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‘(1) The Secretary of State shall commission an independent evaluation of the matters under subsection (5) and shall lay the report of the evaluation before each House of Parliament.
(2) The Secretary of State must appoint an independent person to undertake the evaluation (“the independent evaluator”).
(3) In this section, “independent person” means a person who is independent of Her Majesty’s Government.
(4) No person may be appointed under subsection (2) unless their appointment has been consented to by—
(a) the relevant Scottish Ministers;
(b) the relevant Welsh Ministers; and
(c) the relevant Northern Ireland Ministers.
(5) The evaluation under subsection (1) shall consider an assessment of the effects of this Act on—
(a) the health and social care workforce;
(b) the efficiency and effectiveness of the health and social care sectors;
(c) the adequacy of public funding for the health and social care sectors; and
(d) such other relevant matters as the independent evaluator sees fit.
(6) In undertaking the evaluation, the independent evaluator must consult—
(a) the Secretary of State;
(b) the relevant Scottish Ministers;
(c) the relevant Welsh Ministers;
(d) the relevant Northern Ireland Ministers;
(e) providers of health and social care services;
(f) persons requiring health and social care services;
(g) representatives of persons requiring health and social care services; and
(h) such other relevant persons as the independent evaluator sees fit.
(7) The independent evaluator must prepare a report on the evaluation for the Secretary of State.
(8) The Secretary of State must lay that report before Parliament no later than one year after this Act is passed.
(9) A Minister of the Crown must, not later than six months after the report has been laid before Parliament, make arrangements for—
(a) a motion relating to the report to be debated and voted upon by the House of Commons; and
(b) a motion relating to the report to be debated and voted upon by the House of Lords.’—(Brendan O'Hara.)
This new clause would require an independent evaluation of the impact of the Act upon the health and social care sectors across the UK to be produced and laid before Parliament. It would require that the devolved nations are consulted as well as other interested parties.
Brought up, and read the First time.
I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.
With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:
New clause 2—Children in care and children entitled to care leaving support: Entitlement to remain—
‘(1) Any child who has their right of free movement removed by the provisions contained in this Act, and who are in the care of a local authority, or entitled to care leaving support, shall, by virtue of this provision, be deemed to have and be granted automatic Indefinite Leave to Remain within the United Kingdom under the EU Settlement Scheme.
(2) The Secretary of State must, for purposes of subsection (1), issue guidance to local authorities in England, Scotland, Wales and Norther Ireland setting out their duty to identify the children of EEA and Swiss nationals in their care or entitled to care leaving support.
(3) Before issuing guidance under this section the Secretary of State must consult—
(a) the relevant Scottish Minister;
(b) the relevant Welsh Minister; and
(c) the relevant Northern Ireland Minister.
(4) The Secretary of State must make arrangements to ensure that personal data relating to nationality processed by local authorities for purposes of identification under subsection (1) is used solely for this purpose and no further immigration control purpose.
(5) Any child subject to subsection (1) who is identified and granted status after the deadline of the EU Settlement Scheme (“the Scheme”) will be deemed to have had such status and all rights associated with the status from the time of the Scheme deadline.
(6) This section comes into force upon the commencement of this Act and remains in effect for 5 years after the deadline of the EU Settlement Scheme.
(7) For purposes of this section, “children in the care of the local authority” are defined as children receiving care under any of the following—
(a) section 20 of the Children Act 1989 (Provision of accommodation for children: general);
(b) section 31 of the Children Act 1989 (Care and Supervision);
(c) section 75 Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 (General duty of local authority to secure sufficient accommodation for looked after children);
(d) section 25 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 (Provision of accommodation for children);
(e) Article 25 of the Children (Northern Ireland) Order 1995 (Interpretation); and
(f) Article 50 Children of the (Northern Ireland) Order 1995 (Care orders and supervision orders).
(8) For the purposes of this section, “children entitled to care leaving support” means a child receiving support under any of the following—
(a) paragraph 19B of Schedule 2 Children Act 1989 (Preparation for ceasing to be looked after);
(b) s.23A(2) Children Act 1989 (The responsible authority and relevant children);
(c) s.23C(1) Children Act 1989 (Continuing functions in respect of former relevant children);
(d) section 104 of the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 (Young people entitled to support under sections 105 to 115);
(e) sections 29-30 Children (Scotland) Act 1995 (Advice and assistance for young persons formerly looked after by local authorities) as amended by s.66 Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 (Provision of aftercare to young people); and
(f) Article 35(2) Children (Northern Ireland) Order 1995 (Persons qualifying for advice and assistance.).’
This new clause aims to ensure that the children of EEA and Swiss nationals who are in care, and those who are entitled to care leaving support, are granted automatic Indefinite Leave to Remain under the EU Settlement Scheme to ensure they do not become undocumented.
New clause 7—Time limit on immigration detention for EEA and Swiss nationals—
‘(1) For the purpose of this section, a person (“P”) is defined as any person who, immediately before the commencement of Schedule 1, was—
(a) any person who, immediately before the commencement of Schedule 1, was—
(i) residing in the United Kingdom in accordance with the Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2016;
(ii) residing in the United Kingdom in accordance with a right conferred by or under any of the other instruments which is repealed by Schedule 1; or
(iii) otherwise residing in the United Kingdom in accordance with any right derived from European Union law which continues, by virtue of section 4 of the EU Withdrawal Act 2018, to be recognised and available in domestic law after exit day.
(2) The Secretary of State may not detain any person (“P”) as defined in subsection(1) under a relevant detention power for a period of more than 28 days from the relevant time.
(3) If “P” remains detained under a relevant detention power at the expiry of the period of 28 days then—
(a) the Secretary of State shall release P forthwith; and
(b) the Secretary of State may not re-detain P under a relevant detention power thereafter, unless the Secretary of State is satisfied that there has been a material change of circumstances since “P’s” release and that the criteria in section [Initial detention: criteria and duration (No. 2)] are met.
(4) In this Act, “relevant detention power” means a power to detain under—
(a) paragraph 16(2) of Schedule 2 to the Immigration Act 1971 (detention of persons liable to examination or removal);
(b) paragraph 2(1), (2) or (3) of Schedule 3 to that Act (detention pending deportation);
(c) section 62 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 (detention of persons liable to examination or removal); or
(d) section 36(1) of UK Borders Act 2007 (detention pending deportation).
(5) In this Act, “relevant time” means the time at which “P” is first detained under a relevant detention power.
(6) This section does not apply to a person in respect of whom the Secretary of State has certified that the decision to detain is or was taken in the interests of national security.’
New clause 8—Initial detention: criteria and duration (No. 2)—
‘(1) The Secretary of State may not detain any person (“P”) to whom section [Time limit on immigration detention for EEA and Swiss nationals] applies, under a relevant detention power other than for the purposes of examination, unless the Secretary of State is satisfied that—
(a) “P” can be shortly removed from the United Kingdom;
(b) detention is strictly necessary to affect “P”’s deportation or removal from the United Kingdom; and
(c) the detention of “P” is in all circumstances proportionate.
(2) The Secretary of State may not detain any person (“P”) who section [Time limit on detention for EEA and Swiss nationals] applies to under a relevant detention power for a period of more than 96 hours from the relevant time, unless—
(a) “P” has been refused bail at an initial bail hearing in accordance with subsection (5)(b) of section [Bail hearings (No. 2)]; or
(b) the Secretary of State has arranged a reference to the Tribunal for consideration of whether to grant immigration bail to “P” in accordance with subsection (2)(c) of section [Bail hearings (No. 2)] and that hearing has not yet taken place.
(3) Nothing in subsection (2) shall authorise the Secretary of State to detain “P” under a relevant detention power if such detention would, apart from this section, be unlawful.
(4) In this section, “Tribunal” means the First-Tier Tribunal.
(5) In this section, “relevant detention power” has the meaning given in section [Time limit on detention for EEA and Swiss nationals].’
New clause 9—Bail hearings (No. 2)—
‘(1) This section applies to any person (“P”) to whom section [Time limit on immigration detention for EEA and Swiss nationals] applies and who is detained under a relevant detention power.
(2) Before the expiry of a period of 96 hours from the relevant time, the Secretary of State must—
(a) release “P”;
(b) grant immigration bail to “P” under paragraph 1 of Schedule 10 to the Immigration Act 2016; or
(c) arrange a reference to the Tribunal for consideration of whether to grant immigration bail to “P”.
(3) Subject to subsection (4), when the Secretary of State arranges a reference to the Tribunal under subsection (2)(c), the Tribunal must hold an oral hearing (“an initial bail hearing”) which must commence within 24 hours of the time at which the reference is made.
(4) If the period of 24 hours in subsection (3) ends on a Saturday, Sunday or Bank holiday, the Tribunal must hold an initial bail hearing on the next working day.
(5) At the initial bail hearing, the Tribunal must—
(a) grant immigration bail to “P” under paragraph 1 of Schedule 10 to the Immigration Act 2016; or
(b) refuse to grant immigration bail to “P”.
(6) Subject to subsection (7), the Tribunal must grant immigration bail to “P” at a bail hearing unless it is satisfied that the Secretary of State has established that the criteria in subsection 1 of section [Initial detention: criteria and duration (No. 2)] are met and that, in addition—
(a) directions have been given for “P’s” removal from the United Kingdom and such removal is to take place within 14 days;
(b) a travel document is available for the purposes of “P’s” removal or deportation; and
(c) there are no outstanding legal barriers to removal.
(7) Subsection (6) does not apply if the Tribunal is satisfied that the Secretary of State has established that the criteria in subsection 1 of section [Initial detention: criteria and duration (No. 2)] above are met and that there are very exceptional circumstances which justify maintaining detention.
(8) In subsection (6) above, “a bail hearing” includes—
(a) an initial bail hearing under subsection (2) above; and
(b) the hearing of an application for immigration bail under paragraph 1(3) of Schedule 10 of the Immigration Act 2016.
(9) In this section, “Tribunal” means the First-Tier Tribunal.
(10) The Secretary of State shall provide to “P” or “P’s” legal representative, not more than 24 hours after the relevant time, copies of all documents in the Secretary of State’s possession which are relevant to the decision to detain.
(11) At the initial bail hearing, the Tribunal shall not consider any documents relied upon by the Secretary of State which were not provided to “P” or “P’s” legal representative in accordance with subsection (10), unless—
(a) “P” consents to the documents being considered; or
(b) in the opinion of the Tribunal there is a good reason why the documents were not provided to “P” or to “P’s” legal representative in accordance with subsection (10).
(12) The Immigration Act 2016 is amended as follows—
(a) After paragraph 12(4) of schedule 10 insert—
“(4A) Sub-paragraph (2) above does not apply if the refusal of bail within the meaning of section [Bail hearings (No. 2)] of the Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Act 2019.”’
New clause 10—Commencement of detention provisions (No. 2)—
‘Sections[Time limit on immigration detention for EEA and Swiss Nationals],[Initial detention: criteria and duration (No. 2)]and[Bail hearings (No. 2)]come into force six months after the day on which this Act is passed.’
New clause 11—Report on the impact to EEA and Swiss nationals—
(2) A report under subsection (1) must consider—
(a) the impact on EEA and Swiss nationals of having no recourse to public funds under Immigration Rules;
(b) the impact of NHS charging for EEA and Swiss nationals;
(c) the impact of granting citizenship to all EEA and Swiss health and social care workers working in the UK during the Covid-19 pandemic;
(d) the impact of amending the Immigration and Nationality (Fees) Regulations 2018 to remove all fees for applications, processes and services for EEA and Swiss nationals; and
(3) A Minister of the Crown must, not later than six months after the report has been laid before Parliament, make a motion in the House of Commons in relation to the report.
(4) In this section, “health and social care workers” includes doctors, nurses, midwives, paramedics, social workers, care workers, and other frontline health and social care staff required to maintain the UK’s health and social care sector.’
This new clause would ensure that before this Act coming into force, Parliament would have a chance to discuss how EEA and Swiss nationals will be affected by its provisions, including no recourse to public funds conditions, NHS charging, the possibility of granting British citizenship to non-British health and social care workers, removing citizenship application fees and the potential devolution of immigration policy of EEA and Swiss nationals to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
New clause 12—Status of Irish citizens—
‘In addition to any rights enjoyed by virtue of their Irish citizenship under UK law, Irish citizens must be treated as having all rights enjoyed by persons with settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme.’
This new clause will ensure that Irish citizens enjoy the same rights in the UK as someone with settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme.
New clause 13—Exemption from no recourse to public funds—
‘(1) This section applies during the current Covid- 19 pandemic, as defined by the World Health Organisation on
(2) Section 3(1)(c)(i) and (ii) of the Immigration Act 1971 cannot be applied to persons who have lost rights because of section (1) and Schedule 1 of this Act.
(3) This section could not be disapplied unless a resolution was passed by each House of Parliament.’
This new clause would delay application of No Recourse to Public Funds rules during the current pandemic and until such time as Parliament decides.
New clause 14—Immigration Health Charge: Exemption for EEA and Swiss citizens who are healthcare and social workers—
‘(1) The Immigration Act 2014 is amended as follows.
(2) After section 38 (Immigration health charge) insert—
“38A Health care workers and social workers from the EEA or Switzerland
(1) Any person who but for the provisions of the Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Act 2020 would have the right of free movement is exempt from the Immigration health charge if that person is—
(a) a healthcare worker; or
(b) a social care worker.
(2) The exemption will also apply to a person who is a family member or dependant of an EEA or Swiss national who meets the conditions in section (1)(a) and (b).
(3) For this section—
“healthcare worker” means a worker who works in a healthcare setting within and outside the NHS who may come into contact with patients, including clinical administration staff, and care home staff;
“social care worker” means a worker as defined by section 55(2) of the Care Standards Act 2000.’
This new clause would ensure that EEA and Swiss nationals coming to the UK to work as a healthcare or social care worker would be exempt from the Immigration Health Charge.
New clause 15—Tier 2 Immigration skills charge—
‘No Tier 2 Immigrations skills charge will be payable on an individual who is an EEA or Swiss national and is coming to the UK to work for the NHS.’
This new clause would exempt NHS employers from having to pay the immigration skills charge.
New clause 16—Immigration health charge—
‘No immigration health charge introduced under section 38 of the Immigration Act 2014 may be imposed on an individual who is an EEA or Swiss national.’
This new clause would prevent EEA or Swiss nationals paying the immigration health charge.
New clause 17—Report on cost of recruitment—
‘(1) The Secretary of State must lay before Parliament a report setting out the costs associated with the recruitment of overseas workers to the UK as compared to such other countries the Secretary of State considers appropriate.
(2) The report must also set out the Secretary of State’s assessment of the impact of the costs referred to in subsection (1) on different sectors of the economy.
(3) No regulations relating to costs for the recruitment of overseas workers may be made until such time as the report has been laid before Parliament and debated.
(4) In this section “costs” include, but are not limited to, the following in relation to the UK—
(a) fees paid by an employer to register as a Tier 2 sponsor;
(b) visa fees paid by a Tier 2 worker and family members;
(c) immigration health surcharges for Tier 2 workers and family members;
(d) the immigration skills charge
(e) recruitment costs; and
(f) legal costs, and in relation to other countries, includes such fees and costs as the Secretary of State believes equivalent or otherwise relevant.
(5) “Overseas worker” means a worker whose right to work in the UK have been impacted by section 1 and schedule 1.’
This new clause would mean Parliament is aware of costs relating to recruitment of EEA workers to the UK compared with competitor countries, before it has to consider any regulations on fees tabled by the government.
New clause 18—Hostile environment—
‘(1) For the purpose of this section, a person (“P”) is defined as any person who, immediately before the commencement of Schedule 1, was—
(a) residing in the United Kingdom in accordance with the Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2016;
(b) residing in the United Kingdom in accordance with a right conferred by or under any of the other instruments which is repealed by Schedule 1; or
(c) otherwise residing in the United Kingdom in accordance with any right derived from European Union law which continues, by virtue of section 4 of the EU Withdrawal Act 2018, to be recognised and available in domestic law after exit day.
(2) Regulations under section 4(1) may not be made until the Government has brought forward legislative measures to ensure that hostile environment measures do not apply to P, specifically—
(a) sections 20-43 and 46-47 of the Immigration Act 2014;
(b) sections 34-45 of the Immigration Act 2016; and
(c) schedule 2, paragraph 4 of the Data Protection Act 2018.’
This new clause seeks to limit the application of the hostile environment.
New clause 19—Data Protection—
‘(1) For the purpose of this section, a person (“P”) is defined as any person who, immediately before the commencement of Schedule 1, was—
(a) residing in the United Kingdom in accordance with the Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2016;
(b) residing in the United Kingdom in accordance with a right conferred by or under any of the other instruments which is repealed by Schedule 1; or
(c) otherwise residing in the United Kingdom in accordance with any right derived from European Union law which continues, by virtue of section 4 of the EU Withdrawal Act 2018, to be recognised and available in domestic law after exit day.
(2) Regulations under section 4(1) may not be made until the Government has made provision to ensure that P has safe and confidential access to essential public services by ensuring The Secretary of State, or any other individual or body on his behalf, must not process personal data, by any means, for the purposes of immigration control or enforcement, where that personal data has been collected in the course of the data subject accessing or attempting to access the public services identified in subsection (3).
(3) For the purposes of subsection (2), the relevant public services are:
(a) primary and secondary healthcare services;
(b) primary and secondary education; and
(c) the reporting of a crime by the data subject or, where the data subject is a witness to, or the victim of, the crime, any investigation or prosecution of it.
(4) The prohibitions contained in subsections (2) and (3) do not apply where the data subject has given his or her explicit and informed consent to the disclosure of the personal data, for the purposes of immigration enforcement.’
This new clause seeks to limit use of data gathered by key public services for immigration enforcement control.
New clause 20—Recourse to public funds—
(a) residing in the United Kingdom in accordance with the Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2016;
(b) residing in the United Kingdom in accordance with a right conferred by or under any of the other instruments which is repealed by Schedule 1; or
(c) otherwise residing in the United Kingdom in accordance with any right derived from European Union law which continues, by virtue of section 4 of the EU Withdrawal Act 2018, to be recognised and available in domestic law after exit day.
(2) Regulations under section 4(1) may not be made until the Government has brought forward legislative measures to ensure that P can access social security benefits, where P is habitually resident, including repealing or amending the following provisions insofar as they relate to P—
(a) section 3(1)(c)(ii) of the Immigration Act 1971;
(b) section 115 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999;
(c) any provision in subordinate legislation, which imposes a “no recourse to public funds” condition on grants of limited leave to enter or remain; and
(d) any other enactment or power exercised under any other enactment, which makes immigration status a condition to access social security benefits.’
This new clause seeks to restrict measures prohibiting access to public funds.
New clause 21—British Citizen registration fee—
‘(1) No person, who has at any time exercised any of the rights for which Schedule 1 makes provision to end, may be charged a fee to register as a British citizen that is higher than the cost to the Secretary of State of exercising the function of registration.
(2) No child of a person who has at any time exercised any of the rights for which Schedule 1 makes provision to end may be charged a fee to register as a British citizen if that child is receiving the assistance of a local authority.
(3) No child of a person who has at any time exercised any of the rights for which Schedule 1 makes provision to end may be charged a fee to register as a British citizen that the child or the child’s parent, guardian or carer is unable to afford.
(4) The Secretary of State must take steps to raise awareness of people to whom subsection (1) applies of their rights under the British Nationality Act 1981 to register as British citizens.’
This new clause would mean that nobody whose right of free movement was removed by the Bill could be charged a fee for registering as a British citizen that was greater than the cost of the registration process and would abolish the fee for some children.
New clause 22—Visa requirements—
‘Section E-LTRP.3.1 of Appendix FM of the Immigration Rules will not apply to persons who have lost free movement rights under section 1 and schedule 1 until the Coronavirus Act 2020 expires as set out under section 89(1).’
This new clause will ensure that EEA and Swiss nationals are not prevented from qualifying to remain in the UK as partners, merely because they cannot meet financial requirements in the Immigration Rules during the coronavirus pandemic.
‘(1) The Scotland Act 1998 is amended as follows.
(3) In Schedule 5, at paragraph B6, insert at the end—
“(none) Retained EU law relating to free movement of persons from the European Economic Area; and the subject matter of section 1 and schedule 1 of the Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Act 2020.”’
This new clause would devolved retained free movement law and the subject matter of clause 1 and schedule 1 of the Bill to the Scottish Parliament.
New clause 24—Remote Areas Pilot Scheme—
‘(1) Within 6 months of this Act receiving Royal Assent, the government must introduce a Remote Areas Pilot Scheme to encourage EEA and Swiss nationals to live and work in remote areas.
(3) The scheme in subsection (1) must operate for at least two years after which an evaluation report must be published and laid before both Houses of Parliament.
(4) A Minister of the Crown must make a motion in the House of Commons in relation to the report.’
