EU Settlement Scheme - Statement

– in the House of Lords at 1:45 pm on 21st June 2018.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department, Minister for Equalities (Department for International Development) 1:45 pm, 21st June 2018

My Lords, with the leave of the House, I will repeat a Statement made by my right honourable friend the Immigration Minister in another place. The Statement is as follows:

“Mr Speaker, with permission, I should like to make a Statement about the new settlement scheme for resident EU citizens and their family members.

Securing the rights of citizens has been our priority in negotiations with the European Union. We have delivered on this commitment and reached an agreement with the EU which was published in March as a draft legal text. This guarantees the rights of EU citizens living in the UK and of UK nationals living in the EU. Under this agreement, EU citizens living in the UK, along with their family members, will be able to stay and continue their lives here, with the same access to work, study, benefits and public services that they enjoy now. Close family members living overseas will be able to join them here in future.

EU citizens make a huge contribution to our economy and to our society. They are our friends, family and colleagues, and we want them to stay. I am therefore delighted to be publishing today further details about the EU settlement scheme. This will provide the basis for EU citizens resident here and their family members to obtain their new UK immigration status, consistent with the draft withdrawal agreement.

I will place in the House Library a statement of intent setting out in detail how the scheme will work, and how simple and straightforward it will be. The document includes a draft of the Immigration Rules for the scheme. We will engage with our stakeholders on the details set out in the statement of intent. These include the user groups we have established to help us develop the scheme, involving EU citizens’ representatives, embassies, employers and others. We look forward to hearing their views and will make improvements where we can.

It will be straightforward for EU citizens residing in the UK to obtain status. If they have lived here continuously for five years, they will be eligible for settled status. Those who have lived here for less than five years will generally be granted pre-settled status and will be able to apply for settled status once they reach the five-year point. Applicants will not need to show that they meet other detailed requirements of current free movement rules. This means, for example, that stay-at-home parents, retired people and students can all be eligible.

Irish citizens enjoy a right of residence in the UK that is not reliant on our membership of the EU. The Government are committed to protecting these rights and are working closely with Ireland to maintain these bilateral arrangements for our respective citizens. Irish citizens will not need to apply for status under the scheme but may elect to do so if they wish. Their family members who are not Irish or British citizens will be able to obtain status under the scheme without the Irish citizen doing so.

Negotiations on similar agreements on citizens’ rights with the non-EU European Economic Area states—Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway—and Switzerland are progressing well. While the details of those agreements are being finalised, the statement of intent confirms that we intend that the settlement scheme will be open to other EEA citizens and Swiss citizens—and their family members—on a similar basis as for EU citizens.

The scheme set out in the statement of intent will deliver on our commitments to a straightforward process. We are designing the online application form so that it is short, simple and user-friendly. It will be accessible by computer, tablet or smartphone. There will be assistance available for those who need it to complete the online application process. The views of the user groups on the support which may be needed by vulnerable groups will help to ensure that we make the right additional provision for them, through the involvement of community groups and others.

There will be three core criteria that people will need to meet to be granted status under the EU settlement scheme: proving their identity, showing that they are resident in the UK and declaring whether they have any criminal convictions. First, applicants will need to prove their identity and nationality. For those who wish to complete the application entirely online, there will be an app that will allow EU citizens to confirm the relevant details remotely, either using their own mobile phone or tablet or at a location established for them to use the app or to be helped to do so. Alternatively, they can send us their identity document by post and a dedicated team will check this and return it to them as soon as possible.

Secondly, we will establish that the applicant is resident in the UK and, where appropriate, their family relationship to an eligible EU citizen. Where possible the application process will help the applicant to establish their continuous residence here, and whether it amounts to the five years generally required for settled status, on an automated basis using employment and benefit records. This will keep any documentary evidence the applicant is required to provide to a minimum. We recognise that some applicants may lack such evidence in their own name for various reasons and we will work flexibly with applicants to help them evidence their continuous residence in the UK by the best means available to them.

Thirdly, we will check that the applicant is not a serious or persistent criminal and does not pose a security threat. It is right that we do what is needed to protect everyone who lives in the UK but we are not concerned here with minor offences and these provisions will not affect the overwhelming majority of EU citizens and their family members.

