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 Alok Sharma Alok Sharma The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions 11:45, 28 Chwefror 2019

I thank the hon. Lady for her comments, and I will come on to the point about pensions shortly.

The titles of regulation 883 cited in amendment 26 cover a broader range of issues than just aggregation rights. They cover a wide range of social security co-ordination provisions, ranging from definitions of key concepts, the scope of the regime, prohibition of residence requirements for certain benefits and the export of cash sickness benefits. Accepting an amendment that prevented the Government from removing those provisions would go much further than the hon. Lady’s stated intention of preventing the Government from making changes to aggregation policy. Doing so could remove the Government’s ability to reflect our future relationship with the EU on a wide range of policy issues. Furthermore, the amendment would prevent the removal of the listed titles, but it would not prevent their modification or amendment. With respect, therefore, it does not achieve its purported objective.

Let me address some of the issues that the hon. Lady raised, which were all perfectly valid. She made a point about the inclusion of universal credit in the social security co-ordination system, and she said that it was not currently part of that system. She will know that that is because universal credit is treated as social assistance, and therefore will not be affected by the clause.

The hon. Lady made a point about healthcare. It is not our intention to use this clause to make changes to healthcare policy. Any such changes are a matter for the Department of Health and Social Care, and they will be dealt with in the Healthcare (International Arrangements) Bill.

The hon. Lady mentioned the fixing SIs, and I want to be clear about what they will do. The Department has prepared four sets of regulations, under the European Union (Withdrawal) Act, to fix deficiencies in social security co-ordination to ensure that the UK statute book will continue to work after exit day. However, as I have mentioned, maintaining the current system unilaterally can only take us so far, especially for areas that rely on reciprocity and data sharing. Separate legislation, such as the Bill, is necessary to enable the Government to make changes to retained EU law as appropriate, so that it will operate effectively in every EU exit scenario.

The hon. Lady raised the uprating of pensions. We have announced that the state pension for pensioners currently living in the EU will be uprated for 2019-20. We wish to continue uprating pensions beyond that, but we will have to take those decisions in the light of whether, as we hope and expect, reciprocal arrangements with the EU are in place.

The hon. Lady asked why future policy was not set out in the clause. She knows that the clause provides the legislative framework to deliver the future policy at the appropriate time. Future policy changes will be set out in regulations and will be subject, as she pointed out, to the affirmative procedure. If Opposition Members do not agree with any such regulations, they will have the opportunity to vote against them. Further impact assessments and appropriate consultation will follow those proposed changes.

Finally, the hon. Lady mentioned the Commission’s proposed no-deal regulation, which is actually more limited in scope than the UK Government’s proposal. The Government have expressed to the EU our concern that the coverage of its regulation is minimal, and we are doing what we can in that space to persuade the EU. In the light of the points that I have made, I respectfully ask her to withdraw the amendment.