This new clause would require the government to introduce a Remote Areas Pilot Scheme, similar to the recommendations of the Migration Advisory Committee.
New clause 26—Right to rent (EEA and Swiss nationals)—
‘The Secretary of State must make provision to ensure that EEA and Swiss nationals, and dependants of EEA and Swiss nationals, are not subjected to right to rent immigration checks.’
This new clause would require the Secretary of State to ensure that landlords do not carry out immigration checks on EEA and Swiss nationals under the Right to Rent scheme.
New clause 28—Data protection: immigration (EEA and Swiss nationals)—
‘(1) The Data Protection Act 2018 is amended in accordance with subsection (2).
(2) In paragraph 4 of schedule 2, after sub-paragraph (4) insert—
“(5) This paragraph does not apply if the data subject is an EEA or Swiss national or a dependent of an EEA or Swiss national.”’
This new clause would ensure that the immigration exemption in the Data Protection Act 2018 does not apply to EEA or Swiss nationals.
New clause 29—Family reunion and resettlement—
‘(1) The Secretary of State must make provision to ensure that an unaccompanied child, spouse or vulnerable or dependant adult who has a family member who is legally present in the United Kingdom has the same rights to be reunited in the United Kingdom with that family member as they would have had under Commission Regulation (EU) No. 604/2013.
(2) The Secretary of State must, within a period of six months beginning with the day on which this Act is passed—
(a) amend the Immigration Rules in order to preserve the effect in the United Kingdom of Commission Regulation (EU) No. 604/2013 for the family reunion of unaccompanied minors, spouses and vulnerable or dependant adults; and
(b) lay before both Houses of Parliament a strategy for ensuring the continued opportunity for relocation to the UK of unaccompanied children present in the territory of the EEA, if it is in the child’s best interests.
(3) For the purposes of this section, “family member”—
(a) has the same meaning as in Article 2(g) of Commission Regulation (EU) No. 604/2013;
(b) also has the same meaning as “relative” as defined in Article 2(h) of Commission Regulation (EU) No. 604/2013; and
(c) also includes the family members referred to in Article 8 (1), Article 16 (1) and 16 (2) of Commission Regulation (EU) No. 604/2013.
(4) Until such time as Regulations in subsection (2) come into force, the effect of Commission Regulation (EU) No 604/2013 for the family reunion of unaccompanied minors, spouses and vulnerable or dependent adults with their family members in the UK shall be preserved.’
This new clause would have the effect of continuing existing arrangements for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children, spouses and vulnerable adults to have access to family reunion with close relatives in the UK.
New clause 30—Impact assessment on the social care workforce—
‘(1) No Minister of the Crown may appoint a day for the commencement of any provision of this Act until the condition in subsection (2) is met.
(2) This condition is that a Minister of the Crown has published and laid before both Houses of Parliament an assessment of the impact of the Act on recruitment of EU citizens, EEA nationals, and Swiss citizens to the social care sector.’
This new clause makes the coming into force of the Act conditional on the production of an impact assessment of the changes on the social care workforce
New clause 32—Non-applicability of hostile environment measures to EU citizens, EEA nationals and Swiss citizens—
‘(1) No amendment to the definition of ‘relevant national’ in section 21 of the Immigration Act 2014, so as to alter the provision made for a national of an EEA State or a national of Switzerland, may be made by regulations under—
(c) Section 4 of this Act.
(2) In Paragraph 4 of Schedule 2 of the Data Protection Act 2018 (“Immigration”)
(a) Omit “.” at the end of sub-paragraph (4),
(b) At the end of sub-paragraph (4), insert—
(5) Sub-paragraphs (1) and (3) do not apply where the personal data is that of a national of an EU Member State, an EEA State or Switzerland.”
(3) This section comes into force on the day on which this Act is passed.’
This new clause would prevent the application of key aspects of the hostile/compliant environment to EU, EEA and Swiss citizens.
New clause 33—Differentiated immigration rules—
‘(1) The Secretary of State must publish and lay before Parliament a report on the implementation of a system of differentiated immigration rules for people whose right of free movement is ended by section 1 and schedule 1 of this Act within six months of the passing of this Act.
(2) The review in subsection (1) must consider the following—
(b) the requirements that could be attached to the exercise of any such power including that the person lives and, where appropriate, works in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland and such other conditions as the Secretary of State believes necessary;
(c) the means by which the Secretary of State could retain the power to refuse to grant leave to enter or remain on the grounds that such a grant would—
(i) not be in the public interest, or
(ii) not be in the interests of national security;
(d) how the number of eligible individuals allowed to enter or remain each year under such a scheme could be agreed annually by Scottish Ministers, Welsh Ministers and the Northern Ireland Executive and the Secretary of State; and
(e) whether Scottish Ministers, Welsh Ministers, and the Northern Ireland Executive should be able to issue Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish Immigration Rules, as appropriate, setting out the criteria by which they will select eligible individuals for nomination, including salary thresholds and financial eligibility.
(3) As part of the review in subsection (1), the Secretary of State must consult—
(a) the Scottish Government;
(b) the Welsh Government;
(c) the Northern Ireland Executive; and
(d) individuals, businesses, and other organisations in the devolved nations’.
This new clause would require the Secretary of State to publish and lay a report before Parliament on differentiated immigration rules for people whose right of free movement are ended by this Act, and sets out a non-exhaustive list of issues that must be reviewed including the possible role of devolved government.
New clause 34—Late applications—
‘(1) Prior to the deadline for applications to the EU Settlement Scheme, the Secretary of State must publish a report setting out proposals for dealing with late applications and a motion to approve the report must be debated and approved by both Houses of Parliament.
(2) Until the report under subsection (1) is debated and approved by both Houses of Parliament, the EU Settlement Scheme must remain open for applications and the Secretary of State must extend the deadline for applications accordingly.’
The new clause will ensure that the EU Settled Status Scheme will remain open until such time as the Minister has published his proposals as to how to deal with late applications and that report has been approved by Parliament.
New clause 35—Visa extensions for health and care workers during Covid-19 pandemic—
(a) A person (“P”) meets either the condition in subsection (2) or the condition in subsection (3); and
(b) P’s leave in the United Kingdom would otherwise expire prior to
(2) The condition in this subsection is that the individual is a health and care professional, or a social worker, or employed in another frontline health and care role.
(3) The condition in this subsection is that the individual is a family member of a person meeting the condition in subsection (2).
(4) In this section—
“health and care professional” is a person within the class of persons who are nurses or other health and care professionals, or medical professionals within the meaning of the regulations referred to in sections 2 to 5 of the Coronavirus Act 2020;
“social worker” is a person within the class of persons who are social workers within the meaning of the regulations referred to in sections 6 to 7 of the Coronavirus Act 2020.”
“employed in another frontline health and care role” means a person employed in a role conferring eligibility for the NHS and Social Care Coronavirus Life Assurance Scheme 2020.’
This new clause would put the Government’s policy of visa extensions on a statutory footing, and ensure that it includes all health and social care workers and other frontline employees including cleaners and porters.
New clause 36—Applications for citizenship from people with settled status—
‘Where a person with settled status applies for British Citizenship, then the period of person’s residence that qualified them for settled status shall be treated as not being in breach of the immigration laws.’
This new clause would ensure that persons who qualified for settled status cannot then be refused citizenship on ground that their residence during the qualifying period for settled status was in breach of immigration laws (for example, because of a period without Comprehensive Sickness Insurance).
New clause 37—Annual report on skills and the labour market—
‘(1) Within six months of this Act coming into force, and every 12 months thereafter, the Secretary of State must publish and lay a report before Parliament setting out how changes made to the Immigration Rules for EEA and Swiss nationals have affected skill shortages in the labour market.
(2) A Minister of the Crown must, not later than a month after the report has been laid before Parliament, make a motion in the House of Commons in relation to the report.’
This new clause would ensure that the Government has to publish an annual report on skill shortages and the labour market, and that it would be debated in Parliament.
New clause 38—European citizens’ rights—
‘(1) This section applies to EEA and Swiss nationals—
(a) who are within the personal scope of the withdrawal agreement (defined in Article 10) having the right to reside in the United Kingdom; or
(b) to whom the provisions in (a) do not apply but who are eligible for indefinite leave to enter or remain or limited leave to enter or remain by virtue of residence scheme immigration rules.
(2) A person has settled status in the United Kingdom if that person meets the criteria set out in ‘Eligibility for indefinite leave to enter or remain’ or ‘Eligibility for limited leave to enter or remain’ in Immigration Rules Appendix EU.
(3) A person with settled status holds indefinite leave to enter or remain and has the rights provided by the withdrawal agreement for those holding permanent residence as defined in Article 15 of the agreement, even if that person is not in employment, has not been in employment or has no sufficient resources or comprehensive sickness insurance.
(4) The Secretary of State must by regulations made by statutory instrument make provision—
(a) implementing Article 18(4) of the withdrawal agreement (right of eligible citizens to receive a residence document), including making provision for a physical document providing proof of residence;
(b) implementing Article 17(4) of the EEA EFTA separation agreement (right of eligible citizens to receive a residence document) including making provision for a physical document providing proof of residence; and
(c) implementing Article 16(4) of the Swiss citizens’ rights agreement (right of eligible citizens to receive a residence document), including making provision for a physical document providing proof of residence.
(5) A person with settled status does not lose the right to reside for not having registered their settled status.
(6) A person who has settled status who has not registered their settled status by
(8) Any person or their agent who is allowed under subsection (7) to require proof of registration has discretion to establish by way of other means than proof of registration that the eligibility requirements for settled status under the provisions of this section have been met.
(9) When a person within the scope of this section is requested to provide proof of registration of settled status as a condition to retain social security benefits, housing assistance, access to public services or entitlements under a private contract, that person shall be given a reasonable period of at least three months to initiate the registration procedure set out in this section if that person has not already registered.
(10) During the reasonable period under subsection (9), and subsequently on the provision of proof of commencement of the registration procedure and until a final decision on registration on which no further administrative or judicial recourse is possible, a person cannot be deprived of existing social security benefits, housing assistance, access to public services or private contract entitlements on the grounds of not having proof of registration.
(11) The regulations adopted under subsection (7) must apply to all persons defined in subsection (1).
(12) A statutory instrument containing regulations under this section may not be made unless a draft instrument has been laid before and approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.
(13) In this section—
“EEA EFTA separation agreement” means (as modified from time to time in accordance with any provision of it) the Agreement on arrangements between Iceland, the Principality of Liechtenstein, the Kingdom of Norway and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland following the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union, the EEA Agreement and other agreements applicable between the United Kingdom and the EEA EFTA States by virtue of the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union;
“residence scheme immigration rules” has the meaning defined in section 17 of the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020;
“Swiss citizens’ rights agreement” means (as modified from time to time in accordance with any provision of it) the Agreement signed at Bern on
“withdrawal agreement” means the agreement between the United Kingdom and the EU under Article 50(2) of the Treaty on European Union which sets out the arrangements for the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU (as that agreement is modified from time to time in accordance with any provision of it).’
This new clause will ensure that all EU citizens have settled status (whether they’ve applied or not) and to require the Government to make available physical proof of settled status.
Amendment 34, 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 36, page 3, line 8, at end insert—
‘(5A) Regulations under subsection (1) must provide that EEA and Swiss nationals, and adult dependants of EEA and Swiss nationals, who are applying for asylum in the United Kingdom, may apply to the Secretary of State for permission to take up employment if a decision at first instance has not been taken on the applicant’s asylum application within 3 months of the date on which it was recorded.’
This amendment would require the Secretary of State to make regulations enabling asylum seekers to work once they have been waiting for a decision on their claim for 3 months or more.
Amendment 32, page 3, line 28, at end insert—
‘(11) Subject to subsection (13), regulations made under subsection (1) must make provision for ensuring that all qualifying persons have within the United Kingdom the rights set out in Title II of Part 2 of the Withdrawal Agreement, the EEA EFTA separation agreement and the Swiss citizens’ rights agreement and implementing the following provisions—
(a) Article 18(4) of the Withdrawal Agreement (Issuance of residence documents);
(b) Article 17(4) of the EEA EFTA separation agreement (Issuance of residence documents); and
(c) Article 16(4) of the Swiss citizens’ rights agreement (Issuance of residence documents).
(12) In this section, “qualifying persons” means—
(a) those persons falling within the scope of the agreements referred to; and
(b) those eligible under the residence scheme immigration rules, as defined by section 17(1) of the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020.
(13) Notwithstanding subsection (11), regulations must confer a right of permanent, rather than temporary, residence on all qualifying persons residing in the UK prior to such date as the Secretary of State deems appropriate, being no earlier than 23rd June 2016.’
This amendment would mean that EEA and Swiss citizens residing in the UK would automatically have rights under Article 18(4) of the Withdrawal Agreement (and equivalent provisions in the EEA EFTA and Swiss citizens rights agreements) rather than having to apply for them, and ensure that for the overwhelming majority, that status is permanent.
Amendment 33, page 3, line 28, at end insert—
‘(11) Regulations made under subsection (1) must make provision for admission of EEA nationals as spouses, partners and children of UK citizens and settled persons.
(12) Regulations made under subsection (1) may require that the EEA nationals entering as spouses, partners and children of UK citizens and settled persons can be “maintained and accommodated without recourse to public funds” but in deciding whether that test is met, account must be taken of the prospective earnings of the EEA nationals seeking entry, as well as an third party support that may be available.
(13) Regulations made under subsection (1) must not include any test of financial circumstances beyond that set out in subsection (12).’
This amendment would ensure that UK nationals and settled persons can be joined in future by EU spouses and partners and children without application of the financial thresholds and criteria that apply to non-EEA spouses, partners and children.
Amendment 38, page 3, line 28, at end insert—
‘(11) Regulations made under subsection (1) must make provision enabling UK citizens falling within the personal scope of the Withdrawal Agreement, the EEA EFTA separation agreement or the Swiss citizens’ rights agreement to return to the UK accompanied by, or to be joined in the UK by, close family members.
(12) Regulations under subsection (1) may not impose any conditions on the entry or residence of close family members which could not have been imposed under EU law relating to free movement, as at the date of this Act coming into force.
(13) References in subsection (11) to the Withdrawal Agreement, the EEA EFTA separation agreement and the Swiss citizens’ rights agreement have the same meaning as in the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020.
(14) For the purposes of subsection (11), “close family members” means
(a) children (including adopted children); and
(b) other close family members where that relationship subsisted on or before 31st January 2020 and has continued to subsist.’
This amendment ensures that UK citizens who have been living abroad in the EEA and formed families before the UK left the EU, can return to the UK with those families under the rules that were in force before the UK left the EU.
Government amendments 1 to 4.
Amendment 35, in clause 7, page 5, line 13, at end insert—
‘(1A) Section 1 and Schedule 1 of this Act do not extend to Scotland.’
Amendment 39, 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.’
Government amendments 5 to 31.
There is a great deal of interest in this debate. I propose to start with a limit of six minutes on Back-Bench speeches. I know that those on the Front Benches are aware of the pressure on time.
New clause 1 stands in my name and in the names of the hon. Members listed on the Order Paper. It seeks an independent evaluation of the impact of the effect of this Bill specifically on the health and social care sector. The reason behind it is that the faith that this Government clearly have in their new points-based immigration scheme simply is not shared by tens of thousands of those working in the health and social care sector and millions of their service users.
As of this afternoon, no fewer than 50 organisations have given their backing to this new clause. Those organisations come from every part of the United Kingdom. They include: the Bevan Foundation; the Church of Scotland; Unison; the MS Society; the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations; the Centre for Independent Living in Northern Ireland; Disability Wales; the National Carers Organisation; Macmillan Cancer Support; the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh; social workers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland; the Voluntary Organisations’ Network North-East; and the Alliance for Camphill to name just a few.
By supporting new clause 1, all we are asking is that the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, having consulted the relevant Ministers in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast, as well as service providers and those requiring health and social care services, appoints an independent evaluator to assess the impact that this Bill will have on the sector and for Parliament then to debate and vote on that assessment. By accepting new clause 1, the Government would be saying to the sector, “We hear what you are saying. We recognise your fears and concerns, but we are confident that this new proposal will not adversely affect those caring for the weakest and most vulnerable in our society.” The Government would then be saying that they are happy to have that independent evaluation of these changes once it has been implemented.
The reason that this new clause has received such widespread support in the sector is that they, as the people who work on the frontline, simply cannot see how this Bill will help to deliver a better service to the millions of people throughout the UK who rely on it every day of their lives. One can understand their concerns, given that the sector is already struggling to recruit and retain the workforce that it needs right now to look after an ageing population, and a population with increasingly complex care needs.
At the end of September 2019, NHS England reported 120,000 unfilled posts. That is an increase of 22,000 on the previous year and it is a pattern that is being repeated across the United Kingdom. It is a bad situation, and it is one that is getting worse. There is genuine concern in the sector that the Government do not know what to do about it, and it is a concern that is only heightened by what is contained in the Bill.
In and of itself, filling those existing vacancies will be a major long-term challenge, but it becomes even more so if the Government are genuine about fulfilling the Prime Minister’s pledge to give every older person the dignity and the security that they deserve. To do that, they would not only need to fill the 120,000 vacancies that exist now, but would have to vastly increase the number of people recruited into the sector over a long and sustained period of time. The Nuffield Trust has said that providing just one hour of care to an elderly person with high needs who currently does not receive help would require 50,000 additional home care workers, rising to 90,000 if two hours’ care were to be provided. We must add to that the fact that one in four of the current health and social care workforce is aged 55 or over and therefore due to retire at some point in the next decade, resulting in a further 320,000 vacancies. I can understand why people are very worried. I cannot see how this Bill facilitates finding that army of workers, but, more importantly, no one I have spoken to in the health and social care sector sees how it can. In fact, there is a commonly held belief that the Bill will make recruitment of staff far more difficult and the delivery of what the UK Government claim they want well-nigh impossible.
I have said it before and I make no apology for repeating it: I believe that freedom of movement has been extremely good for this country and I bitterly regret seeing it go. It has been economically, socially and culturally beneficial for the UK. But if the Government are determined to abandon it, then the least they can do is to make sure that the weakest, poorest and most vulnerable are not disproportionately affected by it. I do not believe they have done that. I do not believe for a minute that they have considered the impact that this Bill will have on the health and social care sector—but I am prepared to be proven wrong. By accepting new clause 1, the Government will give the health and social care sector the confidence that this Government do know what they are doing, that they have carefully considered what the ending of freedom of movement will mean, and that they have a plan in place to protect the sector—and, more importantly, to protect those who rely on it.
Surely if the Government are really as confident about the efficacy of this new immigration Bill and the points-based system as they claim, they have nothing to fear from a comprehensive, independent evaluation that is there purely to assess the impact on the sector across the four nations of the UK. Indeed, it would be the prudent and responsible thing for the Government to do in order to ensure that any changes to the immigration system do not, however inadvertently, adversely affect the care needs of our most vulnerable.
This independent evaluation would not only ensure that no harm has been done to service users, but give any future Government a head start when planning and making decisions in the sector, particularly around recruitment of staff and investment. Surely the Minister can accept that such a far-reaching change as this should not happen on a wing and a prayer without a proper bespoke impact assessment on the sector—which there has not been—or at least an appropriate mechanism by which this House and Parliaments across the UK are able to accurately measure the effectiveness or otherwise of such a radical change.
By accepting new clause 1, the Government would ensure that these issues were being tackled from a foundation of accurate and independent research, allowing national Governments, local authorities, health and social care sectors, third-sector organisations and other key agencies to make strategic planning decisions while being fully informed by robust and independent evidence, thus securing the long-term future of the sector.
As probably never before, the people across the nations of the United Kingdom have come to appreciate the outstanding contribution made by those who work in our health and social care services. I doubt there is a family anywhere in the UK who has not benefited from their help in the past few months. But along with our sincere thanks and gratitude, we owe them an assurance that we will do everything we can to support them and the sector, and that must include providing them with the assurance that no decision taken in this place will undermine or adversely affect them. I hope the Minister will see that the Government have nothing to lose, but rather lots to gain, from agreeing to such an independent evaluation of the impact of this Bill on the health and social care sector, and I implore him to accept new clause 1.
First, I declare my interests in the register. Secondly, it is getting rather difficult to talk to so many amendments in the space of six minutes. Perhaps I should have applied for a ten-minute rule Bill beforehand and got all my points in through that. I want to talk primarily to my new clauses 2 and 29. I certainly put on record my support for new clauses 7 to 10 tabled by my right hon. Friend Mr Davis.
The EU settlement scheme has been a great success, and the Government are to be congratulated. As at the end of the quarter in March, 3,147,000 people had concluded their applications. The problem is that only 14% of them—415,000—were from children, yet non-Irish EU citizen children are estimated to make up more than 20% of the non-Irish EU population in this country. Indeed, the 153 local authorities that responded to a survey done by the Children’s Society had identified only 730 such children who had applied for status, just 20% of the 3,612 children that had been identified in that survey. Of them, just 11% had been given status. Of that, 122 have pre-settled status, meaning they need to reapply in five years.
