|Wed 16th September 2020||
Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill
Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
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|Mon 14th September 2020||
Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill
Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
|48 interactions (7,169 words)|
|Wed 9th September 2020||
Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill
Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
|41 interactions (4,189 words)|
|Mon 7th September 2020||
Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill
Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
|27 interactions (6,770 words)|
|Wed 22nd July 2020||
Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill
2nd reading (Hansard): House of Lords
|8 interactions (4,989 words)|
Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill DebateFull Debate: Read Full Debate
My Lords, I fully support Amendment 56, moved by my noble friend Lord Dubs, which would add a new clause to the Bill. This clause would provide for children who are EEA and Swiss nationals and in care, along with those entitled to care-leaving support, to be granted automatic indefinite leave to remain under the EU settlement scheme.
This amendment has wide cross-party support. The idea behind it had support in the other House, and it has that today. Every speaker so far, from different sides of the House, has spoken in support of the amendment. I am sure the Minister has taken that on board and will want to give us a positive response.
As my noble friend Lord Dubs said, there are vast numbers of these children and the amendment would ensure that none of them become undocumented. Identification is a serious problem, as my noble friend outlined. The different practices adopted by different local authorities is a real problem in itself.
The amendment would speed up the process and enable social workers, who do a fantastic job—we all know that they are under extreme pressure—to apply directly to the Home Office without having to deal with consulates and embassies and all the bureaucracy you have in dealing with another country when trying to get the right documents identified. You would avoid all that work, paperwork and bureaucracy, and go straight to the Home Office.
My noble friend Lord Dubs also asked the Minister about the safeguards in place for children who have pre-settled status, and that question deserves a careful response. As the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, said, this is a sensible amendment that really deserves a positive response from the Government.
I agree with all the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Kerr of Kinlochard, on this amendment. It is the decent thing to do for these children. We are talking about a relatively small number of children, but it would ensure that nobody falls into the trap of becoming undocumented. As the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Bennachie, said, children in care face all sorts of additional challenges; they are not with their parents and the local authority in effect is looking after them. All this amendment seeks to do is to ensure that they do not have further issues to deal with; a young person leaving care, or in many years’ time, may have the problem of being undocumented and unable to establish their identity properly. This is a very small measure which the Government should give way on.
Like my noble friend Lady Lister of Burtersett, I commend the work of the Children’s Society to identify and raise the plights of these children. The society has campaigned to ensure that they have protection and that their problems are not added to by becoming undocumented. As I say, it is the decent thing to do. Equally, I am sure that we will get a response from the Minister on the amendment, and on the issue in Lesbos.
I should also draw the attention of the House to the fact that I am a vice-president of the Local Government Association. Local authorities do a fantastic job. Certain authorities, particularly Kent, are under particular pressure regarding children’s issues, but they generally do a fantastic job. This is one small measure which the Government could accept to help authorities and make it a bit easier for them in the work that they do. I hope that the Minister can give a positive response to us today, and maybe we can come back to this on Report.
The noble Lord also asked me about Dublin family reunion cases for unaccompanied children affected by the fire. We remain fully committed to ensuring that eligible individuals seeking asylum in Europe, including unaccompanied children with family members in the UK, can continue to be transferred under the Dublin regulation until the end of the transition period. It might be helpful for the House to know that throughout the pandemic, the UK has continued to remain open to receiving Dublin transfers. I mentioned on Monday that three group flights from Greece have taken place in recent months—on 11 May, 28 July and 6 August. We continue to make arrangements with Greek officials to facilitate transfers of people we have accepted under the regulation, although I must make it clear that all arrangements to complete a transfer are the responsibility of the sending state.
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I am grateful to the Minister for responding to my questions. I guess that I am rightly rebuked for suggesting that a relevant factor in considering what we should do about the victims of Lesbos is our reputation around the world. I suppose it is a case of déformation professionnelle. I used to be a diplomat and I am therefore keen on our trying to recover some of our lost reputation. Perhaps the Government—less the noble and learned Lord, Lord Keen—are less keen today. Perhaps they do not recognise the extent of the reputational damage. Anyway, I agree that that is not strictly relevant.
The Minister agreed that there is an emergency case for helping and an overwhelming humanitarian case for helping. But—I hope the Minister will forgive my saying so—she seems to be saying that we propose to do nothing at all about it. Everything that she cited—the money in April and the flights in July and August—took place before the fire on the island of Lesbos and before these 14,500 people, who are now sleeping rough, were displaced. If she accepts that there is a new urgent humanitarian case then it would be very good if the Government could do something about it.
I note that a number of people spoke on the same lines as me about this problem, so I hope the Minister will take back to Whitehall the idea that there seems to be a feeling in this House that we ought to be doing something to help the victims of Moria.
I was not sure whether the Minister was talking about money that had been paid to Greece to help, or money that was going to be paid. Clearly, money is needed—I am in no position to think how much that might be—but it is not just about money.
I commend to noble Lords the BBC Radio 4 programme “More or Less” this morning, which objectively dealt with where the UK comes in comparison with other nations in taking refugees and assisting asylum seekers. The tables I have in front of me show that, combining both resettled refugees and asylum seekers, we take less than a quarter of the number taken by Greece and less than 10% of the number taken by Germany. This is not a competition, except a competition to do better. I wanted to put that on the record.
I also want to respond to the points the Minister has just made. The best upstream action is to provide safe and legal routes. She mentioned that in her first response, and I commend her for that. That is where the focus needs to be.
My Lords, the Minister referred to the resettlement scheme, but we heard the other day that that is suspended, and it is not at all clear when it will start again. I have a simple question. The noble Lord, Lord Kerr, said that as it is accepted that there is an urgent humanitarian case, it would be good if the Government did something about it. I still do not understand why we are not doing something about it. Why are we not acting like, say, Germany?
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister, but what I heard in the first question from the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, was about taking refugees from the camp in Lesbos. She talked exclusively about unaccompanied children. Germany had initially agreed to take 400 unaccompanied children, but has now changed that decision and will take in 1,553 refugees from Lesbos, making up the difference in the numbers with adults. Can the Minister clarify that the Government’s position on not taking adult refugees from anywhere in Europe has not changed despite the disaster in Lesbos?
My Lords, the Minister will correct me if I am wrong, but I understand her position to be that the amendment we are discussing is not necessary and could make the situation worse. Apparently the Home Office supports the aims of the amendment but it is not going to act, because there are measures already in place to deal with this question, and it does not want any children to end up undocumented. Maybe I am wrong, but I am sure that if I am, the Minister will correct me. If I am correct, is she giving a cast-iron assurance that the Home Office will not let any of those children become undocumented, and that in the period ahead it will not take decisions that undermine what she has said to us today?
I now call the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, to respond to the debate on his amendment.
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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”,
“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.
I have received one request to speak after the Minister from the noble Lord, Lord Green of Deddington.
My Lords, I do not always agree with the Home Office, but I do commend the answers that the Minister has just given on these three amendments.
