Repeal of the main retained EU law relating to free movement etc.

Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 11:45 am ar 11 Mehefin 2020.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Stuart McDonald Stuart McDonald Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Immigration, Asylum and Border Control), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Attorney General) 11:45, 11 Mehefin 2020

I beg to move amendment 18, in schedule 1, page 7, line 26, leave out paragraph 4(2).

I am moving this amendment because, as we heard on Tuesday from Adrian Berry, the drafting of paragraph 4(2) —there are similar paragraphs in schedule 1—is far from satisfactory.

In tabling this amendment, we are asking the Minister, how is it that this paragraph is supposed to work? Why must we leave it to ordinary citizens to work out whether they still have certain rights by checking back whether these provisions are inconsistent with or could impact on the interpretation of decades of immigration laws, both Immigration Acts and legislation made under them? Why has the Bill not done that job for them? As Mr Berry said, the Home Office must know how these rights interplay with earlier provisions of immigration legislation. Why is that not set out in the Bill?

As we just heard, schedule 1 does the heavy lifting of repealing large parts of retained law in relation to free movement of people. Over three parts, schedule 1 lists, in considerable detail, the various bits of primary and secondary legislation of retained EU law that are to be omitted and revoked.

For large parts, the schedule is pretty clear. For example, it says:

Article 1 of the Workers Regulation is omitted.”

I do not like that, but I cannot complain that it is lacking in clarity. As Adrian Berry pointed out, however, elsewhere the drafting lets people down. Even with the help of immigration lawyers like Mr Berry, it will be incredibly difficult for people to know whether other rights that they have under the workers regulation are still effectively in force.

Other articles in the workers regulation are important. These are not trivial matters. They include, for example, the right to equal treatment in various spheres, such as education, employment rights and family rights. It will be important for folk to know, in a straightforward manner, whether they still enjoy these rights, but schedule 1 totally fudges this question.

The offending paragraph states that these provisions

“cease to apply so far as—

(a) they are inconsistent with any provision made by or under the Immigration Acts (including, and as amended by, this Act), or

(b) they are otherwise capable of affecting the interpretation, application or operation of any such provision.”

I find that very difficult to understand, as a parliamentarian and somebody who many years ago was an immigration lawyer.

For example, is a protection offered against discrimination on vocational grounds in paragraph 6, contrary to the Immigration Acts or any provision made under them? The Immigration Acts are a specific list of provisions. Again, as Mr Berry pointed out, it would not be unreasonable to think that the Home Office knew exactly which workers regulation articles were not impacted at all and which were, and to what extent.

That should be in the Bill, so that folk know where they stand. It is as simple as that. Otherwise, the consequence would be endless confusion and litigation. The query and question for the Minister is, why is the Bill still drafted in this way?

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Ceidwadwyr, Gainsborough

Before I call the Minister, does anybody else wish to speak? In that case, over to you, Minister.

Photo of Kevin Foster Kevin Foster The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

Thank you, Sir Edward. I just thought I would be courteous, in case there was another hon. Member who wished to speak.

Amendment 18, which stands in the name of the hon. Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East, and his colleagues, would remove paragraph 4(2) from schedule 1 to the Bill, which disapplies provisions of the workers regulation, which conflict with domestic immigration law. This would mean that the UK remained bound by EU law in relation to the rights of EEA citizens to access the UK’s job market, which might in part be the hon. Gentleman’s intention, given his well-known view on that subject.

The Government, therefore, cannot support this amendment, because it would effectively result in free movement rights for workers and their families continuing after the end of the transition period. The Government are committed to ending the free movement of people now that we have left the EU, so therefore this proposal is incompatible with that. The Government are committed to ending the free movement of people now that we have left the EU, so therefore this would be incompatible with that.

We have made it clear that we will bring free movement to an end on 1 January, and introduce an effective and fairer points-based immigration system that takes into account the needs of the whole of our United Kingdom and works for the whole of our United Kingdom. It will be a system that reflects the skills and contributions that someone has to offer, not where the person comes from.

Photo of Stuart McDonald Stuart McDonald Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Immigration, Asylum and Border Control), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Attorney General)

The Minister is right that I would love to see all these rights retained, but that is not the motivation behind this amendment. I accept that the Government want to go about repealing some rights, but the Bill does not really do that. It says, in a peculiar way, that the rights are “sort of repealed” and one has to check back through immigration legislation for decades to work out to what extent. Why has it been done in this way rather than setting out specifically which rights are retained and which are not?

Photo of Kevin Foster Kevin Foster The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

The answer is partly that it is not possible to draw up an exhaustive list of directly affected law in terms of the EU because court judgments will affect that. One reason for the wording is to make it clear that it relates to the Immigration Act 1971 and does not create a wider enabling power around the workers regulation. I am also clear that those who are subject to the withdrawal agreement are covered by those provisions.