We appear to have a problem with children in this scheme, and there is a particular and disproportionate problem with EU children in care or those who have recently left care. They are in the UK legally. Under the terms of the EU settlement scheme, they will be entitled to indefinite leave to remain. The problem is that in most cases, they rely on other people to apply on their behalf—typically, the responsible social worker, many of whom are stretched at the moment, desperately trying to find documents and going through overseas embassies to do that. The children will be minors and may have disabilities. They may not even maintain a close link with that social worker, who will frequently change. They may be runaways.
There are all sorts of problems as to how to identify those children and make sure they have the right documentation. If that documentation is not secured now and they are not registered on the scheme, we are looking at another potential Windrush, with a group of children who find themselves in this country with no legal status. That is what the new clause is trying to avoid.
A ten-minute rule Bill would have been good. In respect of new clause 29, which my hon. Friend is also speaking to, the Government will say that the matter is subject to negotiation, and that acting now would pre-empt and tread on that. I always listen with great respect to what he says, and I take a lead from him in many regards. Why is that not the pertinent point?
I have not actually come on to new clause 29 yet, and other people will speak to that point, but the problem is that the Government position has been weakened. They produced a negotiation document, which now has a discretionary scheme, rather than the mandatory scheme. The EU will be even less likely to want to agree to that, and it is absolutely essential that we have a scheme in place, otherwise on
New clause 2 would ensure that all looked-after children and care leavers were identified and given status so that they do not become undocumented. Issuing settled status now would prevent another cliff edge in the future. These young people would have to re-apply for settled status in five years’ time, perhaps without the help of the local authority. The evidential burden would be lowered for local authorities applying and for Home Office caseworkers, saving time with the complex application process. The amendment to the process for identification and granting status is time-limited. As set out in the new clause, it would be effective for five years after the settlement scheme deadline, until
These are really vulnerable children. We do a great job of looking after them in this country, from which we can take great pride. For goodness’ sake, let us continue being able to do that job and keep them here legally without allowing them to become at risk. This is not about bringing lots of new children into the country—they are already here. We just want to make sure they have representation, recognition and the documentation to ensure that when they grow into adults and apply for a job, it is not all of a sudden found that actually they have no right to be here and they face deportation.
New clause 29—what a sense of déjà vu—was raised many times during the Brexit Bills. We were convinced by Ministers that that was not the appropriate place for it. I accepted that. We were told that it would be in the immigration Bill instead. It is not in the immigration Bill. We have been told that it is going to be down to the negotiations instead. Time is running out; the Dublin III scheme ends in exactly six months’ time, and there is no replacement for it yet.
As I said, the Government published their negotiation document. The most fundamental problem with the scheme that is now being negotiated—it is not guaranteed —is that the text removes all mandatory requirements on the Government to facilitate family reunions and would make a child’s right to join their relatives entirely discretionary. The text intentionally avoids providing rights to children, contains no appeal process and attempts to be beyond the reach of the United Kingdom courts. Other categories of vulnerable refugees, including accompanied children, would lose access to family reunion entirely, and a series of other key safeguards have been removed, including strict deadlines for responses and responsibility for gathering information being on the state rather than the child.
Will the hon. Gentleman give way?
I am at the far end of the Chamber, but I thoroughly agree with the hon. Gentleman; I am very close to him when it comes to the point he is making. Obviously, this is a very regrettable state of affairs. Does he agree that it would be right for the Minister, at the Dispatch Box today, to commit the United Kingdom to signing up to the equivalent of Dublin so that children who are here unaccompanied can have their family come and join them, and children from outside this country who are unaccompanied can come and join family members here? That is the right and decent thing to do, and it would be continuing our obligations to those people.
The hon. Gentleman is right. Actually, the Government have said all along that that is their intention. I have had meetings with many Immigration Ministers over the last few years. I remember going to see the then Immigration Minister, who is now the Northern Ireland Secretary, after Baroness Morgan and I visited Athens with UNICEF. We visited some of the camps out there and saw some of the children who would qualify for this scheme. We were given clear undertakings that it was absolutely the Government’s intention to make sure that after we came out of the EU, when Dublin III no longer covered the United Kingdom, we would have a scheme at least as good as what there is now.
Again, we are talking about just a few hundred children. We are not talking about attracting thousands of children to this country; it is a few hundred specifically identified children—usually through some of our agencies operating in refugee camps and around the world—who have family links in this country. In some cases, those will be their only family links. They may have lost their parents in the civil war in Syria; they may be at the hands of people traffickers, fleeing abuse, fleeing war zones or whatever, and it may be that a brother, an uncle or an aunt is the only family member they have left and that that person is legally in the United Kingdom. Those are some of the most vulnerable children whom we have done a fantastic job of giving a safe home to in recent years, and it is essential that we carry that scheme on. It is a mandatory scheme, and it is a scheme of which we should be hugely proud.
That is why now is the time for new clause 29. We have had fob-offs, frankly, over recent years about why it would not be appropriate to put this in legislation. We need a very clear statement and intent from the Government today that there will be a scheme in operation on
We have a great record in this area. We have taken almost 20,000 refugees under the Syrian scheme. We targeted 20,000; we have actually taken 19,768. We have invested more than £2.3 billion in Syrian refugees—more than any other country in the EU. We have filled the 480 Dubs places. We have a great record, so why on earth would we not want to make sure that we continue that great record for some of the most vulnerable children fleeing from danger, whom we have been able to afford safe and legal passage to join relatives in the United Kingdom?
That is what the new clause asks for. We have to do better. I and my constituents will not be able to understand it if we fail to give a strong commitment that this country continues to want to do the best by those really vulnerable children. For that reason, I support new clause 29 as well.
It is a pleasure to return to the Chamber for the Report stage of this important Bill and to follow Tim Loughton. I will return later to the merits of new clauses 2 and 29, but I will focus my comments on the merits of new clauses 13 to 15, tabled by the Leader of the Opposition. I will also outline our support for several other new clauses that have appeal across the Labour Benches, not least new clause 1, the lead amendment in this group.
I am sorry that we could not persuade the Government to engage further with us on any of the amendments or new clauses that we tabled in Committee, but we have the opportunity on Report to make the case again for different approaches in certain areas. In Committee, my hon. Friend Kate Green spoke to new clause 13, which called on the Government to review “no recourse to public funds” with a focus on vulnerable groups, including those with children and victims of domestic violence. We had hoped that such a review would establish an evidence base allowing for a more informed parliamentary discussion on the broader issue.
In the immediate term, we have already called for “no recourse to public funds” to be suspended for the duration of the coronavirus crisis. On
My hon. Friend is right. “No recourse to public funds” is one reason for what is happening in Leicester. Is she aware that both the Home Affairs Committee and the Work and Pensions Committee, on a cross-party basis, unanimously called for the suspension of the “no recourse to public funds” restrictions for the duration of the pandemic?
My right hon. Friend, alongside the Chair of the Home Affairs Committee, has done an awful lot of work in this area, not least with the support of the Prime Minister. In response to his question about NRPF on
“Clearly people who have worked hard for this country, who live and work here, should have support…we will see what we can do to help”.
My right hon. Friend was right to raise this important point. The Children’s Society estimates that about 1 million people and at least 100,000 children have no recourse to public funds. Although new clause 13 has been drafted to sit within the scope of the Bill, it would start to deliver on the spirit of the Prime Minister’s commitment.
Local authorities have already had instructions from central Government to this effect. On
In addition to the imposition and the hardship that comes from “no recourse to public funds”, there is the burden that many asylum seekers face when it comes to being able to work. Does the hon. Member agree that it is right that we give asylum seekers the right to work while they wait for their application to be heard, not least because it would save the public money and give those people the dignity of work and the ability to provide for their own families and to begin to integrate much earlier?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. We spoke in favour of the “Lift the Ban” campaign, which would have given asylum seekers the right to work after six months of not receiving a decision on their asylum claims. He is absolutely right that that would restore a degree of dignity to those in the system who have skills and are willing to work and want to contribute to the communities that they call their new homes. He is right to raise that important point.
On new clause 14, we very much welcome the Government’s commitment to scrap the NHS surcharge for migrant health and care workers. However, given that the commitment was made more than a month ago and that, to date, no progress as to how it will be delivered has been forthcoming, we have tabled new clause 14, which has, once again, been crafted to sit within the scope of this legislation and would make a start on enshrining the commitment in law.
The fee was described as “appalling, immoral and monstrous” by Lord Patten, the former Conservative party chairman. The general secretary for the Royal College of Nursing, Dame Donna Kinnair, said,
“it is a shame it took this pandemic for the government to see sense.”
The British Medical Association, the Royal College of Nursing, the Royal College of Physicians and Unison have all written to the Prime Minister to ask for practical clarification on his commitment. I also asked the Minister at Committee stage for an update on rolling out the policy change, but we are no nearer to having any insight into what progress, if any, has been made.
We worked with EveryDoctor, the doctor-led campaigning organisation to reach out to the 25,000-plus doctors on their Facebook group. It started a poll on Friday asking doctors to let it know if they had had to pay the immigration health surcharge since
I spoke to three of those doctors this morning. I thank them for their service to the NHS in our hour of need. Upon hearing their stories of what we make them go through in order to stay in this country and work in our NHS, I was genuinely embarrassed. They have each changed their roles within the NHS over the last three months. The automatic visa extension only covers those who are in the same job. If someone is moving to or from a 12-month specialist training post, for example, which is common in the NHS, they need to apply for a new visa, as they will be transferring sponsor, even though the move is within the NHS. They will not get a new visa without first paying the health surcharge.
I heard from Dr Olivia Misquitta, who is switching to a training placement role from paediatrics and who has been asked to pay the health surcharge twice in seven months—the last time being just last week, on
Does my hon. Friend recognise that social care workers and NHS porters and cleaners—those who do some of the most important jobs on the covid frontline—have not been included in the free visa extension and, as a result, are also being pressured to pay the immigration surcharge? Does she agree that the free visa extension ought to be extended to cover the lowest paid staff in the NHS and social care?
I entirely agree with my right hon. Friend. In her capacity as Chair of the Home Affairs Committee, she has pushed for this issue a great deal, and I commend her for that work. I agree with her wholeheartedly.
In the long term, we need to look at the sponsorship issue. If medical professionals had simply the NHS as a sponsor, rather than individual trusts, that simple step would transform the visa system and the fees for those working on the frontline of healthcare provision.
On the health surcharge, we seek to press new clause 14 to a vote, unless we are given a clear steer and assurances about how and when the changes will come into effect, and how those who have had to pay the fee since the announcement was made will be reimbursed.
New clause 15 would quite simply exempt NHS employers from having to pay the immigration skills charge. As things stand, NHS trusts pay the skills charge for those coming to work in the NHS from countries outside the EU, and they will be expected to pay those costs for those coming from the EU after free movement ends. However, in the context of the NHS, where certain clinical skills are simply not available in the domestic labour pool, levelling a tax on NHS trusts for having no choice other than to plug their staff shortages from the international talent pool is nothing short of an outrage. An NHS trust cannot unilaterally decide to train more nurses from the domestic labour force, for example; it needs Government intervention to deliver that uplift.
We have clinical workforce shortages almost right across the board in the NHS, and that is while we have had free movement. We submitted freedom of information requests to 224 NHS hospital trusts in England, asking them how much they were losing from their budgets to pay these charges back to the Government. To give an indication of what some hospitals are paying out, Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust told us that in just one year—the 2019-2020 financial year—it paid the Government £972,000. It has paid over £2 million in immigration skills charges since 2017. Over the past three financial years, Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust had to pay the Government £961,000 in immigration skills charges. Only 21% of trusts have responded to the FOI request so far, but this tells us that nearly £13 million has been taken back out of NHS budgets and handed over to the Government since 2017. That is nearly £13 million from just 21% of the hospital trusts in England. The fact that some hospitals could be paying out nearly £1 million in immigration skills charges in a single year must surely be a sign that the system is not working as intended, and this is all while people have been able to come and work in the NHS under free movement, where fees would not have been applicable. That is about to come to an end. I urge the Minister to adopt new clause 15, to mitigate any further detrimental impact on the NHS workforce and to ensure that NHS funding stays in the NHS.
I will briefly touch on the two other changes we have proposed. Amendment 39 would time-limit the Henry VIII powers in the Bill. These powers have been widely criticised by experts, and efforts from both Labour and the Scottish National party in Committee to curb the powers or to ask the Government to state explicitly on the face of the Bill what they would be used for have been to no avail. Amendment 39 would tie them to the end date of the EU settlement scheme.
I want to take this opportunity to say that we also support new clause 29, tabled in the name of the Chair of the Home Affairs Committee, my right hon. Friend Yvette Cooper, with cross-party support. This new clause would seek to continue the existing arrangements for unaccompanied child refugees and maintain our commitment to family reunion. I was reassured by the Minister’s positive response to Simon Fell on this issue during the urgent question yesterday, and I hope that discussions can continue in that positive spirit. We also support new clauses 7 to 10, tabled in the name of Mr Davis, which reflect the sustained cross-party appetite to ensure that immigration detention is limited to 28 days, bringing about an end to unfair and unjust indefinite detention.
We are also keen to support new clause 2, tabled in the name of Tim Loughton, who has already given his very articulate explanation as to why it matters so much. We tabled new clause 58 in Committee to the same effect as his new clause, seeking to grant settled status to all those eligible children who are currently in the care of local authorities or who are care leavers. I am grateful that the hon. Gentleman has been able to share with the House some of the latest research from the Children’s Society, which foresees a bleak outlook if we do not take action on this important issue now, taking the responsibility from local authorities who are stretched as they have never been stretched before in order to make an application on behalf of a child. This is a cohort of children and young people who are our responsibility. We, the state, are acting as their legal guardians. They have already had the worst possible start in life, so let us do the best we can for them by at least giving them confidence in their immigration status.
As we have already heard through freedom of information requests, the Children’s Society identified a sample of 404 children who have had their status confirmed through the scheme, out of an estimated 9,000. Of those, 282 were granted settled status and 122 were granted pre-settled status. Given everything that those kids have been through, let us not sign them up for more years of paperwork and burdens of proof by giving them pre-settled status. Let us take all that uncertainty off the table for them by adopting new clause 2 and giving them indefinite leave to remain, as was so articulately outlined by the hon. Gentleman.
I very much hope that the Minister is open to the concerns that have been raised during the passage of the Bill and will no doubt be raised again this afternoon, but we are minded to take new clauses 13, 14 and 15 further if we are not satisfied that the Government are taking steps to mitigate the impact of the Bill and deliver on the promises that they have already made, not least to our brilliant NHS care workers.
I will speak to new clauses 7 to 10, but before I do, may I add my support to new clauses 2 and 29 in the name of my hon. Friend Tim Loughton? As an ex-Brexit Secretary, I see no reason whatever to wait on the negotiation in order to take his clauses forward.
Today there is no limit on the amount of time for which people can be held in immigration detention in the United Kingdom. We are the only country in Europe that takes this stance. At the end of 2019, the individual detained in a holding centre for the longest period had been held for 1,002 days. In earlier years those numbers were even worse. These people are detained without trial or due process, oversight or basic freedoms, and they are carrying the debilitating psychological burden of having no idea when they will be released.
This flies in the face of centuries of British justice. Its operation has been severely criticised by the chief inspector of prisons, the chief inspector of borders, the Select Committee on Home Affairs, the Joint Committee on Human Rights, the Law Society and the Bar Council—quite a bunch of radicals, I would say. As a result of this early criticism, the Home Office had to reduce the numbers in the system, for which it claimed credit in a briefing note issued this morning. This is an improvement towards bringing down the numbers, but is still nowhere near right. We need a 28-day limit on immigration detention, and that is the purpose of my new clauses.
The Government also claimed in that briefing note that 97% of the occupants of immigration holding centres are foreign national offenders. Well, that is technically true, since at the moment, under covid-19 emergency arrangements, we have temporarily put out into the community a significant majority of the people who were detained in holding centres, keeping in only the most serious cases. In fact, in normal times—to which we will presumably return when the covid-19 crisis is over—the average proportion of foreign national offenders who have been detained over five years is 22%. The figure is never more than 23% and is normally at 19% to 20%. That tells us that four out of five detainees in these centres have no criminal action against them whatever; they are innocent people.
I completely agree with what my right hon. Friend is saying. Not only is his point correct, but I have found out, as a result of tabling a question to the Home Secretary, that over the past five years the taxpayer has had to pay out in excess of £20 million to people who were unlawfully detained. Is he aware of that?
My right hon. Friend makes a good point, to which I will return in a moment because it impinges on another claim made by the Home Office that is plainly not true.
We have established what these people are not—they are not all foreign national offenders—but we should understand what they are. I do not have time in the six minutes available to me to go through all of them, but I have in front of me case after case of people who have suffered human trafficking, torture, rape, forced prostitution and modern slavery—mostly before they got to these shores, but in some cases after they arrived here too. Many are damaged people to whom the world has dealt a very, very rough hand. And what do we do when they come here for our help? We lock them up for an indefinite period.
The right hon. Gentleman will be unsurprised to hear that I fully agree with everything that he has said so far. Is he aware of the detailed research by the Jesuit Refugee Service that looks into the psychological condition of the very people he is talking about? The research finds that that psychological condition is influenced by even the shortest of stays in indefinite detention and discusses what that means for those people and their families for the rest of their lives. I am sure that he understands that the Government need to consider the mental health and psychological impact of this kind of inhumane treatment.
The hon. Gentleman is right: any stay is damaging. If someone was psychologically damaged before they arrived, it is even more damaging. If they do not know how long they will be detained, it is even more damaging again. He may remember that we had huge battles in this House over 90 days’ detention without charge, with the great defeat of Blair. We are now talking about detention of three months, four months, five months and three years.
The hon. Gentleman is right: these people are damaged. As it turns out, the immigration system has a classification for these people. They are classified as adults at risk, and we are talking about those in categories 2 and 3. In May this year, the chief inspector of prisons found that 40% of the detainees then—the smaller, limited group—were in the “adults at risk” category; in other words, they were psychologically fragile people.
The Government claimed that people were held for more than four months only with a compelling reason. I called Bella Sankey, who works for the Detention Action group, and she told me:
“Detention Action supports victims of slavery and trafficking in detention who are routinely held beyond four months”, and—this goes back to the point that my right hon. Friend Mr Mitchell made—
“The Government regularly pays out millions of pounds per year in unlawful detention claims for those held for four months or longer.”
Actually, it is bigger than it sounds. In the last five years, the Government have conceded 850 cases of unlawful detention. My right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield said that the total cost is over £20 million. Last year alone, the Government paid out £8 million. What could we have done to improve the asylum system with £8 million? Quite a lot, but they paid that out. By the way, while they were at it, they lost five article 3 cases—something that this Government had never done before 2010. The vast majority of detainees are not the villains that the Home Office would have us believe—just the reverse; they are the victims.
My right hon. Friend is making an extremely compelling case, and I am proud to have signed his new clauses. Will he take this opportunity to put on record a view that I think he shares with me—that people who are serious offenders should be promptly deported, not living in the UK at taxpayer expense?
My hon. Friend pre-empts the point that I am about to come to. A few are villains, and I would be the first to concede that, along with him. Predictably, as the Home Office always does when it has a weak case, it trotted out the gory details this morning—it listed 29 rapists, 52 violent offenders, 27 child sex offenders and 43 other sex offenders—designed, no doubt, to make our blood curdle.
That brings me to the other point of these new clauses. My question to the Minister, which I hope he will answer when he winds up the debate, is: when precisely did the Government start deportation proceedings on all those serious cases? Did they start the day that those people went into prison or sufficiently far in advance that those serious villains could go straight from prison to plane, with no stop at the detention centre? No, they did not, I am sure, but I would like to hear whether the Minister thinks they did the right thing on that.
The fact is that, to borrow a phrase from a former Home Secretary, the Home Office is not fit for purpose in managing deportations. Part of the point of these new clauses is to force the Home Office to get its act together, deal with the villains and stop punishing the innocent. That is why there is a six-month delay built into the new clauses—to give it time to get a grip.
I have one simple thing to say to the House. I have long been proud of our British justice system, but I am ashamed of what our incompetent deportation system does to people who arrived on our shores already badly damaged by human trafficking and modern slavery. It is time we put it right with new clauses 7, 8, 9 and 10.
It is a pleasure to follow Mr Davis. I am in the unusual position of agreeing with pretty much everything that has been said by all four speakers so far, which I do not get to say very often, particularly in relation to my hon. Friend Brendan O’Hara.