I want to make some brief comments on Amendment 79. As the Minister just pointed out, the present income threshold for a spousal visa is designed to ensure that those coming to the UK for family reunion have enough resources to play a full part in British life and do not become a burden on the taxpayer. That is surely a sensible approach. As she mentioned, this has been to the Supreme Court, which ruled the policy to be lawful. Indeed, far from removing the threshold, there are, in certain cases, strong arguments for raising it.
The Migration Advisory Committee has said that, on average, for the family income to cover the cost of all public services, a higher threshold is required: namely, £25,700, rather than the current level of £18,600—a difference of £7,100. Even that threshold would not be enough, it says, for a non-EU household to make a net contribution to public finances. For them, the figure would be £38,000 a year. We must have in mind the impact of changes to these rules on the taxpayer and the reaction that they may have to that.
Finally, it is perhaps important to note that a reduction in the threshold would run entirely contrary to the Government’s 2017 election manifesto, which promised to raise the level of the threshold. That, of course, has still not been done.
My Lords, on the minimum income requirement, what is lawful is still not necessarily the system that many people want, including British citizens who, to their surprise, are affected by the rules. The Minister said that they were clear, but what counts towards assessing whether an income is £18,600 is a problem and has been for some time. It has also been changed from time to time, and the income of the person sponsored does not count. I do not have up-to-date figures, but it puts this arrangement out of reach for about half the wage earners in this country.
However, we are not here to debate the minimum income requirement, so I will go back to the family reunion point—it is all intertwined, of course. My noble friend Lord Bruce said he had been struck by how something that was not a problem can become one. Here, we are seeking to address something that has been a problem for some time and which will become a bigger problem. I am of course aware that Appendix FM and paragraph 319X of the Immigration Rules deal with exceptional circumstances. Sadly, the situations we are debating are not exceptional. To exercise discretion outside of the rules is an unsatisfactory position when we could have rules. The Minister talked about dependents being left alone. More often they are left with a single parent.
The organisations on the ground are concerned about this. This is not something manufactured in my head. It is an issue that we will have to go on pursuing. I thought that the humanitarian case to which the Minister subscribed was undermined at the end by her referring to numbers. Since the numbers are never going to be overwhelming, I would prefer to stick to the humanitarian case. However, I beg leave to withdraw Amendment 62.
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Windrush has been mentioned. Subsection (2)(c) raises the spectre of the destruction of records—the amendment seeks to quash it before it can be raised properly—which in the case of Windrush happened simply so that the building could be vacated. Duties to encourage, to promote, to facilitate awareness and to exercise the right of citizenship are all things that we support.
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.
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My Lords, I fully support Amendment 81 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Morrow. Like others, I pay tribute to him for his work in the Northern Ireland Assembly, and in your Lordships’ House, combating the evil of modern slavery and human trafficking.
The noble Lord made a very compelling case for the Government to agree to his amendment today, and I do hope the Minister will be able to give us some hope that the Government will meet the issue that the noble Lord addressed the House on. I equally agree with the comments of the noble Lord, Lord McCrea of Magherafelt and Cookstown, and again commend the work he has done on combating modern slavery.
The new clause, as we have heard, seeks to ensure that proper consideration is given to the impact of the new regulations on the victims of modern slavery and human trafficking. It is most important that we consider the effect on victims that these changes will make. That is really very important. As the noble Lord, Lord Alton, said, rules, regulations, processes and overdue immigration procedures must work to prevent modern slavery and human trafficking and, obviously, not weaken the position at present.
The noble Lord, Lord McColl of Dulwich, again referred to the anti-trafficking directive, and the risk of what is going to be lost on 1 January. I do hope the Minister will address that. It is a huge concern, for many noble Lords, that at any point next year we will find ourselves with weaker provisions and weaker laws that will benefit only criminals and criminal gangs, and really harm victims.
Finally, I want to pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord McColl of Dulwich, for all his work. It is high time that the Government stood up and backed the noble Lord. His Private Member’s Bill is absolutely right: all he is asking for is that England and Wales have the same provisions that endure in Northern Ireland and Scotland. The Bill sailed through this House, but then what happened to it? It crashed on the rocks in the other place. The Government did nothing to support it last time, and it is wrong. The Government really should stand up now and back the noble Lord on his Bill.
My Lords, I have no requests to speak after the Minister, so I now call the noble Lord, Lord Morrow.
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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?
This clause also amends the exception, at Section 117C(6), for FNOs who have been sentenced to more than four years of imprisonment, so that their deportation would not be in the public interest where they have a genuine and subsisting parental relationship with a qualifying child and it would be unreasonable for the child to leave the UK or to remain in the UK without the FNO. This would be in addition to the current exception which requires that there are very compelling circumstances over and above the exceptions for FNOs sentenced to less than four years.
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My Lords, I am grateful to noble Lords for raising this important issue. The review highlighted how many of the Windrush generation suffered so much, starting with stress and anxiety and leading too often to loss of livelihood and even separation from home and family. It therefore seems a fitting way to end the Committee stage, because it is a reminder to all of us of the consequences of getting immigration policy wrong.
When the review was first published, the current Home Secretary said she was “shocked” to discover the extent of the insensitive treatment that the Windrush generation and their families suffered. However, it is not good enough to be shocked after the event. We should all have known what was going on, taken responsibility for policy-making and been responsive to the people who were telling us that something was wrong. I think, along with my noble friend Lady Lister, that the decision to spend 10 years prioritising hostility in immigration policy should weigh heavily indeed.
As the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, said, Wendy Williams called the desperate results of the scandal “foreseeable and avoidable”. That is a reminder, as the Government push this Bill through, that people will have to live in the world this legislation will help to frame. We should keep that in mind.
I add my voice to the questions asked by my noble friend Lady Lister and others. The Home Secretary accepted all the recommendations of the review, including changing the culture of the Home Office, and gave an early update before the summer. Has the comprehensive improvement plan promised for September been published? Can the Minister give us an update on how many people have now applied to the compensation scheme, and how many have received and accepted a compensation offer? When will we get another update on progress made so far? We all need to learn the lessons of the Windrush review.
My Lords, the comprehensive improvement plan is due this month, and the first day of Report on this Bill is the last day of this month. I had made a note, before the Minister said it, that Wendy Williams herself talked about the importance of not rushing the change, but I think we can look forward to the review before—albeit immediately before—we start on Report. I accept of course that changing a culture, like redirecting an oil tanker, is a long process. Indeed, changing culture is something that should go on and on; it is necessary that it should always be a current issue.
The noble Baroness, Lady Sherlock, talked about the importance of not getting the policy wrong; it is about both policy and practice. The obvious read-across from the experience of the Windrush generation is indeed the documentation, as my noble friend mentioned. Recommendations are good, but they will only be evidenced by actions. As the Minister has just acknowledged, the lessons learned from the unhappy experience of Windrush are transferrable. “Fairness” and “humanity”, she said; those are very good last words for today—they are very good words for always. On that note, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
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I am sorry to deter the noble Baroness; I think there was a delay in my request getting from here to there. I thank the Minister for answering most of my questions, but could I just push her a bit further? If the review decided that the only way to address the problems created by the hostile/compliant environment would be to reform the legislation, such as right to rent, is it within its power or terms of reference to be able to recommend that kind of legislative reform?