During the passage of the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020 we discussed in great detail the provisions for protecting the rights of EEA citizens resident in the UK by the end of the transition period, which is 31 December this year. The EU settlement scheme, which was fully opened on 13 March 2019, was specifically introduced for this purpose. One of the rights protected by the status granted under the scheme is equality of access to employment, benefits and services, in the manner outlined by the workers regulation.

Retaining sub-paragraph (4)(2) of schedule 1 will in no way compromise our commitments to upholding the rights of resident EEA citizens already working in the United Kingdom. It will simply ensure other provisions of the workers regulation, which are not specific to immigration, do not have ongoing effects on UK immigration law, but continue to have their effects for other purposes, hence the wording of the sub-section. Otherwise the UK would be required, for example, to provide all EEA citizens with an offer of employment as though they were British citizens, meaning they could not be subjected to any restrictions on access in the UK labour market, directly undermining the new points-based immigration system, which will not provide preferential treatment for EEA citizens.

The changes made by sub-paragraph (4)(2) only relate to immigration aspects of the workers regulation and will not affect any other rights provided by that regulation. For example, the right to equal treatment in respect of positions of employment and work, and the right to join a trade union are unaffected by the provision, because this Bill is not the appropriate vehicle in which to consider them or to look for a power to alter or amend them.

It is less than six months since the British people voted to take back control of our borders and introduce a new points-based system to control immigration, which will deliver for the UK for years to come. This provision, ending the immigration rights provided by the workers regulation, is one the steps needed to pave the way for the new system. For those reasons, the Government cannot support this amendment and I ask the hon. Gentleman to withdraw it.

Photo of Stuart McDonald Stuart McDonald Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Immigration, Asylum and Border Control), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Attorney General)

I thank the Minister for his explanation. I absolutely understand what the Government are trying to achieve and that some of the rights in the workers directive have been put in legislation, including in the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020. However, that is not the point that this amendment is trying to make. The point is about how the Bill is—or is not—going about repealing the workers directive.

It is essentially a point about the rule of law. When I intervened, the Minister said that it would not be possible to draw up an exhaustive list of exactly how these rights were affected by Immigration Acts and other provisions. If the Government cannot do that, how on earth is the ordinary citizen supposed to be able to tell what their rights are? I think we should take this paragraph out of the schedule and, if the Government are unhappy with the implications that has in leaving things on the statute book, they should come back on another occasion with a clear list and fix it that way. I would like to push the amendment to a division.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

Rhif adran 2 Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill — Repeal of the main retained EU law relating to free movement etc.

Ie: 5 MPs

Na: 8 MPs

Ie: A-Z fesul cyfenw

Na: A-Z fesul cyfenw

The Committee divided: Ayes 5, Noes 8.

Question accordingly negatived.

Question proposed, That the schedule be the First schedule to the Bill.

Photo of Kate Green Kate Green Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions) 12:00, 11 Mehefin 2020

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Edward. I would like to ask the Minister some questions about paragraph 6 of schedule 1, which potentially disapplies any retained EU law relating to the immigration context. It is a similar set of questions to those we were discussing a moment ago in relation to amendment 18, but with a different focus. It arises from evidence that was given to us on Tuesday afternoon by Adrian Berry on behalf of the Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association, which I thank for its help in preparing for this Committee.

I apologise that it was not possible to get an amendment tabled on this paragraph. As my hon. Friend the Member for Halifax pointed out, we have been doing a number of things in relation to this Bill at a rush, and we did not have the transcript of Tuesday afternoon’s sitting until last night. I am very grateful to the Hansard writers for the work they have been doing—I know they have a lot of Bills on—but that has caused part of our problem.

My concern is that the breadth of the wording in paragraph 6 could lead to the repeal of legal protections that go far beyond the realm of free movement, which is the purpose of this Bill. I hope the Minister may be able to put some assurances on the record in relation to my concerns about the Government’s future intentions. As we heard a few moments ago, certain provisions of EU law, as retained EU law, have been brought within UK law by a number of different instruments—some EU law has been brought into domestic law through statutory instruments and so forth. They are saved by section 2 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. Direct EU legislation is saved as retained EU law by section 3 of the 2018 Act. It is explicitly defined and does not include treaties or directives; it is things such as EU regulations with direct applicability.

Any other powers, liabilities, obligations, restrictions, remedies and procedures that could be enforced in the UK because of EU law are carried over by section 4 of the 2018 Act. That includes things like treaties and directives that are directly effective. It is, however, important to note that section 4(2)(b) limits the enforceability of directives to the extent that retained EU law is only the rights, powers, liabilities, obligations, restrictions, remedies or procedures arising under an EU directive that are of a kind that have been recognised by the European Court or any court or tribunal in the United Kingdom in a case decided before the end of the transition period.

Paragraph 6 of schedule 1 disapplies those provisions of EU law to the extent that they are either inconsistent with or otherwise incapable of affecting the interpretation, application or operation of any provision made by or under the Immigration Acts, or otherwise capable of affecting the exercise of functions in connection with immigration. The problem is that the carve-out basically all EU immigration law retained by virtue of paragraph 4, because

“capable of affecting the exercise of functions in connection with immigration”

could basically mean just about anything. The question I am asking the Minister is what EU law that paragraph applies to. What exactly are the Government trying to target?