Throughout the process we will be looking to grant—not for reasons to refuse—and caseworkers will be able to exercise discretion in favour of the applicant, where appropriate, to minimise administrative burdens. A range of user-friendly guidance and support, including a customer contact centre, will be in place to help applicants through the process.

Subject to parliamentary consideration of changes to the fees regulations, applications will cost £65, with a reduced fee of £32.50 for children under 16. There will be no fee for children in care. The process will be particularly straightforward for those who already hold a valid permanent residence or indefinite leave to remain document, which they will be able to swap for settled status free of charge. Those granted pre-settled status will be able to apply for settled status without paying a further fee. EU citizens and their family members do not need to do anything immediately; there will be no change to their current rights until the end of the post-exit implementation period on 31 December 2020. The deadline for applications under the scheme for those resident here by the end of 2020 will be 30 June 2021.

We plan to start opening the settlement scheme later this year. I do not underestimate the scale of the challenge in successfully processing what may exceed 3.5 million applications but the Home Office already issues around 7 million passports and 3 million visas each year, so processing applications on the scale required is not new to us. As is now standard for the launch of new services in government, there will be a private beta phase from the summer to enable us to test the system and processes, followed by a phased rollout from late 2018 so we can test them at scale and ensure that they work effectively. The scheme will be open fully by 30 March 2019.

The statement of intent I have published today marks an important point in our preparations for the EU Settlement Scheme, which will enable EU citizens and their family members to continue living here in much the same way as they do now. We have engaged with EU citizens at every stage of the development process and will continue to do so. We will also continue to expand our communications to ensure that EU citizens are aware of the scheme and how it will operate and that they are reassured that they will have plenty of time in which to apply for their new UK immigration status. The EU Settlement Scheme will provide a straightforward way of enabling those who have made their lives in the UK to stay here. We want them to do so. I commend this Statement to the House”.

Photo of Lord Rosser Lord Rosser Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (Transport) 1:54 pm, 21st June 2018

I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement, which has just been made and may still be being debated in the Commons. We, too, value the contribution of EU citizens and their rights need to be protected after Brexit.

The Government, as the Statement indicates, intend to introduce a new settlement scheme for EU citizens resident in this country. The uncertainty felt by EU citizens over their position in the country in the light of Brexit has had serious consequences. These have been reflected in a number of ways, including concerns over staffing shortages in key areas of the economy as the enthusiasm of EU citizens for being in this country has diminished. Providing clarity on their future position and rights is in our national interest, as has become all too obvious. Whether the Government’s actions and proposals will achieve the desired result is another matter. The absence of the promised immigration White Paper and Bill has done nothing to ease the damaging uncertainty that the Government have allowed to fester.

What is the Government’s estimate of the expected take-up rate by EU citizens of the registration scheme? What will be the consequences for EU nationals who do not register? Will EU citizens in this country post Brexit be allowed to travel and stay in other countries, including their country of origin, and retain their rights on their return? What additional resources, and at what cost, will be required to administer the scheme? What right of appeal will there be for those who believe they have been wrongly denied registration under the criteria against which registration will be determined? What publicity, and through what means, will the Government be providing for the procedures announced today?

According to today’s papers, the Government have expressed concern about the lack of detailed reciprocal plans from other EU countries and the Home Secretary has been quoted as saying it is “not good enough”. If the newspaper reports are correct, I am not quite as sure as the Government are that that is the kind of comment that will create an atmosphere of understanding and willingness to compromise in any forthcoming negotiations with the EU. Clarity of their objectives over Brexit has not exactly been a hallmark of this Government.

The Government must have a clear view about what they would regard as acceptable from the EU and other EU countries in response to the intentions and details set out in today’s further Statement. Can the Minister spell out what the Government would regard as an acceptable response from the EU and EU countries in respect of British citizens living in Europe post Brexit? Can the Minister say whether the Government have had any indication of whether the arrangements set out in today’s Statement will prove acceptable to the EU and EU member states?

Turning to some of the paragraphs in the Statement, towards the end of the first page it says:

“Irish citizens will not need to apply for status under the scheme but may elect to do if they wish”.