We in the SNP believe that this is a bad Bill—bad for families and bad for businesses—that sells EU nationals short and extends the scope of the hostile environment. Meanwhile, we have seen the Home Office move from disinterest in specific solutions for devolved nations to disdain bordering sometimes on contempt. It has been made clear during the passage of the Bill that there is to be no remote areas pilot scheme, despite that being a recommendation of the Migration Advisory Committee and an earlier Home Office commitment. Our amendments give Parliament a last chance to remedy these defects, and we will support other amendments that seek to find a silver lining to this Bill, such as amendments on putting a time limit on immigration detention, protecting care leavers, and protecting family reunion rights.
Turning first to the issue of family, sadly, this Bill will destroy more families by extending the scope of some of the most anti-family migration rules on earth. The degree of complacency that there is in Parliament about the damage these rules do to families and children surprises me. Five years ago, just three years after the rules were introduced, England’s Children’s Commissioner estimated there were nearly 15,000 Skype families in the UK—kids separated from a parent overseas because of these ludicrous financial thresholds. These rules do not even take into account the prospective income of the persons applying to come into the country. The commissioner said at the time:
“Many of the children interviewed for this research suffer from stress and anxiety, affecting their well-being and development. It is also likely to have an impact on their educational attainment and outcomes because they have been separated from a parent, due to these inflexible rules which take little account of regional income levels or family support available.”
Amendment 33 puts a brake on extension of these rules and, as the commissioner recommended, starts putting the heart back into the policy.
A second group of families that are being put in an impossible position by this Bill are those formed by UK citizens living across the EEA who may in future want to come back here with their family. These are UK nationals who would have had no reason to doubt that if they had a family while abroad, they would have derived rights to return here with their family members to the UK without having to jump the impossible hurdles of the UK’s domestic family migration rules; they could not have predicted Brexit, and applying the UK family rules to them, denying many a right to return here with their family, would seem incredibly unfair.
To be fair to the Minister, he has acknowledged that there is an issue here and has provided a grace period until 2022, during which such families can return, but this is essentially just kicking the can a little bit further down the road. It still leaves many with horrible decisions to make: do they uproot their families now, just in case they do not qualify to return later on? None of these families could have predicted that they would be in this position, so why not remove the cut-off point altogether, as amendment 38 seeks to ensure?
Finally on the issue of family, we are 100% behind the cross-party amendment on family reunion. Yvette Cooper will say much more about that shortly, and we fully support what Tim Loughton has already said, but it is plain to see that, despite talking a good game, the Government’s proposals mean they are backsliding on earlier commitments made to the House; they mean fewer safe legal routes for children to get to family here, and that means more children risking dangerous, unsafe routes. The Government’s stance is a boon for traffickers and people smugglers and a disaster for children and families, and that is why we must support new clause 29.
This Bill is not just anti-family; it is anti-business. I have spoken enough at previous stages about the huge problems that salary and skills thresholds will cause when the new system is brought into force, but today I want to focus briefly on the problems that the Bill will cause even if a job qualifies for a visa under the tier 2 system. Our system will make it unbelievably difficult and expensive to bring workers in, and will make this country an eye-wateringly unattractive place for people to come to. Figures from the international immigration law firm Fragomen show that under the future immigration system a tier 2 worker who enters the UK to work for five years with a partner and three kids could potentially involve a total payment to the Home Office of £27,000 upfront from October, once costs such as sponsorship licence fees and the immigration health surcharge are included. That is over 12 times as much as the equivalent for Canada and over 17 times as much as Germany, and it is similarly uncompetitive for other family arrangements.
Of course, skilled workers from the EEA are able to work in any other EEA country without paying a penny and with no need for the stress and uncertainty of a visa application. So if there is a skilled and sought-after French worker, that person can go to Dublin without paying a penny, no questions asked, but to get to Belfast they will need to pay many thousands of pounds and endure a Home Office visa process. It is a perfect incentive for skilled workers to go elsewhere, and it is a perfect incentive for key employers to move their businesses elsewhere. That is why we have tabled new clause 17, so that the Government have to be upfront and open with Parliament about the costs they are imposing on businesses and unskilled workers.
It is also why we have introduced new clause 16, a first step to removing the ridiculous immigration health surcharge, which makes up most of these humungous fees—a nonsensical double poll tax on workers, which is set to increase to £624 per person per year, all of which needs to be paid upfront.
So this Bill risks making it very hard to attract European workers to come to the UK in future, but what of the EU workers who are already here and other EU nationals? Amendment 32 would ensure that all EU citizens who are already here have automatic rights to remain and physical proof of their status. We support new clause 2, which would put in place that same right for looked-after children. Assuming, with regret, that the Government are not about to do that, they need to tell us much more about how they will respond when we wake up on
The Government say that they will be “reasonable”, but what exactly does that mean? In Committee, the Minister helpfully explained that he will publish guidance for caseworkers with a non-exhaustive list of examples in which late applications will be allowed. That would be welcome and useful, but the key point is that I want to see it—and I want to see it before we close the EU settlement scheme to applications. Parliament should know precisely how late applications are to be treated before it allows the scheme to close. That is what new clause 34 would ensure.
Two other new clauses seek to push the Government towards fairer treatment of EEA nationals. New clause 36 flags up a new problem relating to EEA nationals who seek to become UK citizens. In fairness to previous Home Office Ministers, when the settlement scheme was established, the Home Office did not insist, as it could have done, on proof of comprehensive sickness insurance in deciding who had been legitimately exercising free movement rights. For some reason known only to itself, the Home Office has now decided to insist on that when it comes to applications for citizenship. That seems an awful miserly approach to take, and I urge the Minister to revisit it.
New clause 21 flags up the issue of those EEA nationals who have a right in law to register as British citizens, and I am grateful for the cross-party support for the clause. We are talking not about adults who have made a proactive choice to come here but about children and young people who were born here or who have been here since they were young, whose parents have subsequently settled or who have lived the first 10 years of their life here. In short, they are children and young people who had no choice over the fact that this is their home country. In law they have just as much right to British citizenship as you, Madam Deputy Speaker, or me; the only difference is that they have to register. When Parliament passed the relevant careful laws, the fee for the process was set simply at the cost of processing, but it has now rocketed to over £1,000—just to access British citizenship. That is profiteering on the backs of children and it has to stop.
Finally, I turn to the issue of the devolved nations. The end of free movement will have drastic implications for Scotland, and if anything the challenges for Northern Ireland will be even more extreme. Home Office disinterest in any notion of a differentiated system has transformed into hostility. New clause 33, which has cross-party support, simply makes the modest proposal that, instead of its usual dismissive attitude, the Home Office looks seriously at the options for addressing issues in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. With the Government refusing to look at any regional variation, some in Scotland had at least taken comfort from the MAC recommendation of a remote areas pilot scheme to encourage migration to areas that have a very small labour market. Originally, the Home Office accepted that recommendation, yet in Committee the Government said it had been abandoned. New clause 24 would restore that provision, and I certainly hope that MPs from all parties who represent constituencies with remote areas will insist that the Home Office thinks again.
It is clearer than ever that the only way we will have an immigration system that remotely reflects our needs and circumstances and fixes the injustices that it contains is if we design one ourselves but, given the Home Office intransigence, I have no problem making the case that control over migration will be a key advantage of independence.
There is no doubt that the Bill represents an important milestone in both the restructuring of the UK outside the European Union and the fulfilment of the promise that we made to, and that was endorsed by, the British people at the 2019 general election to end free movement. As an overarching policy, it is one that I endorse but, as with any wholesale reform to a national system—in this case immigration—there will be people caught up in the shifting sands created around them who, because of their own personal circumstances, will need specific understanding, attention and support to prevent them from being pushed to the very edges of society. Those people include, as we have heard, children in care and care leavers entitled to ongoing support. To that end, as a former Children’s Minister, I instinctively have sympathy for new clause 2, which proposes the provision of automatic settled status for all children in care and care leavers. In the short time available to me, I shall confine my remarks to new clause 2.
As we transition to a new legal framework for our immigration system, it is only right that, as my hon. Friend the Minister has said previously, we help to ensure that no one is left behind. As I understand it, new clause 2 is an attempt to put that principle into practice for children in care and care leavers, rather than leave it to chance.
Here, I think there is unanimity. I do not believe that any of us wants to have reached the deadline for applications to the EU settlement scheme on
The ability of those people to apply is not helped by the particular issues that make the s process more difficult, including identification. My hon. Friend Tim Loughton set out very well many of those issues in his own contribution. If people have a long tax or benefit history, establishing their status is pretty straightforward, but if they do not, as will be the case for many children in care and care leavers, it is much more difficult. The establishment of the evidential basis required to settle their migration status is often complex and time-consuming, and it can require specialist and professional intervention and knowledge. No doubt this will have been compounded by covid-19 stretching the capacity of local authorities to prioritise such work.
I understand the Minister’s concerns about creating a two-tier status system and the desire to avoid compounding problems in the future, so I am looking to him and the Government for reassurances; I thank him for speaking to me yesterday. First, the Minister has previously suggested that, for EU children in care and care leavers, late applications would be accepted within a reasonable timeframe. It would be helpful to know: how late is late and how reasonable is reasonable? The reality is that if a local authority has not acted while a child or care leaver has been under its care, a lack of settled status may not come to light for many years, so there needs to be some recognition and compassion shown in that respect.
Secondly, in Committee, my hon. Friend set out some of the support services the Home Office is providing to assist local authorities in this important endeavour. However, as we have heard, work done by the Children’s Society suggests that the awareness and activity still remain patchy at local level. It would be helpful if my hon. Friend set out what he and his Department are doing, as well as across Government, to ensure that all local authorities are well equipped and supported in their role as corporate parents. Can I make a suggestion to him? I know he has written, along with the Children’s Minister—the Under-Secretary of State for Education, my hon. Friend Vicky Ford—to the leaders of councils, but he may also want to engage the services of chief executives of those councils. I often found in the past that that gets things done.
Thirdly, to reassure Members that acceptable progress is being made to identify and trigger the applications of all eligible EU children in care and care leavers up to the point of transition on
As my hon. Friend and I have both done the same job, I think we appreciate the real problems that social workers and local authorities are having in identifying these children. Does he agree with me that part of the problem is that the Department for Education does not routinely collect data on the nationality of the children it looks after in the first place? Is it not essential that that is the very minimum that needs to happen if we are to identify all of those children who would be covered by this scheme?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend, and he is right. When one is trying to understand the consequences of the actions one takes as a Minister—as we heard in the statement earlier from the Under-Secretary of State for Justice, my hon. Friend Alex Chalk—the enrichment of data can help us appreciate whether we are making good progress. In the independent school exclusions review that I carried out for the Government last year, a lot of my recommendations were about getting better data about the children in our systems, why they are there and how we can better track them, so that we know we are making good decisions on their behalf. I agree that that information would be relevant to the considerations under new clause 2.
It is important that we get this right. The corporate parenting principles that we legislated for in 2017 are designed for circumstances just like these. Please can we make sure that we live up to them?
I support the points made by Edward Timpson and new clause 2, which was tabled by Tim Loughton, because we have a responsibility to ensure that children in care do not miss out on the European settlement scheme through no fault of their own, and that we do not end up with another Windrush generation because nobody was looking out for those young people and they missed out on their rights—just never got the right papers.
I will speak to new clauses 29, 30 and 32, as well as other new clauses that I support. New clause 29 seeks only to continue the UK’s current commitments to help child refugees. I welcome the work the Government have done to support Syrian families, to speed up the Dublin scheme and to support the Dubs scheme, as well as the recent flight from Greece. All of that work resulted from cross-party debates in this House that the Government rightly responded to. We should not turn the clock back now or rip up that progress.
My right hon. Friend will know that the Government have talked about their
“proud record on supporting the most vulnerable children”.—[Official Report,
Vol. 670, c. 318.]
Does she accept that there can be no children more vulnerable than those she is talking about, and that the Government simply must maintain this commitment?
My hon. Friend is exactly right. We are talking about children and teenagers who are alone, with no one to care for them, but who have family here who could look after them.
The Government have said that we should instead rely on the draft text they have put forward in the transition negotiations. However, the Minister knows that the draft text represents a major downgrade in support and rights for lone child and teen refugees. All it does is allow EU member states to request the transfer of an asylum claim. There is no obligation on the UK even to consider it, never mind accept it. There are no objective criteria on which an application could be based, no appeal rights and no safeguarding timetables to make sure that a case does not drift endlessly, leaving a child in danger and in limbo, and the child with no family will no longer have legal rights.
Let us consider the case of a 14-year-old stuck in the awful Moria camp on Lesbos, whose older sister or aunt is living here and could care for them. If the Home Office loses, ignores or refuses the Greek request for a transfer to the UK to join family, there will be nothing the child, the family or anyone else can do. That is wrong.
The Government do not need to wait for the negotiations to be completed. We should just decide what we think is right. We have the ability to do that. Whatever other countries decide, we in Britain should continue our support for child and teen refugees who are alone and need support. Any Member of this House who has visited the camps in Greece or northern France will know how desperate, unsanitary and dangerous the conditions can be. No child should be abandoned alone in a dilapidated refugee camp or shelter when they have close relatives here who would welcome them with open arms, care for them, get them back into education and reclaim a future for them.
Some child and teen refugees have fled war or escaped being child soldiers. Many have been abused, sexually exploited or assaulted, and many have lost family members along the way. Without safe legal routes to sanctuary, they will be easy prey to trafficking and smuggler gangs, and we know quite how perilous that can be. Desperate young people have already lost their lives; we should not turn our backs on them now. We need to sustain those safe and legal routes. That is why I urge the Minister to support new clause 29.
New clause 30 is intended to ensure that the new immigration system helps rather than harms our economy and public services by calling for a proper assessment of its impact on social care, similar to that in new clause 1, which I support. The Migration Advisory Committee said in its report that these changes will “increase pressure on social care”, yet so far there has been no plan from the Government on how they are going to address that. Social care and those workers are far too important to be ignored. That is why, as well as supporting new clauses 13 to 15—tabled by my hon. Friend Holly Lynch on the Front Bench—about supporting the contribution made by many of those workers during the covid crisis, I also urge the Minister to accept the spirit behind one of the other clauses that we tabled which is not in scope today, but which urges the Government to extend the free visa extension to social care workers, as well as to the NHS, doctors and medics. Supporting doctors and nurses is right, but excluding the care workers who hold dying residents’ hands, the cleaners who scrub the door handles and the floors of the covid wards, or the porters who take patients to intensive care is just wrong. We should be supporting them as well.
I will also speak to new clause 32, which is about trying to make sure the system operates fairly, because by default, the Bill extends the hostile environment, even though the Windrush scandal has shown the damage that some of those measures can do. The housing provisions do not benefit the immigration system, but they do lead to discrimination for legal residents and British citizens, including discrimination based on the colour of their skin. That is why the Home Affairs Committee recommended a full review of the hostile environment and why Wendy Williams’ report has called for the same. Extending those hostile environment measures now, rather than accepting the recommendation of Wendy Williams’ report, is the wrong thing to do.
I also support new clauses 7 and 8 in the name of Mr Davis. Again, those reflect recommendations of the cross-party Home Affairs Committee, because we have found that by not having a limit on detention and not having proper reviews and safeguards, too often, the system just drifts. Too often, people are just left in limbo because there are not proper safeguards to make sure things happen in time.
I will not—I am conscious of time. The Government have a responsibility through this Bill to ensure that they build a system that can build consensus and cross-party support; that supports our economy and public services and does not undermine that; that recognises and rewards the huge contribution that people have made to this country, including and especially during the covid-19 crisis; that is fair and respects people; and that continues to support those who are most vulnerable, and particularly children and child refugees. The amendments that I and others have put forward are in that spirit of building a system that can provide consensus across the country. I urge the Minister to accept them.
We must never lose sight of why we are having this debate and why it is so important: this Bill symbolises the trust that voters put in our nation to decide our own immigration rules and, in turn, the trust that they put in this place to get those rules right. The Bill marks the start of a journey that will provide the framework to allow doctors, scientists and engineers to come to this country, contribute and make it their home, whether they are from Austria or Australia, Italy or India. There are some who mourn the end of free movement and indeed some—mainly on the Opposition side of the House—who would keep it indefinitely, but rather than seeing the changes to free movement as the end of a chapter of our migration story, we should view this as the start of the story in which Britain opens its arms to the rest of the world.
Turning to the amendments from my right hon. Friend Mr Davis—he is no longer in his place, but I have great respect for him and he has long been a proud champion of liberty—it is important that we look in detail at immigration detention and remember the reason why it is used. In moving into this new immigration system, we must remain robust and firm. We must have a level and fair immigration system, but one where those who fall foul and offend are dealt with and face sufficiently serious consequences.
Let us be clear: immigration detention is only ever used as a last resort. It is only used as an immediate precursor to removal from the country or where there is a serious risk of someone absconding or causing harm to the public. As with any system, there will be those who slip between the nets, and I would be grateful for the Minister’s reassurances that these people are being fully considered in this legislation. However, looking at the current immigration detention figures, we see that 97% of people currently in detention are foreign national offenders, who have committed some of the most serious, heinous, disgraceful crimes—crimes such as murder, rape and child abuse.
By implementing an arbitrary time limit on immigration detention, we could make it much more difficult for those offenders to be removed from our country. That is not good enough and it is not something my constituents in Bishop Auckland would accept.
I am enjoying listening to a number of the arguments I have heard being put forward. On this issue of foreign offenders, is not the right answer to deal with their immigration status while they are in prison serving their term, rather than throwing them into a detention system because we have not worked out how to do that in the first place?
One could certainly argue that; I would argue the opposite, but I thank my hon. Friend for his point. Let me give a tangible example. Had a 28-day limit been in place in December, it would have resulted in the immediate release of some foreign nationals who were awaiting deportation, including 29 rapists, 27 child sex offenders and 52 violent offenders, including a number of murderers, and more.
The hon. Lady is doing a good job of regurgitating what the Government put out this morning—
Well, it is, almost literally. All of these points can be rebutted. This series of amendments provides for a six-month process in which the Government could transition, so it is not an overnight thing. There would be six months for the Government to deal with foreign national offenders and to have them removed.
The point I make is that these are some of the most serious offenders, and, as I said, my constituents would not accept something along those lines. Furthermore, when we look at statistics on current detention times, we see that for the majority those are very short, with 74% detained for less than 29 days. For those held for substantial time periods, there must be a compelling reason, such as public safety. For example, we have the example of a man who gang-raped a 16-year-old, has a history of absconding and has delayed his own removal with five unsuccessful judicial reviews. Lawful immigration detention is needed to keep the public safe, so I cannot support these amendments. My constituents want a fair immigration system but they also rightly expect that system to keep them safe.
Turning to new clause 2—
I will not give way any further.
I praise my hon. Friends for their commitment to protecting children in care, particularly my hon. Friend Tim Loughton, who has long been a champion for children. Vulnerable children should always be in our minds when we make policy, and I echo the comments of my hon. Friend Edward Timpson on ensuring that nobody is left behind. However, I know that the Minister shares my concern that this proposal may inadvertently create a two-tier system. So rather than legislating in this manner, we should be strongly doing all we can to encourage local authorities to identify those vulnerable children and make sure that their EU settlement scheme applications are processed so that they have full and proper proof of their status and access to the documents for the rest of their lives, because we must never allow another situation such as Windrush to happen again.
On new clause 29, we have a proud history in this country of providing safe refuge, whether to the Kindertransport children or to Ugandan Asians fleeing Idi Amin. These are human stories and they should always be in our minds when we look at our policies today. The UK’s resettlement schemes have offered a safe route to the most vulnerable and given them a safe home on our shores. Unaccompanied children who are seeking international protection in an EU member state and have specified that family members are here in the UK should continue to be reunited with them, and I am glad that the Prime Minister has stressed the importance of that. The Government have approached the EU to offer a future reciprocal arrangement for the family reunion of unaccompanied asylum seeking children, and we know that a legal text was published in May to contribute to those negotiations. Getting a reciprocal arrangement is in the best interests of those vulnerable children and those families. We must not act unilaterally, as this amendment would have us do, as that would have a negative impact on the number of children who receive our help. Instead, we must work with the EU to form a joint agreement, and we in Parliament must allow time for these negotiations to play out, without binding the hands of our negotiators. We have seen what happens when Parliament tries to do that in past negotiations and we do not want to see a repeat of that.
This is an important Bill. It delivers on the referendum result and helps those of us on the Government Benches in particular, to repay the trust that the British people put in us in December. I vowed in December that I would do my utmost to represent the views of my constituents, whether in Bishop Auckland, Shildon, Barnard Castle or Spennymore, and that means backing this Bill and supporting a fair, robust immigration system that opens our arms to people across the world who have the talents and skills that our country needs to prosper.
This Bill defines the type of country that Britain will be for decades to come and, more importantly, it reflects the type of country we want to be. My constituents and I care deeply about fixing our broken immigration system and replacing it with a regime that puts the United Kingdom first.
