is in the public interest, unless certain exceptions apply. These amendments seek to alter these exceptions and diminish the importance placed on the public interest in deporting the most serious offenders.

The proposed new clause amends the exception at Section 117C(5) for foreign national offenders—or FNOs—who have been sentenced to less than four years of imprisonment and have a genuine and subsisting relationship with a qualifying partner or child so that their deportation would not be in the public interest if it would be unreasonable for the child to leave the UK or to remain in the UK without the foreign national offender. That would be in addition to the existing exception which applies where the effect of the deportation on the partner or child would be unduly harsh.

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

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

(2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) - Hansard

I do not know what is going to be included in the Government’s response to these amendments, but we have heard today, as we have on previous days in Committee on this Bill, that an amendment or group of amendments is not relevant to the Bill. I am assuming that that is being said purely as the Government’s view, since presumably, through the changes that it does or does not make to a government Bill, it is for Parliament to decide what should or should not be in a Bill and is therefore relevant to it. So I would be grateful if the Government could confirm that when they say an amendment or group of amendments is “not relevant” to the Bill, they are simply expressing a view and accept that that is an issue that Parliament will have to determine.

Amendment 42 in this group would exempt EEA and Swiss nationals and their dependents from the right-to-rent immigration checks by landlords under the Immigration Act 2014. Amendment 50 would exempt EEA and Swiss nationals and their dependents from some provisions under the Immigration Act 2014, including the NHS surcharge and immigration checks on opening bank accounts and holding a driving licence. It would also exempt them from provisions in the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006, which disallows a person from being employed if they do not have a valid immigration status. Amendment 71 would exempt EEA and Swiss nationals residing in the UK immediately before the commencement of the Act from a variety of immigration provisions, including checks on renting, bank accounts, driving licences and illegal working.

We understand the concerns that these amendments seek to address. The experiences of the Windrush generation, when lives were ruined and families torn apart, simply highlighted the failures of the hostile environment policy, particularly the culture that it led to in the Home Office that determined how the policy was applied, and as reflected in the terms of the Immigration Acts in 2014 and 2016. Against that background, it is understandable why there is concern among EEA citizens living in this country about the impact that changes to their status following our withdrawal from the EU could have on their position in relation to the application of the terms of the Immigration Acts.

The Government could have used the Bill to signal the end of the hostile environment policy in reality, not just in name, and in so doing convince EEA citizens that their concerns were without foundation. The Government have chosen not to do so, and consequently these amendments seek to do what the Government have failed to do, by giving EEA and Swiss citizens exemption from some of the more contentious parts of the Immigration Acts, including in particular those parts of the now rebranded hostile environment policy that were effectively farmed out to private individuals and private companies to implement, such as the checks in relation to the renting of property or opening of a bank account.

I hope that when we hear from the Government, as we are just about to, we will hear some hopeful response to the thrust of these amendments and that the Government are equally determined to address—and how they intend to do so—the concerns that the amendments have raised.

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

My Lords, in thanking noble Lords for speaking on these amendments, I say to the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, that I am going to argue not that they are irrelevant to the Bill but that that they are discriminatory, in their own ways. They would undermine the commitment to the British people to introduce a single global system. They would also weaken the immigration system by reducing the incentive to comply with the UK’s rules and laws.

On right-to-rent checks, I say to the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, and to the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, that immigration does not begin and end at our borders; it is more far-reaching than that. Under our new immigration system, everyone will be required to obtain their current correct immigration status, and we will clearly distinguish between those who are here lawfully and those who are not, regardless of their nationality. The measures in question concern migrants’ eligibility to rent accommodation, to work, and to access healthcare, bank accounts and driving licences. These measures have all been approved by Parliament. They contribute to our efforts to tackle illegal migration and those who seek to profit from immigration offences, while protecting taxpayer-funded services. Exempting from these measures EEA citizens and their family members, including those who do not have lawful immigration status, would undermine the integrity of the new immigration system1 which we have promised to deliver.

Amendment 42 specifically relates to the right-to-rent scheme, the legality of which has recently been upheld by the Court of Appeal—to echo the point of the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett. By disapplying these checks to all EEA citizens and their family members, this amendment would significantly compromise the right-to-rent civil penalty scheme. Under the current system, when a landlord is found to be letting to a disqualified person, the Home Office can issue a civil penalty of £3,000. A scheme that does not require evidence to be obtained for every tenant would render unworkable the Government’s ability to impose criminal and civil sanctions against unscrupulous landlords, as this exemption would serve as a blanket defence.

It is not clear how Amendments 42 or 71 would work in practice. Eligibility checks by landlords, employers and the NHS apply to everyone, including EEA and British citizens. Those carrying out the checks would not be able to ascertain who was part of the exempt cohort, as set out in these new clauses, and so would need to check everyone anyway. Alternatively, landlords and employers would have to take, at face value, a self-declaration of anyone who claims to be within this particular cohort. Amendment 42, for example, would make the right-to-rent scheme inoperable, as migrants who are unlawfully present or ineligible could self-declare as an EEA citizen, which could prevent the landlord from requesting further evidence of eligibility.

The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, asked who will check whether someone has UK immigration status. Particularly after the grace period, EEA citizens granted leave under the settlement scheme will use their digital status information to demonstrate to employers their right to work, to landlords their right to rent, and to other government departments and local authorities their right to access benefits and services—if they meet the relevant eligibility criteria. The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, pointed out the various documents that would be required. I am wondering whether he was questioning whether they were up to date, but I am sure he will come back to me on that if I have not made that clear.

For Amendment 50, I will focus on two aspects of the new clause. As noble Lords know, illegal working is a key driver of immigration offending. The ability to work without lawful status encourages people to take risks and to break our immigration laws, and leaves people vulnerable to exploitation—I refer to the point of the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett—including being paid under the legal minimum wage. We are determined to continue to tackle illegal working, but this amendment would hinder our progress.

The proposal to prevent the application of provisions relating to healthcare charges to EEA citizens and their dependants would also have a significant negative impact. The immigration health surcharge is designed to help support the NHS, ensuring that temporary migrants who come to the UK for more than six months make a fair contribution to the wide range of health services available to them. By exempting such a large cohort, including those in the UK unlawfully, from being charged for accessing healthcare, this new clause would increase the financial pressure on the NHS considerably.

Break in Debate

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) - Hansard

As we know, the Data Protection Act 2018 provides for an exemption from some general data protection provisions where personal data is processed for the maintenance of effective immigration control. Of course, that allows an entity that processes data for immigration control purposes, such as the Home Office, to set aside a person’s data protection rights in a range of circumstances. It can also prevent people involved in immigration cases being able to request access to the data that the Home Office holds on them, and that could affect EEA or Swiss nationals applying for a new immigration status in the UK after Brexit.

As has been said, Amendment 43 would preclude the exemption from applying where the person in question is an EEA or Swiss national. EEA and Swiss nationals will become subject to this exemption as a result of our departure from the EU.

Amendment 72 would ensure that personal data belonging to an EEA or Swiss national resident in the UK before the Act that has been gathered through their use of public services cannot then be shared and used for the purposes of immigration enforcement. The relevant public services include primary and secondary education, and primary and secondary healthcare services, as well as where a person has contacted law enforcement to report a crime.

Amendment 74 would provide that a third party—for example, a landlord—given access to check a person’s settled status for specific purposes may not be allowed to use that access or information for any other purposes.

The issue is that there have been reports and evidence of data sharing as part of the Government’s rebranded hostile environment controls when people have, for example, access to education or report a crime to the police. In that latter regard, there appear to be examples of migrant women in particular suffering domestic abuse and being deterred from reporting a crime for fear of getting pulled into the immigration system. The comment has already been made about the independent Windrush Lessons Learned Review identifying a number of people from the Windrush generation who have been wrongly subject to proactive compliant environment sanctions, where the Home Office has shared data with other departments. Therefore, there is a lot of evidence that this data sharing goes on and that it has a detrimental effect on some individuals.

The Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration has found a 10% error rate in immigration status checks. Therefore, being unable to find out what immigration data the Home Office holds that led to an error—for the purposes of an appeal, for example—is of significance. The figure that I have been given—I am sure the Minister will correct me if I am wrong—is that, since the beginning of 2019, 60% of requests for disclosure have been denied. I hope that in their response the Government will, at the very least, say how they intend to address the concerns raised by this group of amendments.

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

I thank noble Lords for the points that they have made on these amendments. Perhaps I may address Amendments 43 and 72 together, as they both concern data protection.

I appreciate the concerns to protect data subjects’ rights and to ensure that data sharing for immigration control or enforcement purposes does not prevent people living in this country accessing public services to which they are perfectly entitled. However, I cannot agree to these new clauses, because they would not be proportionate or constructive amendments to the Bill, or indeed address the concerns behind the amendments, and I shall say why.

They would restrict immigration authorities in performing their lawful duties in respect of immigration control, including being able to confirm a person’s immigration status, and they would be unable to prevent potential prejudice to the immigration system. Essentially, the new clauses would expressly prohibit the Home Office from using a necessary and lawful exemption in the Data Protection Act 2018, should it have cause to do so. The immigration exemption has been debated previously in this House and concerns raised have been addressed on those occasions.

The exemption applies to restrict specified data subjects’ rights where the maintenance of effective immigration control, or the investigation or detection of activities that would undermine the maintenance of effective immigration control, are likely to be prejudiced. Rightly, it should apply to anyone who is subject to immigration control, including EEA and Swiss citizens. The new clause proposed in Amendment 43 would therefore constitute a difference in treatment on the grounds of nationality. We do not believe that that can be justified, as one purpose of the Bill is to ensure that there will be no difference in treatment between EEA citizens and those from the rest of the world when it comes to immigration policy.

Amendment 72 would have a similar effect in creating a difference in treatment based on nationality. The effect of the amendment in the clause would be to maintain the current position, so that one particular aspect of the compliant environment—data sharing—would not apply to those who now benefit from free movement. The amendment would have no effect as far as non-EEA citizens are concerned, and data collected in relation to them could still be used for immigration control or enforcement purposes, thereby treating them unequally under the law.

With regard to the immigration exemption dealt with in Amendment 43, it might help if I expand on the safeguards built into the Data Protection Act. The exemption can be applied only on a case-by-case basis and only where it is necessary and proportionate to do so. It cannot be, and is not, used to target any group of people, be they EEA citizens or otherwise. Nor does the application of the exemption set aside all data subjects’ rights; it sets aside only those listed in paragraph 4 of Schedule 2. A further limitation is that the exemption can be applied only where compliance with the relevant rights will be likely to prejudice the maintenance of effective immigration control. This “prejudice” test must be applied first, and, as a result, the situations in which the exemption can be used are significantly limited. The noble Lord, Lord Oates, asked me to give numbers. I cannot do so at this point, but I will see whether I can access them.

Furthermore, the exemption may be applied only so long as the prejudice can be seen to be evidenced and must be removed thereafter. It is not used to restrict access to personal data that would allow a person to further a claim; it is used only where we need to restrict access to sensitive data—for example, details of ongoing enforcement operations.

The exemption has been found to be lawful by the courts, and the ICO has issued robust guidance on how and when it may be used—guidance that the Home Office adheres to. Furthermore, the Home Office has robust safeguards and controls in place to ensure that data is handled securely, lawfully, ethically and in accordance with all relevant data protection regulations. I say again that the Home Office must at all times comply with the GDPR and the Data Protection Act 2018 when data is shared.

Similar to Amendment 72, Amendment 74 seeks to limit the use of data. To reiterate the points that I made to noble Lords during the recess, I reassure them that the services that we provide to third parties for checking immigration status information about EU settlement status can be accessed and used only to check an individual’s immigration status and the rights associated with that status.

I will explain how users can view and prove their immigration status under the EU settlement scheme. Individuals can authenticate securely on the “view and prove your settled or pre-settled status” online service, where they can view their immigration status information and choose to share it with third parties for a variety of reasons. To take the example of right-to-work checks, the individual selects the option to share their right-to-work information and is given a time-limited code, which can be emailed or given to the employer. The employer uses the share code, along with the individual’s date of birth, to access just the information needed to confirm the individual’s eligibility to work, via the “view a job applicant’s right to work details” service on GOV.UK. The information provided to the employer can be previewed by the individual and contains only information relating to their right-to-work entitlements, along with the individual’s name and facial image for verification purposes and the expiry date of the leave, where appropriate. I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, who asked me to reiterate this point, is satisfied with my explanation.

For other services such as health, benefits and banking, users can share basic information about their status under the settlement scheme and the process works in exactly the same way. Checking organisations can access the information on a time-limited basis, via the “check someone’s settled or pre-settled status” service. The information provided in this service represents the minimum amount of data required for those checking organisations to perform their duties, and again includes the individual’s name, facial image, the leave they have been granted and the expiry date where applicable.

Third parties do not have access to the immigration database. An individual must choose to share their immigration status through the “view and prove” service before it can be viewed by third parties such as employers. Picking up on the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, the police do not have access to the EU settlement scheme or the immigration database, but we are working with other parts of government to develop system checks to share immigration status for specific purposes such as health and benefits. For example, we will provide information to the National Health Service to support it in establishing whether an individual is entitled to access free healthcare.

I hope that noble Lords are now assured that we are committed to delivering immigration status services for the purposes of checking immigration status information only. These services have been designed to protect the personal information of those with EU settled status and have been built around GDPR principles, including that of data minimisation, ensuring that the information available to third parties is only what is absolutely necessary. I hope that, with those words, the noble Baroness is happy to withdraw her amendment.

Break in Debate

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) - Hansard

First, we welcome the work that has been done on the EU settlement scheme so far, and the number of people who have been able to access it. We hope that the scheme proves successful, but that remains to be seen.

I will speak to Amendments 52 and 96, which are in my name and that of my noble friend Lord Kennedy of Southwark. Amendment 52 seeks clarity on the rights of EU citizens who have the right to apply for settled status but have not yet done so. What are their rights in the “grace period” between the end of the transition period and the deadline for applications?

The Government have now published a draft of the citizens’ rights (application deadline and temporary protection) (EU exit) regulations 2020—we might call it the grace period SI—during this stage of the Bill, which is helpful. This SI, made under Section 9 of the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020, would specify 30 June 2021 as the application deadline and provide that certain provisions of the Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2016—the regulations that provide for free movement rights—will continue to apply during the grace period for relevant persons, despite the revocation of those regulations under this Bill.

In essence, the government factsheet tells us that the SI will temporarily “protect the existing rights” of EU nationals who are eligible for the settlement scheme during the grace period. Regulations 5 to 12 of the SI specify which provisions will continue to apply. Can the Government confirm to the House that the full existing rights of EU citizens will be carried into the grace period by this SI and there will be no substantive changes or loss of rights? We welcome the clarification that the person’s existing rights continue during the entirety of the processing of their application—even where, for example, they apply late in June and the deadline passes while their application is being considered.

We welcome the Government’s aims in the SI to provide legal protection to these rights. However, questions remain over how they will be protected in practical terms. If an EU national tries to open a bank account, rent a home or enrol their child in school during that period, what are the Government doing to ensure that their continuing rights are widely understood—because people are generally not aware that they have that right and there could be a difficulty?

Regulation 13 of the SI states:

“Where any question arises as to whether a person is or was lawfully resident in the United Kingdom at a particular point in time … it is for the individual in question to prove that they were”.

That is to say that they must prove that they were lawfully resident in the United Kingdom. Can the Government say in which situations they expect that people will have to prove their ongoing status and how they envisage people will do this? What documentation might they need, for example? Crucially—since one can see there might be some difficulty in being able to prove it—what support will there be for a person who runs into this kind of difficulty and who may well, in fact, be perfectly lawfully resident in the United Kingdom?

I am sure there will be many other questions that arise in relation to the draft SI, but I will move on to Amendment 96, which seeks more information on late applications to the settlement scheme. The Government have repeatedly said there will be “reasonable grounds” on which a late application will be accepted, but of course I am sure we would all acknowledge that the word “reasonable” is subjective. Different people will have different interpretations of what is reasonable. When can we expect full guidance on late applications? If a person was completely unaware that they had to apply, will that count as reasonable grounds? Would this also apply to a person who just made a mistake and missed a deadline? At one time or another, most of us have made such a mistake.