Amendment 95 withdrawn.
Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill DebateFull Debate: Read Full Debate
My Lords, this debate has focused on several new clauses which are to be inserted after Clause 4. I have signed up to Amendments 39, 40, 41 and 94, along with my noble friend Lord Rosser and the noble Baronesses, Lady Ludford and Lady Hamwee, who opened this debate last Wednesday. I am also supportive of Amendment 70, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham.
The risk here—it is all about risk—is that many people will not have their status sorted and will not have put a claim in, and are then at risk of detention. Immigration detention is something that should happen only in the most necessary cases and for the shortest period of time possible. My noble friend Lady Lister of Burtersett set out, with examples, the effect of detention and the damage of not knowing when you are going to be released on individuals and their mental health. We need to think about that: we can all accept that being locked up and not knowing when it is going to end is not a good place to be.
Taking that into account, can the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Trafford, when she responds to the debate, tell us what safeguards will be put in place to ensure that the minimum number of people are detained and for the shortest possible time? The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, said she expected to be told that most people are released from detention after a short period of time, but we need to think about those who are not.
There is also the risk of redetention: when a person reports who is required to do so and then finds themself detained by the authorities. How long will it take for an application to remain to be considered? As we have heard, Amendment 39 would impose a strict time limit of 28 days and ensure that detainees could not be redetained unless—I emphasise “unless”—there has been a specific change in circumstances.
Amendment 40 sets out the conditions for a person to be detained in the first place and Amendment 41 provides for bail hearings during the initial detention period of 96 hours. Amendment 94 brings in the provision six months after the Bill comes into force. This gives the Government time to get all the procedures and regulations correct. I agree with the comments made in that respect by the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich.
As I said earlier, I am supportive of Amendment 70, spoken to by the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, and others. This amendment raises the issue of those individuals in immigration detention who are segregated and at risk of being locked in their cells for up to 23 hours a day. I fully accept that there must be rules and that people must be protected from either themselves or from others, or from causing harm to others. However, we also must be mindful of the effects that detention—of being locked in a cell for long periods of time—can itself have on someone’s mental health. Again, my noble friend Lady Lister of Burtersett made reference to this in her contribution. I look forward to the response from the noble Baroness.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham said in his contribution that these people have committed no crime. They themselves may be the victims of horrific crimes, and periods of detention can be long and re-detention is a real risk. When considering these amendments, we have to think about the effect of the risk of being re-detained on individuals who may, in the end, be given leave to remain in the United Kingdom. We must remember that these people have committed no crime here in the UK.
I will leave my remarks there; I look forward to the Minister’s response.
The noble Baroness, Lady Barker, rightly pointed out that during Covid the detention figures were right down. That is because we detain people for the purposes of removal and do not detain them indefinitely. She asked, rightly, about the upshot and what we have seen as a result. If I have some of that data, I will send it to the noble Baroness and others, but I suspect that we have not quite seen the whole picture, given that it appears we are still in the middle of the pandemic. Any additional information that I can get her, I will. The noble Lord, Lord Hylton, talked about a backlog. Because we have not been detaining as many people, I suspect that there is no backlog in that sense, but I will also get information to him.
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I thank the Minister for her detailed explanation. The problem that I have here is that this Bill will become an Act of Parliament, things will move along very happily and then, many years from now, when we are all no longer doing what we are doing now, all these problems will arise whereby things are not done properly. We could have immigration centres with Italian and French citizens, people who have lived here but have not regularised their situation, being locked up and held for days and things—and that is just an anathema. My worry is that sometimes things are done and then, many years later, different people come along, things are not done so well, and there is a problem.
I am concerned about the innocent people. I am not concerned about people who have committed offences, who need to be dealt with—this is about innocent people who have done absolutely nothing wrong. They potentially could have been our friends and neighbours, living in our country, who have not regularised their situation. Unfortunately, mistakes happen, for all the assurances, and people find themselves taken away, probably quite unfairly, locked up and stuff. I want to hear a bit more about how we are going to deal with those sorts of situations. I am talking about the innocent people. How are we going to look after those people, who have done nothing wrong? We are all agreed on those who are criminals and have done bad things, but what about the innocent people, who are treated unjustly? That is what I want to hear about.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, is absolutely right about the numbers of people who may find themselves in a situation—and not even be aware of it—which is not regularised. Yes, we will come on to talk about the settlement scheme, and perhaps we will pick up the Minister’s words about the possibilities of applying some way into the future.
The Minister started as I expected, by saying that these amendments are not relevant to the Bill and that if we were to include them, we would be discriminating against people who are not from the EEA or Switzerland. It is entirely open to the Government to apply these provisions to everyone, as I think they should be. They are relevant to the Bill. My noble friends Lady Barker and Lord Paddick made it clear on an amendment last week.
We started debate on this group of amendments late on Wednesday and as a result some noble Lords were unable to take part, or cannot participate today. Two have asked me to make a short comment on their behalf. I hope noble Lords will indulge me if I include them now.
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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.
The noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, talked about the reimbursement scheme for the immigration health surcharge. I do not know if she knows but, on 15 July, the Minister for Health announced that reimbursement will be paid in arrears of six-month increments, and the scheme will launch in October.
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My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for expecting me to speak after her. I have two points. The first is that we seem to be playing a whack-a-mole game about whether the amendments are relevant to the Bill or discriminatory. Let us hit the other one on the head: the only reason these amendments are restricted to EEA and Swiss nationals is that the clerks would not allow broader amendments, because they would not be within the scope of the Bill. They are not discriminatory; they aim to get rid of the hostile environment for everyone. That is the first issue.
Secondly, on the specifics, I apologise to the Minister for not making it absolutely clear which group of people I was talking about when I was saying that the right-to-rent scheme did not work. I was talking about EEA and Swiss nationals, at the end of the transition period, and all those other nationals who can now use the e-passport gates to enter the United Kingdom for six months without a visa.
I demonstrated in my speech that these individuals could rent for up to 12 months without a landlord being in peril of a civil penalty or any other penalty. Indeed, if during that 12 months they produced another ticket, boarding pass or travel booking—or a copy of any of those—they could further extend their rental with the landlord, because they had produced evidence that they had arrived in the UK within the previous six months. Therefore, you can see that they could extend and extend their rental of a property, completely undermining the right-to-rent scheme. Only those nationals who can use the e-passport gates, who get six months’ visa-free travel, can circumvent the system in that way. Those other foreign nationals who require a visa cannot do that because the landlord has to check digitally with the Home Office. The Minister may say that eventually everything will be digital, but this will not be digital. There will not be a digital way to check the rights of people who have six months’ visa-free entry to the UK. It will still be done on the basis of passports, tickets, boarding passes and bookings. That is the point I am trying to make.