We get some help from paragraphs 68 and 69 of the explanatory notes to the Bill, which suggest the Government may be trying to affect what we have come to call derived rights cases, in the free movement context. For example, cases of so-called Zambrano carers. These are situations where the European Court has recognised that, because of rights within the European treaties available to European nationals, certain rights must be given to those nationals and their family members or carers in order to ensure that the European national can actually enjoy their EU rights. I accept that, if one is trying to get rid of free movement, as the Bill is, these categories would need to be removed from UK law. That is exactly what ending free movement means, but if that is the scope of the Government’s intentions, it should be much clearer in the Bill.

Unfortunately, paragraph 6 goes much wider than that, addressing not only provisions made under the Immigration Acts, as the Minister suggested a few moments ago, but any matter capable of being seen as in connection with immigration. That could include, for example, the anti-trafficking directive, which prohibits removal of a victim of trafficking if they never received sufficient support and assistance under article 11 of the directive. Other directives that could be caught under involving the exercise of functions in connection with immigration include the reception conditions directive, which supports asylum seekers, the EU victims’ rights directive, and potentially others.

One way of protecting all these directives would be simply to say that paragraph 6 of schedule 1 does not affect directives that form part of retained EU law. After all, the Government’s own explanatory notes do not identify any directives that they wish to disapply in the immigration context, even though I accept that the list in paragraph 69 is described as non-exhaustive. Alternatively, the Government could list the directives specifically to be protected, as set out in the explanatory notes, directly within schedule 1 of the Bill.

I have to say that if the Government do not follow either of those paths, vital protections for vulnerable people could be at risk of becoming collateral damage in the ending of free movement. I am absolutely not suggesting that the Government intend to remove those protections, but if they do not intend that, I hope the Minister can give us clear assurances to that effect today and explain why they appear to fall within the scope of the Bill as drafted.

As things stand, the breadth of the language in paragraphs 6 and a lack of sufficient objective parameters to ascertain its intended targets make it impossible to accurately predict which areas of retained EU law could be affected by the Bill. That is exactly the problem we were discussing a moment ago in relation to paragraph 4. It raises fundamental legal concerns. Migrants and their representatives, Home Office caseworkers and judges must be able to ascertain with a reasonable degree of certainty what the law is. Indeed, that is one of the core lessons learned from the Windrush review carried out by Wendy Williams. I do not believe that this provision meets that standard.

Photo of Kevin Foster Kevin Foster The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

I thank the hon. Lady for her speech and her interest in this section of the Bill. To be clear, paragraph 6 disapplies the directly effective rights deriving from the EU law that will form part of retained EU law at the end of the transition period if they are inconsistent with immigration legislation or affect immigration practices. They are being repealed so that people cannot in the future attempt to rely on such directly effective rights to bypass the system to enter and reside in the UK, other than under the points-based system. We have been clear that provision will be made in the EU settlement scheme for those currently exercising their EU derivative right of residence in the UK, and that has now been provided, as I touched on.

Some people have asked for examples of rights that paragraph 6 would disapply. They include the rights of Turkish nationals to preferential immigration treatment under the European Economic Community-Turkey association agreement. They also include, as the hon. Member for Stretford and Urmston said, derivative rights of residents under EU law such as Zambrano carers, and the Chen, Ibrahim and Teixeira cases, which will cease from the day that paragraph 6 comes into force. Those rights stem directly from the treaty on the functioning of the EU and need to be disapplied because otherwise people could continue to cite and rely on them to bypass the future immigration system.

The Government do not intend to use the provisions to avoid our responsibilities under international law. We are very clear that our system of protection routes will continue to operate separately from the system of migration rules, as they always have. Family migration will not form part of the points-based system; it will be based on the family migration rules. The wording has to be the way it is so that the paragraph is not too wide in scope. This is about citing it in relation to immigration—trying to cite an EU right to work in the UK rather than applying the provision in a situation where we would, for example, be breaching our international obligations. As I said during the evidence session on Tuesday, under statutory instruments and regulations, Ministers cannot act against international law. We could have a long constitutional debate about whether Parliament can still pass primary legislation in relation to international law, but that is probably not relevant to this particular schedule.

In essence, the schedule is about being clear that it will not be possible to use a range of rights to undermine the points-based immigration system that we are putting in place. We want to make it clear that EEA and non-EEA citizens should look to migrate under the points-based system.

Question put, That the schedule be the First schedule to the Bill.

Rhif adran 3 Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill — Repeal of the main retained EU law relating to free movement etc.

Ie: 8 MPs

Na: 5 MPs

Ie: A-Z fesul cyfenw

Na: A-Z fesul cyfenw

The Committee divided: Ayes 8, Noes 5.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Schedule 1 agreed to.