Power to modify retained direct EU legislation relating to social security co-ordination

Part of Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 11:45 am ar 28 Chwefror 2019.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Afzal Khan Afzal Khan Shadow Minister (Home Office) (Immigration) 11:45, 28 Chwefror 2019

Once again, it is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Stringer. I start by thanking my hon. Friend the Member for Stretford and Urmston for laying out this amendment.

The Henry VIII powers would allow the Government to remove rights to aggregate pensions and disability entitlements that EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU have built their lives around. It is vital that the Government do not make regulations that might remove the ability of British citizens and European economic area nationals to aggregate pension rights and social security benefits without proper scrutiny by Parliament, so we support this amendment. These social security rights are vital for EU citizens in the UK as well as UK citizens in the EU.

People will have moved back and forth between the UK and the EU on the assumption that they will be able to bring their pension entitlements with them. For example, a German national might move to the UK midway through their career, work here for 10 years, and then go back to Germany to retire. The current EU regulations allow them to receive a pension based on their contributions both in Germany and in the UK. The same is true for a UK national who moves to work in Germany.

If we have a withdrawal agreement, those rights will be guaranteed, but if we do not have a withdrawal agreement we do not know what will happen. Perhaps the Minister can help us with that.

In an evidence session, it was pointed out by British in Europe witnesses that 80% of the British people living in Europe are of working age or below, and more than 1 million people are affected by social security implications. Removing the ability to aggregate social security benefits will deter EU citizens from coming to work in the UK, because they will not be able to export social security from the UK, despite having paid into the system. The same would apply for UK citizens moving into the EU.

There is a particular concern among UK citizens living in the EU about the uprating of pensions. The percentage increases can accumulate to be very significant for pensioners living in the EU, particularly in the context of the declining value of the pound.

The UK state pension is already the lowest in all the OECD countries, and a refusal to uprate would cause significant hardship for many UK citizens. At the moment, the Government have committed to continue the uprating of pensions until April 2020, but not beyond. Can the Minister provide some much-needed clarity for the UK citizens living in the EU about the position of pensions beyond 2020?

If the UK introduces restrictions on social security, it is to be expected that the EU will respond in kind. We heard during our evidence session from the TUC that it is

“very worried about the increasing social insecurity and the welfare repercussions for British people abroad.”––[Official Report, Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Public Bill Committee, 12 February 2019; c.38.]

We heard from the British in Europe witnesses during our evidence session that the Bill has had a negative effect on discussions with EU Governments. Kalba Meadows was clear that

“national Governments across the EU27 are reticent in coming forward with their own legislation, because they are concerned that the rights of their nationals living in the UK will not be equally protected.”––[Official Report, Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Public Bill Committee, 14 February 2019; c. 146, Q364.]