My Lords, having a “non-Anglo-Saxon-sounding name”, to use the terminology used by the noble Lord, Lord Judd, I am very conscious of the position. The Minister is, of course, quite right about why we had to confine the amendments to EAA and Swiss citizens, but it is disingenuous to say that we are being discriminatory. I said on the last group of amendments that we take opportunities where we can. We are very happy to invite the Government to apply the amendments to every nationality. Sadly, this is not open to us; as there are no Private Members’ Bills at the moment, our opportunities are pretty limited.
My noble friend Lord Paddick is not into whacking moles—because he is kind to animals, apart from anything else—but he may be very challenging to the Minister. I think it is wise to try to bottom out this issue after this stage.
Reference has been made to the black economy and how people who do not have status are driven into it and are vulnerable to exploitation. There is a big difference between our position and that of the Government. We see that as the outcome of the hostile environment provisions, not as a driver for them. I am intrigued by the points about forgeries that have been made, because it is the Government’s position that physical documents for the EU settled status scheme would open up the possibility of forgery, but we will come to that later.
We have done what we can, for the moment at any rate. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
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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.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for her answers but the first is, again, the disingenuous objection that the amendment focuses only on Swiss nationals and is therefore discriminatory on the grounds of nationality. I repeat something that my noble friend Lady Hamwee has said at least twice: it is up to the Government to extend it to all migrants if they wish.
Can the Minister tell us—she may have to write to me—whether any other EEA countries have exempted immigration data in their implementation of the general data protection regulation? Also, she said that the Data Protection Act was compliant with GDPR, but that remains to be seen. I think it is doubtful because that regulation, which I worked on as an MEP, provides no blanket exclusion of immigration data. The Minister did not respond on the prospect of a data adequacy decision from the European Commission. Winning this decision is of huge significance to our security and our businesses.
The combination of this part of the Data Protection Act, not retaining the charter and constant noises about the European convention is not designed to increase the confidence of the European Commission in granting a data adequacy decision. Not getting that will seriously prejudices the chances of the cross-border police co-operation that is vital to this country. The UK has made a huge contribution in that area in building up the EU justice and security measures, as was shown when Theresa May was Home Secretary about six years ago and we had the mass opt back in to all the vital measures. If we are unable to continue that, we will not be able to access information required to catch serious criminals and it will prejudice the security of British citizens. Also, if we do not get a data adequacy decision, it will be much more difficult for businesses to transfer data across the EEA—tech businesses are particularly reliant on data—using other, clunkier routes.
Already, a shadow has been cast on the ability to get a data adequacy assessment by the surveillance provisions in the Investigatory Powers Act and others; that has been the subject of several court cases in Luxembourg and Strasbourg. It is dangerous to undermine further the chances of a data adequacy decision. There are higher things than the Home Office’s wish to have constant access to this data.
Hope springs eternal. I thank the Minister for what she said on Amendment 74, which I will read carefully in Hansard. Unfortunately, she is not giving me any comfort on the other amendments, including Amendment 43, which I moved. However, at this stage, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
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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.
From the autumn, a new cohort of grant-funded organisations will continue the successful work of the current network, supporting those who need to apply. Home Office officials are engaging with educational institutions to ensure that students are aware of the actions that they will need to take. For long-term residents, we make it clear in our communications materials that even EEA citizens who have lived in the country for many years or have a permanent residence document will still need to apply. We are increasing that engagement with partners who work closely with such audiences to continue to drive applications.
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My Lords, I will have to read what the Minister has said when I pore over Hansard, but I do not think that I am reassured in relation to the grace period SI. This SI refers to how the provisions of the EEA regulations 2016 continue to have effect despite the revocation of those regulations by this Bill—but it is the EEA regulations, unlike Appendix EU for the settlement scheme, which require CSI.
In accordance with the promise made by the then Home Secretary Theresa May in 2017, CSI would not be required as part of a settlement scheme application, but the grace period SI, by referring to the EEA regulations, as opposed to the rules under Appendix EU, that is EU settlement scheme rules, appears to be reintroducing the requirement for CSI. This is complicated and perhaps I have not properly understood it, and I will have to pore over what the Minister says.
Representatives of the 3 million were told by an official at the end of last week that there appeared to be a mistake, although this is only hearsay—perhaps this official did not understand any more than I did—but immigration lawyers who are trying to advise EU citizens on this think there is a problem. Referring to the EEA regulations incorporates a requirement for CSI—that is to say private health insurance—which has not been required during the settlement scheme application to date, but suddenly, in the grace period, it will be. Citizenship will also be required, but there is a discretion for that. Unlike for citizenship, there does not even appear to be a discretion to exempt it for settled status.
Clearly, the Minister, who is shaking her head at me, thinks I have continued to misunderstand this, but I remain less than reassured, and I hope I will manage to get it clearer in my own head. Perhaps more importantly, people whose profession it is to understand the EEA regulations and the settlement scheme, as opposed to a mere legislator, might be reassured by the Minister’s words, and I will defer to her.
I thank noble Lords. I, too, will supply myself with some hot towels and read through all that. We have another opportunity to discuss the grace period on Amendment 80, but I, like my noble friend, feel less than reassured. The issue is whether, without having sickness insurance, one has the relevant rights. The arguments seem to have moved over the past few months as to whether having CSI is necessary to exercise the rights or, in other words, whether you have been the exercising right to free movement or the treaty rights.
Some very pertinent points and questions have been posed during this debate. I wish my noble friend Lady Smith had not reminded me about tax returns and the amount of filing I have to do, but she was right and explained my reasoning on Amendment 45 better than I did. There has been a focus on individuals throughout this. I agree with my noble friend Lord Greaves that it is not about the numbers of people. What matters matters to 100% of each individual.
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Ending the Dubs scheme and Dublin III will not stop unaccompanied children fleeing conflict and seeking to reach this country to be with those they know. Surely, the Government accept that this is the reality, and that we ought, accordingly, to ensure safe routes rather than accept the existing dangerous routes which will continue to flourish if we do not make that change. This, surely, is why the terms of Amendment 48, so ably moved by my noble friend Lord Dubs, are sorely needed.
My Lords, I am extremely grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken so supportively and passionately in favour of the amendment. I am grateful to the Minister for having laid out the Government’s arguments and responses. I am sure that we will come back to this on Report, but I would like to make some very brief comments. I do not want to bandy figures too much; I think we can probably deal with that between now and Report stage.
The Minister mentioned the Section 67 scheme in the 2016 Act. The Minister said it was a one-off scheme, but it was only one-off because the Government arbitrarily closed it. There was no number given in the amendment; the Government quite arbitrarily said that there were no more local authority places. I think the Government stopped that one.
The Minister mentioned the children who came and how generous we have been but, according to the figures she quoted, the majority of these children came illegally. They crossed the channel, either in dinghies or in the back of lorries. I believe that, had they had legal paths to safety, they would not have come that way. The figures would have been the same, but some of them would have had a safe and legal crossing, instead of the terrible dangers of crossing the channel.