I wish to make it clear that the Bill has the support of my constituents. Rother Valley demanded an end to free movement: the Bill ends free movement. Rother Valley urged the Government to introduce a fairer points-based system for immigrants: the Bill does that. Rother Valley called for a transition to a high-wage, high-skill and high-productive economy: the Bill delivers that change while protecting our businesses and essential public services. We voted overwhelmingly for Brexit in Rother Valley. For too long, our voices were ignored on issues such as immigration. We watched our area decline from chronic underinvestment, which caused business closures, soaring unemployment and a lack of skills, training and education.
Meanwhile, Britain experienced an unlimited and uncontrolled influx of cheap labour from Europe. Thanks to the tyranny of the European Union, there was nothing we could do to manage our borders. A fundamental aspect of sovereignty was stripped from us and left us without a voice, but we have now found our voice. We took back control in 2016 and we are taking back control today with this very Bill, unamended.
In the wake of the coronavirus, we shall have a new immigration system in place that attracts the best and brightest from around the world, no matter where they come from—from Europe and beyond.
How would the hon. Gentleman react to the news that I had from my constituency that a professional couple who have lived here for 40 years—they were both born in France—and whose children were born here, who have contributed and brought skills to this country, are now thinking about leaving because of this sort of hostile environment that has been created by the Bill? Surely that goes against everything he has just said.
I question whether the hon. Lady’s constituents are leaving because of this Bill, but I welcome everyone wherever they came from. In fact, my grandparents came to this country, and so I do not think the Bill is scaring anyone away. To say so once again underlines why the Bill is so important and the fact that those on the Opposition Benches do not get this country.
Crucially, this Government are ensuring that there will no longer be an automatic route for low-skilled foreign workers into the UK. We shall take immigrants as and when our economy needs them, but on our terms and not forced on us by bureaucrats in Brussels or by the real power brokers in Berlin.
Will the hon. Gentleman give way?
I have given way already, so I am not going to do so again. I will make some progress first.
We in Rother Valley are strong supporters of law and order. For that reason, I wish to address lawful immigration detention and highlight why it is necessary to keep the public safe. It has been suggested by some that we should impose a 28-day limit on immigration detention. I strongly reject that assertion, but I understand why hon. Members may suggest it. I also wish to remind the House that anyone wishing to leave immigration detention can do so at any time simply by leaving the country as they are legally obliged to. Nobody is forced to be in detention.
A 28-day limit would result in an immediate release of many foreign nationals who are criminals, as some of my hon. Friends have said. We want to emphasise that rapists, murderers and paedophiles could still be in this country under that system, and I for one—and the people of Rother Valley—do not want that.
I tried once, and I will try again with another Conservative colleague on this very question. We hear people trot out the stories that the Home Office has put forward about the people who are in detention and their heinous crimes. Does my hon. Friend agree that that is a job for the criminal justice system, not a job for the immigration detention system?
I am glad for that intervention. I am not here to say whose job it is, but one thing I can say is that I do not want rapists or paedophiles over here. If they can be deported, let them be deported. Let them be detained. That is what I stand for: strong law and order.
Rather than imposing 28-day limits, we should ensure that the whole asylum and removal system works much faster and more efficiently. Currently, the legal process can take years with protracted appeals. I am pleased that the Government are considering reforms to ensure that genuine asylum claimants can claim asylum faster, that decisions are made more quickly, and that delays will be eliminated. That is the efficiency of a Conservative Government. This will benefit not only communities such as Rother Valley, but those who find themselves in the system. The changes mean that the numbers in immigration detention will drop. I am proud that this Government are taking real action on immigration after decades of mismanagement by Labour. We in Rother Valley and across South Yorkshire know more than most about the Labour party ignoring our wants and needs. We have taken note of the fact that Labour voted against ending free movement and taking back control of our borders, yet again dismissing the will of the British people. Labour voted against our immigration Bill on Second Reading and the Leader of the Opposition, Keir Starmer, has declared that he would bring back freedom of movement if he were ever to become Prime Minister.
Labour cannot be trusted with control of our borders and it has proved that time and again. This Bill marks a new beginning for Rother Valley and for the United Kingdom as we exit the EU transition period and bounce back from coronavirus. We must build back better, build back greener, and build back faster. A sensible robust immigration system that works for Britain plays a central role in this strategy and guarantees a bright new future for my constituency and for our country. This Bill, unamended, does that. We promised this in 2019 and we are delivering. We are a Government who deliver. We are taking back control of our borders while those on the Opposition Benches want open borders.
That was an interesting contribution from Alexander Stafford. If he is concerned about Labour’s policies and about “leaving our borders open” then heaven knows what he will make of his own Government’s policy and how they are dealing with what could potentially happen at the end of the year and with what is happening with Brexit. He should have a word with Ministers about the things that they will need to do because of the arrangements that have not been made for our borders.
Let me return now to the substantive points of this debate. It was important to hear the points of Tim Loughton and my right hon. Friend Yvette Cooper who have pursued the issue of the rights of child and teenage refugees in this House with diligence, and I support them in their work. I also thought that my hon. Friend Holly Lynch on the Front Bench made an excellent contribution, and I support all the points she made.
I rise to speak to new clause 37, which is, shall we say, broadly drawn and asks for a report from the Secretary of State on the impact of the new immigration system on skills and the labour market and how changes made to the immigration rules for European economic area and Swiss nationals have affected skills shortages in the labour market. If this clause were to be put in the Bill, I expect that that report would be quite a long one, because the impact of Brexit and the new immigration system on our country will be extensive. However, I just want to make a few short comments about a particular industry that is likely to be badly affected, especially as that comes on top of the very serious impacts that it has suffered from covid-19—that is the creative industries. You know, Mr Deputy Speaker, how important those industries are to our country. In making these points, I am proud to draw the attention of the House to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests, because I could not be more honoured to have received the support of a great trade union, the Musicians’ Union.
The creative industries are currently in turmoil. They employ 3 million people. It is an underestimate to say that not all of those people are wealthy. I know that there are some very wealthy people in the creative industries, but the vast majority of them are not at all wealthy. They earn around the average income in this country.
Brexit is already a challenge for this industry. The creative industries face myriad issues—a panoply—from copyright to intellectual property protection and so on. As I said, covid-19, with the restrictions on their ability to do their jobs, is also having a radical impact. We must add to this Brexit and the end of the transition period coming down the line, because the ability to travel has a huge impact on creatives, whether it is touring or working in Europe more generally for those who work in the visual arts, in dance or in other areas.
Of course the Government will say that the impact on the creative industries and people’s ability to get visas to travel to work, with a good system of immigration that helps them, will be subject to reciprocity through agreements with the EU. But for creatives, this is not a zero-sum game: it is not about us benefiting, versus others. We will benefit, too, if EU nationals are able to work here: think of the great orchestras and the artists who display their work in our galleries.
Therefore, we need to know now what the Government’s intentions are and we need to secure new clause 37 so that we can monitor the impact of their policies. I ask the Minister: what kind of future do they envisage for our creative industries? What kind of reciprocity do they foresee on social security arrangements and other practical limitations on the ability of those working in the creative industries and the arts to work elsewhere in Europe? How do they plan to underpin the ability of some of our finest artists, our best musicians and our most talented creatives to work across the continent, and the ability of their partners in the creative pursuits to work here? This could have a massive impact on the future of one of Britain’s most important sectors.
Diolch yn fawr iawn, Mr Dirprwy Lefarydd.
I rise to speak to new clause 11 in the name of my hon. Friend Hywel Williams, and to support the amendments in the names of the right hon. Members for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis) and for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper), and of Stuart C. McDonald.
Immigrants have always played an integral part in the vitality of our communities, but we have been told, of course, that covid-19 changes everything. That prompts the question: does it change how we handle immigration as much as it does our approach to health and the economy? There has been some interesting mention of the value of the high-skilled jobs that we will expect from this immigration policy, but it is worth taking a step back and considering how things have changed under covid. I understand that 70% of people believe that the crisis has shown the key role of immigrants in running our essential services—the essential services that we have been clapping on the streets for many Thursdays; I think there is another clap here on Sunday—while 64% of people say that they now value so-called low-skilled overseas workers. We are now looking at who provides our services, and how, in a different way.
Surely what we have here is a hostile, inhumane immigration environment, and that is exactly what we should be questioning. Does such an immigration policy reflect the sort of society that we hope to be after covid-19? Plaid Cymru’s proposal in new clause 11 challenges how this Bill presents a radical change in UK immigration policy without allowing a thorough debate about the details of its replacement or the implications—although, as can be seen from the nature of the amendments, there is much concern about those implications. Before we legislate, we should have a proper comprehension of the following: the impact of discriminatory “no recourse to public funds” conditions; the impact of NHS charging; the merits of removing all fees for visas and citizenship applications; and the merits of devolving powers over immigration to our nations, recognising the different needs of the different nations.
Finally—crucially, in the current context—our new clause calls on the Government to investigate the possibility of granting citizenship to all health and social care workers who have given so much during this crisis. A former Government did the right thing and granted citizenship to the Gurkhas. Health and social care immigrant workers have been fighting heroically on two fronts. They have fought on our behalf against the virus; they are now facing having to fight a hostile environment in the Government’s immigration policy. The new clause would be a means to right that wrong; it would reflect the public mood, and I beg the Government to consider adopting it.
I support the Bill, which I believe will make our immigration system better, and fairer. Some hon. Members—today, and before today—have bemoaned the fact that the new points-based system will end freedom of movement. I heard Brendan O'Hara say so earlier this afternoon. In fact, there was no such thing as freedom of movement; the concept was an illusion, a chimera, apart from for those who were fortunate enough to live on the continent of Europe.
I benefited from the system—my wife is from Sweden, and for a while I lived and worked in Belgium—but it is a bad system, an outdated model, a discriminatory model, a system that works for Europeans but against the rest of the world. It is unfair. It discriminates against people who want to come here—people whom we want to welcome, people who help us build, run and support our country, who add value to our communities, contribute to our national debate and bring talent, expertise and drive, but who struggle to get entry purely because they are not from Europe. I am glad that we seek to replace that system today.
To those who are already here from Europe in this country, that have made it your home, that have raised families, invested, worked, lived and contributed to our society , we must repeat and repeat that they will always be welcome here.
I remind the hon. Member that the hostile environment was created by the previous Labour Government and had no effect on anybody who was coming into this country from the continent of Europe under freedom of movement in the first place. It is incredibly good news that more than 3.5 million applications to the EU settlement scheme have already gone through, and we can be very proud of that.
What the Prime Minister sought to do during the election was to reassure anybody who was here and had come here under freedom of movement from the continent of Europe that they would always be welcome here. All hon. Members in this place should urge anyone they know who has not applied thus far for the settled status scheme to do so immediately, because they are welcome here and contribute hugely to our national debates and national life.
If that is indeed the case, it is shameful. They should be doing everything in their power, from the position of responsibility they hold, to help and support those in this country who may be unsure about their future status here. They should urge them to apply for settled status, so that they can remain, and contribute to our country as we move forward.
The hon. Gentleman may rest assured that the Scottish Government are investing a lot of time and resources in encouraging people to take part in the EU settlement scheme. We have our differences on immigration, but will he join me in encouraging the Home Office to think again about having abandoned the remote areas pilot scheme, which would be of huge benefit to lots of constituencies around Scotland—such as his, I suspect?
I share the hon. Gentleman’s views on that issue. In fact, I will come to the seasonal agricultural workers scheme briefly in my speech—if I get that far this afternoon.
In Scotland we have a problem—as I said in my speech on
In speaking to new clause 1 the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute was right to draw attention to the effects that the changes to our immigration system will have on the health and social care sector. Although I do not support new clause 1, I urge the Government here and the Government in Edinburgh to work together to find imaginative and creative solutions to the issue, and to work with all stakeholders to see what can be done through the UK-wide immigration system to support and continue to grow the Scottish population, particularly with regard to the health and social care sector on which we rely so much.
Before I move on, it would be remiss of me not to use the opportunity of a debate on immigration to talk about seasonal agricultural workers. I know that I am at risk of sounding like a broken record, as the Minister has heard representations from Scottish Members of Parliament on this issue a few times before, but the fact remains that Scottish agriculture relies on, and therefore simply needs, seasonal labour. A farm in my constituency saw a 15% shortage of seasonal labour last year, which led to an estimated loss of over 100 tonnes of produce. Although I welcome the quadrupling of the seasonal agricultural workers scheme from 2,500 to 10,000 workers—a very welcome first step in this direction of travel—the needs of Scottish agriculture for seasonal labour are, in fact, considerably higher.
Numerous amendments and new clauses have been tabled to the Bill, and no doubt they all have a good intention behind them: Members want to create an immigration system that is fair, humane and understandable. I say in particular to my hon. and right hon. Friends who tabled new clause 29 that although the intent is good, we must allow the negotiations with the European Union time to play out. We have presented an offer to the EU on the future reunion of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children, where it is in the child’s best interests. For the UK to act unilaterally now—as the amendments seek us to do—would undermine the negotiations and make it less likely that we would secure a reciprocal arrangement, which might mean that the number of children we could help would be reduced.
We in this country are rightly proud of the steps that we have taken over the years to provide shelter to refugees fleeing war and persecution from around the world. We have been a beacon of light to the poor and oppressed of the world for generations, and we continue to be that country. We are rightly proud that so many people across the world seek to call the United Kingdom—this country—their home, and I am proud that in moving the Bill forward today we will be taking one more step towards making our immigration system fairer, non-discriminatory and fit for the 21st century.
I rise to speak against this Bill in general and for any new clause that seeks to end the hostile environment.
Ministers seem to create confusion about the contents of the Bill. If they speak in public, they claim that it will introduce a points-based immigration system, which is not true. In any event, it is doubtful whether primary legislation is needed for such a system. When Ministers speak it is clear that they have no intention of introducing a points-based system, but rather an income-based one. There will be some exemptions because Ministers have been forced to accept the fact that many nursing professionals will not meet their planned income threshold, yet at the same time Ministers seem blissfully unaware that social care workers earn nothing like the proposed salary thresholds—and nor do the cooks, cleaners, security guards, porters and many others who have seen us through this pandemic.
Many of these people were on subsistence wages even before years of real-term cuts by the Conservative-led Government from 2010 onwards. There have been huge shortages of all these workers. Ministerial plans—if not this Bill—will only make those staff shortages much worse in care homes, in the NHS and in many other sectors of the economy, both public and private. It is as if this entire public health crisis has passed Ministers by. A plan that will exacerbate the crisis in the NHS and social care is one of the last things that this country needs.
The Bill in its current form is a disaster, so I am pleased to support the new clauses that would impose a strict 28-day limit on immigration detention; end the immigration surcharge, which should be ended for all; reform deportation law and citizenship fees for those who are brought to the UK as young children; and ensure that our moral obligation to child refugees for family reunion remains a legal one. Such provisions would address the glaring issues of our immigration system.
There is a further issue that I want to raise. Last week, the Home Secretary astonished most of us when she said that she would implement the recommendations of the Windrush lessons learned review “in full”. The entire spirit and some parts of the letter of that review run completely counter to the whole thrust of this Government’s immigration policies. In essence, to right the injustices perpetrated on the Windrush victims and to prevent their reoccurrence, the Government’s hostile environment policies have to go in their entirety, full stop.
The hon. Lady keeps referring to this hostile environment. Let me just quote for her. In May 2007, Liam Byrne, then the Labour Immigration Minister, stated in a consultation document put out by the Home Office:
“We are trying to create a much more hostile environment in this country if you are here illegally.”
Will she accept that and apologise to those of us on the Government Benches, please?
I will not apologise, but I will point out that the Conservative party has been in power for 10 years. To continuously blame various different Labour leaderships makes no sense. I have said it before and I will say it again: this is the second time in a decade that a Conservative Government have retrospectively changed the rights of migrants after they have entered this country. We saw the misery that the Immigration Act 2014 caused the Windrush generation. What does it say about us that we are bringing EU nationals under the same rules?
I turn to what is in the Bill and its real effects on workers here, whether they are from overseas or not. There is a real risk that the effect of the Bill will be to lower the rights of all migrant workers in this country and, in that way, lower rights and terms and conditions for all workers. Crucially, the right to residency will be dependent on employment status. There is no right to a family life enshrined in the Bill, and “no recourse to public funds” remains an explicit policy. The combination of those and other factors effectively creates another, lower tier of the workforce, with fewer rights and very limited means of enforcing even those.
That is dangerous enough to migrant workers, but it can also rebound on the entire workforce as unscrupulous employers play divide and rule. Our legislation on health and safety, on equal pay and on opposing discrimination is not enforced vigorously enough as it is. If a large section of the workforce can be treated as second class, the situation will get worse for everyone. Quite simply, the Bill is not fit for purpose as it stands.
I am pleased to speak on the Bill, not least because immigration is a topic that can invoke the strongest of emotions, yet it is imperative that we have an immigration system that works for us as a free and independent sovereign nation.
Immigration policy is not just a buzzword for me, nor is it an excuse to play identity politics; it is the reason I am here. I am the son of a man who came to this country from halfway across the world. He came here for a better life for his family. Indeed, to my father, having anything but a system over which we have control is, frankly, odd, and that is the reason many from south Asian communities voted to leave the European Union back in 2016.
My father’s desire to be in this country was nothing short of a desire to pursue what I often term the great British dream. I know at first hand that it is a love like no other, the love held for this country by the hopeful migrant who arrives here in pursuit of opportunities and freedom—the patriotism of the one who singles out this country as the place they want to call home; the one who comes to this country and chooses to be British.
The result in the European Union referendum in 2016 was a vote for control—for control over our laws, control over our spending and control over our borders. This was not about pulling up the drawbridge, as it is so often described by those who want to belittle the referendum result; it was a cry for a greater stake in the way our communities and our country move forward. It was a vote for migration, albeit migration on our terms: looking out to the world beyond our immediate neighbours and forging relationships with new countries and old friends. The Bill captures the true essence of that desire for an immigration system that works for us—an immigration system that allows us to be agile, and one that allows us to adapt to the economic needs of our country.
It is important to point out that the Bill enshrines the will of the British people—a will that has been expressed on a number of occasions over the past four years. Clearly, I am firmly of the view that immigration has been a success for this great nation, and the Bill acknowledges and celebrates that success by working to make sure that the system is even stronger.
We must have a system that works for Britain so that we can ensure that the best opportunities are available to everyone in this country. It is only with a thriving economy and a strong society that Britain will continue to be such a nation and such an appealing destination for those around the world who want to come here and start a new life.
Britain was built on generations of immigrants, from the post-war migrants who came here to help us rebuild after the devastation of war to the seasonal workers who come to the UK every year to contribute to our agricultural sector and support British farmers. What we can learn from this is that immigration is not a static concept; it is a dynamic one, and it must adapt to suit our domestic and economic needs. Just as other countries adopt systems that best support their needs, the UK can be no different.
The Bill paves the way for a new system that prioritises the most talented and highly skilled. Crucially, control over our own system will allow for an unwavering commitment to protect those who come into our country from the evil prey of traffickers and unethical working practices as we move away from cheap labour and unchecked movement. I know that the Bill does not provide for the details of our new points-based immigration system, but, given my background in business, I know that, to operate to its full potential, our new system will require a continuous dialogue between Government and industry. I ask the Minister to ensure that we have a reactive approach, with the needs of the national health service, business, academia, hospitality and many other sectors being listened to. Particularly in the case of business, the channels of communication must remain open, because it is only by listening to the business community that we will avoid a time lag between what business needs and what Government implement.
Contrary to the naysayers, I believe that our country is progressive and forward thinking. We need an immigration system that matches that—one that allows us to advance in research and development and further our technological innovation as we compete on the global stage, and one that emboldens us to lead the world in medicine, technology, film making, science and sport. Simply put, we must have an immigration system that attracts the best and brightest from across the world. As we venture into the world as a free, independent nation, we have to model ourselves on what we believe we can achieve.
While we are repealing freedom of movement, it is vital that we have the EU settlement scheme, to protect the rights and legal status of EU citizens who have made Britain their home. The contributions of EU migrants are extensive and undeniable, whether that is imported cuisines from the continent or the groundbreaking research we see in our universities. I welcome this legislation because I am excited by what lies ahead for our great nation. With greater control over migration, we will continue to attract the brightest and best while remaining a tolerant and welcoming society.
We must not forget that this Bill arrives before us today in the context of the Conservatives’ hostile environment—a hostile environment conjured as a pernicious smokescreen to blame migrants for the economic damage inflicted upon working-class communities by Tory austerity, predatory capitalism and years of neglect and lack of investment.
I will not be taking any interventions; I need to make progress.
