Consequential etc. provision

Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 12:30 pm 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) 12:30, 11 Mehefin 2020

I beg to move amendment 2, in clause 4, page 2, line 34, leave out “appropriate” and insert “necessary”

This amendment would ensure that the Secretary of State may only make regulations which are necessary rather than those which the Minister considers appropriate.

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Ceidwadwyr, Gainsborough

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment 3, in clause 4, page 2, line 34, leave out “, or in connection with,”

This amendment would narrow the scope of the powers provided to the Secretary of State in Clause 4, as recommended by the House of Lords Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee in connection with the equivalent Bill introduced in the last session of Parliament.

Amendment 20, in clause 4, page 2, line 35, leave out “this Part” and insert “Schedule 1

This amendment seeks to limit the scope of the power in Clause 4 to matters concerning the ending of retained EU law rights that currently preserve free movement and immigration-related rights.

Amendment 21, in clause 4, page 2, line 35, at end insert—

‘(1A) The power to make regulations under subsection (1) may only be exercised within the period of one year from the day on which this Act is passed.

(1B) Regulations made under subsection (1) shall cease to have effect after a period of two years from the day on which this Act is passed.”

This amendment would restrict the use of the Henry VIII powers contained in Clause 4 to a period of one year from the date of the Act being passed; and would prevent any changes to primary legislation made by exercise of these powers having permanent effect unless confirmed by primary legislation.

Amendment 4, in clause 4, page 3, line 6, leave out subsection (5).

This amendment would narrow the scope of the powers provided to the Secretary of State in Clause 4, as recommended by the House of Lords Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee in connection with the equivalent Bill introduced in the last session of Parliament.

Amendment 15, in clause 4, page 3, line 8, at end insert—

‘(5A) The Secretary of State may make regulations under subsection (1) only if satisfied that the regulations would have no detrimental effect on the children of EEA and Swiss nationals resident in the United Kingdom.

(5B) Before making regulations under subsection (1) the Secretary of State must lay before Parliament, and publish, a statement explaining why the Secretary of State is satisfied as mentioned in subsection (5A).”

Amendment 22, in clause 4, page 3, line 8, at end insert—

‘(5A) Regulations under subsection (1), in relation to persons to whom the regulations apply under this Act, shall be made in accordance with the following principles—

(a) Promotion of family life, particularly that between children and their parents and that between partners;

(b) That persons in the United Kingdom should have a right of appeal to the First-tier Tribunal against any decision to refuse leave remain, to curtail leave to enter or remain or to make a deportation order;

(c) that where leave to remain is given—

(i) on account of a person’s long residence in the United Kingdom; or

(ii) to a person whose continuous residence in the United Kingdom includes five years of that person’s childhood; or

(iii) to a child who has lived in the United Kingdom for a period of seven continuous years; that leave is given for an indefinite period;

(d) that leave to enter or remain given to a person for the purpose of establishing or continuing family life in the United Kingdom is not subject to a condition restricting work, occupation or recourse to public funds; and

(e) ensure that no change to immigration rules or fees is made—

(i) unless sufficient public notice has been given of that change to ensure any person affected by the change who is already in the United Kingdom with leave to enter or remain has reasonable opportunity to adjust their expectations or circumstances before the change takes effect; or

(ii) that would require a person given leave to enter or remain for the purpose of establishing or continuing family life in the United Kingdom to satisfy more restrictive conditions for the continuation of their stay than were required to do so at the time the person was first given leave for this purpose.”

This amendment seeks to ensure that exercise of the delegated powers in clause 4(1) is guided by certain principles.

Amendment 12, in clause 8, page 5, line 40, at end insert—

‘(4A) Section 4 and section 7(5) expire on the day after the day specified as the deadline under section 7(1)(a) of the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020.”

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

I am pleased to speak in support of the amendments. At this stage I expect to get the Government Members excited because I am urging them to take back control, by which I mean take back control of immigration policy from the Home Office and keep MPs in a job. Like most hon. Members I have become familiar with the broad powers of delegated legislation and sweeping Henry VIII powers in recent years through both immigration legislation and more recently through Brexit. The Government are taking increasingly more and more powers to rewrite not only subordinate legislation but primary Acts of Parliament with very little constraint. I do not think that anyone here would dispute that in certain circumstances such powers can be sensible and useful, but they should be exceptional and limited. Instead, the practice has become so routine that if it goes on we might as well shut down Parliament or end its role as a legislator.

I am grateful to the witnesses who spoke on Tuesday and to the organisations that provided briefings, including the Law Society of Scotland, Amnesty International, the Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association, Justice, Liberty, the Equality and Human Rights Commission and others. There are big concerns about this clause.