I will certainly get back to the Minister with indications of those local authorities—it was some time ago that we did the check—that I know are able and willing to take child refugees, so we can take the argument to that point.
The Minister mentioned the global UK resettlement scheme. Fine, I am all in support of that, except of course that this will not take a single child from Europe, as I understand it; it will be ones from the region. I welcome that they will be taken from the region, but I do not welcome the fact that the scheme will not cover any from Europe, which is why we need this particular amendment.
With regards to push and pull factors, I remember talking to a Syrian boy who fled from Damascus or Aleppo. He told me very vividly how he had seen his father blown up by a bomb in front of him. That is an experience which will mark a child for life, and that is a real push factor if ever there was one. A lot of the children I have spoken to have had the most terrible journeys in order to try and find safety. They are coming because they want to find safety somewhere in the world. The majority of them have gone to Germany, Sweden and other EU countries. Some have come here, and I hope more will come.
As I say, I believe we can return to this on Report. I repeat my gratitude to all noble Lords who have contributed to this debate.
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My Lords, it is a privilege to follow so many very clear and excellent speeches, starting with my noble friend Lord Oates and including my old friends, the noble Lords, Lord Alton of Liverpool and Lord Hain. I listened to both of them and thought, “They got some good training when they were kids, didn’t they?”
It is interesting that, of all the things that people such as the3million group and lots of other European citizens who are concerned about settled status and so on do not like, this is the one thing that they are almost all united in thinking ought to be changed. A lot of them put it at the top of their list of priorities, partly because it is such a simple and obvious thing for the Government to do.
I have been in this place for 20 years—I have to pinch myself but it is true—and I have noticed over the years that sensible Governments do not just lie down and do everything that your Lordships’ House wants them to do, although we have the debate and they listen. Occasionally they say, “Yes. There’s sense in this. We’ll take it away and sort it, and will come back.” I think that this is one of those issues. The great advantage that Governments have of doing that here and not in the House of Commons is that the Opposition do not then start shouting “U-turn” and so on at them; they say, “We thank the Government for their sensible thoughts and actions on this. Good for them.” This is one issue where the Minister, who has a reasonable amount of clout in her department and in the Government—not as much as some people but a reasonable amount—
There are shadowy figures who get appointed and seem to run things but never appear in this or any other House, but I am sure that the Minister could do it if she wanted to. I think that this is a single thing that the Government could do.
Various people have talked about it being a two-tier system. My noble friend Lord Paddick said it would mean that people with settled status would be in a position different from that of other people. They would be, and they would sometimes be worse off in some respects compared with some citizens of the European Union. For example, those who come here to work after the end of June next year will need a work visa. As I understand it, they will have a passport and the work visa will be stamped in it. They will be okay. They will say, “Look, I can work”, whereas those with settled status will have to go through the long and complex system that has been described to us by the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett.
My other question concerns transactions, whether relating to employment, housing or other things—odd jobs and so on, with people doing work for others. If the European Union person with settled status, who might be on either side of the transaction, is the provider of the facilities or services, will they have to show that they are entitled to be here and to provide those services to their customers or whoever they are providing them to? That is a question for the Minister.
It seems a bit ridiculous in some cases, such as odd-job men. Somebody comes around—they may be a traveller or just an ordinary odd-job man—and says they will mend your roof by putting the tiles back on or will set up a window-cleaning round. If you employ them to work for you, and pay them to do it, but they are not entitled to work in this country, will you be breaking the law in some way—or is it all on the side of the person providing the service?
I have been trying to get my mind around the worst-case scenarios. If you want to rent a new flat and you are leasing it from a big landlord, who is highly reputable and provides high-quality accommodation, you will be okay. They will have all the computer systems, will know how to do it and be used to it. It will just go through. But you may be renting an attic from an old lady who has lived in the house all her life but does not know what a computer looks like or how to operate that kind of system. She does not work through an agent or anybody like that; she just does it. You may be a lodger or a tenant. Under those circumstances, you need a physical document.
I can think of loads of others. Think of the gig economy. Lots of it is highly organised and computerised, and will easily be able to cope—driving for Uber, running webinars or whatever it is. But a lot of the gig economy is short-term jobs, such as working at a bar, doing delivery rounds, music gigs or all sorts of things, as we all know. We should not expect this system to work under circumstances where people do not have a physical document. It is simply not going to happen; it is not going to work.
Then there is the question of self-employed people—your classic Polish plumber, or whoever it is, whatever they are doing. As I suggested before, they may have come to mend your roof or sort out your heating. This is a self-employed person, a sole trader. They may or may not be operating properly within the tax system, but there are loads of such people. How will they cope with this? Some of them have devices with them, but lots will not want to worry about computers. If you are employing these people, as I said before, is it your responsibility to check that their settled status is bona fide?
The more I think about, the more circumstances there are where it will simply not work. It might work in 90% of cases, but there are lots where it will not. Simply having a physical document means that the system can work. It does not mean it will, but it means that it can, so that people on all sides of the transactions can cope. I return to what I said before: this is simple. I cannot understand why the Government will not do it. They should go away, design a scheme, come back and tell us what they are doing, and we will cheer them to the rooftops.
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My Lords, Amendment 49, moved by the noble Lord, Lord Oates, inserts into the Bill a simple new clause that gives peace of mind to the individuals who request it. As the noble Lord said, it is very specific. I fully understand why someone would want physical proof that they have the right to remain here in the United Kingdom.
In his introduction, the noble Lord, Lord Oates, set out a number of examples of problems you may need to deal with. One is the whole question of being able to rent a property. You may be required to prove your status, and I can understand a landlord being reluctant. Of course, the Government have made sure that landlords will pay a heavy price if they rent out properties to people who are not entitled to rent them. I can see the same problem for employers. When you take somebody on, you need to check and confirm that they have the right to work here. Again, I can see an employer being worried that they could take somebody on and then find that they themselves have potentially committed an offence. There are real issues here.
The problem is that it probably will not happen next week but in 10 or 20 years when we are no longer involved, all the officials have moved on and God knows where the records are. That is part of the problem. If I was in this situation, I would want to have some physical proof that I could keep safe and that, if necessary, would protect me in future if my status were at some point questioned. The noble Lord, Lord Oates, said we have to understand the stress and anxiety of people not having that physical document that they can put away, knowing they have this proof. With the Windrush scandal we have already seen cases of documents not being around and people who have lived in this country for many years, often coming here as children, really struggling to provide proof. I also support the call for it to be free of charge.
The noble Baroness, Lady Bull, made a powerful argument about people who flee abusive relationships, which are all about control. If you do not have control of yourself—being able to rent that property or to get another job—you are almost forced to get back in contact with the person you have already left, fearing for your safety. It cannot be right that the Government are creating conditions that cause those problems for people.
Amendment 51, in my name and those of my noble friend Lord Rosser and the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, seeks to do the same thing with slightly different wording. It says “must make provision”, whereas the amendment from the noble Lord, Lord Oates, says proof must be available on request, but it is basically the same issue.