The hostile environment, from right-to-rent checks to the immigration health surcharge, is built upon the premise that migrants should be discouraged from coming to the UK. Not satisfied with the disaster of the Windrush scandal, this Government seem determined to press ahead with this unjust, discriminatory and poorly designed piece of legislation. The Home Secretary has yet to set out the details of what will come in place of freedom of movement. This Bill does not do that. Instead, it introduces multiple Henry VIII powers, which remove much needed scrutiny from our future immigration system.
I am afraid that the benefits of a points-based immigration system are a myth. Under such a system of employer sponsorship, workers are heavily restricted in their access to public funds, which puts many at risk of destitution. They are also less likely to join their colleagues in employment struggles for better terms and conditions. Migrants have been blamed for low wages, but it is not them who drive down employment standards—it is exploitative bosses who do, and it is this Government who allow them to do that. We have to make it clear that nobody’s rights should be linked to an employer. A person’s worth is not determined by their economic value.
Instead of removing EU citizens’ rights, the Government should have focused on making up the injustices that they have inflicted on the Windrush generation and other migrant communities. The Windrush compensation scheme is clearly not working. Does the Minister have anything to say to these families waiting in limbo?
This punitive, discriminatory piece of legislation is a slap in the face to the carers, cleaners, drivers and shop assistants who have risked their lives on the frontline to keep this country running throughout the pandemic, and who Members here have applauded every week. The scale of the Government’s hypocrisy is breathtaking—clapping for carers one day and downgrading their status in law the next. This Bill would class many vital jobs as low-skilled and prevent people from getting a new work visa or extension. That would include care workers—people like my colleagues who I worked with before becoming an MP and during the pandemic. The work may be low-paid and badly undervalued by those in power, but it is not low-skilled. Will the Minister, for the avoidance of doubt, clarify whether the Home Secretary still considers care workers to be low-skilled?
A recent report, “Detained and Dehumanised”, is based on interviews with people who experienced detention in UK centres. It was done before the pandemic. The report highlights a disturbing level of despair. One person said:
“I saw people cutting themselves, someone who tried to hang himself, someone who died in detention”.
“The most awful thing was an uncertainty: Not knowing whether I will be released and what they’re going to do to me”.
As Mr Davis has said, this is a terrible, inhumane position to be in. Ultimately, nobody should be imprisoned because of where they were born, yet the UK is the only country in Europe that does not have a time limit on how long a person can be held in immigration detention. Twenty-eight days is absolutely the longest time allowed in any other context.
I urge the Government to do the right thing, even at this late hour. They should not block the many sensible amendments and new clauses. Carers, shop assistants and cleaners are risking their lives on the frontline looking after us. The least we can do for them is to use our votes today to look after them.
I am very glad that I sat in on this debate today to learn the origins of the hostile environment. We learned today that the author of the hostile environment was none other than Liam Byrne, the Labour candidate to be Mayor of the West Midlands. That is right. He is the author of the hostile environment for immigration. We have learned that today.
The second reason I wanted to contribute today was to be able to say thank you to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary for bringing forward the points-based system for immigration. Like her, I felt that the opportunity to bring forward an immigration system that did not discriminate based on the origins of where someone came from was one of the strong reasons to support Brexit in the referendum. I am pleased that she has confounded her critics by coming forward so quickly in this Parliament with a new Bill that does precisely that. She knows, and many Members here know, that many areas of the Home Office do not work well, and I am pleased she has started there. Now let us turn to some other areas.
I will turn to what I can only describe as a shameful briefing note on immigration detention put out by the Home Office earlier today. In that note, the Home Office claims that 97% of the people in immigration detention were foreign national offenders. Do they think we are stupid? Do they not think we understand that most of the people in immigration detention have been put out of the detention estate during covid-19?
The note goes on to describe in the most lurid details what may be the case about the backgrounds of individuals, forgetting all those other people who have been put through immigration detention who have perfectly legitimate cases to remain in this country and who may have been victims of communal rape or child trafficking. It is a shameful document that was put out by the Home Office today, and that is why I am very pleased to support the new clauses in the name of my right hon. Friend Mr Davis that deal with 28 days as a limit on detention.
My hon. Friend gets it absolutely right about the misinformation that has been dispatched this morning. Is it not the case that a six-month grace period would be the result of the new clause? Those people would not be put out on the streets from the detention centre. The problem is that 63% of those in detention centres are released back into the community because the process has failed, and that includes serious sex offenders, rapists and other serious criminals, so it is happening now and not as a result of what the new clause would achieve.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right, particularly in stressing that the issue is not the people but the process: it is the process that does not work. An immigration detention estate is a manifestation of a completely failed process that fails the person coming to this country right from the start. We should not have an immigration detention estate; we should not have it at all. We only have it because of the accumulated errors of the Home Office going back well over a decade, as my right hon. Friend Mr Davis said.
As Members of Parliament who have been here for a while will know, we have had to deal with problem after problem with the immigration application process. Some may remember back in 2013 the lost letters that were found in an immigration office in Croydon that went back to 2003. Many constituency MPs will have dealt with migrants who are on the sixth or seventh application for another reason, their right to remain in the country. We should not have to deal with all that. This is a failed process in the immigration system, and detention is essentially the worst aspect of that completely failed process.
As the United Kingdom seeks to establish its place as global Britain, it should be standing up for the highest principles of justice, and the highest principle of justice is how we look after the weakest and most vulnerable in our society. Those who come to this country looking to claim asylum include many who come from the most difficult of backgrounds. We should be looking to change the system completely and I will be interested to hear whether my hon. Friend the Minister can give any indication of how it might change so that we do not have a system that ends up with such a scar on our principles of justice as the immigration detention estate.
What we need is something that essentially says, “We’re going to invest the money—the £90 million-plus we spend on immigration detention—in a reformed system that actually tries to give the best advice to people, so we have the best counselling, the best legal advice and the best psychological therapy for people who come to this country right at the start of their claim, so that we can have a system that appraises asylum seekers in this country that is the best in the world in terms of the consideration it gives to the legitimate claims, but also has the expeditiousness in the appeals process so that the system cannot be undermined by those who would seek to undermine that honourable phrase of an asylum seeker by making bogus claim after bogus claim after bogus claim.” It is time that the Home Office brought this failed period to a close, which is why the amendments in the name of my right hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice and Howden for a 28-day time limit are so important.
As the Member of Parliament for North East Bedfordshire, with Yarl’s Wood in my constituency, I can attest to the human tragedies that have occurred in detention over the past decades. When I became a Member of Parliament in 2010, the last Labour Government were imprisoning children, and I am quite clear that Holly Lynch on the Opposition Front Bench would find that unconscionable today. We have been making progress over the years, and a time limit on detention now is the next change that we should make. I say to the Minister that if he cannot reform the process—if he cannot today say he is going to reform that process—the time is up on what this Conservative Government are doing on detention.
I am afraid that this Bill fails on every conceivable measure of a humane and just immigration policy, and I am concerned that my constituents are particularly vulnerable to the predatory aspects of this legislation. Some 43% of Leicester East residents were born outside the UK, as opposed to 10% nationally, and our citizens hail from over 50 countries around the globe. This diversity is what makes our city special, yet with a two-week lockdown extension announced in my home city, this Bill fails to protect its most vulnerable citizens. To ensure that every Leicester resident can seek the medical help they need during this increase in coronavirus, it is vital for full citizenship rights to be extended to undocumented workers, those with no recourse to public funds and people with no indefinite leave to remain, yet the Bill fails to provide the necessary protections.
Under most visa categories, migrants who are legally in the UK working and paying tax cannot access publicly funded support. The Migration Observatory estimates that nearly 1.5 million people currently have no recourse to public funds, including those with children who were born in the UK. For people who already face uncommonly difficult challenges in their daily lives, this pandemic has only deepened fears over how to maintain an income, remain healthy or even stay alive. Citizens Advice has recorded a 110% increase in people seeking advice about having no recourse to public funds during the pandemic, and a recent report from the Children’s Society found that almost half of children whose parents were born abroad live in poverty. The Government must introduce an amnesty for all migrants, including residency rights, for the duration of this pandemic and end the callous policy of no recourse to public funds.
An estimated 1 million undocumented workers lack any entitlement to support from the state. Many of these people are destitute and living in the shadows, unable to access healthcare and fearful of what will happen to them if they identify themselves. In nearly all cases, undocumented people are not criminals but simply those who have fallen through the cracks of the Government’s callous hostile environment policies. For people forced to endure this level of insecurity, it is impossible to comply with Government guidance on self-isolation and social distancing. With the overwhelming rise in coronavirus cases in my constituency and with a rate of infection that is beyond acceptable, it is imperative and in the best interests of everyone in our country that the basic needs of all our residents are met, especially given the disproportionate impact of covid-19.
The tragic irony is that many undocumented people, or those with no recourse to public funds who are living in constant fear of the state, work in the frontline services that the Government have been at pains the praise during this crisis. We must ensure that all frontline workers, regardless of their immigration status, are valued and protected as we rebuild our economy and society. It is vital that we repay the extraordinary contribution of frontline workers during the pandemic with a permanent extension of migrant rights. That means an end to the hostile environment, shutting detention centres and granting indefinite leave to remain for anyone living in the UK. In Leicester, the coronavirus pandemic has caused widespread suffering for too many individuals and communities, with widespread job losses—
There is clearly much to comment on in this Bill, but I rise specifically to speak in support of new clause 7 and to commend Mr Davis for the powerful case that he made in speaking to it. Back in 2014, I was pleased to serve as vice-chair of a cross-party inquiry into immigration detention. We included parliamentarians from both Houses and all the main parties, many with huge experience, including a former Law Lord and a former chief inspector of prisons. There were more Government Members than Opposition Members, including Richard Fuller, who also spoke powerfully on this issue a few moments ago. I pay tribute to Sarah Teather, who chaired the inquiry and who now leads the Jesuit Refugee Service UK, as others have mentioned. After an eight-month inquiry, our recommendations included the limit on detention that is proposed in new clause 7. That was endorsed by the House of Commons in September 2014, so it is disappointing that we are still discussing the issue—but it is important that we are, because, contrary to some suggestions, it is not a particularly controversial proposal.
The truth is that we have become too dependent on detention, which takes place in immigration removal centres. The clue to the purpose of those centres is in the title. They are intended for short-term stays, but the Home Office has become increasingly reliant on them, under successive Governments. Home Office policy states that detention must be used sparingly, but the reality is different.
In our evidence we heard from many organisations, NGOs and so on, but, most powerfully, we heard from those in detention over a phone link. One young man from a disputed territory on the border between Nigeria and Cameroon told us that he was trafficked to Hungary as a 16-year-old, where he was beaten, raped and tortured. He managed to escape and eventually made his way to Heathrow, using a false passport, which was discovered on arrival, and he was detained. He told us that he had been in detention for three years. His detention conflicts with the stated aims of the Home Office in three respects—that those who have been trafficked should not be detained, that those who have been tortured should not be detained and that detention should be for the shortest possible period. His case is not the only one. There are more people like him than there are so-called foreign national offenders, which the Home Office briefers urged Members to refer to. Time and again, we were told that detention was worse than prison, because in prison you know when you are going to get out. One former detainee said:
“The uncertainty is hard to bear. Your life is in limbo. No one tells you anything about how long you will stay or if you are going to get deported.”
A medical expert told us that the sense of being in limbo, of hopelessness and despair is what leads to deteriorating mental health, and that
“those who were detained for over 30 days had significantly higher mental health problems”.
It is not simply the impact on detainees that demands change. A team leader from the prisons inspectorate told us that the lack of a time limit encourages poor case working, saying that,
“a quarter of the cases of prolonged detention that they looked at were a result of inefficient case-working.”
It has become too easy for the Home Office to use administrative detention, and that is what needs to be challenged. The Home Secretary talked about the culture change in the Home Office only a few days ago, in response to the Windrush review. Removing indefinite immigration detention would make a significant contribution to achieving that culture change, because with no time limits, it has simply become too easy for people to be detained, for too long, with no meaningful way of challenging that detention.
Our report gave a number of examples of alternatives to detention, which are being used by countries often held up as hard on immigration, such as Australia. We know that the Home Office is developing pilots on community-based alternatives, including one at Yarl’s Wood, which is a year in and is running well.
As the hon. Gentleman has raised the point about Yarl’s Wood, does that not show that with experimentation on alternatives, the Government can find ways to do what they want to do, but to do it better?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for that intervention. He is absolutely right. It is not simply the case that alternatives to detention are more humane—they are more efficient, more effective and more cost-effective for the Government.
I understand that the Government are shortly to announce a second pilot, and that is to be welcomed— I would be glad to hear anything that the Minister would like to say on that—but the pilot we have already seen and the experience of other countries have already demonstrated the effectiveness of community-based alternatives. We need to move faster. The proposal to end indefinite administrative detention in new clause 7 would be more humane, less expensive and more effective in securing compliance. The time really has come for Members from both sides of the House to get behind the proposals in new clause 7.
I was pleased to contribute on Second Reading of this Bill, and I am pleased to be able to speak now, notwithstanding a sore throat.
In recent weeks, people have told me that the Bill is contentious, but it should be regarded as what it is, not as what others fear it to be. For a start, it allows our country to evolve in the post-Brexit era as we wish it to evolve, and allows us to decide who comes in. For too long, we have seen uncontrolled immigration and a failure to remove those who have accepted our hospitality but sought to do us harm. We have indeed seen lower rates of deportation. Inasmuch as we should be more in control of who arrives on our shores, we should equally be more robust about who leaves. If the process takes more than 28 days, then so be it. I am not therefore convinced by new clauses 3 to 11.
For those who come to the UK and are proud to live here, the opportunities are plentiful. Contrary to what many of our political opponents might think, this is the land of milk and honey for those who are prepared to work hard. Let us look at what is on offer. We will give everyone the same opportunities wherever they come from. Our points-based system will allow us to identify the skills we require. We will protect the rights of EU citizens, and we will protect the long-held rights of Irish citizens to live and work in the UK, so I am mindful of new clause 12.
People have told me that this Bill flies in the face of what has been achieved by so many during the pandemic, particularly in the NHS. Nobody here should need any reminder of the admiration and the awe with which the British people regard these heroes. The Government have rightly agreed to extend the visas of frontline NHS workers, so I am mindful of new clause 35. They have rightly introduced a new NHS visa, offering fast-track entry to the UK for qualified overseas doctors and nurses under more generous terms. The contribution of all public sector employees, public servants and low-paid staff is the stuff of legend, and we will always be grateful.
For the avoidance of doubt, immigration is a good thing, and we have built a proud nation on the back of our history, shared values and unrivalled diaspora. I have been honoured to serve alongside so many brilliant foreign and Commonwealth soldiers, but there is a problem here, too. Although this is not directly relevant to this Bill, I urge the Minister to take note. We have recruited many to join our armed services, but the House will know that a small number have slipped through the net by not applying for indefinite leave to remain when they would otherwise have been entitled to do so. Given that some now face particular difficulties in not being British citizens, including crippling NHS bills, I believe it is now time to offer an amnesty to the entitled few who have proudly worn the uniform and borne arms but not become naturalised. Once we have done this, we should then review the crippling visa fees, which remain beyond the reach of most servicemen and women and their young families.
Let us disincentivise those who come here via illegal means, remove those who commit serious crime and place the ruthless people traffickers behind bars, but the quid pro quo is to provide those whom we willingly invite to serve in our armed forces with the security they deserve. It is time that we did the right thing for all of our Commonwealth veterans and fully recognise the sacrifices that they too have made for our great nation.
As for the future of this Bill, I expect it to become law, but inasmuch as it promises a points-based immigration system that mirrors those of other countries in the free world, we need to be careful that it does not become a blunt instrument. The legislation must therefore be flexible and agile enough to respond to the employment market at any given time, particularly in terms of the skills being offered. There will be a need for seasonal labour, and we must be able to attract all those that we need when we need them.
To conclude, as contentious as the Bill might be to some, it is what many have requested for the past four decades, and it is what the Conservative Government have promised. We must also do more to reunite children under the vulnerable children’s scheme, and we therefore need an enduring scheme to be in place by
I concur with the point made by James Sunderland about armed servicemen and women from the Commonwealth. I hope that the Minister will bear that in mind when the next immigration Bill is introduced, because there are some egregious cases that desperately need to be looked at fairly.
We will not vote for the Bill tonight, mainly because it seems to have been written before the covid crisis. It seems to ignore the fact that we need a new approach to immigration based on solidarity, decent jobs, employment protections and quality public services for all, with all EU citizens guaranteed the right to remain in the UK. Anybody who has been watching “Sitting in Limbo” and following the fantastic work done by the journalist Amelia Gentleman on Windrush will know that it is these sorts of debates that sometimes end up creating systems that cause huge problems for hard-working families.
I wish to speak briefly to some of the amendments and new clauses. First, my right hon. Friend Yvette Cooper has tabled a proposal that emphasises the need for a plan for and provision in the crucial area of social care. We are nowhere near through this pandemic and we desperately need to encourage those working day in, day out in the care sector. Those watching this, perhaps in the course of their duties today, may well feel a bit down and depressed that we are not backing them a little more with this Bill.
Secondly, I wish to talk briefly to the question of care leavers, as addressed by new clause 2. Care leavers face numerous levels of disadvantage. Anyone who has worked in a local authority context will be aware of just how many placements the average child in care goes through. Many children go from home to home, from foster carer to foster carer, into residential care and out again, and into their own flat. Throughout that journey they often lose documents and the phone numbers of their legal advisers. Changes to legal aid mean that they can no longer access legal aid. We then have a very disadvantaged and needy 17-year-old who desperately needs immigration advice when they are about to turn 18. Such are the realities of children’s lives in care. We are talking about a tiny number of individuals. It is the sort of clause that we should all be voting for so that a very small number of people are not left out of the system.
Thirdly, I call new clause 29 the Dubs clause. So many Members from all parties have spoken in favour of it, particularly Richard Fuller, who has Yarl’s Wood detention centre in his constituency. Many children are desperate to join family members here in the UK. Many other immigration systems in developed countries have positive family reunion programmes that are quick, that include a system in which people do not have to go in and out of the rules and write to MPs and everything, and that are clear and provide for children who have been torn from their families, mainly by conflict, so that they can get that reunification.
Does the hon. Member agree that one of the big challenges for local authorities in making offers has been that in so many cases young people brought to the UK for family reunion find that the family member simply cannot take care of them? Does she welcome the fact that the Government have, at long last, announced a very substantial increase in the funding rate for local authorities that are caring for those young people as they go in adulthood? That will go some way to assisting the issue, about which many Members have talked today, of ensuring adequate provision for care leavers who have arrived in this country as unaccompanied minors or through family reunion, which can rapidly make them unaccompanied because their family member cannot care for them.
Indeed. The hon. Member and I may, I think, previously have been on joint, cross-party delegations to Ministers in respect of several subjects in the course of our local government work. It is important that the Government recognise the important specialist work that local authorities do, and the costs involved in having extra social workers, foster carers and so on, so that young people are properly supported in that process. I welcome any additional funding for local authorities to discharge that important duty.
Finally, I want to talk briefly about my experience a couple of years ago of visiting Brook House detention centre—in the constituency, I believe, of Henry Smith—on the back of the report in 2014 that my hon. Friend Paul Blomfield mentioned. He and other Members visited and did an extensive piece of work on indefinite detention and concluded on a cross-party basis that future legislation, such as this Bill, which is a wonderful opportunity, should introduce a 28-day limit, like every other European country has, on detention in immigration facilities.
We are not talking about the 300,000-plus people who arrive in the UK every year. We are talking about a tiny proportion of total immigration—very small numbers each year. I visited with the Gatwick Detainees Welfare Group, a volunteer group that visits facilities to provide friendship, second-hand clothing, mobile phones, and so on, to very vulnerable prisoners. These detainees are the only detainees in the whole country who go into detention and count up. Most prisoners count down from, say, one year—364, 363, 362, and so on. These individuals in immigration detention go in and potentially get lost in the system.
If any Member has ever had a case with the Home Office, they will know that the Home Office can make mistakes—[Interruption.] I see smiles. We could do something practical tonight and vote for this amendment, which has lots of cross-party support, and ensure a just outcome for this tiny number of people in immigration detention.
I rise to speak to new clauses 7 through 10, tabled in the name of my right hon. Friend Mr Davis. I am proud, as I said earlier, to have put my name on those amendments with him, and I pay tribute to the superb speech he made earlier. I have heard him make many compelling speeches, but I would say to the Front Bench that his speech earlier was probably his most compelling yet and I agreed with all of it.
I signed the amendments because I want a humane and just immigration system, and of course one of the principles of justice is that we treat people equally. I am very happy to say that as we leave the EU my right hon. and hon. Friends are working towards an immigration system that treats people much more equally, and I am delighted because of course it is the sort of pledge I have been making to my very diverse community in Wycombe. I am delighted and wish Ministers well as they deliver it.
