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 12:00 pm ar 28 Chwefror 2019.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Afzal Khan Afzal Khan Shadow Minister (Home Office) (Immigration) 12:00, 28 Chwefror 2019

Labour believes that if the Government want to make far-reaching changes to social security, they should be subject to scrutiny, in primary legislation. As we discussed in the clause 4 debate, secondary legislation does not provide Parliament with an opportunity for adequate scrutiny and oversight of major policy changes. The rights in question were brought in by primary legislation, and it is only right that their removal should be possible only with the same level of scrutiny.

The powers in the clause are not necessary. If the Government really want to tidy up the statute book or make other, minor, changes to legislation, section 8 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 already gives them the power to remove the co-ordination regulations and replace them. In fact, they have already laid four regulations under the Act. We feel that the power in the clause would enable the Government to set out global changes to social security, which should rightly be done through primary, not secondary, legislation.

That position was set out by Justice during our evidence sittings. It was concerned about

“the extraordinary breadth of power that it creates”.––[Official Report, Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Public Bill Committee, 12 February 2019; c. 59, Q157.]

The witness set out clearly:

“It is simply not appropriate to leave that to a policy change by way of delegated power, but it seems to us, from their memorandum, that Government are expressly intending to do that to get around the limitations in section 8.”––[Official Report, Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Public Bill Committee, 12 February 2019; c. 60, Q158.]

Similarly, Professor Steve Peers was clear that

“the Government should not have unlimited powers and some constraints should be set by primary legislation.”––[Official Report, Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Public Bill Committee, 14 February 2019; c. 123, Q308.]

Urgent, widespread changes to social security co-ordination are not needed in a rush. Thanks to the 2018 Act, there is law in place. The statutory instrument amendments are in place and there is no urgent need for an overhaul of social security co-ordination that would justify such a lack of scrutiny.

The House of Lords Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee is clear that the Government have provided an inadequate justification for the transfer of power from Parliament to the Government in the clause. It recommended the removal of clause 5 in its entirety. It refers to a requirement to provide an “exceptional justification” for a skeleton Bill, which has not happened in this case. As the Committee puts it,

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