While sitting here, I was thinking about some of the things I do. I do not know whether other noble Lords have ever done a citizenship ceremony. It is very interesting. I have done hundreds of these ceremonies and spoken to hundreds of people who have been given citizenship. What happens is that you go into the council chamber in Lewisham Town Hall, I walk in, and then the official—normally one of the registration officers—explains carefully to the new citizens what it means to be a British citizen. They then have to swear or affirm an oath and we sing the national anthem. The final part of it is that they walk up and I hand them a certificate signed by the Home Secretary. I have handed them out signed by Theresa May, Amber Rudd and Sajid Javid. The official tells them that this is a really important document and says, “Before you leave, please check that your name and those of your children are correct. It’s your right to be a British citizen”. Then we have our photograph taken. There are hundreds of photographs all over Lewisham of me handing out certificates to new citizens.
We have this situation in which if you are a British citizen you get a certificate, but if you have settled status you cannot have one. That is utterly ridiculous. I hope the Minister will see how nonsensical that is, go away and deal with this and come back on Report.
My Lords, I have received requests to speak after the Minister from the noble Lords, Lord Paddick and Lord Kennedy of Southwark.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for her explanation. She started and ended by talking about the letter that is sent to people about their status, which can be saved on their computer as a PDF. The Government have said, time and again, that, as proof of the recipient’s immigration status, these letters are not worth the paper they are printed on. It is disingenuous of the Minister to pray in aid these letters in answer to these amendments.
I know the Minister is going to write to me regarding previous amendments. Perhaps she could add whether or not, at any stage in the future, the Government intend to provide digital proof that an EEA or Swiss national who is on a six-month visa-free visit to the UK is here legally.
Finally, the Minister talked about vehicle excise licences going digital and said that no physical disc is now necessary. Can she tell the House what the increase in evasion of vehicle excise licences has been as a result of going completely digital?
My Lords, I do not think that anyone in this debate spoke out against the digital rollout or suggested that it was somehow new to require people to provide evidence of their right to rent a property or to work. What is new is that European citizens living here will be required to provide that evidence very shortly.
The Minister did not address at all my points about the staggering inconsistency of the Government. They issue certificates to all British citizens at citizenship ceremonies —hard, paper-copy certificates signed by the Home Secretary. Everyone has them handed out; I have handed out many. At the same time, the same Government and department will not issue any paper certificates to people with settled or pre-settled status. Will the Minister please go away and find out why the Government are acting so inconsistently? If she could write to me I would be happy to receive that letter, but it is ludicrous that there are those two things from the same department at the same time.
My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate. They all made important contributions and have provided consistent support on these issues over the extended period we have been discussing them. In view of the time, I will not go through all the contributions but I want to thank my noble colleague, if I may call him that, the noble Lord, Lord Polak, for his support and for the clear and eloquent way in which he spoke in support of the amendment. As he said, this is not a partisan issue; in reality, it is a practical and simple measure.
When I spoke earlier, I asked the Minister to consider putting aside her brief and walking in the shoes of the people who will have to work the system. I am afraid that she absolutely did not do that, and I am deeply disappointed. She said of physical documents, “I do not think they are necessary”. With respect, what matters is not what the Minister thinks but what the people who will have to live under this system think. They think they are necessary, and I do not blame them, because if I were a permanent resident in another country, I would want physical proof of my status. I suspect that many people in the Government would too. On previous groups, the Minister spoke at great length about discrimination between EEA citizens and non-EEA citizens, but that is exactly what the government scheme proposes and would do. She talked about how physical documents could be lost, stolen or tampered with. Then why on earth are the Government issuing such documents under the settled status scheme to non-EEA citizens who gain their rights through family relationships?
I asked the Minister what had changed since her own Government’s assessment of the digital right-to-work scheme found, as I said, that:
“There is a clearly identified user need for the physical card … and without strong evidence that this need can be mitigated for vulnerable, low-digital skill users, it should be retained.”
She did not enlighten the House. We heard instead much about the Home Office’s apparent plans to digitise the whole system. My noble friend Lord Paddick asked the Minister whether the Government intend, for example, to abolish the physical driving licence. I do not think he got an answer but I wondered about the status of the famous blue passport, which has caused such excitement in some quarters recently. Do the Government really intend to abolish it in favour of a digital status? If so, I would not fancy being the Minister who has to explain that to the Daily Mail.
However, there is a really serious point here. The Minister read out a brief that addresses none of the important questions that were raised. She referred to the important point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, about those who may be fleeing domestic abuse and whose partner may have been the person who controlled the email address and applied for the settled status scheme. I do not know whether the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, got an answer but I did not hear what it was.
When Michael Gove appeared before the European Union Select Committee of this House in May, in answer to a question from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Morris of Aberavon, about documentary proof for EU citizens in the UK, he told us that
“the moral and social case for it remains as strong as ever, and I shall reinforce that argument.”
I hope the Government will think about those comments by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. To give them time to do so, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.
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My Lords, Covid has proved a desperate situation in so many different ways. One of the telling impacts is on individuals who have no recourse to public funds, not just for them as individuals but, as other noble Lords have said, in the context of public health, if they have to go to work, or to collect food from a food bank or other donors. The position is diametrically opposed to the UBI universal benefit, to which reference has been made. There is a lot to be said for that.
On Amendment 73, it occurred to me to ask what the policy aim is, because it reads as a hostile environment measure. What is the purpose of applying the no recourse rule to people whose future clearly lies in the UK? It is hard not to come to the conclusion that it is about starving them out.
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 DebateFull Debate: Read Full Debate
My Lords, Amendments 14, 15 and 16 in the names of the noble Baronesses, Lady Hamwee and Lady Ludford, seek to bring more clarity to the powers that the Government are taking to make regulations, and that, for me, is a very good thing. As we have heard, words such as “supplementary” and “transition” and the phrase
“to make different provisions for different purposes”
are very unclear, wide-ranging and open to interpretation. These probing amendments today will give the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Trafford, the opportunity to add some clarity to the situation and set out for the record the intention and the scope of the powers that the Government are seeking from Parliament. As for Amendment 17, which would remove Clause 4(4), again an explanation from the Minister as to why the Government need the new power would be very welcome.
The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, made some very good points and made them very clearly. As she asked when referring to the noble Lord, Lord Beith, what instructions were given to the parliamentary draftspersons? We need to understand that because clarity is important when you are deciding on legislation. Without it you get yourself into all sorts of problems: courts can get involved and there can be all sorts of other difficulties. What we have been hearing from the other end of the Corridor—certainly the comments from the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland—about where we are going to be on certain things gives us particular worry. That is why clarity is so important. I look forward to the Minister putting the matter right for us.
I have not received any requests to speak after the Minister, so I call—oh, it looks as though the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, thinks he has given notice.
I did email; I do not know where it has gone. Oh sorry, I did not email Question Diary.
I thank the Minister for explaining how certain words have been used in previous legislation, but it would be helpful if she could write to me and place a copy in the Library of the House with some examples, just so that we are absolutely clear. I know she was able to give an example now, but that would be very helpful.
