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.