Can the Minister clarify what benefit, if any, there would be for Irish citizens in electing to apply for status under the scheme?

On the second page, the Statement says:

“Subject to parliamentary consideration of changes to the fees regulations, applications will cost £65, with a reduced fee of £32.50 for children under 16”.

How did the Government arrive at the figure for the proposed charge?

On the third page of the Statement, it is acknowledged that processing applications will prove a challenge but it says that,

“the Home Office already issues around 7 million passports and 3 million visas each year and so processing applications on the scale required is not new to us”.

Some might think that a trifle complacent, particularly those who recall what has happened over Windrush and those who recall the percentage of successful appeals against Home Office decisions. According to the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, the Home Office has a 10% error rate in immigration status checks. The Statement may also yet prove a little complacent in the light of the track record of the Home Office in managing to lose documents. I am sure a very close eye will be kept on the efficiency or otherwise with which the Home Office manages this scheme. Others—I think the Home Affairs Select Committee might be one—have identified weaknesses in recruitment, retention, training, decision-making and management, which would seem to cover most aspects of the department’s work.

The Statement says that there will be a dedicated customer contact centre to help people through the process. Who will that be staffed by? Will the Home Office be sufficiently dedicated to make sure that it is staffed by its own staff, or will it be staffed by an outsourced organisation?

The immigration exemption in the Data Protection Act denies people the right to access their data when they need it most. Will this exemption apply to EU citizens? Will employers, landlords and banks be required to check the documents of EU citizens in the same way as they have been required to check the immigration status of non-EU citizens?

In conclusion, if we leave the EU without a deal, what will happen to EU citizens? Will this agreement and their rights be protected? Finally, on the criminal check, which is one of the criteria against which registration will be assessed, what exactly will the threshold be, and how far back will offences be considered relevant?

I appreciate that I have asked a number of questions and I say to the Minister now that I will be more than happy to accept a written response if that is required.

Photo of Lord Paddick Lord Paddick Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

My Lords, I, too, thank the Minister for repeating the Statement. We welcome it if we take it at face value, but the noble Baroness will understand that we need to probe.

The Statement gives the impression that the Home Office will be bending over backwards to help UK-resident EU citizens to apply for and be granted settled status or pre-settled status. This appears to be completely at odds with the Home Office’s attitude towards the Windrush generation. Can EU citizens have confidence in this Statement in the light of the Windrush fiasco?

The Statement says that persistent offenders or those who pose a security threat will not be eligible. I appreciate that the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, has already asked what the threshold might be in respect of which criminals will be excluded, allowed in or allowed to remain, and she may be ready to answer that. In the other place, the Minister said that UK criminal record databases and watch-lists would be searched and that applicants would be asked about overseas convictions. Currently, ECRIS can be searched by the UK, but access to ECRIS looks as though it is in jeopardy. How confident is the Home Office that its systems will be robust enough to identity those with serious overseas convictions?

The Statement says that close family members living abroad will be able to join EU citizens resident in the UK. Can the Minister confirm how close a relative would have to be in order to be able to join an EU citizen who is resident here?

The Statement also says that negotiations are under way with non-EU EEA countries with a view to extending the scheme to their citizens. I think it mentions EEA countries and Switzerland. I should declare an interest in that I am married to a Norwegian and own property in Oslo. Can the Minister say any more on what progress is being made with regard to EEA countries and Switzerland?

Penultimately, will these arrangements be dependent on reciprocal arrangements being put in place for UK citizens resident in the EU and EEA countries, or will they be in place no matter what the response from those countries is?

This is a detailed and complex proposal, as the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, has indicated by the number of questions he has asked. Will the Minister agree to a debate to allow proper consideration of all the issues that we have raised today?

Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department, Minister for Equalities (Department for International Development)

I thank both noble Lords for their very detailed questions, which I was furiously trying to write down and answer as they asked them.