In tabling the amendments I have also relied on the report of the House of Lords Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee and its 46th report in the last Session, which was an analysis of the predecessor Bill. It is fair to say that their lordships were not impressed with clause 4. It is noticeable that they went out of their way to prepare the report in advance of Committee stage so that we could benefit from their advice. I regret that the Home Office is still not listening to that sage advice at all.

The sweeping power is set out first in clause 4(1), where the Home Secretary can make any provision that she thinks “appropriate” in relation to the whole of part 1 —in other words, related to free movement. Clause 4(2) makes it clear that this can include amending any Act of Parliament as well as retained EU legislation. There are various subsections about the procedures that would be required to be used when exercising those powers, which is something that I suspect we will return to later.

The word that appears several times in the House of Lords report is “significant”. Their lordships had significant concerns about significant delegation of powers from Parliament to the Executive on such a significant issue that concerns a significant number of people. Amendments 2, 3, 20, 21 and 4 are designed to cut those powers done to size and to keep MPs in a job. It is quite informative to look at the explanatory memorandum to the same Bill from this time last year. The memorandum explains, for example, how the powers would be used to set up appeal rights for EEA nationals. All those things have already been taken care of in the year that has passed, yet nothing has changed in the formulation of clause 4. The Government still say they need such powers, even though they have done everything that they envisaged using those powers for in the explanatory memorandum from this time last year.

The European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020 was passed at the start of the year, and it contains a whole part on citizens’ rights of residence, frontier workers, deportation appeals, non-discrimination and so on. It includes extensive powers of delegated legislation as well, but at least they are constrained by the requirement that they should be exercised in order to implement the provisions of the withdrawal agreement that relate to citizens’ rights. As I say, a lot of what the Government originally envisaged they would use these powers for has already been accomplished.

Amendment 2 refers to an argument that we have had many times before. It is about requiring use of the powers to be “necessary” rather than merely considered appropriate by the Minister. Again, there is no genuine objection to being able to make rules if we suddenly have to make changes for a deal or a no-deal situation in the future relationship, but that should not just be at the whim of Ministers deciding what is appropriate and what is not. Their lordships and various stakeholders have recommended a test of necessity, and that is what is in amendment 2.

Amendment 3 is probably the most critical amendment and takes out the words “in connection with”. I refer again to the House of Lords Committee report, which said:

“We are frankly disturbed that the Government should consider it appropriate to include the words ‘in connection with’. This would confer permanent powers on Ministers to make whatever legislation they considered appropriate, provided there was at least some connection with Part 1, however tenuous; and to do so by negative procedure regulations”.

So their lordships are not very happy at all with what the Government propose.

Amendments 20 and 21 come from the House of Lords Committee report, but there have been perfectly sensible suggestions from Amnesty International, with similar ideas from other stakeholders. Amendment 20 would limit the scope of powers so that regulations cannot be made in relation to any old provision in part 1; they must relate specifically to schedule 1. Again, I emphasise that it can be acceptable to have limited powers in order to tidy up the statute book and the detailed list of provisions in the schedule. As matters stand, however, clause 2 means that we could have sweeping changes made to the rights of Irish citizens on the whim of the Secretary of State. Indeed, on the face of it, delegated powers could be used to alter clause 4 in order to increase the Executive’s powers yet further. That cannot be acceptable.

Amendment 21 would put a simple sunset clause of one year on the use of these powers. Should the Government have not tidied up the statute book by this time next year, something seriously wrong will have happened. Alternatively, something seriously positive will have happened and we will have extended the transition period by a couple of years. In either case, there will be plenty of time to legislate afresh. Everyone gets the argument that sweeping powers should not be left on the statute book forever; hence the sunset clause.

Amendment 22 puts a sunset clause on changes made by subordinate legislation. If the Minister really thinks there is such a rush that he cannot proceed by primary legislation, he should make the regulations. He should then come back to the House of Commons with a proper Bill, so that we can do our job as legislators and decide whether to keep those provisions in force or let them lapse.

In some ways, I am just sticking up for MPs. I want us to be able to continue to be the primary legislators in the field of immigration law and that we should start taking back some control from the Home Office.

Photo of Holly Lynch Holly Lynch Shadow Minister (Home Office)

I rise to speak to amendment 12, as well as demonstrate support for amendments 2 to 4, which also have our full support. With your permission, Sir Edward, I will focus my comments on the amendments relating to the transfer of powers in clause 4, and my hon. Friend the Member for Stretford and Urmston will speak specifically to amendment 15, which is part of this group but is on a slightly different issue and relates to the impact that this legislation will have on children.