However, our main question is on the immigration status of people who miss the deadline. An NHS doctor, for example, misses the deadline but continues to go to work. If they are then granted status in, say, 2022, they will—presumably—have been officially unlawfully resident in the UK for a number of months. Will they be considered to have been working illegally and, if so, will there be consequences for that? What status will they be deemed to have had between the June 2021 deadline and the granting of status in 2022?

Another example might be an elderly person who missed the scheme entirely because they are not digitally literate—something I can empathise with—and who continues to use healthcare services before any application is organised on their behalf. Will they be liable for high NHS fees because they did not know that their right to use those services lawfully had lapsed?

I hope the Government will be able to provide answers to the questions that I and other noble Lords have raised—either in their response or subsequently—and, not least, to the points on CSI made by my noble friend Lady Whitaker and the concerns expressed over the potential implications for the future of the high percentage of those who have been given pre-settled status.

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

I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate and rightly probed me on some of the detail of what the Government are intending to do across all the various issues that are raised in these amendments. I am pleased to say that, on most points, I think I will be able to reassure noble Lords on the issues they raise.

On Amendments 44 and 96, both concern how the Government will deal with late applications to the EU settlement scheme. Both are incredibly well-intentioned, as they concern how we ensure that those eligible for the scheme obtain status under it. There is plenty of time for those EEA citizens and their family members resident here by the end of the transition period to apply for status under the EU settlement scheme by the deadline of 30 June 2021. Furthermore, in line with the citizens’ rights agreement, they will be able to apply after the deadline where they have reasonable grounds for missing it.

I think noble Lords will find that, throughout my response, I will outline how the Government intend to take a very pragmatic approach to all these issues. During the Second Reading debate, I confirmed that, early in 2021, the Government will publish guidance on what constitutes missing the deadline. In answer to the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, I say that the timescale is appropriate because, for the time being, our priority has been to encourage all those who are eligible to apply to the scheme to do so before the deadline. We do not want to risk undermining that effort by inadvertently encouraging people to put off making the application.

Amendment 44 would cause confusion over the deadline for a scheme which has been designed to be simple and straightforward. We must also deliver on our promise to the people to end free movement and, from 2021, introduce the new global points-based immigration system. However, as I said earlier, the EU settlement scheme does not close on 30 June 2021. It will continue to operate thereafter for applications by people with pre-settled status applying for settled status and by those who are joining family members in the UK as well as by those with reasonable grounds for applying after the 30 June 2021 deadline. A report setting out proposals for dealing with late applications—as sought by Amendment 44—is not needed because we have been clear that we will take a pragmatic and flexible approach to late applications and will be publishing that guidance early next year.

Amendment 96, concerning such guidance, is also unnecessary. Our guidance on reasonable grounds for applying after the deadline will be indicative and not exhaustive. I think noble Lords will agree that this is the right approach; we will consider all cases in light of their individual circumstances. A person with reasonable grounds for missing the deadline who subsequently applies for and obtains status under the scheme will enjoy the same rights from the time they are granted status as someone who applied to the scheme before the deadline.

The withdrawal agreement obliges us to accept late applications indefinitely where there are reasonable grounds for missing the deadline. This and other rights under the agreements now have direct effect in law via the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020, so this commitment is already effectively enshrined in primary legislation agreed by Parliament.

The Government are also doing all they can to raise awareness of the scheme and ensure support is available. In March, we announced a further £8 million of funding, in addition to £9 million last year, for organisations across the UK to help vulnerable people to apply. Plans for a further burst of national advertising are under way because we are determined that no one will be left behind. My noble friend Lady Altmann specifically asked about this point, as did the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, in a more indirect way.

I will take a moment to outline what we are going to do between now and next year. With less than a year to go until the deadline, we will continue to update our communications approach. We will have further and future national advertising, which will have adjusted messaging and emphasis to ensure that it speaks to the remaining audiences still to apply.

Break in Debate

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

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who spoke on this group of amendments concerning exemption from no recourse to public funds. I will reply to Amendments 53 and 73 together because they are quite similar in nature. I recognise the strength of feeling on this issue, particularly in the light of the challenges that many people face as a result of the current pandemic, as noble Lords have talked about. I genuinely welcome noble Lords’ desire to ensure that those most in need, particularly children, are supported at this time but I am afraid that I cannot accept these amendments. I will go through the reasons why.

As noble Lords will know, most migrants visiting, studying, working or joining family in the UK are subject to a no recourse to public funds condition until they have obtained indefinite leave to remain. Individuals here without leave are also subject to the condition. The noble Baroness, Lady Lister, and the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, asked for numbers. I am afraid that these numbers are not part of the published statistics, but I know that Home Office analysts are looking at the data to determine what figures could be reduced.

The noble Baroness also talked about the provision of data. In his letter to the UK Statistics Authority, the Home Office chief statistician committed

“to further investigate the administrative data we hold to assess whether it can provide any meaningful information on the issue of hardship specifically”.

However, given the fluid nature of migration, it is quite difficult to provide an accurate figure of how many people are subject to NRPF, but we will do our best to get some meaningful figures.

The policy is based on the well-established principle that migrants coming to the UK should be able to maintain and support themselves and their families without posing a burden to the welfare system. It is designed to assure the public that controlled immigration brings real benefits to the UK and does not lead to excessive demands on the UK’s finite resources. In exempting a significant cohort from the no recourse to public funds condition, even for a limited time, the new clause proposed by Amendment 53 would undermine this policy and increase the pressure on those resources. Depending on how far into 2021 and beyond this new clause continued to apply, it may also act as an incentive for EEA citizens who are not covered by the withdrawal agreements or other immigration leave to attempt to come to the UK to access benefits and services to which they would not otherwise be entitled.

Nevertheless, the Government absolutely recognise the importance of supporting those in genuine need. Existing exemptions and safeguards are in place to ensure that lawful migrants who are destitute or at imminent risk of destitution can receive support, including the option to apply to have the no recourse to public funds condition lifted. During the pandemic, as noble Lords will know, the Government have gone further by introducing measures such as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme—the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, referred to this—and the self-employed income support scheme to support people, including those with no recourse to public funds.

More than £4.3 billion has been allocated to local authorities in England to support them in delivering their services, including helping the most vulnerable, with further funding for the devolved Administrations. As the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, alluded to, the Government have also temporarily extended the eligibility criteria for free school meals to support families with NRPF, in recognition of the difficulties that they may be facing during these unique circumstances.

Those individuals with leave under the family and human rights routes can apply to have the condition lifted through a change of conditions application. The Home Office is prioritising and dealing with these applications compassionately, as shown by the 89% of 5,665 applications accepted in the second quarter of 2020, due to exceptional changes that some individuals faced in their financial circumstances. We cannot say what percentage of the 5,665 presented with NRPF.

I turn to Amendment 73, which would extend the exemption beyond the current pandemic. Under our new global immigration system, EEA citizens coming to the UK will be subject to the same requirements as non-EEA citizens, including the same conditions restricting access to public funds. The effect of this proposed new clause would be to maintain an immigration system that provides preferential treatment regarding access to benefits and services to EEA citizens over most non-EEA citizens. This is not the Government’s intention, creating a system that is not fair and does not reflect the will of the British people, demonstrated by the EU referendum and, more recently, the general election.

To answer the question of the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, I can say that those EEA citizens who are already resident here, or who are resident by the end of the transition period, can apply to the EU settlement scheme. This allows them to access benefits and services in the UK on at least the same basis as they were before being granted that status, so EEA and Swiss nationals with pre-settled status are not subject to NRPF. That significantly reduces the need for these amendments.

I understand the need to protect the vulnerable, especially during this time, and particularly in cases involving families or children, but there are already measures in place to provide this support. These proposed new clauses would also undermine the intention to create a global unified immigration system which treats EEA and non-EEA citizens equally. For the reasons I have set out, I hope that noble Lords will be happy not to press their amendments.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) - Hansard

I am sure that the Minister will not be surprised to hear me withdraw the amendment, but there are one or two comments I would like to make in reply. The first is to thank her for responding to the question I asked at the beginning. That answer confirmed that an EEA or Swiss national with pre-settled status would be able to apply for benefits and would not be restricted in being covered by NRPF—at least that is what I took from her response.

The Minister has confirmed—I am sure she will correct me if I am being unfair—that the Home Office does not really know how many people are affected by NRPF. At least, if it does know, it is still pondering whether to reveal the figures. On behalf of the Government, she said that, of the 5,665 who had asked for assistance for the NRPF conditions to be lifted, 89% had had that agreed. I do not know from that answer how much they were seeking and how much they actually got. If it was not very much or nowhere near what most people would regard as adequate, 89% would frankly not mean a great deal. It would be helpful if the Minister indicated, either now or subsequently in correspondence, what the average payment was and whether, in making the application, people had indicated how much they needed and the extent to which that need had been fully met.

I will not labour the point because in much of what I said I was not producing new arguments; I was quoting what other organisations have said about the effect that the pandemic is having on families with “no recourse to public funds”. The Children’s Society, Citizens Advice and indeed the Home Affairs Select Committee and Work and Pensions Select Committee have referred to the immediate impact on those affected of “no recourse to public funds” during the pandemic. Basically, they say that action needs to be taken now as far as the pandemic is concerned.

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

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

(2 weeks, 5 days ago)

Lords Chamber
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Home Office
Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) - Hansard

My Lords, I declare a family interest in the issue raised by the amendment. As the noble Lord, Lord Flight, said, the wording in the Bill means that British citizens who moved to the EU or EEA while we were a member will lose their right to return to this country—their country of birth—with a non-British partner or children unless they can satisfy financial conditions that many may well find difficult or impossible to meet. Amendment 23, to which I am a signatory, seeks to address this situation.

I do not wish to repeat the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Flight, in moving this amendment. I agree with everything that he said. I hope that as well as responding to the arguments that he made, the Minister will also comment on his point that the change is, in effect, retrospective, since it is our country and our Government who are changing the rules that apply to our citizens on this issue. When they made their personal decisions to move to the EU or EEA, the rules, as they currently apply, may well have been a factor in making that decision; it is our Government who are now apparently seeking to change those rules.

No doubt the Minister, on behalf of the Government, will also comment on a further point made by the noble Lord, Lord Flight. He said that it appears that the new UK rules that will apply to British citizens in the situation that we are talking about will be much tougher in their terms than those that apply to EU citizens with settled status in respect of their ability to bring their dependants to join them in the UK. No doubt the Minister will confirm, in the Government’s reply, whether that is the case.

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

My Lords, I thank my noble friend, Lord Flight, for his Amendment 23, which refers to a specific cohort of people relating to what is known as the Surinder Singh route for family immigration. It would require the Government to make provision in regulations made under Clause 4 for lifetime rights for UK nationals resident in the EEA or Switzerland by the end of the transition period to return to the UK accompanied, or to be joined, by their close family members. These family members would thereby continue indefinitely to bypass the Immigration Rules that would otherwise apply to family members of UK nationals.

The Surinder Singh route, so-called after the relevant judgment of the Court of Justice of the European Union, refers to arrangements whereby family members of UK nationals who have resided in the EEA or Switzerland with those UK nationals while they exercised their treaty rights are able to return with them to the UK under EU free-movement law. Surinder Singh family members are not protected by the withdrawal agreement but, as a matter of domestic policy, the Government have decided that UK nationals resident in the EEA or Switzerland under EU free-movement law by the end of the transition period will have until 29 March 2022 to bring their existing close family members—a spouse, civil partner, durable partner, child or dependent parent—to the UK on EU law terms. That is three years after the date when the UK was originally supposed to have left the EU. That says to me that it is not retrospective, but if my noble friend wishes to intervene after I sit down, I would be grateful if he would let me know whether I have satisfied that point.

The family relationship must have existed before the UK left the EU on 31 January 2020, unless the child was born or adopted after this date, and must continue to exist when the family member seeks to come to the UK. Other family members, such as a spouse, where the relationship was formed after the UK left the EU, or other dependent relatives, have until the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020 to return to the UK with a qualifying UK national on EU free-movement terms. If they return to the UK with the qualifying UK national by the relevant date, all these family members will then be eligible to apply for status to remain here under the EU settlement scheme. If they do not return to the UK with the qualifying UK national by the relevant date, they will need to meet the requirements of the Immigration Rules then applicable to family members of UK nationals if they wish to come to the UK.

We hope this is a fair and balanced policy. It was developed after we listened to the concerns of UK nationals living in the EEA and Switzerland. The policy was announced on 4 April 2019, as I said, giving UK nationals almost three years to decide whether they wished to return to the UK by 29 March 2022 with their existing close family members and, if so, to make plans to do so.

Break in Debate

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) - Hansard

My Lords, I hope the Government’s response to this amendment, and indeed to the next two, might reveal something about their intentions and objectives as far as the new points-based immigration system is concerned.

I feel there is a lack of consistency on behalf of the Government about how crowded or otherwise they believe this country actually is. When it comes to the planning White Paper, and the opposition there appears to be to it from within the ranks of the Government party, one of the responses you get is that it is only a very small percentage of this country that is being built on. Yet when it comes to an immigration system, one senses that the Government base it on the fact that this country is too crowded. There appears to be a contrast, depending on whether they are talking about the planning White Paper or the immigration system, in what their view is on how crowded or otherwise this country actually is at present.

I hope that when the Government reply we shall find out a bit more about their statement that their points-based immigration system will reduce migration. An answer on that might address some of the concerns raised by the noble Lord, Lord Green of Deddington. The Government have never told us the basis on which they reached that conclusion—in spite of the comments of my noble friend Lord Adonis, and the noble Lord, Lord Green of Deddington, at Second Reading, which suggested that the contrary would be the case.

Over the past decade we have heard policy statements about reducing migration to below 100,000, but those statements—I will not go into whether they were sensible or otherwise—were followed by a rise in net migration, including, and not least, from outside the EU, where freedom of movement does not apply.

I hope that when the Minister responds to this amendment we will get a very clear statement from the Government as to exactly why and how they happen to believe that their new points-based immigration system will lead to a reduction in migration—if that, rightly or wrongly, is their policy objective. Such a clear statement is badly needed, and could be given right now.

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

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Green of Deddington, and pay my respect to the deep expertise that he brings to this subject. The House benefits from it every time he speaks. As he said, his amendment would reintroduce an annual limit on the number of people that might be granted permission to enter the UK to take up skilled employment. The existing cap, which the Government are committed to suspending, is set at 20,700 and is administered monthly to those seeking entry clearance as skilled workers.

Currently, applications are held till the end of each allocation month. If applications exceed available places in any month, priority is given to occupations on the shortage occupation list and PhD level occupations. Thereafter, priority is broadly determined by salary, with higher-paying jobs getting first preference. On the face of it, this sounds like a sensible measure to control and limit migration to the UK, and is consistent with the aim of prioritising the brightest and best to come to the UK. However, it adds to the burden on business, as the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, pointed out, slows the process of recruiting a skilled migrant and creates uncertainty among employers. It also creates a situation in which a migrant might be perceived as of value one day and not the next, which is what inevitably happens when a cap binds.

We want the UK to be a great place to do business, and we want to reduce uncertainty for UK employers and businesses—which imposes costs and prevents forward planning—while ensuring that we do not put unnecessary obstacles in the path of those who want to operate and contribute, so that the UK’s economy continues to prosper. As noble Lords know, we also want to create a simple global immigration system that focuses on skills and talent and the contribution migrants can make to the UK, rather than on where they come from.

We should be imposing a cap only if we think it would genuinely offer extra protection to resident workers and can be implemented in a way that mitigates uncertainty for businesses and employers across the whole of the UK. The Government do not think that that is so. That view is based on the clear economic advice of the independent MAC, supported by evidence from a wide range of stakeholders.

Break in Debate

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) - Hansard

I think reference was made earlier to the position of trade unions vis-à-vis this amendment. I certainly cannot speak on behalf of trade unions, but I say as an individual that I get the impression that trade unions will probably push more than anyone else to have a better trained workforce and for spending more money on training by employers. They have not always received the response they should have to those representations and that pressure.

As for the specific terms of this amendment, it has been said there has been a demise as far as the resident labour market test is concerned. I await with interest to hear whether Government agree with that, because that is what is being said, and if the Government accept that that is true, to ask why they think that has been the case and what they think the impact of that, if it is true, has been on the employment of British citizens. I will also be interested to hear from the Government’s reply whether the use or non-use of the resident labour market test will be used to reduce or increase migrations, since I think I understood from the noble Baroness’s reply to the previous amendment that it would be the Government’s intention to use the salary threshold and the immigration skills charge—presumably by increasing or raising the threshold or by increasing or lowering the immigration skills charge—to have an impact on the level of net migrations. I will be interested to find out, when we hear the Government’s response to this amendment, whether the use or otherwise of the resident labour market test will also be used by the Government to seek to control levels of migration.