I want to turn to a particular point though. In talking about foreign national offenders, my hon. Friends the Members for Bishop Auckland (Dehenna Davison) and for Rother Valley (Alexander Stafford) said that constituents would not want these people loose in the UK. I am quite certain that the constituents of Wycombe do not want these people in the UK, but I say to my right hon. and hon. Friends and the whole House that we do not in the United Kingdom imprison people indefinitely on suspicion that they might reoffend.
Indeed, in 2003, Labour introduced a system of imprisonment for public protection, very much along those lines, and a Conservative Government repealed that system of IPP. I hope that my hon. Friends will not mind my saying that I feel a bit long in the tooth for remembering that we repealed that system. We did that because it was right to do so. I want to treat persons from outside the United Kingdom as morally, legally and politically equally as we properly treat people in the United Kingdom, and that means it is not right to detain people indefinitely on suspicion.
Of course, I do not think it is right either that we should be keeping serious offenders in the UK and paying for their upkeep. We should certainly be reforming the system so that such people are promptly deported, which the Home Office insists requires indefinite detention. I agree again with my right hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice and Howden that were the new clauses to pass it would put pressure on the Department to ensure that people are promptly removed.
I want to put on the record exactly what the Home Affairs Select Committee said about indefinite detention:
“lengthy detention is unnecessary, inhumane and causes harm”.
It also recommended bringing
“an end to indefinite immigration detention and implementing a maximum 28-day time limit.”
I am absolutely in favour of doing that in combination with seeing to it that we can remove foreign national offenders.
I possibly have not got time, but I want to cover a couple of other points.
My hon. Friend and I have fought together on other battles, not least Brexit, with one thing being that we viewed Britain as rather distinctive. Does he, as I do, see it as shameful that the one thing we are distinctive on in this case is that we are the only country in Europe that allows the indefinite detention of people in our country?
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that, and I certainly share his sentiment, but, for reasons that I am going to come on to in a moment, I am going to try to avoid any words of condemnation. I wish to thank Detention Action for providing a helpful briefing, which points out that the claim that trafficking victims, with whom it works, are rarely detained beyond 28 days is “not true”. It has given us a number of accounts, but I am sorry to say I do not have time to read all of them into the record. However, it states:
“J had to leave her country of origin because her partner, who held a senior position in the army, was abducted and she was raped by the people who abducted him. When she tried…to leave her country, she ended up being trafficked”.
The story goes on and on. Such a person ought to be helped. We have a real problem with people who have been trafficked all too often ending up with criminal offences; we end up prosecuting, whereas they are people for whom we should have compassion. I do not doubt that these cases raise extremely delicate and tricky issues of evidence and justice, because, of course, some people will plead falsely that they have an excuse under a trafficking law, but we really do have to rise to the challenge of looking after people such as J, and indeed A and P, whose stories are in this briefing.
On this point about the availability of bail meaning that people are not detained for longer than they should be, let me say that that is not correct. I understand that £8 million was paid out in unlawful detention cases in 2019, and that judges have wide discretion—indeed, my right hon. Friend’s new clauses try to reduce that discretion. Bail decisions can be made on the basis of very limited evidence, and first tier tribunal judges in bail hearings do not have jurisdiction to decide the lawfulness of detention, only the High Court can do that. On and on the evidence goes, but I do not have time to put it all on the record.
What do I really want to say to the Minister? I want to praise him and officials, because I recognise, after 10 years of representing Wycombe, diverse as it is, that dealing with immigration is an extremely delicate, difficult and tricky job, characterised by very high volumes of often heartbreaking case work. I want to pay tribute to officials and I do not want us to be in an environment of condemnation, where people who are working hard and doing their best, with high levels of skill, end up with so much incoming fire. I do, however, want to say to the Minister that I could have stood here for another 20 minutes going through cases of injustice and setting out areas where there is opportunity for reform.
As a former Brexit Minister responsible for legislation, I recognise that this is an EU withdrawal Bill and its scope is:
“To make provision to end rights to free movement of persons under retained EU law” and so on. Listening to the debate, it seems that we have perhaps forgotten that this is the Report stage of such a Bill. I understand the scope of the Bill and that this is not the end of the journey on immigration, but I say as gently as possible to the Minister that when he comes to the Dispatch Box I am hoping that he will set out something of where the Government intend, in the round, to get to on these issues of justice in the migration system and, in particular, on the principle of indefinite detention. It is right, morally, that we should treat people equally, wherever they come from, whether they are UK citizens or not. With that in mind, we really should be working towards ending indefinite detention, and we should certainly make progress on all those other areas on which I can and will provide details to the Minister. I hope we can do that without an endless series of urgent questions and Adjournment debates.
I wish to speak to new clauses 26 and 28, and to support new clauses 1, 7 to 10, 13 and 29. I believe this Bill is hugely flawed and potentially damaging because of the atmosphere it will create and the way in which it will undermine people who make a valuable contribution to our economy. If we accepted the jigsaw of amendments, we could turn the Bill on its head and it could become a positive and welcoming piece of legislation, which would value people who come to this country and make a contribution. It would welcome children, reunite them with their families and send a positive message to the rest of the world.
New clause 26 would remove the right-to-rent charges, which the High Court ruled in March 2019 caused landlords to discriminate on the basis of ethnicity when demanding proof from proposed tenants, and therefore breached their fundamental human rights. I would think that a right-thinking Government would want it in the Bill, to protect those human rights.
New clause 28 is about the sharing of data between public bodies such as police, the national health service and schools with the Home Office for immigration enforcement purposes. That is a fundamental pillar of the hostile environment that has appalling implications for those it affects, and often prevents victims and witnesses of crimes from coming forward for fear of being detained or deported.
As I say, those two new clauses could fit with the jigsaw of amendments placed before Parliament today, and fundamentally change not just the Bill but the atmosphere it creates and how it treats those who come to this country in search of a new life, including those whom we have for the past three months gone out many Thursdays and applauded for the contribution they make to our national health service and social care—the contribution they have made by putting their lives on the line for us. Instead of demanding a surcharge from them to work in that service, we should offer them indefinite right to remain in this country.
By making these changes, we would move away from the hostile environment, which I learned the origins of today, and I have to say that I am not as concerned about those as Conservative Members are. I am concerned about the impact it has had and continues to have on this country. I therefore ask the Minister and the Government to seriously consider these amendments, which would send out a message that we value people for who they are and the skills they bring to this country, and not just the monetary value of what they earn. We could do away with the NHS surcharge and allow those who have contributed to remain in this country and feel valued. We could create a system that reunites lonely, vulnerable, displaced children with their loved ones and gives them an opportunity to have a fine life, a good life in this country. We could say that we recognise that it is inhuman to keep people in detention for more than 28 days, and we could give asylum seekers the right to work, to contribute, to bring their skills to the table and help build and enhance our society and our economy, rather than denigrate them, rob them of their dignity and see, as a result, the sort of tragedy we witnessed in Glasgow last week.
We could send a message that we want to welcome people, that we will value them, and treat them humanely and with compassion. That is the country I have always understood us to be. An hon. Member said earlier that some of us on the Opposition Benches just do not get this country. I would contend that it is those of us on these Benches who do get this country, who get the people in this country and who get what they want to offer the people who come here to make a contribution and who have helped to make this country what it is.
I have listened carefully to what has been said by Opposition Members, and I am not persuaded that the Bill is anything other than a good piece of legislation on the whole. The question for the House this afternoon is whether it could be improved, and that is why I put my name to the amendments and new clauses tabled by my hon. Friend Tim Loughton, by my right hon. Friend Mr Davis and by the Chair of the Home Affairs Committee. I will listen carefully to what the Minister says, but he should remember that the Bill has a long journey still ahead of it down to the other end of the Palace, where undoubtedly some of these issues will be prominent in the minds of their lordships.
Like Catherine West I had the opportunity, courtesy of the Home Office, to visit Brook House. I went there following the “Panorama” programme, which led us to believe that the conditions were inhumane. Actually, I thought the conditions were both humane and decent.
I will come directly to the point I wish to make about the proposal for a 28-day limit. The problem is that the best regime in the world cannot ameliorate the fundamental injustice of a system that arbitrarily imprisons people without time limit, solely for administrative reasons. This is a matter not of criminal justice, but of the administration of our immigration rules—the distinction is important.
Many people in immigration removal centres have never been charged with any crime, while some have previously been in prison following conviction for a criminal offence, but have served their time. All are detained purely and simply because they are liable for removal. Some go on to be removed, but more than half are released at an arbitrary later date and are able to remain in the United Kingdom either temporarily or permanently. As other Members have said, we remain the only country in Europe to detain people indefinitely for the purposes of immigration enforcement.
If individuals have no right to remain here, our priority should be to strongly encourage other countries to accept the return of their citizens. That is something the coalition Government spent a lot of time trying to do from 2010 to 2015. Indeed, we should negotiate such deals and procedures as an urgent necessity. In this way, individuals are no longer left in limbo in immigration detention.
The proposal for a 28-day limit applies only to the use of arbitrary indefinite administrative detention. Convicted criminals will serve their sentences and then face removal if they have no right to remain. If the crime is particularly serious and the prisoner presents a risk to public safety, it will be for a criminal parole board to carry out a risk assessment and decide when and if they can be released. In those extreme cases, we should surely expect the immigration service to have removal arrangements in place to coincide with the release date.
The proposal is not a seismic change, but it would save the country the more than £500 a week per person that is currently spent on detention. That is a significant saving, since 27,331 people entered detention in 2017 alone. In addition, I was surprised to discover, as I indicated to my right hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice and Howden, that over the past five years, £21 million has been paid out in damages for unlawful detention. That figure came from a recent Home Office question. That figure could be vastly reduced, if not eradicated, if a 28-day time limit were in place.
Of necessity, the amendments that have been selected apply only to EEA and Swiss nationals. Will my right hon. Friend join me in saying to Ministers that we would like the Government to adopt this proposal, but for everyone?
My hon. Friend makes an extremely reasonable point. I am sure that the Minister, who will have listened to the reasonable points that have been made on both sides of the House, but particularly on his own side, will take it on board.
The absence of a time limit does nothing to promote speed and efficiency in the administration of justice by the immigration service. I believe that the introduction of one would improve working practices, as well as creating a more humane system of immigration control.
There are eight people on the call list and we have just over half an hour. If everybody sticks to four minutes, even if they take an intervention, we will get everybody in. Help your colleagues, please.
I want primarily to address new clause 12, which appears in my name and the names of other hon. Members, but I will first make a couple of other points. I agree with the many Members on both sides of the House who have spoken in opposition to the hostile environment. To those who are, in a sense, celebrating the end of freedom of movement, I stress that it has worked both ways. It has also provided opportunities for UK citizens inside the European Union, which we are now walking away from.
I want to make a few detailed comments on new clause 33, of which I am a co-sponsor. The ending of freedom of movement in relation to Northern Ireland brings some potential distortions, above and beyond the challenges facing the UK economy and society overall. Northern Ireland exists in both a UK-wide and all-Ireland context. Under the Ireland/Northern Ireland protocol, we stay in the single market with respect to goods, but the four fundamental freedoms are interconnected. That includes the freedom of movement and the ability to engage services. The protocol makes reference to the wider context of north-south co-operation. That will create some degree of difficulty, particularly for EEA nationals who are engaged in enterprises that operate on both sides of the border in Ireland. We run the risk of seeing industries that depend heavily upon labour from elsewhere in Europe not being competitive any longer and moving out of Northern Ireland, southwards into the Republic of Ireland.
New clause 12 seeks to ensure the priority of rights, opportunity and treatment for Irish citizens within the United Kingdom. Historically, Irish citizens have relied on the common travel area, which is informed by a number of pieces of legislation, including the British Nationality Act 1948, the Ireland Act 1949 and the Immigration Act 1971. However, it is still largely essentially a convention between the UK and Ireland. In more recent times, common travel area rights have been overlaid by freedom of movement, due to the joint membership of the European Union by the UK and Ireland. We do not know exactly what will happen whenever that is stripped away.
I do not doubt the sincerity of the UK Government in relation to the common travel area. Indeed, this has been part of the Brexit negotiations, and there is a memorandum of understanding between the UK and Ireland. But we have seen some mixed signals around Irish citizens and the EU settlement scheme. We have been told that they do not need to apply but can apply, while Irish citizens from Northern Ireland should not be applying. It is a confusing picture, which at the very least suggests that there is something more tangible in terms of the EU settlement scheme than under the common travel area.
On the surface, clause 2 goes some way to give reassurance to Irish citizens and address some of the anomalies, but the explanatory notes are clear that this will only apply to immigration issues. The EU settlement scheme covers much more, including residence, family reunion, equality of treatment, rights of workers, rights of the self-employed, recognition of qualifications and voting. Only voting is currently explicit within UK law.
The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission has referred to the common travel area as being “written in sand”. There was no public consultation on the memorandum of understanding, so it has not been stress-tested. There may well be concerns whenever we look to the implementation of the citizenship clauses of the Good Friday agreement and how people who are solely Irish will be impacted down the line if that particular area is properly addressed in UK law. Ideally, I would like to see a UK-Ireland treaty to encapsulate the common travel area, but short of that, this new clause would go some way to giving that reassurance and ensuring that things are entirely future-proofed.
I was pleased to serve on the Bill Committee, which was my first in this place. It was a whole five days of my life that I will never get back, but it was very enjoyable and informative. I particularly enjoyed the submissions from the Migration Advisory Committee, the Federation of Small Businesses and No5 Chambers, a Birmingham law firm. It was good to see a Birmingham firm down here contributing to our national debate. I cannot say that I agreed with most of what it said, but it was good that it was contributing.
A number of Government Members, including my hon. Friends the Members for North East Bedfordshire (Richard Fuller) and for Winchester (Steve Brine), have mentioned the real genesis of the hostile environment. They named him, but he is actually a Member of this place—Liam Byrne, who was also the architect of austerity, because we all remember the little note he left behind as Chief Secretary to the Treasury. He still sits on the Labour Benches. Labour MP after Labour MP stand up and complain about the hostile environment and austerity, but sat among them is the architect of austerity and the hostile environment. That is the sort of double standards that I do not want to see representing the west midlands in the mayoral election next year.
The ending of free movement of labour is a key cornerstone of the manifesto that I stood on in December and something that I am keen to get into legislation as quickly as possible. People have been calling for this for many years and many a politician have ignored their wishes. Included in this points-based system are things such as having a job offer or a sponsor before coming here, or being able to speak English sufficiently well, or meeting tougher criminality checks. Those are the sorts of things that people have been calling for and I am pleased that I am supporting those measures in this Bill tonight.
On the issue of immigration detention, I say to my colleagues that I hear their concerns, but I am convinced that immigration detention is used as a last resort. It is an absolutely necessary tool to ensure that we keep people safe on the streets of our country.
As my hon. Friends the Members for Bishop Auckland (Dehenna Davison) and for Rother Valley (Alexander Stafford) mentioned, the list of people who would possibly have been released early had we put in place a 28-day limit would have made it hard for me to look any of my electors in the eye. I would not have been able to say that I had allowed those people on the streets early when I was out door-knocking. It is not as if those people are just banged up and forgotten about; they have rights. If they think their immigration detention is unfair, they can apply to a judge, and their case is often heard within a matter of days. Anyone wishing to leave immigration detention can do so at any time by simply leaving the country. I agree that, in general, the whole asylum and removal system needs to work much faster, but we also need to have a tough and robust system in place.
Many Opposition Members would have us believe that, if we did not have EU migration, the social care sector and the NHS would fall apart overnight, but as we heard in the evidence sessions from Brian Bell from the MAC, only 5% of the social care sector comes from EU migration. Catherine West said that she thought the Bill had been written before the covid crisis. I can tell her that, a couple of weeks ago, during the crisis, the latest claimant count from my constituency was 10.2%. Is she and many other Labour Members—
The largest employer in my constituency is the University of St Andrews. I visited there back in February as part of the Royal Society’s parliamentary pairing scheme. I enjoyed seeing the amazing work that is being undertaken by researchers from across the EU and beyond and supported by EU funding. Their status and the funding that supports their ground-breaking work are both at risk. As of May 2020, more than 9,000 EU nationals in Fife have applied for settled status, yet nearly 4,000 are either still waiting for a final decision or have only been granted pre-settled status. I am not convinced that the Home Office will be properly able to manage the settled status applications of my constituents and the 3 million other EU citizens living in this country. Providing no certainty is no way to treat them. A British Futures report estimates that the difficulties in navigating the application system and the lack of awareness of the process will result in 175,000 EU citizens living in the UK with an insecure immigration status or no status at all. We risk the denial of legal rights of jobs, homes and medical care to EU nationals who are entitled to them but cannot prove it, and that is not right. That is why I speak in favour of new clause 38, which would ensure that all EU citizens have settled status and require the Government to make available physical proof of that status.
A particular concern has been raised with me by constituents relating to comprehensive sickness insurance and I thank Fife4europe for its representations to me in this regard. CSI was not a requirement for settled status until Government policy appeared to change on
There has been little communication, zero justification and the cloud of uncertainty over EU citizens is growing. My constituents are concerned that the retrospective application of the CSI requirement could be used to prevent people from attaining settled status and prevent those who do have settled status from gaining citizenship. The fact that EU citizens in my constituency are worried about this indicates the total lack of trust and communication between the Government and these individuals, who have been left frustrated and concerned by intolerable delays. Therefore, I urge Members to support new clause 36 in the name of the hon. Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East, which would ensure that not having CSI could not be used to disqualify an EU citizen with settled status from citizenship
Finally, I would like briefly to address the role for workers in our agricultural sector. I welcome new clause 37, tabled by the Leader of the Opposition, which would require the Government to publish data on where skill shortages are in our economy. If we do not have the data, we will not be able properly to assess our agricultural needs. Farms in my constituency have access to the seasonal workers pilot scheme, but it is clear that we need a lot more people to be able to come here to work under the scheme. The figure of 10,000 was almost plucked from thin air. It was clearly never going to be sufficient.
Obviously there are challenges this year in relation to covid, but farmers are being told that they need almost to go back in time in how they harvest their crops, and that is simply not sustainable. I commend the local workers who are working on our farms—some during furlough—but we should note that fruit picking is no longer some part-time hobby occupation. These are operations with multiple complex supply chains that cannot operate on a hand-to-mouth basis while waiting to hear what crumbs the Government are going to provide to augment the workforce. I must also mention that many of the workers who come from abroad also train other people. The Government simply have to do more in this regard.
I was delighted to sit on the Bill Committee with my hon. Friends the Members for Bishop Auckland (Dehenna Davison) and for Birmingham, Northfield (Gary Sambrook), who have spoken in this debate. It is always interesting to get that extra Birmingham-west midlands angle, particularly in relation to the previous comments by Liam Byrne about the hostile environment.
As my hon. Friend Saqib Bhatti—another west midlands Member—said, this Bill paves the way for a new system that values people on what they can contribute to the UK, rather than where they are from. That is the fundamental underpinning of what we are doing today. I associate myself with the comments made by my hon. Friend James Sunderland, who said that those who have served our country deserve to be treated with dignity and respect for the contribution that they have made. I hope that the Government will continue to look at ways in which those who have served this country, either in the military or in other forms of public service, can be sped through the immigration system to make it easier for them. Overall, there is no doubt that immigration has made a massive contribution to the United Kingdom, whether that is through many of my constituents who came over decades ago from the Republic of Ireland, or the people who came to the other parts of the UK from the Commonwealth and across the world more widely.
Let me turn to the amendments. I share some of the concerns raised by my hon. Friends Tim Loughton and for North East Bedfordshire (Richard Fuller), and my right hon. Friend Mr Davis, who made some really strong arguments. However, I worked with the Minister in Committee and know that he is working hard to ensure that as many concerns as possible are addressed. I hope to hear more about that in his winding-up speech.
On new clause 7, it was good to hear Paul Blomfield mention that new options for detention are being looked at, including perhaps in a community setting. If such measures save money and deal with situations more efficiently, they are exactly the sort of things we need to be looking at.
I also share the concerns raised through new clause 12, as this is an issue that is particularly dangerous; we need to ensure protections for those from the Republic of Ireland who have been here for very many years, and with whom we have a different and historical relationship. We should not be splitting up that relationship through this legislation or treating those people as we would other people from across the world. The EU settlement scheme has been a great success. I urge the Government, as I do my constituents, to do everything possible to ensure that people who can settle here are settled here. It might be time for a big Government communications programme to the public on that point.
My hon. Friend Andrew Bowie said that the system will be better and fairer. I really do hope that that is the case. It is particularly important for my constituents—whether from Weardale, Consett, Crook or Willington—that they see the system that we promised at the election coming forwards: a system that values everybody equally. This Bill really honours that commitment. It honours not only the referendum but the result of the last general election, which delivered a majority for the Conservative party not seen for 30 years, and in which seats like mine finally woke up to the fact that the Labour party was not listening to them any more on issues like this.