The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, spoke about uncertainty for EU citizens. What my right honourable friend announced today will, I hope, provide further clarity and therefore less uncertainty for EU citizens, and that is precisely what we want. I hope that EU citizens will feel that there is a clear and transparent process which makes it as easy as possible for them to obtain settled status. He asked about the White Paper. We are expecting to issue it in due course. He also asked about the estimated take-up of the scheme from EU citizens. I think that it would be sensible and logical to say that the expected take-up should relate quite closely to the number of EU citizens who are currently in the UK. We think that about 3.5 million will generally apply.

The noble Lord also asked about reciprocal arrangements. As I think noble Lords will recall, when we first started bringing forward these plans, noble Lords and Members of the other place were very keen that we should start the ball rolling in good faith, and I hope that in good faith the EU will act similarly for our citizens. He asked whether what we are doing is acceptable from an EU point of view. I can certainly say that, from the point of view of an EU citizen living in the UK, it is very acceptable. As to whether the arrangements will be acceptable to the EU, I should hope so, because we are giving their citizens the settled status that is required to live here.

I have completely mixed up all the questions, but I shall go through them as I come to them. The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, asked whether our plans will change in a no-deal scenario. It is fair to say that the Prime Minister has been very clear from the beginning of this process that she wants EU citizens and their families in the UK to be able to stay. She gave a personal commitment to EU citizens in October, when she said:

“I couldn’t be clearer: EU citizens living lawfully in the UK today will be able to stay”.

We are not anticipating failure and, as the Prime Minister set out in her Florence speech, we are confident that we can find a way forward that makes a success of this for all our people. We have a responsibility to make this change work smoothly and sensibly. We have reached an agreement with the EU guaranteeing the rights of EU citizens living in the UK and of UK nationals living in the EU, and we do not expect this to be reopened.

The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, asked about the criteria for status and who is eligible for the scheme. Any EU citizen and their family members residing in the UK before the end of the implementation period on 31 December 2020 will be able to apply for settled status under the EU settlement scheme. People considered to be resident in the UK will include those here before midnight on 31 December 2020 and will include those previously resident in the UK who are outside the UK on that date but who have maintained continuity of residence here.

A close family member, which includes a spouse, civil partner, durable partner, dependent child or grandchild, and dependent parent or grandparent living overseas, will be able to join an EU citizen resident here after the end of the implementation period where the relationship existed on 31 December 2020 and continues to exist when the person wishes to come to the UK. Children born or adopted after December 2020 will also be eligible for the scheme.

The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, asked how the Government came to the figures of £65 and £32.50. The current fee for a permanent residence document for EU citizens is £65, and we think that the lower fee for a child is appropriate at half the price. I must add that, for a child in care, there is no fee.

The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, asked whether this would be a repeat of Windrush. I hope that this is the complete opposite of Windrush. People will be able to establish their status, as opposed to what happened with the Windrush generation, where, over time, some people became less and less able to establish their status, even though that status was implied when they came to this country. That is why it is crucial that EU citizens apply under the scheme, so that they will be able to evidence their status in the future.

Both noble Lords asked me about criminal records checks. All applicants aged 10 and over will be checked against the UK’s national police database and watch-list, as the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, said. Applicants aged 18 or over will also be asked about their criminal history in the UK and overseas. The assessment of suitability will be conducted on a case-by-case basis and will take account of the applicant’s conduct in the UK and overseas, including whether they have any prior criminal convictions.

Cases will be refused where the applicant has committed criminality prior to the end of the implementation period that meets the EU public policy test. Any criminality committed after the implementation period will be considered in accordance with UK deportation rules. This means that an EU citizen who, in relation to an offence committed after the end of the implementation period, is convicted and receives a custodial sentence of 12 months or more will be considered for deportation.

The other point raised was about people who had committed crimes decades ago being refused. As I have said, conduct before the end of the implementation period will be considered against UK deportation thresholds. We think this is a sensible approach and one that will not affect the overwhelming majority of EU citizens and their family members.

The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, asked about the consequences of not applying. It is important to take a pragmatic approach in respect of people whose individual circumstances have prevented them applying, an example of which might be a mental or physical health condition. Over the coming weeks, we will be discussing with stakeholders what assistance we can give to people who might require it.