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

My Lords, again, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Green of Deddington, for tabling this amendment and all noble Lords who have spoken to it. As noble Lords have said, this amendment would have the effect of reintroducing a resident labour market test for EEA citizens, otherwise known as the RLMT. The RLMT requires 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. Again, on the face of it this is a very sensible measure, but it would add to the burden on businesses and would considerably slow the process of recruiting a skilled migrant.

We want the UK to be a great place to do business and to ensure we do not impose unnecessary obstacles in the path of those who want to operate and contribute, ensuring that the UK’s economy continues to prosper. We also want to create a single, global immigration system, focusing on skills and talents and the contribution that migrants can make to the UK, rather than where they have come from. We should be imposing an RLMT only if we think it would genuinely offer protection to resident workers, and the Government do not think at this stage that that would be so. That is not just the Government’s opinion but is based on the clear economic advice of the MAC: of course, the MAC consults very widely with stakeholders before producing its recommendation.

I shall quote from a report published in September 2018 on the impact of EEA migration. The MAC said it was,

“sceptical about how effective the RLMT is”

in giving settled workers the first opportunity to fill jobs. It went on to say:

“We think it likely the bureaucratic costs of the RLMT outweigh any economic benefit”.

Finally, the MAC said:

“We therefore recommend the abolition of the RLMT”.

Equally pertinent is the MAC’s next paragraph:

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

As outlined in the Government’s February policy statement, we have accepted the MAC’s recommendations on salary thresholds set out in its 28 January report on salary threshold and points-based systems. Building on this, the Government have set out additional detail on likely salary thresholds in the July Further Details document, so noble Lords can see exactly the approach we are taking and how we are ensuring that migrants cannot come in on the cheap. I remind noble Lords that, again on the MAC’s advice, we are retaining the immigration skills charge, which has to be paid by all employers of skilled migrant workers. The requirement to pay that charge, 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 suitable to undertake the role within the domestic labour workforce. I hope that, on that basis, the noble Lord will be happy to withdraw his amendment.

Break in Debate

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) - Hansard

I think I am in a very similar position to the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, in wanting to hear the Government’s reply.

I notice that the Government have been told that we are heading for a policy shambles, and I notice that the Minister has been told by those behind her that we are making too many changes. Obviously this is something that inevitably happens when we have a Bill with no proper scrutiny of what the Government can do.

Having made that comment, I will listen with interest to what the Minister has to say and to whether she agrees that we are heading for a policy shambles and with the other concerns that have been raised by the noble Lord, Lord Green of Deddington.

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

I again thank the noble Lord, Lord Green, and all noble Lords who spoke on these amendments. For the benefit of the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, and others, I will circulate the current rules for new entrants—rather than send everyone to sleep with the old rules and the new rules—so that they can compare and contrast.

The amendment seeks to put in place separate parliamentary approval for regulations allowing EEA and Swiss citizen new entrants to the labour market to be paid less than other skilled workers. Minimum salary requirements are a key part of our new skilled worker route. They serve three main purposes: first, as an indicator that a job for which a UK employer wishes to recruit a migrant worker is indeed a skilled job; secondly, to ensure that a migrant worker is paid a fair wage; and thirdly, to prevent employers using migrant workers as a source of cheap labour, undercutting wages for resident workers. The noble Lord is absolutely right that we must have confidence in setting the salary requirements for skilled workers at the right level, balancing the need to control immigration effectively and ensure that the UK’s economy continues to prosper, and not setting them so low that they do not achieve these objectives.

As I said ahead of outlining proposals for the UK’s points-based immigration system, the Government sought independent economic advice from the MAC. In its January 2020 report, A Points-Based System and Salary Thresholds for Immigration—which I am sure everyone has read—the MAC addressed the need for a range of salary thresholds and made recommendations for new entrants. The Government have accepted the recommendations in that report. Our salary requirements for skilled workers are based on national earnings data for UK workers. The MAC identified that new entrants—defined essentially as those at the start of their careers—typically earn around 30% less than experienced workers. Setting lower salary requirements for new entrants reflects this reality and means we avoid setting the requirements at an artificially high level. Reduced rates for new entrants have been part of the immigration system since 2013. While we intend to continue the new entrant salary rate, in future the new 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.

The noble Lord is also right there should be parliamentary scrutiny of these requirements, but there is already a long-established procedure for this. The Government are required to set out their immigration policy in the Immigration Rules. This includes salary requirements, which can determine whether an immigration application succeeds or fails. Changes to the rules must be laid before Parliament under the procedure set out in Section 3(2) of the Immigration Act 1971. Either House may disapprove the changes by negative resolution within 40 days of them being laid and the Secretary of State may make any changes that appear to her required in the circumstances. Any such changes will be laid before Parliament within a further 40 days.

I do not think that it is necessary or proportionate to introduce a separate procedure for salary requirements for new entrants. As I have said, lower salary requirements for new entrants are not new. Skilled workers in the existing immigration system are subject to minimum salary requirements and the current Immigration Rules already provide for lower salaries for new entrants. Furthermore, there seems 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, such as the need for a sponsoring employer, a job at the appropriate skill level and the ability to speak English to an accepted standard. The nature of our points-based system is that all these requirements are closely interlinked.

Additionally, our salary requirements, including those for new entrants, are based on UK earnings data. We intend to update them regularly in line with the latest available data, ensuring that migrant workers’ pay keeps pace with that of resident workers. The procedure set out in Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1971 enables us to do so quickly and responsively, while maintaining an essential element of parliamentary scrutiny. Bringing forward draft regulations under an affirmative procedure would lessen this responsiveness.

We may also wish to amend the criteria used to identify new entrants in future. By way of example, we will be removing the option relating to university milk round recruitment to reflect the removal of the resident labour market test. We have also agreed the MAC’s recommendation to include options relating to those working towards professional qualifications or moving into post-doctoral positions. Similar changes may be needed from time to time, which this amendment would make more difficult by placing the new entrant criteria in the Bill.

As outlined in the February policy statement, the Government are committed to continuing to refine the system in the light of experience and will consider adding further flexibility. Specific parliamentary arrangements that risk splitting up interconnecting policies should not prevent this.

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

Break in Debate

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) - Hansard

I will be very brief, since I would only be repeating what has already been said, but I congratulate my noble friend Lady Lister of Burtersett on her determination on this and, indeed, other related issues. EEA and Swiss nationals will shortly be joining the queue of those having to pay visa fees or fees when seeking a right to British citizenship. As we know, the Home Office currently makes a very substantial surplus in relation to this kind of applications following the major cuts in the department’s budget over the last decade. We believe that visa fees should not exceed the cost price.

Amendment 30 provides that regulations under Clause 4

“must ensure that no fee is charged that may deter or prevent registration of an EEA or Swiss national as a British citizen.”

Amendment 68 provides that no person who has lost their free movement rights under this Bill may be charged a fee for registering for British citizenship over the cost of processing their application.

Reference has been made to the British Nationality Act 1981, which contained provisions in respect of payment of fees relating to a child with an entitlement to register for British citizenship. For children with a parent who had free movement rights, Amendment 68 seeks to protect this position by providing that, if they are in care, they may not be charged any fee to register—if they are eligible—for British citizenship and that, otherwise, they may not be charged fees that they or their parent, guardian or carer cannot afford.

I simply conclude by expressing support for the amendment moved by my noble friend Lady Lister. I share the concerns that she expressed about the seemingly very casual attitude to citizenship shown by the Government in the debate in the Commons on this issue. I hope we hear a more understanding response from the Government tonight.

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

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken so passionately in this debate, but I pay particular tribute to the noble Baroness, Lady Lister of Burtersett. If nothing else, she is utterly consistent. I was going to describe her focus as laser-like but I think terrier-like is probably a good additional description.

I will address the court judgment first for the noble Lord, Lord Alton, and others. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary has been given leave to appeal on that, and we expect a judgment in the autumn. Therefore, the noble Lord will totally understand that I actually cannot even speak about this.

However, putting that aside, I will address the concept of citizenship fees being profit making. The overall income from citizenship fees is £2.09 billion; the cost of BICS, the borders, immigration and citizenship system, is £6.18 billion, so it does not even meet its cost overall. Far from making a profit, it still subsidises the overall cost of BICS. I might add that the principle of charging above cost has been in place for more than a decade: that clearly includes all three main political parties represented here in your Lordships’ House. A consultation was run at the end of 2013 on charging principles, which are included in the Immigration Act 2014. We have continued to apply these charging principles, agreed by Parliament, in any proposed fee changes. That said, the Government’s intention is that EEA and non-EEA citizens will be treated the same under the future immigration system. This means that under the new system, the intent is that existing fees, waivers and exceptions will be applied equally.

The issue of fees charged to EEA citizens has been discussed here and of course, as noble Lords have said, in the other place during the passage of the Bill. Throughout, the Government have been clear that decisions regarding future fees payable or funding of the system should be taken in the round and outside of the passage of the Bill, but I totally understand—I would probably have done the same had I been the noble Baroness, Lady Lister—that this is a good opportunity to discuss it. A legislative structure for application fees, with long-standing appropriate checks and balances is already in place. Any changes by way of amendments to the Bill would obviously undermine the existing legal framework, with its purpose of providing the ability to set fees and exceptions in secondary legislation. It would also reduce clarity in the fees structure by creating an alternative statutory mechanism for controlling fees.

Amendment 30 would have the effect of creating a two-tier system and would not deliver the required funding to the system, or indeed deliver the policy intent of FBIS, the future borders and immigration system.

Turning to Amendment 68, this is clearly an important matter and one which has been discussed during the passage of the Bill in the other place. The aim of subsection (1) of the proposed new clause is to limit the Secretary of State’s power to charge a fee for British citizenship applications to the cost of processing the application for anybody who has enjoyed free movement rights, alongside the wider context of charging fees to register as a British citizen. As I have already noted, imposing any amendments to fees as part of the Bill would cut across the existing statutory framework for fees and would risk undermining the funding and coherence of the current and future system, but I think the noble Baroness knows that; we are simply having a discussion about her feelings and the feelings of others on the level of the fees.

Subsection (2) seeks to prevent the Secretary of State charging a fee to register as a British citizen to the child of a person who has exercised free movement rights if the child is in receipt of local authority assistance. The noble Baroness and other noble Lords will know that local authority assistance is a broad term that could include those accessing a range of financial and practical support measures offered by local authorities, including citizenship fees. The Government offer fee exemptions that allow access to limited and indefinite leave to remain to be obtained free of charge for those who are looked after by a local authority. The ability to obtain citizenship may therefore be delayed, but not removed entirely.

Subsection (3) seeks to remove fees to register as a British citizen for children of those who have exercised free movement rights, where the child, child’s parent, guardian or carer is unable to afford the associated fees. This raises similar points to those in subsection (1) and Amendment 30, and I refer to my responses on those points with regards to maintaining a sustainable current and future immigration system and there already being suitable legislative structures in place.

Implementing subsection (4) would require the Secretary of State to take steps to make persons who have exercised free movement rights aware of their rights to obtain British citizenship under the British Nationality Act 1981. The Government have made it clear, when explaining the rights afforded by settled status obtained via the EU settlement scheme, that this may include a right to apply for British citizenship, providing that eligibility requirements are met. The information about becoming a British citizen is available on GOV.UK and we are committed to ensuring that information of this nature is fully accessible for all.

I hope that, with those explanations, the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

Investigatory Powers (Communications Data) (Relevant Public Authorities and Designated Senior Officers) Regulations 2020

Debate between Lord Rosser and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Wednesday 9th September 2020

(2 weeks, 5 days ago)

Lords Chamber
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Home Office
Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) - Hansard

I understand the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick. A private meeting before this SI is approved would certainly have enabled him and others to form a view on whether they agreed with the SI in the light of the business cases they had seen for adding these further public authorities to the list. I listened with interest to the Minister and, as I understand it, that opportunity has not been made available until the last few minutes, almost literally. I wait with interest to hear what she has to say on the points that he made.

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

I acknowledge the points of both the noble Lords, Lord Rosser and Lord Paddick. I did indeed say that I would set aside some time for a private meeting so that noble Lords could look at the business cases. I have those business cases with me and will arrange that meeting. It probably would have been preferable to have had it before proposing the statutory instrument. I continue to give my word that that meeting will be arranged. Obviously, it would now be preferable to have it sooner rather than later, and I will make that time available.

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

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

(3 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Home Office
Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) - Hansard

My Lords, Amendments 12 and 83 provide that regulations under Clauses 4 and 5 respectively cannot make a provision that is inconsistent with the withdrawal agreement. Amendments 18 and 19 alter the language of Clause 4 to bring it in line with the 2018 and 2020 withdrawal Acts. The wording of the Bill does not appear to preclude the concerns which these amendments seek to address. Indeed, Clause 4(1) states that

“The Secretary of State may by regulations made by statutory instrument make such provision as the Secretary of State considers appropriate in consequence of, or in connection with, any provision of this Part”,

namely Part 1 of the Bill.

Clause 5 deals with the power to modify retained direct EU legislation relating to social security co-ordination, and again appears not to provide for the limitations sought in Amendment 83. Presumably it is not the Government’s intention to nullify or weaken the terms or protections of the withdrawal agreement, or the terms or protections of the withdrawal Acts, by regulations that avoid the full and proper parliamentary scrutiny and challenge that is achieved only in respect of primary legislation. That should become clearer from the Government’s response, which will be interesting in the light of media reports today of their allegedly negative attitude to keeping to the terms of the withdrawal agreement. Whether there is any significance to the wording in Clause 4(4) being different from the terms of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 and the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020 will also become clear.

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

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, for speaking to this group of amendments, which concern the scope of the delegated regulation-making power under Clause 4 and, in the case of one of the amendments, Clause 5. As I have said, it is right that Parliament pays close attention to the provision of delegated powers, and to assist we have shared draft illustrative regulations to be made under Clauses 4 and 5, subject to Parliament’s approval of the Bill.

Amendments 12 and 83 prevent the Government from using the powers in Clauses 4 and 5 to make regulations which are inconsistent with the EU withdrawal agreement. We already have a legal obligation to comply with that agreement, which also has direct effect in domestic law in accordance with the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020. These amendments are unnecessary and would call into question why they are not included in every other item of legislation across the statue book.

I turn to Amendments 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. This group may nevertheless be eligible for status under the EU settlement scheme and are therefore still affected by the repeal of free movement. Clause 4 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. The suggested amendments are unnecessary and would add confusion and hinder our ability to make appropriate provision for those affected by that repeal.

It is right that Parliament should set the scope of the power in Clause 4 in terms appropriate to the purposes of this Bill in ending free movement and protecting the rights of Irish citizens. It is also right that Parliament should retain the appropriate oversight over the exercise of that power. The Government’s intention here is simply to ensure absolute clarity of purpose.

The noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, mentioned some issues that I have already addressed, namely comprehensive sickness insurance and the form versus the digital form. Article 18(1) explicitly provides that a document evidencing status may be in digital form. She also talked about children and the EU settlement scheme, specifically children whose parents—or indeed institutions in which they live—may not have signed them up. We will provide for reasonable excuses; I believe that we will come to that later in the Bill.

Digital Evidence

Debate between Lord Rosser and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Monday 7th September 2020

(3 weeks ago)

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

The noble Baroness obviously has firm views about all three areas, but the rape review will consider all the reasons behind recent drops in referrals—they are low anyway—and charges, prosecutions and convictions of rape cases, so the impact of digital disclosure is being considered as part of that.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) - Hansard

In the light of the recent legal challenge and the change of stance by the National Police Chiefs’ Council through withdrawing the digital data extraction forms, what early evidence is there that the experience of the legal system for victims of rape is now actually improving?

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

I cannot stand at the Dispatch Box and say that there is clear evidence. I am saying here that the Government are doing a number of things across a number of areas to make it easier for people to come forward, to be listened to, and for evidence to be gathered in a proportionate and non-intrusive way. Digital extraction is one part of that, but we would not want that to impede a woman’s—or man’s—willingness to come forward.