The Bill will therefore have my support today, but I hope that the Minister will be able to address some of the issues raised by hon. Members from across the House.
I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in this important debate. Before I start, I would like to thank Members from across the House for their support for me, the victims of the tragedy in Forbury Gardens and indeed our whole local community. It has been a very difficult time for our town.
This debate addresses a series of important issues, which, as Members have said, affect the rights of European citizens living in Britain and many other vulnerable people. I support the concerns that have been expressed on a number of points and very much recognise the powerful speeches that have been made. I am aware of the limits on time, so I want to focus on new clause 2, on vulnerable children, and new clause 14, on scrapping the surcharge. I want to talk about the loss of rights that is, I am afraid, a defining characteristic of Brexit.
This is a very serious issue for people in my constituency living in Reading and the neighbouring town of Woodley. We have over 7,000 EU residents living in our constituency and I pay tribute to them. These are hard-working people who make a significant contribution to our community and indeed the whole country. They have made Reading and Woodley their home, and they should be supported and respected. That, for me, is the context of these two new clauses.
New clause 2 relates to the issues affecting vulnerable children. I am very aware of the problems with the settled status scheme. I have dealt with a number of issues facing EU residents in my area. For example, it is difficult for someone to go through the scheme if they have limited documentation. They might perhaps have an incomplete set of payslips because their employer does not provide them, they may have lost them, or there may be some other issue. They might have had to come in and out of the UK to visit or support relatives in the EU. They may be a long-standing resident, perhaps retired, who moved to this country after world war two and has made a contribution for many decades. All these categories of people are struggling to go through the settled status scheme.
Imagine the difficulties, then, faced by vulnerable children and their social workers, as described so effectively and eloquently by Tim Loughton. This is a really challenging issue for hard-pressed social workers. In my area, and indeed possibly in his constituency, social services are under severe pressure. We struggle with a lack of funding for them. We have high living costs locally. The last thing a hard-pressed social worker is going to able to do is to provide a great deal of extra documentation and support, however much they wish to do that. It is worth considering supporting this new clause, and I urge Members from across the House to do so.
The point about the surcharge has been well made, and I concur with my hon. Friend Holly Lynch. At this time, when so many of the workers in our health and social care services are from the European Union, surely we should be supporting them and doing absolutely everything to make them feel welcome in this country. Enshrining the Government’s words in law is very important at this point. Hundreds of people in my constituency work in the local hospital and have been on the frontline during the covid crisis. Some of them have actually stayed across the road from the hospital in temporary accommodation—effectively, in Portakabins—to maintain social distancing from their families. These are the sorts of people we should be showing support and respect for tonight. I therefore urge Members to support the new clause.
I support the contents of this Bill. It is straightforward and to the point: we are delivering on our promises in ending the free movement of people from the EU. The calls to end free movement of people were never about some skewed idea that the British people are inherently xenophobic. They were never, as some have attempted to brand them, part of a wider project to shut our island off from the rest of the world.
I have always been a strong believer in the need to open up our immigration system to the best talent from across the world, and not limit ourselves. This Bill is not designed to shut people out. The coronavirus pandemic has shown that we need to co-operate with our friends and partners across the world even more closely as we look towards our collective recovery. We are of course committed to controlling and reducing migration overall, but this must be done by extending the opportunities open to those from other countries outside the EU.
On new clauses 7 and 8, I hear the concerns of my colleagues across the House.
My hon. Friend is right about the balance between migration from outside the EU and from within it, but we need to cut immigration per se. It is not just a question of displacement. This is a question of cutting immigration, as we committed to do and as the British people want us to.
I agree with my right hon. Friend. Obviously, we want to reduce the numbers on immigration. We were not able to do that while we were members of the European Union, but overall, it limited the number of countries and the areas that people were able to come from and that is what we are putting right now.
On new clauses 7 and 8, I hear the concerns of colleagues across the House, but I am pleased to hear that the Home Office already looks to avoid detention altogether where this is possible through community engagement programmes, and that detention is only really made where there is a reasonable timescale for the removal of an individual. I agree that detaining an individual indefinitely is wrong and should not happen.
Our current dual immigration system is simply not fit for purpose and does not serve our interests as a country. That is exactly what the people of West Bromwich East tell me. From Friar Park to Great Barr, people have been saying the same thing—that the EU does not and did not work for us. It became a one-size-fits-all club, especially with regard to immigration, and we have had enough.
I have said in the House before that we Black Country folk are proud of our diverse communities and we value those foreign nationals, both from the EU and elsewhere in the world, who help to deliver a world-class health system. I am really pleased that the new points-based immigration system will not just allow, but actively welcome a range of health professionals to this country. Our NHS simply would not function without the dedicated army of foreign nationals who work in it. We can see this on display in every hospital across the country, including Sandwell General Hospital, which serves so many of my constituents so well. The Bill allows us to further protect our treasured health service, as we can go beyond the strict arrangement that we have been bound to while in the EU by adding more flexibility to the way that we recruit our doctors and nurses. So we should embrace this opportunity.
This short Bill is the natural precursor to the immigration framework that we want to operate under once the transition period ends. It is surely right that, in an open, tolerant meritocracy, such as the one we have in Britain, we should have an immigration system based on skills rather than nationality. I also welcome the Immigration Minister’s commitment to a “digital by default” system. I know from my own casework that this has been a difficulty for some people and I am pleased that we are looking to make these necessary changes.
A simpler, fairer immigration system is what the Bill will pave the way for. I think that it is a landmark moment, given the strength of feeling about immigration in our communities, and it proves that the Government are getting on and delivering on their promises. This is democracy working at its very best. We are stripping away the old and allowing ourselves to be bold and ambitious moving forward. I want the people of West Bromwich East to know that this is what we voted for and it is what we are delivering on. I commend the team at the Home Office for their work, and I commend the Bill in its current form.
Like many others, I have been inundated with briefings and questions regarding the Bill, and I understand the importance of us all getting things right today, if possible. We certainly must, at all costs, protect our social care sector.
I was very happy to add my name, along with my hon. Friend Gavin Robinson, to new clauses 3 to 10, in the name of Mr Davis. I hope that he presses these amendments to a Division and that the Government perhaps will accept them, even at this late stage. I feel strongly about the time limit on immigration detention. New clause 3 would hopefully change that to protect people by having a period of 28 days. The other proposals relating to bail hearings, the criteria and duration are also important, and it is so important that we get this right.
I have seen the existing pressure on the social care workforce in my constituency, and one thing is certain from their side: there is not the staff or structure to carry all that is required. The social care workforce will need to expand to deliver the Government’s laudable commitments. It is important to note that the number of staff needs not only to rise to reduce the over 120,000 vacancies that currently exist, but to increase considerably over a sustained period to meet the Prime Minister’s pledge to give every older person the dignity and security that they deserve. The current system leaves a large number of vulnerable people going without any help.
Research by the Nuffield Trust indicates that providing just one hour per day to older people with higher needs who currently get no help would require approximately 50,000 additional home care workers in England alone, never mind Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, and providing two hours per day would require 90,000 extra workers.
Although it can be argued that the economic impact of covid-19 will pull in more domestic workers, it is far from clear that that will create the permanent step change needed to deal with the loss of migration, fill the vacancies and grow the workforce all at once. In her new clause 29, Yvette Cooper has put forward a solution, and I hope that there is a cross-section of people in the House who will pursue that.
Analysis of the data by the Nuffield Trust shows that, from 2009-10 to 2018-19, almost half—46%—of the expansion in the social care workforce across the UK was accounted for by people born outside the United Kingdom. That is a case for why we need an immigration system that enables those people to come in and help our social care system. In regions with the greatest projected future need for social care, such as London, not only has the proportion of EU staff increased over time, but migrant staff now make up a large proportion of staff, with more than two in five care workers from abroad.
I remind the Minister very gently and respectfully that countries such as Australia and Canada have long employed points-based immigration systems and have introduced a range of special migration programmes out of necessity, including to help the long-term development of the domestic workforce. New Zealand has an agreement with the residential care sector under which it may offer more generous visa terms, such as longer stays, for a range of key jobs, including personal care assistants and care workers. In exchange, employers develop plans to boost the domestic workforce.
Having seen vulnerable people struggling to care for themselves, and yet knowing the difficulties of securing an adequate care package, I welcome this opportunity to speak on this matter. I hope that the Government listen to Members’ pleas in relation to the new clauses that have been tabled. They were tabled for the right reason—to do what is right today.
It is always a pleasure to follow Jim Shannon. It is a pleasure I have had on many occasions since joining the House. Overall, this has been a good debate on a wide range of issues relating to immigration. Members will appreciate that, in view of the time remaining, I will be unable to respond in detail to every new clause and amendment. However, I would like to address some of the more prominent issues that were raised during the debate.
I know that Members were restricted by the narrow scope of the Bill, but I would like to put on the record that most of the new clauses and amendments, if implemented, would lead to a discriminatory immigration system with differential treatment between EEA and non-EEA citizens, which cannot be justified and is not in line with the Government’s approach of having a single global migration system in the future. However, I accept that the reason for the wording of the amendments was to get them in scope.
I turn to the 31 Government amendments in relation to social security co-ordination, which is dealt with by clause 5. As social security co-ordination is transferred in respect of Northern Ireland and partially devolved to Scotland, clause 5, as currently drafted, confers powers on a Scottish Minister or a Northern Ireland Department to legislate in areas of devolved competence. As is required, we sought legislative consent from the Scottish Parliament and the Northern Ireland Assembly. Social security is reserved in Wales.
The relevant Northern Ireland Minister has indicated that a recommendation will be put to the Executive to bring forward a legislative consent motion in the Assembly; however, the Scottish Government confirmed on
Turning to one of the more substantive issues raised, Brendan O'Hara started the debate around new clause 1. I recognise that Members across the House care deeply about the health and social care sector. I am pleased to again place on the record the Government’s thanks and recognition of the fantastic job that those working in health and social care do for the whole of our United Kingdom.
That is why we will introduce a health and care visa, details of which will shortly be confirmed, which will provide eligible health and social care workers with fast-track entry and reduced visa fees. To confirm, the salary thresholds under that system for doctors, nurses and a range of allied health professionals will be based on the relevant national pay scales. More widely, senior care workers will also qualify under our points-based system. We will also look into exempting eligible workers in health and social care from having to pay the immigration health surcharge, as announced by the Prime Minister.
It is, though, important that the social care sector moves away from a reliance on the UK’s immigration system to focusing on investing in and attracting UK-based workers to take up roles within it. That is particularly important, considering the impact that covid-19 has had on many individuals. We must be realistic: there will be people who will be unable to return to their previous jobs.
On new clause 1, I emphasise that the Migration Advisory Committee can produce regular reports now. In the past, it has only acted on commissions from the Government. In the future, it will produce a welcome annual report on how the migration system is operating and will also have the opportunity to look at areas of its own choosing, as I explained in Committee. Therefore, I would gently suggest that setting out in legislation reviews that it should or should not do, or asking the Government to do a review when actually it would make more sense to ask the MAC, jars with its idea of being independent. I hope Members will take that in the constructive spirit in which it is meant as to how in future there will be the ability to lobby the MAC to independently decide to undertake reviews, rather than rely on the Government instructing it.
Probably the strongest and most passionate speeches we have heard relate to detention time limits. I share many of the views that have been expressed, but first I want to set out how the Home Office uses detention. First, our immigration system must encourage compliance with immigration rules and protect the public. Individuals who have no right to be in the UK have every opportunity to leave voluntarily, but we must be able to enforce their removal practically if they refuse to do so. Prior to the covid-19 pandemic, we were removing over 9,000 individuals per year from the immigration detention estate, plus a further 1,350 foreign national offenders directly from prison. While detention is an essential part of effective immigration control, we must ensure that our detention system is firm, fair and humane and is only used where other options cannot be. As such, we are currently progressing ambitious reforms to our immigration detention system, in line with several strategic priorities.
First, we are committed to keeping the use of immigration detention to a minimum and to ensuring that all decisions to detain are well made, with adequate safeguards and support in place. Secondly, we are committed to ensuring that anyone who is detained is treated with dignity and housed in accommodation that is fit for purpose. Finally, we are ensuring greater transparency around our detention decisions. We have made, and are continuing to make, significant changes to our immigration detention system, including strengthening our safeguards and exploring alternative detention for those where it would be appropriate. As has been touched on, it is subject to independent scrutiny by a number of bodies. I ask Members present, particularly Members on the Government Benches, to reflect on the fact that the immigration detention estate is now almost 40% smaller than it was in 2015 and is of a better quality, and that in the year ending December 2019, 8,000 fewer individuals entered detention than in 2015. Those who are detained are also spending less time in detention: in the year ending December 2019, 74% of individuals were detained for 29 days and just 2% were in detention for over six months. So, Mr Deputy Speaker, you can see the progress that we have made.
It is often argued, and has been argued today, that the UK is out of line with other countries in not having a time limit. A number of countries—Canada and Australia, to name two directly comparable jurisdictions—have no time limit in place, and very few European countries have very short time limits, and certainly none have time limits as short as those proposed in the new clauses.
In his 2018 report, Stephen Shaw said that he had yet to see a coherent account of how exactly a proposal for a 28-day time limit had been arrived at—a view with which the Government agreed. However, we recognise that we need to fix parts of the system, which have been highlighted by my right hon. Friend Mr Davis and my hon. Friend Mr Baker. In general, the whole asylum and removal system needs to work much faster and more cleanly, plus more fairly. The legal process can often take a number of years, with repeated appeals and claims being made—some of which are completely contradictory to previous claims by the same person. The Home Office is developing legislative measures to reform the operation of the law in this area. Where serious criminals are nationals of other countries, they need to be removed rapidly from the UK—ideally, straight from prison. This will further reduce the need for longer periods of detention for the public good. Where people have valid asylum claims, we want to be able to handle them with humanity and compassion, which also means speeding up decision making.
I wish I could give the full details and perhaps have a useful exchange, but with about eight minutes left, I am unable to do so. However, I do look forward to working with the hon. and right hon. Members who have spoken this afternoon—they have made their points with the determination I would expect from those committed to this cause—about how we can take forward the proposals to create what I think we all wish to see, which is a system that would be of benefit.
I have been listening to the Minister very carefully, and I repeat my earlier praise: he has a tough job to do. I do recognise that this Bill relates to the withdrawal agreement, and I can tell him that I will abstain on the amendments I have signed, and I shall vote with the Government on the rest of them.
I very much welcome my hon. Friend’s comments. Certainly, the Government look forward to working with him and my right hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice and Howden, because this is an area where we want to see better outcomes for everyone—a better outcome for those who end up in the immigration system, and a better outcome for the taxpayer and the public as well.
Moving on to new clause 2, I welcome the opportunity to speak about the important issue of how we best protect the rights of vulnerable children in care and care leavers. Since the full launch of the EU settlement scheme in March last year, we have had agreements and plans in place with local authorities to ensure that relevant children and care leavers receive the support they need in securing their UK immigration status under the scheme. Local authorities and, in Northern Ireland, health and social care trusts are responsible for making an application under the EU settlement scheme on behalf of an eligible looked-after child for whom they have parental responsibility by way of a court order. Their responsibility in other cases to signpost the scheme and support applications has also been agreed.
The Home Office has implemented a range of support services to ensure local authorities and health and social care trusts can access help and advice when they need it. This has involved engaging extensively with relevant stakeholders such as the Department for Education, the Local Government Association, the Ministry of Justice, the Association of Directors of Children’s Services and equivalents in the devolved Administrations. Guidance has been issued to local authorities regarding their role and their responsibilities for making or supporting applications under the scheme.
The Home Office will be conducting a further survey of local authorities across the UK shortly, as part of the support we are offering to them with this important work. This survey will ask local authorities to provide the assurance that they have so far identified all relevant cases. We will share relevant data from the survey with the EU settlement scheme vulnerability user group, comprising experts from the local authority and voluntary sectors, to help it to discuss progress in this important area and to focus our efforts in supporting local authorities with this work.
To be clear, new clause 2 does not facilitate applications to the EU settlement scheme but proposes a declaratory system under which those covered automatically acquire UK immigration status. This would cause confusion and potential difficulties for these vulnerable young people in future years, with their having no evidence of their lawful status here. They will need evidence of their status when they come to seek employment or access the benefits and services that they are actually entitled to access. This is not something we can allow to happen. However, to reassure hon. Members, the withdrawal agreements oblige us to accept late applications indefinitely where there are reasonable grounds for missing the deadline. This and other rights under the agreements now have direct effect in UK law via the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020, so this commitment is already effectively enshrined in primary legislation.
We have therefore repeatedly made it clear that where a person eligible for status under this scheme has reasonable grounds for missing the deadline, they will be given a further opportunity to apply—to give a specific example, where a parent, guardian or local authority does not apply on behalf of a child. This will ensure that individuals who missed the deadline through no fault of their own can still obtain lawful status in the United Kingdom. I am happy to underline this commitment at the Dispatch Box where children in care and care leavers are concerned, and this is not just for a five-year period, as suggested in this new clause.
Some Members have spoken about the Government’s “no recourse to public funds” policy during the covid-19 pandemic, and there are some new clauses relating to this. Let us make it clear that a range of safeguards are in place to ensure that vulnerable migrants who are destitute or at imminent risk of destitution and have community care needs, including issues relating to human rights or the wellbeing of children, can receive support.
We recognise and are immensely grateful for the contributions made by so many migrants, especially during the recent pandemic. We have provided more than £3.2 billion of additional funding in England and further funding in the devolved Administrations to support local authorities to deliver their services, including helping the most vulnerable. We have also made it more straightforward for those here on the basis of family life or human rights to apply to have the “no recourse to public funds” condition lifted, with change of condition decisions being prioritised and dealt with compassionately.
It is worth noting that those with no recourse to public funds have also been able to benefit from the coronavirus job retention scheme, the self-employed income support scheme and other measures introduced by the Government, such as protections for renters and mortgage holidays.
I will not be able to; I just do not have the time.
Moving to new clause 29, I have listened carefully, and I assure all Members that the Government are committed to the principle of family reunion and supporting vulnerable children, as set out in a letter I sent to all Members of Parliament this morning. We recognise that families can become separated because of the nature of conflict and persecution and the speed and manner in which people are often forced to flee their country. However, new clause 29 does not recognise the current routes available for reuniting families or the negotiations we are pursuing with the EU on new reciprocal arrangements for the family reunion of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in either the UK or the EU, as set out in the draft legal text.
I am afraid I do not have the time. A negotiated agreement for a state-to-state referral and transfer system would provide clear and consistent processes between the UK and EU member states, ensuring appropriate support for the child and guaranteeing reciprocity. The new clause seeks guarantees that cannot be provided for in UK domestic provisions alone.
The current immigration rules also include routes for family members wishing to enter or remain in the UK on the basis of their relationship with a family member who is a British citizen or settled in the UK, as well as those who are post-flight family of a person granted protection in the UK. Those routes will remain in place at the end of the transition period.
The new clauses on the devolution of migration policy are another unsurprising attempt by the Scottish nationalists to fulfil their ambition of setting up a passport control point at Gretna to fulfil an agenda of separation. We are delivering an immigration system that takes into account the needs of the whole of the United Kingdom and that works for the whole of the United Kingdom, and we will not put an economic migration border through our country. As Members who have spoken pointed out, serious discussion needs to be had about how Scotland can attract more people to live there, work there and be a vital part of the community, and many of those issues are absolutely in the hands of the Scottish Government to address.
Finally and very briefly, we had reference to comprehensive sickness insurance. To be clear, the rules have not changed in terms of the EEA regulations. The insurance would not block someone getting through the EU settlement scheme and we would be happy to hear any such examples. With that, I have explained why the Government does not accept the new clauses.
Very briefly, I thank all Members who have contributed to the debate. I thank Robert McGeachy of Camphill Scotland on a personal level for all the help he has given me, and I thank the Minister for replying to the debate, although I am very disappointed he has refused to accept new clause 1. It is beyond me why a Government would refuse an opportunity to say to the health and social care sector and its users that they understand the concerns, they have a plan, they know what they are doing and they would welcome transparency.
New clause 1 gives the Government the opportunity to make up for not having done a proper impact assessment and not having put in place any mechanism whatever for this House and other Parliaments across these islands to be able to assess and measure the effectiveness or otherwise of the Bill. For that reason, I will test the will of the House this evening and press new clause 1 to a Division.
Before I put the Question, I have to remind Members who are proxy voting that they need to email the Public Bill Office after each Division and that they need to specify which Division they are voting in each time. I also remind Members that I will lock the doors after 15 minutes for this Division and, if possible—if Members move fairly quickly—after 12 minutes for any subsequent successive Division.
Debate interrupted (Programme Order,
The Deputy Speaker then put forthwith the Questions necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded at that time (