The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, also made a point about Irish citizens. As I said, they do not need to apply for settled status to protect their status and rights in the UK. However, the arrangements for existing close family members to join EU citizens resident in the UK are provided for by the withdrawal agreement and not by the UK-Ireland bilateral arrangements linked to the common travel area. Irish citizens might want to consider applying for settled status now to support future applications by family members. A successful application by an Irish citizen to the settlement scheme will make this process smoother for any family member applying in the future. However, the system will not prevent applications being made after the end of the implementation period by close family members seeking to join Irish citizens protected by the withdrawal agreement who do not have settled status.

The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, asked which family members are affected, given his own situation, which others might find themselves in. I think I answered that question earlier, so I hope that will suffice.

The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, asked who will staff the contact centre. Further details of this will be confirmed, and we will be discussing with stakeholders what the right service is and who will provide it.

Finally, the issue of landlord checks was raised. Landlord checks and the right to rent are not specific to EU or non-EU citizens; it is a requirement for all landlords to carry out such checks. Therefore, it does not matter where in the world you are from, as long as you have the right to live here.

I hope I have answered all the questions. If I have not—and there were quite a few—I will write to the noble Lords.

Photo of Lord Kirkhope of Harrogate Lord Kirkhope of Harrogate Conservative 2:15 pm, 21st June 2018

My Lords, I was trying to ask a question of my noble friend when she answered the initial questions. As someone who has had some experience as a Minister of schemes of one kind or another where the Home Office has been involved with developing ID arrangements or helping people with passport applications and so on, I welcome the fact that something is being put in place here, but I urge her to look carefully at the logistics. Is she satisfied that enough resource is being made available for this extra duty? One of the proposals is that applicants can send their passports or ID documents to the Home Office, but I am sure she is aware that, when we are dealing with EU citizens, they tend to be much more mobile on a more regular and frequent basis, going backwards and forwards from here to Europe. Can she be sure that we will make certain that we have a better level of efficiency than, sadly, we have had in the past in turning round documents quickly and in dealing with the matter as speedily and with as little complication as possible?

Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department, Minister for Equalities (Department for International Development)

My noble friend will have heard in the Statement that we will start to roll out the process in the summer and towards the end of the year. I would not call it a trial run, but the “private beta” phase—which I had never heard of before—is apparently a dry run, using real people who will get real documents. That is a good way to test how the system is working.

I also mentioned earlier the delivery of the settlement scheme and the Treasury’s allocation of £170 million for the further development and delivery of the settlement scheme. As my noble friend alluded to, we do not underestimate the scale of the challenge and we want to get it right. Every year, we process millions of visa and passport applications, but that does not undermine our wish to get it right. Our passport service has a good customer service record and I can tell my noble friend that, over the past year, the average turnaround time for passport applications was approximately seven days. I might add that the Institute of Customer Service ranks HMPO in the top 50 high-scoring organisations across the public and private sector.

Photo of Lord Clark of Windermere Lord Clark of Windermere Labour

My Lords, the Minister knows that we have discussed this matter across the Floor on a number of occasions, and I am very grateful for her lucidity today. I have been arguing that, for those European Union citizens who have been successfully granted permanent right of residency, the right should be continued. As I understand it, that is what the Minister, in a rather roundabout way, has announced today. But, in view of the pressure in the Home Office, what is the logic of requiring European Union citizens who have acquired the right of permanent residency in this country to reapply—adding to the burden—for settlement? Why do we not simply grant that without them having to go through the process, as it has already been cleared by the Home Office?

I come to my last point. As the Minister knows, my main driver in this has been the National Health Service. If I am right in saying that most of those who have five years’ residency can stay in this country, will the Minister write to National Health Service trusts to point that out and to ask them to communicate it to all European Union residents who are working in the health service and are still very confused about their status?

Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department, Minister for Equalities (Department for International Development)

I thank the noble Lord for making that point. Permanent residency status was afforded to EU citizens when we were—as we still are—in the European Union. That will change, but their settled status will not change once we leave the EU. They will move from the status we had when we were in the EU to one that we will have when we are outside the EU—settled status—and they will not be charged for it. I know that it is not ideal and that they should automatically have it. However, that is the reason for the change.