Channel Crossings in Small Boats

Debate between Lord Rosser and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Thursday 3rd September 2020

(3 weeks, 4 days ago)

Lords Chamber
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Home Office
Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) [V] - Hansard

I express our condolences to the family of Abdulfatah Hamdallah, who died in the English Channel. A government Minister went to France on 11 August and announced a joint action plan. The government response to the UQ said:

“We are … urgently discussing with the French Government how our current plans can be strengthened and made truly comprehensive”

and that the clandestine channel threat commander

“will collaborate closely with the French to build on the joint work already under way, urgently exploring tougher action in France, including—”.—[Official Report, Commons, 2/9/20; col. 168.]

The Minister in the Commons was then stopped by the Speaker for overrunning his time. Can the noble Baroness finish her ministerial colleague’s sentence and tell us what “including” covers? So that we can judge whether the Government are seeking compassionate, competent and life-saving solutions to the issue of migration and asylum, can she also tell us what is in the joint action plan announced by her ministerial colleague on 11 August?

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

My Lords, I would never wish to finish someone else’s sentence, but what I can say about the clandestine channel threat commander, Dan O’Mahoney, is that he has been appointed, as the noble Lord says, and has overall operational and policy responsibility for this rather serious problem. Since there is a multiagency responsibility here which requires working with the French authorities and UKVI, we felt that it needed a single person empowered and accountable to seize control of that situation and get it fixed. What I assume will be in the joint action plan is an explanation of how the multiagency response will work. Of course, these things work best in a multiagency way.

Investigatory Powers (Communications Data) (Relevant Public Authorities and Designated Senior Officers) Regulations 2020

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

(3 weeks, 5 days ago)

Grand Committee
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Home Office
Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) [V] - Hansard

We are not opposed to either of these two draft orders. The first of the two draft orders we are debating adds a further five additional public authorities to the list that are now deemed to have a “necessary and proportionate” requirement to obtain communications data, which is, of course, information about communications rather than what was said or written.

This power to obtain communications data is, according to an extra government factsheet memorandum explaining the purpose and effect of the draft instrument, on the basis that these five public authorities

“are increasingly unable to rely on local police forces to investigate crimes on their behalf”.

The five additional public authorities are the Civil Nuclear Constabulary, the Environment Agency, the Insolvency Service, the UK National Authority for Counter Eavesdropping and the Pensions Regulator. Can the Minister explain why it is that, in the light of cuts in police numbers since 2010, each of these five additional public authorities

“are increasingly unable to rely on local police forces to investigate crimes on their behalf”?

Could the Minister say whether this inability to investigate these crimes applies across all local police forces or only to some police forces, and if the latter, which ones?

We will support measures that cut crime and deal effectively and meaningfully with offenders. Can the Minister explain why the remedy is not to increase the capacity of local police forces so that they can investigate these crimes, rather than give powers to obtain communications data to civilians within these five public authorities? On the latter point about civilians, can the Government give a categorical assurance that this draft instrument does not lower the rank or seniority of designated officers and that there is no widening of the authority to exercise the powers here within the organisations covered by this or by previous orders?

The Explanatory Memorandum states that in deciding whether to grant these powers to the public authorities concerned, the Government consider the seriousness of the offences they investigate and the number of requests for data the public authorities each estimate they will make. Can these powers be used only in respect of serious offences or can they be used in respect of any offence? Can the Minister also say how many such requests for communications data each of the five additional authorities have estimated they will make and how that compares with the number being made currently by local police forces investigating crimes on their behalf? How do the estimates of the number of requests each of the five public authorities have said they will make compare with the number of requests being made by broadly comparable public authorities that already have these powers?

Currently, the public authorities that can obtain communications data under the provisions of the 2016 IP Act include, among others, intelligence agencies, law enforcement agencies, the Food Standards Agency, the Gambling Commission, the Prison and Probation Service, and the NHS Counter Fraud Authority. Can the Minister give details of which public authorities have already been given powers in relation to investigating crimes because increasingly they too cannot rely on local police forces being able to investigate crimes on their behalf? Can she also say if any public authorities for whom powers to obtain communications data have been sought have had that request declined by the Government? This point was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick.

The IP Act sets out the circumstances in which various investigatory powers may be used and the safeguards that apply in relation to ensuring that any interference with privacy is strictly necessary, proportionate, authorised and accountable. Since the Government are not required to report on the operation of the Act until five and a half years from Royal Assent, what assurances can the Government provide now that the statutory safeguards in relation to interference with privacy are proving to be effective and are delivering in line with the intentions of Parliament? What views did the Investigatory Powers Commissioner express about the addition to the list of these five further public authorities, and did the commissioner have any reservations or other comments?

The second draft instrument provides the statutory basis for the Investigatory Powers Commissioner to have the required oversight of compliance by UK public authorities on access to electronic data in relation to serious crime, as provided for in the 2019 international agreement between the UK and USA and exercisable under the Crime (Overseas Production Orders) Act 2019 and the IP Act 2016. According to the Explanatory Memorandum, this arrangement, which presumably relates to the IPC providing independent oversight of UK activity under the agreement with the USA, has been agreed with the US Department of Justice. However, to avoid any misunderstanding, can the Minister place on record in her response exactly what it is that has been agreed with the US Department of Justice? Can she also place on record in her response what arrangements the US Department of Justice has agreed with the UK in relation to independent oversight of USA activity under the agreement, since presumably there is reciprocity when it comes to agreeing each other’s arrangements?

Can the Minister also say if any UK public authorities have yet sought to obtain data directly from US-based telecommunications operators under the terms of the 2019 COPOA Act using an overseas production order? If so, on how many occasions? Likewise, have any US public authorities sought to obtain data from UK-based service providers under the same, or similar, arrangements? If so, on how many occasions? Have assurances been given in relation to the non-use of the death penalty, and has protection been given to journalistic sources and material? Finally, is the Investigatory Powers Commissioner likely to be using statutory oversight and compliance powers in relation to agreements between the UK and any other countries apart from the US?

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

I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in the debate and the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Aberavon, for his brief appearance. I could not keep up with the questions from the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, so I have missed some bits out. I hope to pick them up in the answers to other questions, but I will write to him if not.

I was very pleased to hear the opening remarks from the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett; I thought he would be supportive. He admitted to never having heard of the UK National Authority for Counter Eavesdropping. I join him in that: neither have I. It is the national authority for technical security and counter-eavesdropping. It helps the Government on technical espionage attacks by hostile state actors. Its capabilities and purpose are distinct and focus on countering close-access technical operations that could ultimately damage national security.

As he will know only too well, hostile state actors currently have the desire and the means to gain access to or otherwise compromise the integrity of highly classified communications systems and secure facilities. They are known to be able to carry out close-attack technical attacks, as demonstrated by the attack on the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in The Hague by the Russian intelligence services in 2018. In that case, the Dutch authorities were able to detect and apprehend the agents involved, along with a car full of equipment.

We assessed that Russia and other hostile state actors, particularly China, will continue to attempt to disrupt, attack and commit espionage in the UK. I do not think any noble Lords in the Committee would disagree with that. The Intelligence and Security Committee’s recent report into the interference by Russia in UK democracy demonstrates intent, capability and, indeed, tenacity.

There is also the insider threat to consider, whereby an individual in an organisation may place a device for eavesdropping purposes. Insider threats can be from corrupt, compromised, disgruntled staff or from contractors. They can be among the hardest threats to identify. In order to fulfil its role, the UK National Authority for Counter Eavesdropping needs to be able to identify illicit and covert eavesdropping devices that may be present in sensitive and classified areas and then identify the user behind the device using communications data. We are now all experts in that particular agency.

There were a number of questions, particularly from the noble Lords, Lord Paddick and Lord Foulkes, about agencies being added and taken away, about why that happens and about the purposes of the various agencies that have been added. For clarity, the authorities we are talking about are the Pensions Regulator, the Civil Nuclear Constabulary, the Environment Agency and the Insolvency Service. It was right that those powers were removed in 2015, just as it is right for them to be reinstated now. We cannot foresee how operational requirements will evolve in response to the crimes that public authorities are investigating. We need to have the option to add and remove authorities depending on the necessity of the powers; the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, was right that it is nothing to do with the coalition. This is precisely why the IPA included the power to add and remove bodies from Schedule 4.

These authorities have all demonstrated a strong necessity and proportionality case against similar criteria that the Home Office applied when removing powers in 2015. Those criteria were: the statutory responsibilities of the authorities with access; the seriousness of the offences that they investigate; and the number of requests that they made. As is demonstrated by the case of the Civil Nuclear Constabulary in particular, which does not expect to use the powers often, assessing the volume of applications made is perhaps not the most effective of criteria for deciding which bodies should be listed in Schedule 4. The risk here is just too high to ignore. A public authority can make infrequent use of powers, yet still lead on investigations where communications data is critical.

I congratulate my noble friend Lord Naseby on celebrating his diamond wedding anniversary today.

Hong Kong British National (Overseas) Visa

Debate between Lord Rosser and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Wednesday 29th July 2020

(2 months ago)

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford - Hansard

The noble Lord is right: there are countries that do not recognise dual nationality. The individuals concerned will have choices to make. We are quite clear that we will continue to honour the commitment we made to people who have BNO status.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) [V] - Hansard

The Written Ministerial Statement does not make clear whether British national (overseas) citizens who enter the UK on the Hong Kong British national (overseas) visa will have recourse to public funds. It simply says:

“BN(O) citizens will need to support themselves independently while living in the UK.”

In some cases, the people of Hong Kong will not be able to bring money with them and could have their bank accounts frozen, so what recourse to public funds will be available to them?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford - Hansard

The noble Lord is right that they will not have recourse to public funds. They will have to demonstrate that they can support themselves for the first six months. They can of course, from thereon in, apply for the visa when it comes into place in January.

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

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

(2 months, 1 week ago)

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

My Lords, I am very pleased to be able to bring this much anticipated—I will not say “most welcome” to some of your Lordships—and most important of Bills before your Lordships’ House. It will pave the way for the ending of freedom of movement for EU citizens and the introduction of a single, fairer points-based immigration system which treats people in the same way, regardless of their nationality.

It is now over four years since the British people voted in a referendum to leave the European Union. I know that not all noble Lords were happy with that result, but it was the clearly and democratically expressed will of the people of the United Kingdom, and I do not think that anyone can doubt that concerns about immigration played a part in the referendum. This Government believe that we must deliver what the people voted for, and that position was given added weight by the emphatic result in the general election last December.

The heart of the Bill is that it ends free movement. It does that by repealing EU immigration legislation that is retained by the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, as amended by the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020. By ending free movement, EEA citizens, including both EU citizens and those from EFTA countries, and their family members will become subject to UK immigration law and will require the same permission to enter and remain in this country as people from the rest of the world. This will pave the way for the introduction of our new points-based immigration system from 1 January 2021, as we pledged to do in the general election manifesto that my party put before the people last December. The design of the new system was set out in the Government’s policy statement issued in February and further details were published on 13 July. I will say more about this new system shortly but, before I do that, I want to highlight some of the other key features of the Bill.

The first is about Irish rights. We are enormously proud of our deep and historic ties with Ireland and of the contribution that Irish citizens have made to the UK over many years, which is why this Bill will protect the rights of Irish citizens. The long-standing arrangements between our countries ensure that Irish citizens benefit from specific rights in the UK—the same rights that British citizens enjoy in Ireland. They include the right to work and study, to access healthcare and social security benefits, and to vote.

This Bill makes it clear that, once free movement ends, Irish citizens will continue to be able to come to the UK to live and work as they do now, regardless of where they have travelled from. There will remain limited exceptions to this, as is the case now; namely, where an Irish citizen is subject to deportation orders, exclusion decisions or an international travel ban.

The wider rights enjoyed by Irish citizens in the UK that flow from the common travel area arrangements remain, as reaffirmed in the memorandum of understanding signed by the UK and Ireland last year. Both Governments are committed to preserving the unique status and specific rights in each other’s countries enjoyed for over 100 years.

The Bill also includes an important power to ensure that UK legislation remains coherent once free movement ends. This power permits amendments to primary and secondary legislation which become necessary after the end of free movement. It means that we can align our treatment of EEA and non-EEA citizens, and deliver a system that treats people fairly based on the skills they have and the contribution they make, regardless of where they come from.

The Bill will also enable us to make any necessary changes to our social security system as we align access to benefits for EEA and non-EEA citizens. These policies are led by my noble friend Lady Stedman-Scott and her officials in the Department for Work and Pensions.

The Bill contains powers for the UK Government and/or a Northern Ireland department to amend the retained EU social security co-ordination rules from the end of the transition period for those not in scope of the withdrawal agreement. Scotland will need to make its own primary legislation as appropriate to amend the retained rules in its area of devolved legislative competence.

We are currently in negotiations with the EU about possible new reciprocal arrangements on social security co-ordination. We have been clear that any future agreement on social security must respect Britain’s autonomy to set its own rules. We have already announced that we will end the export of child benefit, and the Bill will enable us to deliver on that commitment.

The UK is working to establish practical, reciprocal provisions on social security co-ordination in order to remove barriers and support the mobility of workers. Any agreement with the EU should be similar in kind to the agreements that the UK has with countries outside the EU. It could include arrangements that provide healthcare cover for tourists, short-term business visitors and service providers; arrangements that allow workers to rely on contributions made in two or more countries to access their state pension, including uprating; and arrangements that prevent dual social security contribution liabilities.

As I have indicated, once free movement ends, we will introduce a single immigration system that encompasses citizens of the whole world. It will be a system based around skills, with the greatest priority given to those with the highest skills who can make the greatest contribution to the UK economy, rather than giving privilege to particular nationalities.

It will be an evidence-based system. Noble Lords will be aware that we commissioned the independent Migration Advisory Committee to advise us on the design of a future system. We have followed its recommendations very carefully and I am pleased to have this opportunity to put on the record once more the Government’s appreciation of the thoughtful and considered work that the MAC does.

It will be a system that works for the benefit of all parts of the United Kingdom. We do not believe that any part of this nation would be well served by operating different immigration systems in different regions. Such an approach is a recipe for chaos and confusion.

Of course, it will be a points-based system, in keeping with the promise that we made to the electorate. Prospective migrants will be able to score additional points if they have particular skills or based on the nature of the job they are coming to do. This will ensure that it really is an immigration system that enables us to attract the very best migrants from around the world.

We are seizing the opportunity to change the entire system for the better, with simpler, clear and transparent routes. That is why we welcomed the Law Commission’s report into simplifying the Immigration Rules, and why we have accepted many of its recommendations. Cutting through the complexity and streamlining processes will be at the heart of our new system.

As well as working closely with the MAC, we have listened to businesses and stakeholders across the UK in designing the new points-based system, and we will continue to engage and work with employers to make it a success and prepare them for the changes. Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, and since the policy statement was published in February, the Home Office has facilitated over 50 events with a wide variety of stakeholders. They include the food and drink manufacturing, retail, automotive and transport, professional business services, agriculture, creative industries, broadcasting, education, public administration, defence, and air and water transport sectors. This is in addition to extensive stakeholder events held in 2019.

Our engagement has focused on those sectors most impacted and those who have previously had little interaction with the immigration system due to reliance on EU labour. We are engaging with advisory groups, a specific group focused on small and medium-sized enterprises, the devolved nations and parliamentarians, as well as holding external events. We have adapted our programme of engagement via increased use of remote technology and are keeping it under continuous review during the current Covid-19 situation to ensure that it remains effective.

We have designed a number of policies which will support the NHS and wider health and care sector to continue to access the best and brightest talent from across the world. We recently announced the introduction of the health and care visa from this summer, which will offer fast-tracked entry to the UK for eligible health and care professionals, reduced application fees and dedicated support through the application process. Those eligible will also be exempt from paying the immigration health surcharge.

In addition to this new visa, we have introduced a number of unprecedented measures to support health workers from overseas. These include: supporting NHS workers with a free, automatic one-year visa extension for those with six months or less left to stay on their visas; exempting all NHS workers, wider health professionals and social care workers from the requirement to pay the health surcharge; and, as we have clarified, refunding payments made since 31 March. Our EU settlement scheme also continues to enable EU citizens whose home is the UK to build their lives here, including those working in our NHS. We have now seen over 3.7 million applications, with over 3.4 million of them concluded. The scheme is simple and easy to use, and there is just under one year to go until the deadline for applications.