My Lords, I should be particularly interested to see examples of what “transitory” is. The noble Lord, Lord McColl of Dulwich, was also concerned about this. The noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, used the phrase “open to interpretation” and that is exactly the problem, because it allows activist lawyers to come and question. We are really on the side of the Government here, because the clearer the legislation, the easier it will be for them to enforce it, but there we go: that is not my business really, is it?
The Minister said that these are standard provisions. I had a very quick look at the internal market Bill shortly before this session started, because I had picked up that there are some issues in this territory—sorry, no pun intended. I could not find them, but it seems to me that the standard provisions get longer and longer. People get worried about whether a word is absolutely precisely on the point, and more words—adjectives, mostly—get added.
If the House agrees—we may come back to this at the next stage—that “appropriate” and “in connection with” are not appropriate for legislation because they are not clear enough and are too wide, as the rest of the clause comes under those overarching words, we will have got rid of the rest of the problem. But that is not for now and, for the moment, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
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My Lords, the email problem has not been resolved entirely, but we do have a short- term solution. Members, whether in the Chamber or participating remotely, who wish to speak after the Minister on this amendment or indeed subsequent ones, can use the alternative email address, relating to the Grand Committee, that is in the guidance notes that govern today’s session. If they send their request to the Grand Committee email address, that will find its way to the Table here and they should be included in the requests to speak after the Minister. Let us hope that works. We were about to hear from the Minister, so I call the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Trafford.
My Lords, we have not received any requests to speak after the Minister. Therefore, I call the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy of Southwark, to reply.
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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.
By contrast, Amendment 23 seeks to provide UK nationals resident in the EEA or Switzerland by 31 December 2020 with preferential family reunion rights on an indefinite basis. Under the withdrawal agreements, EEA and Swiss citizens have lifetime rights to be joined here by existing close family members, as long as they themselves are resident in the UK by the end of the transition period. By contrast, the amendment does not specify a date by which the UK national must return to the UK, meaning that they could return at any point in future and continue to benefit from EU family reunion rules. Such preferential treatment is unfair and cannot be justified.
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My Lords, I simply ask the Minister what she would advise a couple, one British and one an EU national, who both have elderly parents. She is suggesting that they should pick between them for future care by the end of 2022. Is this really a humane approach?
I simply repeat my request that the Government might look at this territory in a little more detail and should arrange things such that British citizens have a slightly better deal to come and live here than non-British citizens. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
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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.
To illustrate, I draw noble Lords’ attention to the MAC report of September 2018 on the impact of EEA migration in the UK. It said it does
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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.
My Lords, I have received no requests to speak after the Minister, so I call the noble Lord, Lord Green of Deddington.
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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.
My Lords, that was a short but interesting debate—interesting because very few people in the Committee had much idea of what is proposed. The Minister loyally read out what she had been advised to say, but there are just one or two little points. One is that this was based firmly on MAC advice. As I have mentioned, the MAC is a very competent bunch of people, but they are all economists. There seems to be no political common sense engaged in examining its recommendations. What is more, they were made in January, before the Covid crisis struck us, and so was the February policy statement to which the Minister referred. All these things were cooked up before we faced the very serious crisis that we now face. I therefore hope that the Government will be light on their feet and not wait for this to run out of control before they take some action to lower what is bound to be a highly attractive route, which will be, without question, to the detriment of our own young people, who will not have the work experience of a 24 year-old from overseas. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
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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.
I have received a request to speak after the Minister from the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee.
The Minister talked about the service being far from making a profit, yet we have heard from the Government on previous occasions about the surplus that is achieved from individual payments and fees. Will she write to noble Lords after today’s debate explaining in only as little detail as is required what the finances of this service are in order to square those two statements?
I am very grateful to all noble Lords who added their names to this amendment or who spoke from across the Committee. The noble Lord, Lord Alton, talked about being a member of the infantry. With infantry like this, who needs generals? We have had such powerful, passionate, well-informed speeches from across the Committee. I think they all came from the heart, and that is what made them so powerful. It is clear that everybody feels very strongly about this, particularly when talking about the implications for children.
The right reverend Prelate used the word “iniquitous”, which is unusually strong, given his measured approach. This is iniquitous and we should take note when someone such as the right reverend Prelate uses that word. It is a tragedy that we are having to come back to argue this again. The Windrush scandal is hanging over it all like a spectre. It is important that we do not repeat that shameful episode in our country’s history.
I thank the Minister. I am relieved that she did not try to argue that citizenship is not important—I think she realised that she was on hiding to nothing if she tried to do that. Apart from that, however, I am disappointed that there is no sign of any give in the Government’s position.
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I thank noble Lords and apologise for my lateness; I am having a very bad day with technology. I tried to send the email about 30 minutes ago.
I join other noble Lords in being very disappointed given the powerful and wide-ranging contributions from all sides of the Committee, both spiritual and temporal. In asking my question, I think I need to declare my position as a vice-president of the Local Government Association. I wonder whether the Minister can offer us one concession tonight or whether she will go away and think about making this concession. I refer to Amendment 68 and to subsection (2) of the proposed new clause which refers to children in the care of a local authority. I do not need to tell noble Lords that local authority funding is extremely stretched and extremely fragile and that there are huge demands on children’s services. As a responsible institutional parent, a local authority would surely want to secure citizenship for a child in its care, but that would be taking money away from other services, so will the Minister consider at least thinking about ensuring that if there is no waiving of fees, local authorities are recompensed for the cost of those fees?
My Lords, I was saying that I found the Minister’s response disappointing. Yet again, when she talked about the cost of the immigration and citizenship service, she seemed to be conflating immigration and citizenship. Part of the point that we are making is that they are different and that it is irrelevant what the overall cost of the immigration and borders system is, because these fees should not be paying for that system. They should simply be paying for the cost of registering a right of citizenship that already exists. That was disappointing, and she might want to look again at that.
The Minister said that EEA and non-EEA people would be treated the same in future. That is not very reassuring because we have been going on for years about how badly the non-EEA people are treated in this area. She talked about a two-tier system not delivering the required fund or policy intent, and I was not sure what she meant by “policy intent”. As she is going to be writing a letter to us anyway, perhaps she could clarify that.
I was also very puzzled—this might be partly what the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, was referring to—that subsection (2) of the amendment does not refer to local authority assistance. That was an original amendment that was put down in the Commons. The Minister in the Commons pointed out that this was a very vague term, so we deliberately put in this amendment the words
“looked after by a local authority.”
I do not quite know whether the Minister was speaking to an amendment that was laid in the Commons rather than the amendment that is before her now. We are talking very specifically about looked-after children, not any child who gets any kind of assistance from a local authority. Perhaps she could clarify that when she writes her letter.