Photo of Baroness Hamwee Baroness Hamwee Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Immigration)

My Lords, the Minister talked about working with stakeholders, and I believe that the Immigration Minister’s recent meeting with the organisation the3million was, according to its website, very successful. I think we should be grateful to the3million for its forensic analysis of the position. For instance, one of its 150 detailed questions is how a stay-at-home parent—one of the examples used in the Statement—can prove his or her residence. When will the Home Office be able to give answers to all those questions, as I understand it has agreed to do? Secondly, I believe that the withdrawal agreement states that the process is to be monitored by an independent authority. Can the Minister give the House details of that? Finally, on the point about British citizens in Europe, I wonder whether she is aware that the organisation British in Europe suggests on its website today that the Home Secretary is asking the wrong questions, because the current registration systems across the EU 27 are “largely working well”, and it is only France, along with the UK, that does not require a form of registration, so our Government should be asking what is planned to tweak existing systems. British in Europe also points out that the real issue for its members is free movement, which is a huge issue for British people on the continent, as 80% of Brits in the EU 27 are of working age or younger and rely on free movement for work and to keep their family together.

Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department, Minister for Equalities (Department for International Development)

I thank the noble Baroness for her questions. I think I addressed in the Statement the very example she gave of stay-at-home parents. As the Statement says, applicants will not need to show that they meet the detailed requirements of free movement rules, which I think was the point that the noble Baroness was making. So if you are a stay-at-home mum—to pick a stereotype—or somebody who is retired, will you have to prove free movement rights? No, you will not. That is the simple answer to that. Regarding the independent authority, I do not think it has been announced yet, although I will confirm that in writing to the noble Baroness. I am pretty sure that it has not been announced, but it will be in due course.

Photo of The Earl of Sandwich The Earl of Sandwich Crossbench

My Lords, I apologise for arriving late for the Statement, so I may have missed something. I know that the Statement is about EU citizens here, but can the Minister say whether she will make a similar Statement on UK citizens in Europe? Given that in our many debates the principle of reciprocity has applied, will this arrangement also be reciprocal? This issue has always been treated rather separately from the other Brexit issues. The Government declared their hand very early, so there must have been a lot of reaction in Europe, even if it has not been a consistent EU reaction.

Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department, Minister for Equalities (Department for International Development)

UK citizens in Europe will, of course, be a matter for Europe. We did declare our hand very early; we had a lot of pressure in Parliament and the country to do so, and to do so in good faith, and that is what we did.

Photo of Lord Judd Lord Judd Labour

My Lords, while this Statement will obviously need a great deal of scrutiny, I certainly join with those who have welcomed it most genuinely. Together with other things that are happening, it seems to indicate that there is a long overdue and welcome change of direction in the atmosphere at the Home Office and in the role that it is trying to fulfil. That is to be encouraged. I like these words in the Statement:

“Throughout the process, we will be looking to grant, not for reasons to refuse, and caseworkers will be able to exercise discretion in favour of the applicant where appropriate, to minimise administrative burdens”.

That is the right kind of language.

As I say, we will need to look at the detail. In the meantime, will the noble Baroness agree that the Government have yet to legislate for settled status in domestic law? What legal guarantees will those who have registered for this status prior to agreement of the withdrawal agreement be given under UK law? Can she guarantee that the agreement on citizens’ rights that has been reached with the EU will be honoured even if the UK is unable to reach an acceptable deal with the EU 27 under Article 50?

Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department, Minister for Equalities (Department for International Development)

I thank the noble Lord. On the legal status, when an applicant applies for settled status they will receive a digital token and a letter that says that they have obtained settled status in this country. I think that the noble Lord is asking what will future-proof that status. Is that the point he is making? I cannot look into the future to see what a future Government might do, but this Government will do as much as they can to ensure that these people are here with settled status as proof that they are legally here.

Photo of Lord Judd Lord Judd Labour

May I just respond to the question that the noble Baroness put to me? My point is that it is not yet established in law. How soon will it happen, and can we be sure that it will happen? In the meantime, how will their status be guaranteed in law? That is the point. Perhaps I may also say that, in view of all she has been saying, I hope that the position of the vulnerable and those who do not have access to high-tech means of communication will be covered in the spirit of what has been said in the Statement.

Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department, Minister for Equalities (Department for International Development)

I hope that the noble Lord will be more satisfied with this response. It will be established in law. I cannot say what those future laws will look like under perhaps another Government because laws change, but it will be established in law.

Photo of Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Conservative

My Lords, my noble friend referred firmly to the fact that we are still in the European Union. Can she explain whether Britain will be represented at the meeting dealing with migration that is due to take place on Sunday? In particular, will Britain be arguing the case for a possible third country taking migrants before they are settled in the EU, which seems a very interesting idea? Does she have any idea which these third countries might be?

Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department, Minister for Equalities (Department for International Development)

My Lords, we will be a third country, as my noble friend will appreciate. On the meeting on migration to be held on Sunday, I will have to write to her because I really do not know and there is no point in pretending that I do.

Photo of Baroness Ludford Baroness Ludford Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Exiting the European Union)

My Lords, today’s Statement represents a welcome step forward, but there are an awful lot of detailed questions which remain unanswered. If my memory is correct, the group the3million has produced 150 of them. Like the noble Lord, Lord Judd, this morning I had the advantage of meeting the Home Secretary in the EU Justice Sub-committee and we drew that to his attention. Perhaps I might also make the point to the Minister. Can she ensure that those questions are gone through and answered in some detail?

Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department, Minister for Equalities (Department for International Development)

I think that my right honourable friend the Minister for Immigration met with representatives of the3million group. I will inquire as to whether she is going to go through each of the 125 questions. I have to say that I do not know. I will get back to the noble Baroness or I will ask the Minister to write to her.

At this point, perhaps I might take the opportunity to revisit an answer I gave to the noble Lord, Lord Rosser. I talked about the EU public policy test for the implementation period when he asked me about criminality and then I started to talk about UK deportation rules. I should have not have talked about UK deportation rules because it will remain the EU public policy test. He may or may not have noticed that I switched tack, but I would like to clarify that now.

Photo of Lord Stunell Lord Stunell Liberal Democrat

My Lords, the most welcome phrase in the whole Statement is that officials will be looking for reasons to grant rather than reasons to refuse—that will be a tremendous change of culture for the department. I do not believe that any civil servant in the Home Office, the Border Agency or the Passport Office has ever earned a bonus in the past for issuing more visas than the quota. Can the Minister assure the House that this is going to be a genuine culture change within those agencies: otherwise, I fear that, whatever the good intentions may be at ministerial level, the outputs will look dismally like they always do on these matters? Of course, I am sure that Commonwealth family applicants will be looking for the same kind of approach by officials when their applications are considered. Perhaps she could give us some guidance on whether this culture change is going to reach to the furthest edges of the Home Office.

Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department, Minister for Equalities (Department for International Development)

I think that it became clear, when my right honourable friend became Home Secretary, that culture change was afoot across the Home Office. He talked about a more humane approach to decision-making and about the end of the hostile environment, which would instead become a compliant environment. The wording of the Statement today was no accident. It reflects a much more positive attitude to people who make applications and tries to help them. As I say, I do not think that that is accidental and, since my right honourable friend became Home Secretary, his actions have shown that.

Photo of Lord Marlesford Lord Marlesford Conservative

My Lords, how does this settlement relate to the agreement with the EU on reciprocal treatment under the NHS? My noble friend will be aware that, under the present system, HMG pay for UK citizens who require medical treatment in the EU and we are meant to be repaid for treating EU citizens here. The trouble is that for some years it has been totally out of balance. The last time I looked at the figures, HMG paid out some £500 million for the treatment of UK citizens in the EU and received only about £50 million for the treatment of EU citizens in the UK. How is that relevant to what the Prime Minister said about the Brexit dividend?

Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department, Minister for Equalities (Department for International Development)

What I am talking about today is not particularly related to that issue, but my noble friend is absolutely right to ask what the reciprocal arrangement will look like when we leave the EU. I do not think that the area of NHS reciprocal arrangements has yet been determined, but I shall confirm that in writing to my noble friend. I think that it will be determined in due course.