The events of recent weeks have also illustrated just what a crucial role the care sector plays in our society. Talented and dedicated social care workers have risked their lives on the front line in providing vital care to the most vulnerable. We truly value the work they are doing, which is why the Government set out steps in our Action Plan for Adult Social Care to support the workforce and ensure that we have the staff we need and that they feel both supported and valued. The Government’s long-term plan for social care is focused on investment in the sector and those employed in it who deliver compassionate and high-quality care.

The Department for Health and Social Care recently launched a new national recruitment campaign, Every Day is Different, highlighting the vital role that the social care workforce is playing during this pandemic and the longer-term opportunity for working in care. We have also commissioned Skills for Care to rapidly scale up capacity for digital induction training, provided free of charge under DHSC’s workforce development fund. This is free of charge for employers when accessed directly from Skills for Care’s endorsed providers. DHSC is also providing councils with access to an additional £1.5 billion for adults’ and children’s social care in 2020-21.

As the MAC identified in its own report, published earlier this year, the immigration system is not the sole solution to the employment issues in the social care sector. It would be a very poor reward for all of those who have worked heroically in the care sector if we were to set up an immigration route which had the effect of keeping wages in the sector at or near minimum wage—a point that the chairman of the MAC has made. As we implement the new immigration system, we want employers to focus on investing in our domestic workforce. The Government are working closely with the sector to go further to recognise the contributions of social care workers. This includes a widespread focus on training, increasing the prestige of our domestic workforce, and introducing a proper career structure to provide opportunities for those in the sector while making it an attractive profession for prospective carers.

In conclusion, there are many across this House who care passionately about immigration issues. It would be remiss of me not to mention my right honourable friend the Home Secretary’s Statement yesterday on the Windrush Lessons Learned Review and how we are progressing towards implementing the recommendations. We will undoubtedly have a very valuable and detailed debate on the breadth of these subjects this afternoon. However, the Bill is a simple one, focused on ending free movement. It enables the Government to deliver an immigration system that is firm, fair and fit for the future, supporting economic recovery and prioritising jobs for people here in the UK, while continuing to attract the brightest and the best global talent. I beg to move.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) [V] - Hansard

The purpose of this Bill is narrow in scope. It is to end EU freedom of movement rules in the United Kingdom and it has just nine clauses. EEA nationals will become subject to United Kingdom immigration laws after the Brexit transition period, and thus be covered by the Government’s points-based immigration system, to be introduced next year. This Bill is nearly identical to its predecessor, which fell due to the general election last year. It took just six weeks to complete all its stages in the Commons before being passed unamended at Third Reading on 30 June. Progress in the Lords will not be so rapid as in the Commons, although it remains to be seen whether that will be due solely to the August Recess.

The Bill does not itself create a new immigration system. The change to the points-based system will be covered in unamendable Immigration Rules. However, the Bill gives Henry VIII powers to the Government which are so wide-ranging in the way they are worded that they would enable the Government to modify, by unamendable statutory instrument, both primary immigration legislation and retained direct EU legislation. The Government maintain that the Henry VIII powers in Clause 4 are only to address necessary technical legislative changes to primary legislation, arising from the ending of free movement.

The same powers in Clause 5, say the Government, are there to enable, first, consequential modifications to be made to primary legislation and other retained EU law if areas of the retained EU social security co-ordination regulations, co-ordinating access to social security for individuals moving between EEA states, have to be repealed because they are not covered in a reciprocal agreement with the EU following the end of the transition period; and, secondly, if consequential technical amendments are needed to legislation arising from any new reciprocal agreement with the EU.

The Lords Delegated Powers Committee said of the previous Bill, however, that Clause 4 presents

“a very significant delegation of power from Parliament to the Executive”,

and on Clause 5 it said that

“Parliament is being asked to scrutinise a clause so lacking in any substance whatsoever that it cannot even be described as a skeleton.”

Parliament is going to be denied any proper say and involvement in determining even the basic principles of our future immigration policy post Brexit, and the ending of free movement. Yet the Government admit in their fact sheet 3 on the Bill that:

“By ending free movement, the Bill makes a substantial change to the UK’s immigration laws.”

This is not about the merits or otherwise of Brexit; that decision has been made. It is about the Government’s attitude towards Parliament and its major law-making process in scrutinising and then deciding which Government legislative proposals should, or should not, be passed, rejected or amended.

While the Bill seeks to deny an opportunity to address issues of concern about our immigration system, that does not mean they were not raised in the Commons and will not be raised in the Lords. Issues that have had cross-party support include a time limit on immigration detention for the purpose of deportation, the granting of automatic indefinite leave to remain to eligible EEA and Swiss national children who are in care, or are care leavers, and the need for the continuation of the existing EU arrangements on unaccompanied child refugees and family reunification.

Further issues include, but are not confined to: the application of the “no recourse to public funds” rules, in the light of an apparent promise of a review made by the Prime Minister on 27 May; the progress being made on the Government’s commitment to abolish the immigration health charge for all migrants working in the NHS and social care; exemption from the immigration skills charge for NHS employers in the light of the reality that some hospitals are now paying nearly £1 million a year; clarity on the rights and status of EU nationals in the UK following the end of the transition period, including proof of settled status; and limitations on the duration of the Henry VIII powers.

The end of free movement and the move to the points-based immigration system, with its general salary threshold of £25,600 per annum for coming to work in the UK, seeks to equate low pay with low skills and low value. Consequently, this sends a very clear negative message to low-paid, but not low-skilled, EU nationals currently working in the UK. Many of these people have been among those who have kept, and are keeping, our public services going during the pandemic, not least in the care sector. This sends a clear negative message that, in today’s sometimes distorted view of the value of different jobs to society, we do not appreciate the contribution they make and the skills they bring.

In the Commons last week, a Home Office Minister said that the reason that care workers had been excluded from the qualifying list for the health and care visa was because the Government had a “vision” for the social care sector that it should no longer carry on looking abroad to recruit at or near the minimum wage, and that the Government’s priority was that, in future, care sector jobs will be

“valued, rewarded and trained for, and that immigration should not be an alternative.”—[Official Report, Commons, 13/7/20; col. 1250]

If that means significantly better rates of pay in the underpaid social care sector, I am sure it will have widespread support. However, yesterday the Government said that with the vast majority of social care workers employed in the private sector their

“ability to influence pay rates there is limited”.

Since there are already 100,000 vacancies in England’s care sector alone, and the current flow of people from abroad to fill low-paid care sector jobs is about to dry up, how have the Government been able to satisfy themselves not only that UK-based workers will immediately step in to fill that gap but that they can lower vacancy levels in the social care sector?

If higher pay rates materialise in the social care sector, as a result of the points-based immigration system, there will presumably be an increase in the cost of providing social care. Who will finance those higher costs? Will it be the elderly care home residents and residents receiving care at home? Will it be already cash-strapped local authorities, or will the providers of care provision have to absorb the costs? Or does the Government’s vision extend to them financing the additional costs of a welcome improvement in pay in the social care sector? Perhaps the Government could provide an answer to that question in their response at the end of this debate.

The Government have said that ending free movement from the EU plus the future points-based immigration system should reduce net migration. On what basis have the Government come to that conclusion, bearing in mind that net migration from outside the EU, where there is no free movement, exceeds net migration from the EU, where there is free movement?

Perhaps the Government’s conclusion is an indication that, in the absence of publicly declared targets for net migration, they expect their approach to deter sufficient numbers of people from seeking to come and work here, in which case the hostile environment approach may still exist in spirit, if not officially in name. What happens and what is said during the passage of the Bill may throw some light on that. We will have to see whether some amendments to the Bill are accepted, or whether the absence of any movement on the Bill in the Commons really means a Government which think they are 100% right and that an alternative approach on anything related to the Bill is 100% wrong.

Knife Crime

Debate between Lord Rosser and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Tuesday 21st July 2020

(2 months, 1 week ago)

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford - Hansard

The noble Lord will know that I agree with him because I have agreed with him for many years on this. Family support is crucial. Through the troubled families programme we had that type of multiagency support for families. It is an absolute tragedy that very young people are carrying knives. They do so because they feel like victims; ultimately, they may become perpetrators, but at the heart of this, they are victims. That is why the multiagency approach is at the heart of the type of intervention and prevention we are taking forward.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) [V] - Hansard

We know that the Home Secretary speaks to police chiefs every day. When she talks to them about the increase in knife crime, as she must do, what are the police chiefs telling the Government are the reasons for the national increase in knife crime? What action do they consider needs to be taken, and by whom, to address this issue and bring the knife crime figure down?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford - Hansard

I know that the noble Lord will understand that I will not relay details of operational conversations. However, I will quote a Member of Your Lordships’ House, the noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, who said that while the factors are multifaceted, one thing he is clear about is the rise in the demand from the drugs markets. While not directly related to it, some of the work that the NCA did the other week in taking drugs and weapons out of circulation will undoubtedly have eased some of the problems that our young people face.

Terrorism Act 2000 (Proscribed Organisations) (Amendment) (No. 2) Order 2020

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

(2 months, 2 weeks ago)

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Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) [V] - Hansard

I thank the Minister for her explanation of the content and purpose of this order, which we support. It adds Feuerkrieg Division—FKD—to the list of proscribed organisations covered under Schedule 2 to the Terrorism Act 2000. This is, I believe, the 25th order under that Act. To pursue points made by others, can the Minister indicate how many organisations are still on the proscribed list, and confirm that the Government still consider that they all remain in existence and continue to be concerned in terrorism?

The Home Secretary can seek to have an organisation proscribed if, and only if, she believes that it is concerned in terrorism as defined in the Terrorism Act, and then decides to exercise her discretion to do so. Proscription means outlawing an organisation and preventing it operating in the United Kingdom; it then becomes a criminal offence to belong to or support such an organisation.

As has been said, the organisation we are discussing today is a white supremacist group founded less than two years ago. It has members in North America and Europe, and advocates the use of violence and mass murder in pursuit of an all-out race war. Most of its activity is online but it also distributes violent, racist and anti-Semitic propaganda.

As we know, right-wing terrorism is the fastest-growing terror threat in the United Kingdom, and indeed in other countries. The Government need a coherent and comprehensive strategy in place to tackle far-right extremism, including availability of resources. I hope that the Minister can outline in her response what that strategy is beyond proscription orders.

As the Minister said, FKD members have been arrested on terrorism charges both in the UK and overseas. Last year, US authorities charged several individuals with offences including weapons charges, plotting to bomb a synagogue, plotting attacks on the LGBT community, plotting to bomb a major news network and distributing information related to explosives and weapons of mass destruction. As we know, 10 months ago, police in this country apprehended a 16 year-old on suspicion of the commission, preparation and instigation of acts of terrorism, which led to the group urging members to carry out attacks in retaliation for the arrest of one of its followers. In October last year, a 21 year-old appeared in court charged with terror offences relating to his purported support for FKD after allegedly encouraging the mass murder of members of the Jewish and LGBT communities. Group members have also condoned and glorified acts of terrorism, including the Christchurch shooting.

In February this year, FKD announced that it would be dissolving but no reason was given and it is apparently considered that the group and its members remain active through other channels. As others have said, on the face of it, it is a little odd that when FKD did not seek to hide its existence, the Home Secretary did not take the necessary action to have it proscribed but once it claimed it would dissolve, the Home Secretary decided to act. Can the Minister comment on that in her response?

When the Government say that it is considered that the group and its members remain active through other channels, does that mean that it is suspected that the group has likely merged with another organisation; that it may have, in effect, simply renamed or unnamed itself and be operating exactly as before; or that it is operating in a different way, albeit continuing to be concerned in terrorism?

If FKD claims to be dissolving, does that claim also apply to the United States or is it only in this country or in Europe? If it does apply to the United States, do the US authorities also hold the view that the group and its members remain active through other channels? Can the Minister confirm that the Government do not consider that there would be any insuperable difficulty in proving membership of, or support for, FKD once it has been proscribed, despite its claim that it would be dissolving?

We support this order since we are committed to tackling all forms of terrorism and ensuring the safety of our nation and our citizens. We express our thanks to our police and security services for their work in this regard. I agree that there is a strong case to be made for FKD’s proscription. I accept that much of the information on which the Home Secretary has based her decision to pursue this order is likely to be of a nature and content that precludes it being disclosed for national security reasons. However, I hope that the Minister will be able to respond not only to my few brief questions but also to the questions asked and points made by the other noble Lords who have spoken in this debate.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford - Hansard

I thank all noble Lords for the points they have made on this proscription debate. I shall start with the last point made by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, and confirm that if I cannot answer specific questions, it is because those answers cannot be disclosed. Similarly, on any decision that the Home Secretary might make about proscription, those sorts of decisions are not generally shared.

The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, mentioned the difficulty of deproscription applications, but last year, the Home Secretary deproscribed the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group following its application. Deproscription applications do work and it is a simple form that is used. The noble Lord asked about the number of groups that are currently proscribed: the number is 75, plus 14 Northern Ireland groups. As I said, I cannot go into details on the system by which decisions are made, but I can comfort noble Lords by confirming that the system is based on a range of evidence, and decisions are taken after extensive consideration and in light of a full assessment of that available information.

My noble friend Lord Bourne asked whether we can act swiftly on groups that pose a threat. Absolutely we can, but, given the impact this has on people, we need to be very careful to make the right decision based on all the evidence we have before us.

The noble Lord, Lord Hussain, referred to foreign Governments’ requests for proscription, deproscription and extradition, or any activity of that type. The Government do not and will not make decisions based on pressure from a foreign Government, or indeed political pressure; that would be quite against the democratic process. The Home Secretary makes decisions based on the facts before him or her.

A number of noble Lords have asked: why now and why? Why now? Because decisions of whether to proscribe this organisation have been taken after extensive consideration and in light of a full assessment of all available information.

The noble Lord, Lord Bowness, and my noble friend Lady Altmann asked what happens when we leave the EU and whether we will consult member states. We engage with other member states on intelligence-sharing; that will not change when we leave the European Union. In fact, I recall the noble Baroness, Lady Manningham-Buller, making that very point in this House. The intelligence sharing will always go on, within or without the EU.

The noble Lord, Lord Bowness, made the point that the group claims to have dissolved. We can be cynical about that, and what we require is evidence of ongoing threat or not. When we leave the European Union, we will want as robust a security arrangement as possible.

For reasons I have already outlined, I will not comment on the White Helmets or any other group, and I certainly will not be commenting on the Shamima Begum case; the Home Secretary will consider the court’s judgment, note it and decide on the next steps to take.

My noble friend Lady Altmann asked whether the police are adequately resourced to deal with groups such as this and about CT policing specifically. It is ring-fenced, and I am quite certain not only that CT police are adequately resourced but that the 20,000 new police officers will very adequately meet the changing demands of policing.

The noble Lord asked about ministerial discussion with Estonia. I have already said that we engage with other nations, but I cannot confirm whether we engage with Estonia on this particular case.

There was one final point I was going to make, which seems to have escaped me, but it might come back to me—I literally cannot remember. I think those are the main points, and with that, I beg to move.

Metropolitan Police: Racism

Debate between Lord Rosser and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Wednesday 15th July 2020

(2 months, 2 weeks ago)

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford - Hansard

It is absolutely crucial that different parts of the system not only speak to but learn from each other, and that this forms what is best practice as we proceed.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) [V] - Hansard

The Minister has made a number of references to diversity and to the police being more representative of the communities that they serve. The Home Secretary said in the Commons on Monday that she spoke to police chiefs every single day. What has the Home Secretary been telling police chiefs in these conversations that she expects them to achieve on greater diversity within police officer ranks, and over what period does she expect that to be achieved?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford - Hansard

I can vouch for the fact that the Home Secretary speaks to the police every day because I am on some of those calls. As I said, she is chairing the national policing board today and one item that will be discussed is diversity.

Port Examination Codes of Practice and National Security Determinations Guidance Regulations 2020

Debate between Lord Rosser and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Friday 10th July 2020

(2 months, 2 weeks ago)

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Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) [V] - Hansard

I too thank the Minister for her explanation of the content and purpose of these regulations. When they were considered in the Commons two days ago the debate attracted two speakers, both of whom were required to be there, and was dealt with in 13 minutes. Clearly, life is harder for a Lords Minister than a Commons Minister.