I think it was the noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Newnham, who talked about the importance of doing the right thing. That is why we are all still here, in this echo chamber, and we will continue to be here until the Government do the right thing. The only dispute I have with the notion of an echo chamber is that echoes tend to fade away. This echo is not going to fade away: it is going to get stronger. The more the Government try to resist it, the more we will be coming back. It might not be part of this Bill, because clearly the amendment is not going to pass, but there will be ample opportunities and we will not let this go. We will, of course, wait to see what will happen in the appeal, but I hope the Government will remember the importance of doing the right thing, because the Government are now doing the wrong thing. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill DebateFull Debate: Read Full Debate
As has been said, our Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee and our Constitution Committee have expressed themselves in pithy and forthright terms about the sweeping powers that the Government are seeking to grab under this Bill. We await the Government’s response to this group of amendments with interest.
For example, as we set out in the Explanatory Memorandum to the Bill, article 10 notes:
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I am sorry to keep repeating this, but I specifically asked the Minister what the various data sources were to confirm time spent in the UK, to ensure that EEA citizens do not stay for more than six months if they use the e-passport gates or to stop them effectively having a continuous six-month rolling period by going out of the UK for a day and coming back again. She has not referred to that. In particular, I asked her what data sources would enable an EU citizen who had not left the UK after six months to be tracked down and, if necessary, deported.
I am very sorry to correct the Minister, but she made a statement earlier that was incorrect. In response to my noble friend Lady Bennett, she said of retaining—or not taking away —freedom of movement that it was the will of the people and what the people voted for with their Brexit vote. That is absolutely not true. We voted—I voted—for Brexit for many different reasons, and freedom of movement did not particularly come up as a reason. Quite honestly, none of us understood that the Government were going to make such a shambles of it. We could not have predicted that it could be so badly handled. So please, it is not the will of the people, and it was not what people voted for with Brexit. They voted for a variety of reasons.
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for her careful response to Amendment 3. It was very thoughtful—not a response off the top of her head. I am also grateful for the offer of a meeting, which I will happily take up.
The Minister gave an example of a provision in the regulations that she said was inconsistent with the immigration Acts. I accept that there may well be many such provisions. My point is very simple: spell them out in Schedule 1. Do not use this vague language of drafting which means that people cannot identify what their rights and obligations are. My amendment is not designed to keep or remove any particular right; it is simply designed to require the Government to instruct the parliamentary draftsman to produce a provision that implies basic standards of legal certainty. I hope the Minister has noted the substantial concern around the House at this lack of certainty in the drafting of Schedule 1. It is simply not good enough and it needs to be addressed. I look forward to discussing this with the Minister prior to Report.
My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part in the debate on this catch-all group of amendments. There have been some very high-quality contributions. In particular, I thank my noble friend for her careful and full answers; they have got us off to a good start.
I was rather surprised to hear the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, quoting the insights of the sociopath Caligula. However, I think he—and other noble Lords—made some good points about clarity of drafting and the complexity of immigration law, which makes its fair, efficient and firm enforcement more difficult. It also creates a great deal of work for lawyers. That is not an unvarnished advantage.
The noble Lords, Lord Beith and Lord Rosser, rightly referred to the use of secondary rather than primary legislation, and I am sure we will come back to that when we come to scrutinise Amendment 9.
We heard good support for the two practical amendments on minors visiting the UK using identity cards and on e-gates. The response was a bit disappointing on identity cards, but there were some very good points made about e-gates, and the Minister will obviously answer the more detailed questions on that from the noble Lords, Lord Paddick and Lord Adonis.
The most powerful intervention about robust enforcement was from the noble Lord, Lord Green of Deddington, whom I call a friend. He made a number of practical suggestions. I am not sure I have heard quite enough about how the Bill will be enforced or its “integrity”, to quote the noble Lord, Lord Adonis. I will talk to the noble Lord, Lord Green, and we may return to the issue on Report, in the same or in some alternative form, because enforcement of the law is very important. For now, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
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I hope that the Government will reflect further not on their apparent aim for a much better-paid social care sector, but on their view that we can achieve that better- paid, resourced and valued and increasingly professional care sector at the drop of a hat in a few months’ time simply by cutting off the supply of staff from overseas. We cannot. We need a period of time, as provided for in Amendment 57, to sort out the increased funding, the finance for the better pay the Government envisage, and to find, recruit and train—from within this country—the hundreds of thousands of increasingly professional staff with an aptitude and a desire to work in the care sector that are going to be needed. I hope the Government can give a positive reply to this group of amendments.
On Amendment 82 from the noble Lord, Lord Patel, I recognise that he is looking for the Government to reassure Parliament that we will continue to support our essential health and social care sector and ensure that it has the staff it needs to support the health and well-being of the citizens of the United Kingdom. I hope that I can provide that reassurance today.
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My Lords, there are two amendments in this group: Amendments 8 and 58. Amendment 58 is proposed by myself, the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie of Downpatrick, and my noble friend Lord Rosser. The purpose of this amendment is clear and was ably illustrated by the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie, a moment ago.
We often discuss matters around Ireland and Irish citizens, and I am always conscious that the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Trafford, who is first-generation Irish, usually speaks for the Government, and I, who am second-generation Irish, respond for the Opposition. In addition, if you look at the number of people connected to Ireland around the House or in the other place, it sets out the great contribution that Irish people have made to this country and the great links we have there, whether in the Republic, Northern Ireland or elsewhere. Those links have done wonders for both our countries, and we must always ensure that we underpin that so the strength grows. My own parents lived in the UK for many years and have now retired back in the Republic. Amendment 58 seeks to add clarity to the situation for citizens that could be affected, which is always important when it comes to people’s rights. People could lose their rights, so clarity is important.
The Bill as it stands ends EU free movement and establishes a stand-alone right for Irish citizens to enter and reside in the UK. As noble Lords have heard, under the Good Friday agreement citizen provisions people in Northern Ireland have a birth-right entitlement to be either British or Irish or both. Equality of treatment is regardless of that choice, which is a very important underpinning. Nothing must be allowed to unpick that. The Government’s position is that Irish citizens do not need to apply to the EU settled status scheme; they can rely on the associated reciprocal rights of the common travel area, but they can apply if they wish. We have heard talk about the common travel area’s rights being written in sand. It is fair to say that we need clarity here, and that is the purpose of this amendment.
The amendment seeks that, within 30 days of the Bill becoming an Act, the Secretary of State must publish a report setting out in detail the rights of citizens under the common travel area, EU rights and benefits under the EU settlement scheme, and then delineate between the two so that we know exactly where we stand. This is necessary due to the inconsistency of the Government on a whole range of policy areas. Let us be clear: matters can be changed, clarified, replaced, restored, reversed, revisited, substituted, switched, U-turned and varied with such speed that, even when the Prime Minister was on his feet in the other place, the latest Government U-turn was under way. To expect people to rely on what the Government announce is not credible. We need this amendment on the face of the Bill, and we need the Secretary of State to produce the report.
Amendment 8, in the names of the noble Baronesses, Lady Hamwee, Lady Ludford and Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, seeks to put the protections enjoyed by our citizens on the face of the Bill. If the Government are not prepared to accept that amendment, can the noble Baroness set out how the rights as expressed in Amendment 8 will be protected and guaranteed by the Government?