It is a pleasure to follow the SNP spokesperson, the hon. Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East, who made an articulate speech on the concerns about the Henry VIII powers. The reason we are all here physically today and not fulfilling our duties from home is this Government’s commitment to parliamentary scrutiny. Unfortunately, this transfer of powers seems to be inconsistent with that approach.

The arguments were incredibly well rehearsed on Second Reading during the previous Parliament, in Committee and in the House of Lords Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee, as we have already heard. That is why it is so disappointing that the Government have not reflected on that feedback and adapted their approach.

Clause 4 as it stands confers an extremely wide power on the Home Secretary to make whatever legal amendments they consider appropriate in consequence of, or in connection with, any provision of the immigration part of the Bill. That includes the ability to amend primary legislation. I am sympathetic to the Government’s stated intention behind the clause—namely, that it will ensure coherence across the statute book following the substantial changes brought about by the ending of free movement, and deliver the required tweaks to legislation. However, clause 4 is drafted so widely that it could relate to almost any aspect of immigration law, and given that there is no time restriction on the clause or the powers within it, the concern is that there is potential for those powers to be used far beyond the aims of this Bill.

Adrian Berry of the Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association, whom we heard from earlier this week, commented on the powers referenced in the Bill, including in clause 4(5). During that evidence session, he said:

“How is the ordinary person, never mind the legislator, to know whether the law is good or not…if you draft like that? You need to make better laws. Make it certain, and put on the face of the Bill those things that you think are going to be disapplied because they are inconsistent with immigration provisions. There must be a…list in the Home Office of these provisions and it would be better if they are expressed in the schedule to the Bill.”––[Official Report, Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Public Bill Committee, 9 June 2020; c. 52, Q106.]

He went on to confirm that any responsible Opposition would have to table the amendments in this group in the absence of that list.

As we have heard, amendment 2 would replace the word “appropriate” with “necessary” in clause 4, line 34 on page 2 of the Bill, and amendment 3 would leave out “, or in connection with,” on the same line. With amendment 4, we seek to leave out subsection (5) altogether. We are also supportive of amendment 20.

On the specific proposed changes, as has already been said, the Lords Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee considered the almost identical version of the Bill in the 2017-19 Parliament. It said:

“We are frankly disturbed that the Government should consider it appropriate to include the words ‘in connection with’. This would confer permanent powers on Ministers to make whatever legislation they considered appropriate, provided there was at least some connection with Part 1, however tenuous; and to do so by negative procedure regulations”.

The Committee expressed significant concerns about subsection (5), recommending that it be removed altogether, which is exactly what we are seeking to do,

“unless the Government can provide a proper and explicit justification for its inclusion and explain how they intend to use the power.”

The reason is that

“it confers broad discretion on Ministers to levy fees or charges on any person seeking leave to enter or remain in the UK who, pre-exit, would have had free movement rights under EU law.”

I argued on Second Reading that this approach is bad not just for parliamentary democracy, but for our public services and for the economy—a sentiment shared by the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry in an evidence session this week. Parliamentary scrutiny is the most effective way for stakeholders to work with MPs to shape legislation to respond to the needs of the country, and they are being denied that opportunity with the transfer of powers in this clause. The Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association, the British Medical Association, London First, Universities UK, the National Union of Students, trade unions and the Children’s Society are just a sample of the cross-section of organisations that have all expressed concerns that this transfer of powers to the Executive is not the way to develop quality and robust legislation.

During the attempted passage of the Bill in the last Parliament, the then Minister, Caroline Nokes, set out a number of reasons why the powers in clause 4 were necessary. As the SNP spokesperson has already said, a number of those reasons have since been addressed, yet the powers remain.

Since then, almost all those powers have been rendered irrelevant by the passage of other pieces of primary and secondary legislation. I will rebut just a couple of arguments. The then Minister said:

“In the unlikely event that we leave the EU without a deal, the power will enable us to make provision for EEA nationals who arrive after exit day but before the future border and immigration system is rolled out”.

There is now a deal on citizens’ rights in place, so they will not be affected by negotiations on the future relationship.

The then Minister also said that the clause would allow the Government to

“align the positions of EU nationals and non-EU nationals in relation to the deportation regime”.—[Official Report, Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Public Bill Committee, 26 February 2019; c. 183-84.]

However, regulation 17 of the Immigration, Nationality and Asylum (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 makes amendments to deportation thresholds, so it is unclear why any further transfer of power is necessary in the Bill.