These regulations address issues concerning our national security and the safety of our citizens. They bring into effect an amended code of practice for the counterterrorism port examination powers under the Terrorism Act 2000, a code of practice for the new hostile state activity port examination powers under the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act 2019 and amended guidance under the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 relating to biometric retention provisions, as amended by the 2019 Act. The codes of practice have been the subject of public consultation.

Under the Terrorism Act 2000, a counterterrorism port and border officer can stop, question, search and detain a person at a UK port or the Northern Ireland border area to determine whether they are or have been involved in terrorism. The 2019 Act created similar powers to support law enforcement bodies in detecting and disrupting hostile state actors involved in, among other things, espionage, sabotage, assassination and subversion. The guidance under the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 provides direction to law enforcement authorities about making or renewing a national security determination which allows for the retention and use of biometric material, fingerprints and DNA profiles for national security purposes.

The codes and guidance which these regulations bring into effect instruct and guide port and border officers in the procedural exercise of the powers to which I have referred, including rights and duties as well as safeguards for those who are subject to them. Only accredited officers will be able to exercise these powers, which must be done in accordance with the relevant code of practice. There will also be independent oversight of the use and application of the powers: by the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation in relation to Terrorism Act 2000 powers, and by the Investigatory Powers Commissioner in relation to the 2019 Act powers. It is vital that these oversight protections are strong and effective, since the measures to which the codes of practice and guidelines we are discussing relate apply to individuals who have not, or have not yet, been convicted of any crime.

The attempted assassination of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in March 2018 in Salisbury, the related death of Dawn Sturgess and the evolving nature of risks and security threats highlight the need to reinforce and improve our lines of defence and fill the gaps in our legislation that come to light. The 2019 Act and these draft regulations, including the codes of practice, seek to do that. The issues that are the subject of the guidance and the code of practice related to the 2019 Act were debated at some length during the passage of the then Bill. Two key changes were made to the Bill, which are reflected in the code of practice: the right to confidential legal advice with safeguards, and securing a tighter definition of what constitutes hostile activity.

It was right that the Government undertook a consultation on the codes of practice. As a result of it, extra safeguards have been added to the code of practice relating to the 2019 Act to protect journalists and journalistic material. I know that the Minister referred to this, but can she reiterate precisely which additional safeguards were added following the consultation, as well as responding to the points raised by my noble friend Lord Harris of Haringey and others?

That same code of practice specifies that an examining officer does not need “grounds for suspecting” that someone is engaged in hostile activity to stop them, but then also says that such stops must not be arbitrary and must be informed by the threat of hostile activity. The Government argued during Bill Committee that this was necessary because the security services sometimes have key information, but not enough to reach a reasonable suspicion threshold. Will the reason for a stop be recorded and, if so, where and by whom? If recorded, to whom would that information then be available? Would it be available on request and at any time to the Investigatory Powers Commissioner?

The code of practice for the 2019 Act also makes it clear that stopping someone based purely on a protected characteristic is not acceptable. There are concerns with any stop and search power that it will disproportionately impact BAME people. Will the Investigatory Powers Commissioner have access to information and statistics on how this power under the Act is used, and who is stopped?

In this code of practice, most of the reasons listed for the retention of an article or copy of an article are explicitly linked to preventing hostile activity under the 2019 Act. However, it also allows an article to be retained, or copied and retained, where the examining officer believes it may be needed for a decision to deport under the Immigration Act 1971. Can the Minister say how this provision will operate and whether the examining officer will be expected to proactively ascertain whether the article might be needed for a decision to deport?

Finally, the Biometrics Commissioner recommended that data be deleted within a reasonable period of time in circumstances where an individual has been arrested but not convicted of a non-terrorism offence. The guidance states that a reasonable period is up to six months. Can the Minister say what evidence led to that timeframe being provided for in the guidance, and whether it was proposed or suggested by the commissioner?

Our national security is of utmost importance to us all and, in that context, we support the action the Government are taking but await with interest the Minister’s response to the many points raised and questions asked. We also express our appreciation of the work of the counterterrorism and border officers at our ports, who are often our first line of defence against those of malign intent—state-sponsored or otherwise.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford - Hansard

I first thank all noble Lords who have made some very constructive points in this debate, and I fully concur with the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, about the quality of debate and scrutiny in your Lordships’ House. I knew I would not beat the 15 minutes in the Commons and that the questions would be somewhat more forensic.

The noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, was very supportive of the extension from two to five years. There probably was a difference of opinion within your Lordships’ House: some noble Lords wondered if five years was enough and others thought it was too long. In terms of the five-year limit, we are proposing to increase the length of a single NSD to five years; however, they can be renewed as many times as necessary to protect national security. A number of noble Lords questioned whether it was arbitrary. It was based on operational feedback and we think it strikes a better balance between allowing the police to prioritise their resources and retaining the safeguard of regular reviews. It is supported by the Biometrics Commissioner.

Another point was about some ports not being covered. Port monitoring is, of course, quite often intelligence-led. If we literally covered our entire border with officers, we would still have people getting through without the intelligence that is so crucial to being able to stop people and to question them. We have approximately 1,200 officers at the ports and the powers—I say just to clarify—are used by the police and not immigration and customs. Police use a very flexible model rather than a permanent presence at ports. They use regional hubs and they flex officers to meet demand at those ports.

The noble Baronesses, Lady Ludford and Lady Hamwee, were talking about ethnicity being used to stop people. I make it absolutely clear that it is actually unlawful to stop somebody because of their ethnicity. I am literally trying to cover every noble Lord’s question. My noble friends Lady Altmann and Lord Kirkhope and the noble Baroness, Lady Wheatcroft, asked about Brexit and Northern Ireland as it relates to these provisions. The political declaration provides the basis for a comprehensive and balanced future security partnership, which is in the mutual interest of the UK and the EU. I stress that these powers will not be used as an immigration control or indeed to interfere with the right to travel between jurisdictions. Their application to the border mirrors Schedule 7 to the Terrorism Act 2000, an analogous power for CT purposes that has been in operation for 20 years, and we have not seen wide-scale use of these powers in the border area. Noble Lords will also know that negotiations are ongoing and, of course, I would not pre-empt the outcome. However, the security of our borders and citizens is of the utmost importance.

My noble friend Lady Altmann talked about the training for officers, as did the noble Lord, Lord German, and my noble friend Lady Anelay talked about helping to safeguard people who might be handling dangerous subjects—I mean substances, but subjects even. The training and the accreditation is the responsibility of the College of Policing, but it goes without saying that these officers are highly trained, and the College of Policing and the new Schedule 3 powers will not be used until officers are trained and accredited.

In terms of the safety of front-line officers who put their lives at risk—of course, this is an absolute priority—these policing officers are experienced in dealing with a range of threats. There are strict procedures in place to mitigate the harm to officers and all officers will be trained in those procedures.

I move to the point that the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, made about transparency and oversight. As is the case for Schedule 7 powers, the Schedule 3 powers will be subject to the oversight of the Investigatory Powers Commissioner, who will be required to submit an annual report to the Home Secretary, which will be published and laid before Parliament. The commissioner may also make a report on any issue at any time. To support these functions, all examination records and data will be made available to the reviewer and to the commissioner. The Home Office also publishes a wealth of statistical information relating to counterterrorism legislation, including to the Schedule 7 powers.

To answer the point of the noble Baronesses, Lady Ludford and Lady Hamwee, I say that we do not intend to publish statistics about religion, so we are not intending to add to the burden of front-line officers, but further consideration will be given to the possibility of releasing figures for the Schedule 3 powers. That decision will be made once data is available to conduct a proper national security assessment of such information, and we anticipate this being at the time of the commissioner’s first report.

I turn to the important point about both abuse by people saying that they are journalists and the protection of genuine journalistic material. The noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey—so nice to see him and to be speaking to a human being—and the noble Lords, Lord Carlile and Lord Snape, asked about this. Officers will, of course, take steps to verify a person’s credentials, and that is why we have powers to seek judicial authorisation to access such material if there is a need. It is also why we have provided a means for independent legal counsel to assist examining officers in determining which items of material are protected and which are examinable.

On the other side of the coin are safeguards for protected materials and journalistic sources. Debates on this issue throughout the passage of the Bill highlighted the unique practical challenges in safeguarding such genuine material in the context of a time-bound court examination, while ensuring that the powers remain effective against terrorists and hostile state actors. For example, it would severely impact the utility of the powers if a person’s claim of carrying protected material was enough, on its own, to deny access to that property, or to any property comprising unprotected material. That also relates to the other point.

In answer to the question from the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, I can say that, after consideration of feedback received from groups representing the media, we believe that we have identified a constructive solution to address these practical concerns while preserving the confidentiality of genuine material. We have amended the codes to make it explicitly clear that front-line officers must not retain, copy or examine material that is believed to be protected. However, we have also allowed for the temporary retention of property containing protected material, or copies of that property, but only where a process can be undertaken to identify and separate this from examinable material. The process is subject to strict requirements to minimise the risk that protected material is seen by the examining officer, or any other officer involved in the examination. For example, as I said in answer to the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, independent counsel must be engaged for the purpose of identifying which items of material the officers are authorised to examine. Any protected material must then be returned to the property owner and copies destroyed. This process has been modelled on the Serious Fraud Office operational procedure upheld by the High Court. In addition, we have extended the safeguards for protected material, under either power, to include material which could disclose a source of journalistic information. I hope that noble Lords will agree that these changes are a pragmatic response to an important technical concern which was raised in the consultation feedback.

My noble friend Lord Naseby commented that there were not many responses to the consultation. I always see that as a good thing: in other words, it was not contentious. The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, referred to the HMIC report. The regulations do not apply to immigration detention, so this is not applicable to that report, although I am sure there will be plenty of opportunity—as we have had—to discuss it.

Immigration: Detainee Support

Debate between Lord Rosser and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Tuesday 7th July 2020

(2 months, 3 weeks ago)

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford - Hansard

I agree with the noble Lord. Anyone in asylum accommodation has access to our advice, issue reporting and eligibility provider, Migrant Help. He is right that there will be vulnerable people in our detention estate.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) [V] - Hansard

I want to come back to a question raised by the noble Baronesses, Lady Sheehan and Lady Warsi. They made the point that there has been a big reduction in the number of people in removal centres because of the risks due to the pandemic. My question is a follow-up to those previous questions: do the Government now expect that, in the light of being able to remove so many people from immigration removal centres, there will in future be a significant reduction in the use of such detention? Presumably, we have shown that we can manage these cases in the community. Will there be a reduction in future?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford - Hansard

My Lords, the Government do not want to put anyone in detention centres for the purposes of removal. Obviously, there are conditions around people being put on bail, including being asked to live at a specified address in the community. In the future, all these things will be based on a risk-management system.

Covid-19: Support and Accommodation for Asylum Seekers

Debate between Lord Rosser and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Tuesday 30th June 2020

(3 months ago)

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Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) [V] - Hansard

This UQ has been prompted by the tragic events in Glasgow on Friday. I express our best wishes for a full recovery to those injured, not least to PC David Whyte, and our thanks to our emergency services for their professionalism and dedication.

I have two questions. First, asylum seekers are interviewed, including about vulnerabilities, at the point when their asylum claim is made. It appears that the 321 who were moved into hotels in Glasgow at the beginning of the lockdown did not have a further vulnerability risk assessment on being moved. What ongoing vulnerability assessments of asylum seekers are required, and in what circumstances? Secondly, is it correct that the limited daily allowance for asylum seekers is withdrawn when they are moved into hotel accommodation? If so, how are such asylum seekers able to pay even for items such as postage stamps, personal telephone calls or a non-prescription cough mixture, and how does that contribute to their general well-being?

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

My Lords, I join the noble Lord in paying tribute to all the emergency services and in sending our best wishes to those injured, including PC David Whyte, for a swift recovery.

The noble Lord is right: people get an initial assessment. Regarding further vulnerabilities, 24-hour healthcare is available to anyone who may need it who is in this or any other type of asylum accommodation. On the lack of cash for those in hotel accommodation, it is important to point out that anyone in hotel accommodation gets all essential living needs and costs met in terms of food, toiletries, hygiene products and healthcare, so there are no additional costs that they might need to meet. People can apply for additional assistance, should they need it.

Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Debate between Lord Rosser and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Monday 22nd June 2020

(3 months, 1 week ago)

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford - Hansard

My Lords, I will have to give the noble and learned Baroness an update on that as I do not, in all honesty, know where it is up to. I agree with her that the inquiry is doing a good job. It is good that the public hearings are due to conclude at the end of this year.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) [V] - Hansard

My Lords, the inquiry into child sexual abuse published a report into online-facilitated abuse, which found that law enforcement agencies were struggling to keep up and tech companies seemed unaware of the full scale of the problem on their platforms. Dreadfully, this issue has now become even more prevalent during the lockdown. Why have the Government still not published the interim code of practice on tackling child abuse content, which they promised in February pending legislation? What immediate action, as called for in the independent inquiry report, are the Government taking now to deal with the increasing scourge of this online abuse?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford - Hansard

My Lords, the Home Secretary speaks every day to operational partners—the NCA, the police and the NPCC. It is not just that we are aware of the dangers of children being at home with their computers and not at school; significant effort has been undertaken to mitigate some of the potential for harm to children over this period. As for production of the report, that will come in due course.

Black Lives Matter: Protests

Debate between Lord Rosser 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

I confess that I have not read it, but my noble friend is right to point out that we can all think of attempts through the ages to erase culture and history for various reasons. The boxed-up Churchill is such a sorry sight. I understand that it was boxed up for its protection against some of the protests at the weekend. The sooner the Churchill statue is freed and he is commemorated once again as one of the greatest people who ever lived, the better.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) [V] - Hansard

As the right reverend Prelate said, the Government do not lack information on the reality and impact of the racial discrimination which has driven the recent peaceful protests, as opposed to lacking the determination to act with speed on that information. If the Government reject this view, can the Minister say what specific action to address racial discrimination has been taken as a result of the release of data from the Government’s own racial disparity audits over the last two and three-quarter years, and what has been the impact of that action on reducing racial disparities and discrimination?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford - Hansard

My Lords, we certainly do not lack a determination to act. As I said, the Home Secretary is committed to addressing the Wendy Williams report by the appropriate date, having given it full thought and consideration. In terms of disparities, we collect more data than ever before—including search data, the race of the person searched, what was searched for and how often objects were found—in each force. That data is published online, allowing local scrutiny groups, the PCC and others to hold forces to account, and we discuss it with the relevant NPCC leads. In terms of race disparity, the previous Prime Minister was the first to publish the Race Disparity Audit, which has helped immeasurably in the Government committing to looking after their own back yard in improving race disparity across the piece in government.

Quarantine: Scientific Advice

Debate between Lord Rosser and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Wednesday 10th June 2020

(3 months, 2 weeks ago)

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford [V] - Hansard

Each country has its own methods of trying to control the virus, with some implementation of restrictions at the border. We know that Covid-19 will have a huge economic impact and we do not wish to keep some of the restrictive measures in place for any longer than we need to. It is absolutely the Government’s strong desire to get the economy up and running as soon as we can.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) [V] - Hansard

In the Commons on Monday, when challenged about the practicality of the quarantine plan, the Home Secretary said

“first of all, this is not my plan; this is a Government plan”.—[Official Report, Commons, 8/6/20; col. 15.]

That sounds like a nifty piece of political distancing. We are calling for a rapid 48-hour testing-led programme to allow people to safely exit quarantine more quickly and keep the country open for business; full publication of the SAGE advice on quarantining; a sector-specific support package to save jobs in industries at risk of collapse from the current measures; and clarity on plans and timelines for so-called air bridges. Will the Minister recommend our proposals to the Home Secretary?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford [V] - Hansard

My right honourable friend the Home Secretary talked about a government plan because the sort of measures we are putting in place need not only support across government but collective agreement across government. The noble Lord is right that the quicker the testing can be done—testing is speeding up all the time—the better. He will also have seen over the past few months that certain sectors have been more able to go about their business than others, the difficult areas being industries such as hospitality. On air bridges, we are talking to countries across the world about just this—where we can perhaps pair with countries that have similar rates of infection.

