All 1 Baroness Deech contributions to the Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Act 2020

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Mon 5th Oct 2020
Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill
Lords Chamber

Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard - continued) & Report stage:Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard continued) & Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard - continued) & Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard - continued): House of Lords

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

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Department: Home Office

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

Baroness Deech Excerpts
Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard - continued) & Report stage & Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard - continued): House of Lords
Monday 5th October 2020

(3 years, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Act 2020 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 121-R-II Second marshalled list for Report - (30 Sep 2020)
Earl of Dundee Portrait The Earl of Dundee (Con) [V]
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My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow my noble friend Lord Cormack. I certainly support this amendment, moved so ably by the noble Lord, Lord Oates, and its proposed new clause requiring the Secretary of State to issue physical evidence of migration status.

To start with, as has been said, we might well be disposed to approve of a system which is entirely digital, dispenses with cards or paper, and is quick, slick and nicely up to date. In this case, however, although well-meaning, such a system is flawed. That is even so in general, thus for numerous purposes and types of daily use, regardless of the particular and sensitive context of migration status at all. Consider driving licences, student ID cards, pensioners’ bus passes, national insurance cards, and so on. Suppose we could not use these and had to go online instead; at best, this would be frustrating and, most of the time, extremely annoying. It is so much easier to have a card or piece of paper immediately there in your pocket or in the file which you keep at home.

All the more so would it therefore be unsatisfactory—something which this amendment corrects—if evidence of settled status could be provided only digitally. As so many of your Lordships have already emphasised, digital-only immigration status will create new barriers for EU citizens, especially the elderly and most vulnerable, who may not have the necessary digital skills. That apart, if and when some aspect of the digital process fails—which is quite a frequent occurrence—people without a physical form of back-up will obviously be disadvantaged.

Conversely, even when the process may go as smoothly as it can, many still fear lengthy, contorted, multistep sequences involving presentations of passports, birth dates and unique one-off codes sent to mobiles, followed by both parties having to access the Government’s website separately. Worse still, a recent study has shown that the majority of landlords do not want to accept a digital-only proof, stating that they do not trust it.

For these reasons, I am sure that my noble friend would accept the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Oates, or produce a government one corresponding to it.

Baroness Deech Portrait Baroness Deech (CB) [V]
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My Lords, only today we have seen another example of centralised government technology failing: namely, the PHE Excel spreadsheet not counting all the coronavirus statistics. We know what happened to some Windrush immigrants whose proof was destroyed.

I am happy to admit that when I began to enter the House of Lords, I had to establish my British nationality. That involved finding proof of my father’s naturalisation as a British citizen in the late 1940s. To my amazement and pleasure, there was the document in the small pile he had left me when he died. We should not forget future generations who may need a piece of paper. I shall never forget the comfort of having that piece of paper.

Employers and landlords will look for it. I surmise that, if they are told to check online, this could be an obstacle to the offer of housing or employment when time is of the essence. Older people may not be familiar with the technology—another demographic that the Government sometimes forget: for example, in relation to the NHS track and trace app, where the considerable numbers of older people who do not have smartphones are simply ignored. Moreover, hard copy of proof may be a requirement when an entitled person travels abroad or when there is an emergency and no access to a phone or the internet is possible.

Failure or hacking of the digital system will be catastrophic and are by no means unforeseeable. Of course there could be both digital and paper evidence as a back-up. For those reasons, I support this amendment and urge the Government to do the sensible thing and provide a paper proof of settled status.