Amendment 12 is our attempt to make the powers time-limited, by tying them to the end date of the EU settlement scheme. Those powers are contained in section 7 of the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020. As yet, no regulations have been made under those powers. The amendment would ensure that the powers would not extend indefinitely and that they could be used only up until the date when matters under the EU settlement scheme had been resolved and the scheme was therefore closed.

Clause 5 presents similar issues, which we will get to, and a second grouping of amendments is largely consequential on the amendments under discussion, as they all seek to restrict the powers transferred to the Executive under clause 4. We on the Labour Benches felt that, at Tuesday’s evidence session, the remarks of Richard Burge, of the London Chamber of Commerce, summed it up. When he spoke about the powers in the Bill, he said:

“It is up to you in this House to decide how you use legislation to maintain scrutiny of Government. We would ask that, whatever means are chosen—through primary legislation or regulation—it is done in a transparent way and involves us. Instead of us in business being told what is happening, we should be involved in those discussions and make them as transparent as possible. As far as I can see, employment and immigration are not a national security issue; it could be discussed much more openly and transparently. We can resolve differences through public dialogue rather than through private discussion.”––[Official Report, Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Public Bill Committee, 9 June 2020; c. 13, Q20.]

I very much hope that the Minister has reflected on that request.

Photo of Kate Green Kate Green Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions) 12:45, 11 Mehefin 2020

Amendment 15, tabled in my name and those of my hon. Friends, aims to place the welfare of children at the heart of the way in which Ministers exercise their powers under clause 4. Children’s wellbeing is of central importance, both in UK law and to comply with our international obligations. We are a signatory to the UN convention on the rights of the child and to the global compact on migration, which contains 38 paragraphs on the welfare and treatment of children.

Domestically, the Children Act 1989 sets out the principle of the paramountcy of the welfare of children in matters relating to their care. Section 55 of the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009 provides that immigration functions must be discharged with regard to the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of children who are in the United Kingdom. With all that in place, the Committee may feel that we already have a framework that adequately protects children’s interests in immigration matters. However, the powers conferred on Ministers by clause 4 are very broad, and the way in which they are exercised could have a significant impact on children, whose best interests could be overlooked.

My amendment would embed protection against that happening as freedom of movement is ended. It would ensure that policies and rules introduced under the provisions of clause 4 can have no detrimental effect on the children of EEA and Swiss nationals who are resident in the United Kingdom, and would require the Secretary of State to publish and lay before Parliament a statement to explain why he or she is satisfied that that is the case.

The loss of free movement rights in the Bill means that some EEA national children will inevitably fall within the ambit of immigration legislation in the future. Some will be new arrivals to the UK, and others will have been here already but failed to secure the status to which they are entitled, becoming undocumented and subject to the compliant environment as a consequence.

Let me say a word briefly about the children who are at risk of being detrimentally affected, starting with those already in the UK who may none the less have failed to secure status. The number of such children could be substantial. The Refugee and Migrant Children’s Consortium estimates that there were as many as 751,000 non-Irish EEA and Swiss national children in the UK in 2019, but only 415,140 grants of status were made to children under the EU settlement scheme as at the end of March this year. Some of those children will be very vulnerable. My hon. Friends and I tabled new clause 58, which would secure status for looked-after children and young people leaving care, and I hope the Committee will have the opportunity to debate it in the days to come.

The impact of the Bill’s provision on those eligible for status who fail to apply is not limited to looked-after children alone. For example, parents may not understand whether their UK-born children are automatically British, whether they need to apply to register as British, or whether they should apply to the EU settlement scheme. The complexity of the system and the lack of access to advice means that some children may miss out on getting status or fail to obtain the highest status to which they are entitled. Some may be granted only pre-settled status and will need to be reminded to apply for settled status after five years or risk losing their right to remain in the UK.

Another group of children about whom I am concerned is those who have been in custody. Like adults, children applying to the EU settlement scheme are affected by time spent in custody. As well as not counting towards the five-year qualification period for settled status, periods in custody also reset the clock. Any child who spends time in custody will have to recommence their journey to qualify for settled or pre-settled status upon their release. That represents a troubling anomaly in the treatment of children who offend. Our criminal justice system generally takes the view that juvenile criminal behaviour should be treated differently from adult criminal behaviour, but that is not the case in relation to the EU settlement scheme. Is the Minister able to say how many children have been or may be unable to secure settled status as a result of that provision?

The examples I have cited are just that: examples. Any EEA and Swiss national children who do not secure status—those who were born here and those arriving in the future—could be affected by rules that may be introduced under the powers in clause 4. Hon. Members have already identified a number of potential harmful effects on EEA nationals, including children, as a result of the abolition of free movement and the imposition of new or more stringent rules. Some are reflected in the amendments and new clauses we have tabled and include the impact of fees and charges on citizenship applications; data-sharing policies; the application of income thresholds for the admission of family measures, including parents and children; no recourse to public funds conditions, which can affect children; the position of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children; and provisions relating to detention, deportation and removal. As we discussed earlier, schedule 1 may disapply certain provisions of EU law or EU-derived rights, and that, too, could affect children in some cases, such as those who are victims of crime or trafficking.

In all those circumstances, my amendment would provide assurance that the impact of any rules made using the powers in clause 4 would be subject to the requirement that they have no detrimental effect on the children of EEA and Swiss nationals resident in the UK, whatever led them to be here and whatever their status while here.

The second limb of my amendment refers to the requirement to produce a report to Parliament, which would impel the Home Office to develop processes to undertake a systematic assessment of the impact on children of any planned new immigration rules, which does not appear to happen routinely at the moment. Such an approach would also underpin a best interests approach to the application of immigration rules in individual decisions, buttressing the provisions of section 55 of the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act. Again, there is little sign that a systematic approach to children’s best interests is embedded in Home Office decision making, and the requirement for immigration rules to protect children’s rights and interests must be supported in the design of decision-making processes and appropriate staff training. I hope the Minister will accept my amendment.

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

I apologise, Sir Edward, but in my excitement over the Henry VIII clause and various other delegated powers, I forgot to speak to amendment 22, so I will speak to it briefly. It is slightly different from the amendments I spoke to earlier, which sought to rein in the powers the Home Office is trying to give itself in clause 4. Amendment 22 is more about setting out some guidance as to how those powers should be used, and to set out some principles. I, and I dare say any MP, could come up with 10 or 20 principles by which we would like the Home Office to abide. I have discussed these proposals with Amnesty International and they are good examples of the sort of framework we should provide at the Home Office, rather than giving it a blank cheque to introduce whatever system it sees fit.

The first of the amendment’s five principles is that these rules should be exercised to promote family life. Why have we allowed the Government to deliver tens of thousands of what England’s Children’s Commissioner called “Skype families”, separated by some of the most draconian anti- family migration rules in the world? Why did we watch as the Home Office simply withdrew the concession that generally allowed families with children who had been here seven years to settle permanently? The amendment would lay down a principle that would guide the Home Office to exercise its delegated functions in a way that promotes family life rather than undermining it.

The second principle relates to appeal rights. Everyone in this room believes in the rule of law, a facet of which is that a person should have a ready and accessible means of challenging their removal from the country in which they have made their home. To disagree with that simple proposition would be to ignore some of the key lessons from Windrush.

Thirdly, we need to stop putting so many people through a tortuous process before they have security of residence in this country. If people have been here for years on end, especially during childhood, why are we charging them many thousands of pounds over a 10-year period, with application after application after application? It is a disaster for the families affected and a total waste of Home Office time and resource. Let people move on.

Fourthly, if people are here for family reasons and fall on hard times, do we really want to say that they will just have to suffer and that the safety net we provide for others in a similar situation should not be available to them? If people are here to accompany family, why are we saying to them that they have to put their lives on hold and that they cannot seek work? These features of our immigration system are regressive, counter-productive and, frankly, prehistoric.

Finally the fifth principle is about treating people fairly and not pulling the rug from under their feet once they are here. Of course, rules and policies will change from time to time, but it is highly regrettable that we allow people to come to the UK on a particular visa route and then change the rules so that they apply not just to new people coming in but to those who are already here, making it difficult, if not impossible, for them to remain. A perfect example was the change to the financial threshold for tier 2 visa holders seeking settlement. Imagine if someone has been here for three or four years and met all the salary requirements, only for the Home Office to then say, with a year to go, “This was the salary threshold you had before, but actually we have upped it by £5,000 or £6,000 or £7,000.” That is a retrospective rule change, and it is totally unfair to operate it in that way.

I could have added many more principles to those I would like to see guiding the Home Office. These principles say that if we are going to give the Home Office these powers, we want them to be exercised in the interests of family, the rule of law and stability, protecting against retrospective rule changes and providing financial security. For too long, the Home Office has disregarded those principles. It is time that we as MPs say that it should stop doing that.

The Chair adjourned the Committee without the Question being put (Standing Order No. 88).

Adjourned till this day at Two o’clock.