Child Sex Predators

Debate between Lord Rosser and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Thursday 4th June 2020

(3 months, 3 weeks ago)

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford - Hansard

We are very concerned about some of these games and apps, particularly those with end-to-end encryption, which means that the CSPs themselves cannot see inside them. Therefore, they and law enforcement may not be able to see evidence of child sexual abuse. The Five Eyes are working very hard to this end.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) - Hansard

What specific criteria or objectives have the Government set themselves by which they can be held to account for their success or failure to address the disturbing incidence of child sex abuse and the equally awful reality of child sex predators?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford - Hansard

Even before lockdown began, one of the things that I and other Ministers in the Home Office were most concerned about was not just domestic abuse but child sexual abuse and exploitation online. During lockdown the NCA has continued to target high-risk online CSA offenders. It has executed 47 warrants, made 51 arrests in 21 police force areas and safeguarded or protected 105 children, with 416 devices seized. The NCA has also disseminated 2,600 online CSA packages to UK policing during lockdown.

Windrush Compensation Scheme

Debate between Lord Rosser and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Wednesday 6th May 2020

(4 months, 3 weeks ago)

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Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) - Hansard

My Lords, I have not yet seen the Minister’s letter of 30 April either, so I hope it does not impact on what I want to say. This has been an important debate on an issue that will surely always be regarded as a stain on our country’s reputation for decency and humanity.

The independent Williams review into the Windrush scandal stated that it was “foreseeable and avoidable.” The compensation scheme is intended to compensate claimants for the losses and adverse impacts suffered. The impact assessment indicates that there will be a policy review in October 2024. Against what criteria, and with what objective, will the policy be reviewed?

The impact assessment says:

“There is significant uncertainty surrounding the volume of claims and associated costs. Compensation and operational costs are estimated in line with the 11,500 eligible claimants planning assumption … Total compensation costs range from £20.5 to £301.3 million … based on the volume range of 3,000 to 15,000 eligible claims”,

with a best estimate of £160.9 million. The impact assessment also has a paragraph headed “Description and scale of key monetised benefits by ‘main affected groups’”, which starts by saying:

“Benefits (compensation payments) relate to righting the wrongs suffered by those from the Windrush generation.”

It is no wonder that concerns have been raised about ownership of the scheme being with the Home Office if the Government regard these payments under the scheme as benefits—for which, presumably, the recipients should be grateful

It may also explain why the compensation payments appear to be modest, bearing in mind that the Government have accepted that lives were ruined and families were torn apart. Taking the Government’s best-estimate figure of costs under the scheme of £160.9 million and dividing it by the 11,500 assumed eligible claimants gives an average compensation award per claimant of approximately £14,000. That is not a lot, bearing in mind that compensation payments are intended to cover losses ranging from detention and removal, loss of employment, loss of housing, loss of access to healthcare, loss of education, loss of access to banking and what is described as

“impact on normal daily life”,

which apparently includes such things as

“missed key family events or inability to travel”.

Included in that must also be the feelings of rejection, humiliation and injustice; of suddenly being told, wrongly—utterly wrongly—that you have no status and no right to remain in the country you have lived in for much if not all of your life, the country you proudly regarded as your home in the same way as Members of your Lordships’ House do. Is all that worth compensation—or perhaps, in the Government’s eyes, a benefit payment—of, on average, £14,000?

The Prime Minister once infamously described payment of £250,000 per annum for his newspaper column as “peanuts”. He now heads a Government who are offering, at an average of £14,000 per head, just one eighteenth of “peanuts” as compensation to the Windrush generation and others. The Government have said that the compensation scheme allows those who have suffered to avoid court proceedings in pursuit of justice. Can the Government say whether accepting compensation under the scheme does or does not then preclude an individual from taking legal proceedings if that is a step they wish to explore?

The scheme provides for awards that are tariff-based and awards based on actual loss. Tariff-based awards are determined on the balance of probabilities, but for awards for actual losses the Government require firm evidence that the losses claimed were actually incurred. One can envisage that being a major hurdle for many claimants after so many years have elapsed. There is provision for an independent review by an HMRC adjudicator where a claimant is not satisfied with the outcome of their claim. However, the Home Office can then reject, as I understand it, the recommendation of an independent reviewer.

The tariff awards provide for a maximum of £10,000 plus for deportation; awards for detention based on the length of that detention; awards for loss of access to employment up to a maximum of £1,147 of actual monthly net pay; denial of access to child benefit, child tax credit or working tax credit at £1,264, £2,500 and £1,100 respectively; denial of access to housing services at £1,000; denial of access to free NHS care at £500; denial of access to higher education at £500; denial of access to banking services at £200; and homelessness at £250 per month, up to a maximum of £25,000.

Then we come to the tariff awards under the heading “Impact on Life”. These are meant to cover injury to feelings, including anxiety, distress and reputational damage; family separation; immigration difficulties when attempting to return to the UK; and deterioration in physical or mental health. However, only one award can be made under the “Impact on Life” heading and there are six levels of award, ranging from just £250 at level 1 to £10,000 plus at level 6. Qualification for level 6 requires

“profound impacts on a claimant’s life which are likely to be irreversible”.

The Home Office, under the appeal arrangements, will still ultimately be the judge of whether the award—even if it decides the strict criteria are met—is £10,000 or moves into the £10,000 plus bracket, and by how much. The Government say there is no cap on compensation. In practice, it is clear that there are many caps.

There is provision for discretionary awards under the scheme, but it does not look as though that discretion is going to be exercised too often, since the impact assessment says, under the “Discretionary Award” heading,

“Due to lack of data, this loss category has not been included in the analysis.”

In the impact assessment, under the heading “Benefits” of compensation, it is revealed that:

“The Government will also mitigate the risk of litigation and associated legal costs, which is likely to be more expensive than compensation through the scheme.”

Under the heading “Objectives”, the impact assessment says that the scheme

“minimises the risk of litigation”

and

“operates as cost effectively as possible while meeting the above objectives”,

one of which is that it

“seeks to compensate eligible individuals for certain financial losses they have experienced as a result of difficulty in demonstrating their lawful immigration status.”

If the scheme is to compensate only for “certain financial losses” experienced, can the Government spell out the kind of financial losses experienced that are not covered by the scheme?

The scheme has obviously been drawn up in part with a view to saving money on costly legal proceedings. When it comes to the level of compensation, we are not talking about some relatively minor event in which some got hurt; this was much more than that. As the Williams review said:

“The many stories of injustice and hardship are heartbreaking, with jobs lost, lives uprooted and untold damage done to so many individuals and families … They had no reason to doubt their status, or that they belonged in the UK. They could not have been expected to know the complexity of the law as it changed around them.”

Can the Government indicate the benchmark against which they determined that the levels of compensation we are talking about—with the average of around £14,000 per claimant—are fair and reasonable in the light of the words of the Williams review to which I have just referred?

The Williams review also stated quite clearly that the Home Office “must change its culture”. We do not want a similar situation arising over citizenship rights in the light of our withdrawal from the EU.

In March the Government said that they would bring forward a detailed formal response to the Williams review recommendations in the next six months. Does that timetable still stand in the light of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic?

A large number of points have been raised in this debate, and I hope that the Minister will respond as soon as is reasonably possible to any she is not in a position to respond to today. Subject to the Minister now persuading me otherwise, I just wish the levels of compensation that it is projected and intended will be paid matched the sincerity and genuineness of the Home Secretary’s Statement to Parliament in March, including the immediate apology, and I just wish the Government would now agree to reflect further on their compensation scheme.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford - Hansard

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate for some really powerful and thoughtful contributions. Picking up on the last point from the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, the Government’s will to right the wrongs of the Windrush generation is not diminished. The scheme is just one part of a broader range of matters to be discussed in relation to the Windrush generation and the challenges they have faced and, in some cases, continue to face.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Lawrence—the first Back-Bench contributor to this debate—said, the Windrush generation were invited here to rebuild this country. Not only that, but they have contributed so much to the current battle against the coronavirus. I also refer to the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, and my noble friend Lord Bourne. I was delighted to hear that he had helped her set up Windrush Day, and I am delighted about the Windrush monument that the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, helped set up.

There is no back-tracking or back-pedalling in our will to right the wrongs of this generation. I hope that, in some of the remarks I will make now in closing, I can demonstrate some of that. I also apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, for their not having received my letter. I will recirculate it so that all noble Lords who have not seen it can have sight of it.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, asked about the design, scope and funding of the scheme. This goes to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, as well. We are absolutely committed to making sure that everyone who is due compensation can receive it. There is no cost cutting or penny pinching. We want everyone to have the compensation they are due. To that end, as I will demonstrate, we are helping them in their applications to achieve just that.

In designing the scheme, 650 responses to the call for evidence and nearly 1,500 responses to the public consultation informed the approach. We also held several public events, and Martin Forde QC, who is a very experienced barrister on all aspects of health law, was appointed by the previous Home Secretary to advise on the design of the compensation scheme.

Despite its name, the scheme is not limited to men and women who originally came to the UK from the Caribbean Commonwealth who have struggled to demonstrate their lawful status, and the eligibility criteria are clearly set out in the published scheme rules. The scheme covers a broad range of losses, and compensation is awarded according to both actual losses and tariff-based awards. To answer the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, the award levels take into account existing precedents and ombudsman-recommended payments. While some categories of awards have an upper limit, there is no overall cap on the amount 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 in order to make it as flexible as possible.

The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, mentioned the impact assessment. It was published in February and outlines the Home Office estimate that the Windrush Compensation Scheme will cost between £90 million and £250 million based on 11,500 eligible claims. It is clearly a very wide range. It has reduced since the previous impact assessment due to lower than anticipated claims to date, which a number of noble Lords mentioned. 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.

That is why we announced earlier this year that we are extending the scheme until 2 April 2023, so we are doing all we can to raise awareness of the scheme. As I said previously, 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. We feel that the two-year extension provides this, but there remains the option to further extend the duration, if that is required—to answer noble Lords’ questions.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, asked about the evidential requirements. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, talked about the benefit of the doubt. We have made the evidential threshold as low as possible, but we ask applicants to provide as much information and evidence as they can so that the best assessment of their claim and personal circumstances can be made. We want people to get the maximum compensation to which they are entitled and will work with claimants to support them in this, for example by contacting other government departments. To this end, a couple of individuals have already been awarded compensation for elements for which they did not originally claim, which demonstrates our commitment to working closely with claimants to ensure that they receive the compensation to which they are entitled.

However, I am sure noble Lords will agree that it is important that we are spending taxpayers’ money appropriately, and therefore we require that minimum level of information and evidence. Where awards are for actual losses, it is right that we seek to obtain an appropriate level of assurance that the losses were incurred in order to fulfil our duty properly to manage taxpayers’ money.

The aim of this approach is to fully reimburse those who can evidence their 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 the employment tribunal’s approach to calculating loss of earnings, where an award to cover actual losses generally would be paid where the claimant is able to sufficiently evidence what those losses could have been.

There were some opposing views on claimant assistance and legal advice, from my noble friend Lord Blencathra, the noble Lord, Lord Mann, and the noble Baronesses, Lady Wilcox of Newport and Lady Bull. 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. My noble friend Lord Blencathra outlined very eloquently the pitfalls of needing legal assistance, the lawyers scooping up all the money and the actual claimants not getting the money that they deserve. To that end, claim forms have been designed to be simple and easy to understand, and they were tested with users. Claimants need to complete only the sections of the form that are relevant to their claim, as my noble friend Lord Blencathra pointed out. 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, to answer the points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Mann, and my noble friend Lord Bourne. This advice is available to individuals in the UK and overseas. A tender is currently open to select an organisation to provide free independent advice and support to claimants for the duration of the scheme. To provide that continuity of service, the contract with Citizens Advice will be extended until the tender process is complete.

Some have suggested that we should allow applicants to recover legal costs incurred in applying to the scheme, but as my noble friend Lord Blencathra said, to do so might serve to encourage organisations to take advantage of people who are potentially very vulnerable, and charge them for unnecessary support to complete a claim. We have already heard of such terrible stories of no-win no-fee approaches. All we want is for the compensation to go to those who are entitled to it.

We aim to award compensation as quickly as possible. However, the time it takes to process each claim will depend on the complexity of individual cases, and it is right that we deal with cases 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. The noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Warwick, pointed out that up to the end of December, only 36 payments had been made, totalling £62,198. I share the strength of feeling about these numbers, but many of these payments are interim payments, meaning that claimants may receive further awards later. Many more payments have been made since then. Further statistics will be published later this month.

As a comparator, the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority, mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Mann, suggests that claims under that scheme take 12 to 18 months to conclude. We may also be able to consider a payment under the support in urgent and exceptional circumstances policy, to provide support to members of the Windrush generation who have an urgent and exceptional need.

The noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, asked about the cap. Again, I assure noble Lords that we will pay whatever compensation is due. The noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of Cradley, talked about negative outcomes. We are continually monitoring the operation of this scheme, making amendments based on feedback, as changes to the rules earlier in the year, such as changing the date to 2023, demonstrated.

The department continues to work extensively with communities and stakeholders to raise awareness of both the Windrush compensation scheme and the Windrush scheme. To date, the Home Office has attended or hosted more than 100 engagement and outreach events and surgeries throughout the UK. We have used social media in a very targeted way to reach those who may be eligible to receive compensation and to encourage them to come to our events. Some 20,000 information cards have been distributed to affected groups and communications toolkits have been sent to almost 200 stakeholders.

The noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of Cradley, suggested moving the operation of the scheme out of the Home Office. This was also suggested at Second Reading. I can understand the concerns of those who think that the department that caused the problem in the first place should not be dealing with this. However, moving the operation of the scheme out the Home Office would risk significant delay and I do not think that anyone wants that to happen.

The first stage in deciding a claim for compensation is to confirm an individual’s identity and eligibility; this is linked to the immigration status of the 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.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London talked about external scrutiny, as did the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin. We have put in place a number of measures to ensure that the scheme has an appropriate level of external scrutiny. To answer the question posed by the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, we have an independent review process for those dissatisfied with their compensation offer. This is conducted by the HMRC Adjudicator—a non-departmental public body. The noble Lords, Lord Kennedy and Lord Rosser, both asked whether a compensation award is a full and final offer or whether it can be revisited. The award is always an offer. The claimant can accept it, at which point it becomes final, or they can request a review, as I have outlined. I hope that that helps answer the noble Lords’ questions.

The noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, also asked about help with housing and jobs in addition to monetary payment. Where people are in immediate need, we have put in place measures to give them the support needed, such as a dedicated vulnerable persons team, which has helped more than 1,400 people, including with access to benefits and housing. Financial compensation gives claimants the freedom to choose how they wish to proceed. On 19 March, the Home Secretary announced an expanded cross-government Windrush working group, which will take a strategic view of a range of issues relating to Windrush and wider race inequalities. It will aim to develop initiatives to improve the lives of those affected by bringing together government and community stakeholders to co-design and deliver the response. That might be through employment support programmes, dedicated mental health support and specialist education and training schemes.

The noble Lord asked whether we paid for the flights of people who have been repatriated. I can tell him that 35 payments have been made under the support in urgent and exceptional circumstances policy. The total value of the payments approved is £46,795. In addition to these payments, three exceptional payments for flights to return to the UK were made before the official launch of the policy on 17 December. In addition to the three payments made for flights before the launch of the urgent and exceptional scheme, a further four payments had been made under the scheme to return individuals to the UK.

In addition, as interim independent adviser to the scheme, Martin Forde continues to provide external scrutiny and challenge on its operation and implementation. We continue to listen and respond to feedback received from stakeholders, including through the Windrush stakeholder advisory group which was launched last September, to ensure that the scheme is operating effectively and delivering for those whom it is designed to compensate. The changes announced by the Government earlier this year demonstrate our commitment to this and build on changes made to the rules last October.

I want to place on record again that no information provided by individuals as part of a claim for compensation will be used for immigration enforcement action.

The noble Lord, Lord Hastings of Scarisbrick, asked about reputational damage and where that would come in under the compensation scheme. It would be considered as part of the “Impact on Life” category, as would grief, which the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, asked about.

The noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of Cradley, asked about posthumous awards that might go to somebody’s estate. There absolutely is scope for that, and I think that posthumous awards have been made.

I think that it was the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, who asked about an annual conference. I am very happy to take that idea away. In her report, Wendy Williams recommends reconciliation events, so we will certainly consider that suggestion.

To go back to the compensation scheme, all the elements mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, would qualify for compensation.

My noble friend Lord Randall talked about pensions. This is not my expert area, so, if he is amenable, I will write to him.

I want to come to the lessons learned review, and I ask noble Lords to indulge me if I go a little over my time. The noble Baroness, Lady Lawrence, asked whether we will agree to all the recommendations in the review. Wendy Williams was really clear that we should resist the temptation to respond rapidly and suggested that we instead undertake a period of reflection, to engage staff at all levels to identify what should change. The Home Secretary has therefore committed to publishing the department’s response to the report within six months of publication. To address the point from the noble Lords, Lord Hastings and Lord Rosser, that would be on 19 September, if we are talking about six months from 19 March.

Noble Lords talked about various points in history when the Home Office failed the Windrush generation. Wendy Williams was clear that the injustices spanned 70 years. I would like to put on record at this point that we all need to look to ourselves and to the part that successive Governments played in how the Windrush generation was let down. Rather than the blame game, we all have our part to play.

The Windrush lessons learned implementation team has been set up to lead the response to the report, working with teams across the department and externally to take the steps needed to create a department that we can all be proud of.

The noble Lord, Lord Hastings, the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, and my noble friend Lord Sheikh talked about trust and culture. That is at the heart of what the Home Secretary will reflect upon.

The noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of Cradley, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London talked about education and empathy. Wendy Williams made a number of points about training and education, which we are looking at very carefully. Outreach events that the department is currently running allow civil servants the opportunity to hear the stories of those who have been impacted. I can confirm that people working in the Home Office have asked me personally not to forget about the Windrush report. Yes, the Home Office has been institutionally thoughtless, but there are a lot of people working there who do not want us to forget about the Wendy Williams report, or our reflection on it and response to it.

We have already announced that we will launch an expanded cross-government Windrush working group to develop programmes to improve the lives of those affected. We will continue to listen to stakeholders as we take forward establishing this group and are committed to ensuring that the Home Office and the wider Government protect, support and listen to every single part of the community they serve.

Finally, I will talk about the EU settlement scheme and EU citizens. The EU settlement scheme has been designed to make it easy for EU citizens and their family members who want to stay in the UK to get the UK immigration status that they need. It is designed precisely to avoid another Windrush. We think that the constitutive system that we have introduced is the best approach, because it provides EU citizens and their family members with clarity about what they need to apply for, and when, and the secure evidence of their status that they need. We now have over 3.4 million applications, of which over 3.1 million have been concluded. People have until 30 June next year to apply.

I have gone over time, as usual. I am very grateful to noble Lords for the contributions that they have made. I thank everyone who has taken part in the debate.

National Asylum Support Service

Debate between Lord Rosser and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Wednesday 6th May 2020

(4 months, 3 weeks ago)

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford - Hansard

There are basically three types of accommodation: the initial, hostel-type accommodation facilities for people arriving here; hotel accommodation facilities, as the noble Baroness mentioned and as I pointed out earlier; and dispersed accommodation, which is where the significant majority of our service users reside. The latter consists of houses or homes of multiple occupancy, which obviously accommodate smaller numbers. I cannot give her the figures on hotel accommodation, but I can certainly write to or email her with these.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) - Hansard

The Refugee Council has persistently campaigned for better access to healthcare for asylum seekers, noting that a lack of confidence in communicating in English and confusion over the support available act as huge obstacles. Will the Minister make urgent representations to the Department of Health and Social Care to ensure that all asylum seekers have access to healthcare, and specifically testing, during the Covid-19 pandemic? Secondly, I think that the noble Baroness, Lady Doocey, asked the Minister for a meeting. Did the Minister agree to that?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford - Hansard

I did not confirm that, but I am very happy to have a virtual meeting with the noble Baroness. On healthcare, as I said earlier, all asylum accommodation providers continue to provide translated public health guidance, which is available in 12 languages, and instructions to service users. Nobody, whether an asylum seeker or not, need worry that healthcare will not be available to them.

Policing: Covid-19 Guidance and Legislation

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

(4 months, 3 weeks ago)

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The College of Policing guidance is there not to replace the government guidance but to assist the police as they go about their daily work. As I said to the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, these are new powers and the CPS is therefore reviewing cases charged under both the Coronavirus Act and the public health regulations to make sure that the powers are being applied correctly. Unlawful charges are being withdrawn by prosecutors in court and the CPS is asking for any wrongful convictions to be overturned—but we are in a new world and are having to learn.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) - Hansard

For the Opposition, I say that the police have our wholehearted support for the work that they do, particularly in the very difficult current circumstances. As a result of rushed public health regulations and associated guidelines, there have been inevitable instances of differences in interpretation of the Covid-19 guidelines. Were the guidelines cleared or approved by the Home Office? Were they cleared or approved by elected and accountable police and crime commissioners? What are the powers of elected and accountable police and crime commissioners to determine how the wide-ranging non-statutory guidelines should be applied by their police force to the constituents who elected them?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford - Hansard

There are many questions in the noble Lord’s question. I would say that, in the enforcement of the new emergency regulations, there were definitely some initial inconsistencies among police forces. As I said in response to other noble Lords, that is because we are in an unprecedented situation and have all been operating at a fast pace to keep the public safe. We are now confident that the police are applying the new measures properly and proportionately. They are using the four-step escalation principles of engage, explain, encourage and then enforce. On the point about engagement with the guidance, the Government are engaging with the various stakeholders when drawing it up.

Windrush Lessons Learned Review

Debate between Lord Rosser and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Thursday 19th March 2020

(6 months, 1 week ago)

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

My Lords, with the leave of the House, I will repeat a Statement given by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary in the other place. The Statement is as follows:

“Mr Speaker, with permission, I would like to make a Statement on the long-awaited Windrush Lessons Learned Review. I dedicate this Statement today to the Windrush generation. I have personally been deeply moved by reading this report. Given the national significance of this issue, I have published this review immediately. I thank Wendy Williams and her team for the important work they have undertaken.

The Windrush Lessons Learned Review gives voice to members of the Windrush generation who arrived legally in the UK to help rebuild post-war Britain. These are the people who have done so much for this country, from staffing the NHS to rebuilding Britain. These are the very people who worked hard, paid their taxes and had every right to be in this country. They contributed to our communities, culture and society, helping our public services and economy thrive. They made our country stronger, more vibrant and more successful as a nation—which is why we were all shocked to discover that they and their families were subject to such insensitive treatment by the very country they called home.

As this review makes clear, 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”.

Today’s publication is part of an ongoing mission to put this right and ensure that events such as this can never happen again, as there were far too many victims of Windrush.

Paulette Wilson was detained in an immigration removal centre and warned that she faced removal, after living in the UK for 50 years. She spent decades contributing to the UK, working for a time in this very House, yet was treated as a second-class citizen.

Junior Green had been in the UK for more than 60 years, raising children and grandchildren here, but after a holiday to Jamaica he was refused re-entry despite holding a passport confirming his right to be in the UK. The injustice that he suffered was compounded when, because of this action, he missed his mother’s funeral. Lives were ruined and families were torn apart, and now an independent review has suggested that the Home Office’s ‘institutional ignorance and thoughtlessness towards the issue of race and the history of the Windrush generation’ contributed to this. This is simply unacceptable.

I have heard people speak of ‘decision-making’ as a process—a process that grinds people down to the extent that it makes you want to give up. I have heard people speak of being dismissed, labelled as a group of people who just did not matter and whose voice on this issue was irrelevant. People have spoken to me about the indignity and inhumanity they still feel today from the experience of being made to feel unwelcome in their own country. They have described their experiences as unthinkable and unimaginable.

However, there are people across the UK, and even some members of this House—including myself and the Shadow Home Secretary—for whom this is unfortunately all too relatable. There are lessons to learn for the Home Office, but also for society as a whole. Despite the diverse and open nature of our country, too many people still feel that they may be treated differently because of who they are or where their parents came from. And today’s report, which suggests that in the Home Office there was an ‘institutional ignorance and thoughtlessness towards the issue of race and the history of the Windrush generation’, is worrying for us all.

In her report, Wendy Williams is clear that lessons must be learned at all levels and by all political parties. She describes a set of measures that evolved under Labour, coalition and Conservative Governments. These measures cover decades. She states that Ministers did not sufficiently question unintended consequences and that officials should and could have done more. But we must all look to ourselves. We must all do better at walking in other people’s shoes. We must all take responsibility for the failings that led to the unimaginable suffering of this generation.

Let me be clear. There is nothing that I can say today which will undo the pain, suffering and misery inflicted on the Windrush generation. What I can do is say that, on behalf of this and successive Governments, I am truly sorry for the actions that spanned decades; I am sorry that people’s trust has been betrayed; and we will continue to do everything possible to ensure that the Home Office protects, supports and listens to every single part of the community that it serves.

Action has already begun. In recent months, I have met and listened to people whose lives were shattered. Since 2018, we have launched measures to put right the wrongs caused to individual members of the Windrush generation. We have taken action through practical measures to give those who were affected the assistance, certainty, reassurance and support that they need.

The Commonwealth citizens task force goes into communities to help and support people to secure their legal status. Over 11,700 people have been granted a form of documentation that confirms their right to remain in the UK and guarantees their access to public services. Our vulnerable persons team has provided support to nearly 1,400 people, with approximately 120 people still receiving support. The team has supported over 360 people to secure access to benefits; and, to go some way to addressing the hardship suffered, the Home Office launched the Windrush compensation scheme.

This scheme was designed in close consultation with members of the community and with Martin Forde QC. Collectively, they have developed a compensation scheme that is straightforward to use and addresses the bespoke and personal circumstances and needs of every applicant, with dedicated caseworkers assessing claims as quickly as possible. There is no cap on payments, dozens of which have already been made, and we encourage more applications.

Over 100 community events have taken place so far. This includes more than 30 compensation scheme events across the country, from Southampton to Glasgow, Cardiff to Coventry. However, there are still people out there in need of our help whom we have not yet reached. That is why, in February, I extended the length of the compensation scheme by a further two years so that claims can be submitted until April 2023. I set up the Windrush stakeholder advisory group, to rebuild links with communities to ensure that they are supported through compensation, but also to rebuild the trust that has been broken.

Today, I can confirm that we will launch an expanded cross-government Windrush working group to develop programmes to improve the lives of those affected. That may be through employment programmes, dedicated mental health support and specialist education and training schemes. To make sure people know about the task force, the Windrush compensation scheme will have a dedicated new communications campaign promoting the scheme. We will also open a £500,000 fund for grass-roots organisations to promote these schemes, including provisions for specialist advice services. I would like to extend my personal thanks to Martin Forde QC for his support with the creation of the scheme.

I also want to put on the record my thanks to my predecessors, my right honourable friends the Members for Bromsgrove and Maidenhead, and the former Member for Hastings and Rye, who worked hard to understand and undo the suffering when these issues first came to light, and to other members of this House, including the Members for Tottenham and Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford, who shone a necessary light on this injustice. I also want to thank the thousands of civil servants at the Home Office and across government who work tirelessly every single day, in challenging and demanding jobs, to keep the public and our country safe. Whether on the front line or working to develop policies for the future, their commitment to create a safer country for us all is commendable. Since these injustices were brought to light, civil servants have used every endeavour to right the wrongs, giving people their correct status and supporting them in their financial compensation claims. However, it would be wrong for the department to ignore Wendy Williams’s finding that the Home Office’s ‘institutional ignorance and thoughtlessness towards the issue of race and the history of the Windrush generation’ contributed to this. This is not something that can be resolved with an apology or compensation. I will review the recommendations that Wendy Williams makes in relation to the way the Home Office operates as an organisation. I will continue to look closely at its leadership, culture, practices, and the way it views the communities it serves.

Over the coming months, myself and Matthew Rycroft, the new Permanent Secretary, will work together with our dedicated staff at all levels to review and reflect on the recommendations, including those relating to compliant environment policies and cultural change. Fundamentally I want to make the Home Office a better place to work. This will include a clarification of the department’s purpose, mission and values, putting at its heart fairness, dignity and respect. We will put people before process. The publication of this review is a small but vital step towards ensuring that the Home Office is trusted by all the people it serves. I would encourage anyone who thinks they have been affected by the Windrush scandal, or who requires support or assistance, to come forward. I will bring forward a detailed formal response in the next six months, as Wendy Williams recommended, representing a new chapter for the Home Office.

Let me assure this House that everyone at the Home Office will be asking the difficult questions needed to ensure that these circumstances can never arise again.

I commend this Statement to the House.”

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) - Hansard

My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement made in the Commons. There is, of course, a marked disparity between the speed with which this review has been published and the lack of speed with which the report on—for example —Russian interference in elections has appeared, a marked disparity for which there is no obvious explanation.

We cannot overstate how damning this review has been of the Government’s

“institutional ignorance and thoughtlessness towards the issue of race”.

The way in which individuals and families were wrongly deported and deprived of their livelihoods caused enormous suffering. Now it can only be right that the Government pave the way for a complete change in how the Home Office operates, but apparently the Government cannot say that the recommendations of the review will be delivered in full in the most appropriate timeframe possible. That seemed to be the message of the Statement. There would at least be some satisfaction if we could say that the Government had attempted effectively to make amends.

However, I believe I am right in saying that last month, new migration statistics showed that fewer than one in 20 Windrush compensation claimants had received compensation. From that, it would seem clear that the Government are still failing the Windrush victims, at least in that regard, both in terms of the number of people the compensation is reaching and the level of payouts for lives disrupted or destroyed. Can the Government say how they will ensure that further victims receive the compensation they deserve, and receive it speedily?

On the wider issue of the hostile environment, can the Government today mark a change in direction and agree to put an end to this policy, beginning by ending deportation flights for foreign national offenders who have lived here since childhood, committing that the historic case review will include those who have committed offences, and keeping open the compensation scheme for as long as necessary?

One of the more damning lines of the report was that the scandal was “foreseeable and avoidable”. Scandals which will further arise if the Government continue with the hostile environment policy are also foreseeable and avoidable. Renaming the policy, which the Government have sought to do, does not bring about the necessary culture change. Even the executive summary of the report—I am sure that the Minister will not be entirely surprised if I say that I have not read all 275 pages of it—says that

“the Home Office … must change its culture to recognise that migration and wider Home Office policy is about people and, whatever its objective, should be rooted in humanity.”

It is a fairly damning statement on the present state of affairs for that to appear as a part of this review.

We do not want similar issues arising over citizenship rights in the light of our withdrawal from the EU, and neither will a future immigration policy based on devaluing the value and skills of many people help the situation, particularly when some of those so-called low-skilled and insufficiently paid personnel are now deemed to be vital key workers in the present crisis when it comes to continuing school provision for their children.

I hope that the Government will take very seriously the recommendations in this report and the three elements into which they have been broken down in the last paragraph of the executive summary. It is disappointing that we may well have to wait some time to hear what the Government’s response is. However, clearly there needs to be a significant change in culture, and it needs to come quickly if we are to avoid further scandals—I use that word—of the kind we have seen over the Windrush generation.

County Lines Drug Trafficking

Debate between Lord Rosser and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Thursday 19th March 2020

(6 months, 1 week ago)

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford - Hansard

Noble Lords have previously brought up in this House that the young people who are drawn into this sort of activity are not themselves criminals; they are victims of other people’s exploitation. It is very important to keep that in mind when we think about how we deal with these children and divert them into mainstream life and out of a life of crime.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) - Hansard

My Lords, following the Government’s decision to fund an increase in the number of police officers by some 20,000, the Home Secretary told police chiefs that she now expected them to deliver a return on that funding in the form of a reduction in crime. Now that the Home Secretary has admitted through that statement that the total number of police officers available does have an impact on the level of crime—contrary to what the Government used to maintain while they were busily reducing the number of police officers over the last decade—will the Government now agree that one reason, though not the only reason, for the rate and level of expansion of child criminal exploitation, or county lines, across the country has been the reduction in the number of police officers and the resultant increasingly stretched police forces across the country over the last 10 years?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford - Hansard

My Lords, as I said earlier, I think these issues are multifactorial. One thing that the noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, would say if he were here is that it is driven by the drugs market, but the drugs market is not the only factor. It is also fair to say that at some point demands on the police, and crime, became more complex, and therefore it was the right decision to take to promote the move towards having more police officers on our streets to fight crime.

Anti-terrorism Policy

Debate between Lord Rosser and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Tuesday 17th March 2020

(6 months, 2 weeks ago)

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford -