Immigration, Nationality and Asylum (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 - Motion to Approve

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:15 pm on 18th March 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Lord Kennedy of Southwark Lord Kennedy of Southwark Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Shadow Spokesperson (Housing) 6:15 pm, 18th March 2019

My Lords, this SI makes changes to 21 separate pieces of primary legislation. Again—and this has been a running theme through many of the SIs today—that is just wrong. Can the Minister explain why there is no suitable Bill which this could have formed part of? Can she also explain why the immigration Bill passing through the other place is not a suitable vehicle?

Putting these changes in a Bill would have allowed Members of this House and the other place to scrutinise exactly what they mean for each of these different Acts, and to table amendments if necessary. If we are to be told that these are just technical, that is fine—we get technical matters in legislation all the time and, as noble Lords will know, they are nodded through without any fuss. But it is this House which should take the decision, not the Government, on whether they should be nodded through or not.

I am aware of the concern about how the rules affect individuals. It is sometimes almost impossible for lawyers, judges and Home Office officials to understand the rules and regulations, let alone the average person applying for a visa with or without the help of legal aid. Good parliamentary scrutiny helps to improve legislation, but by bringing these instruments forward in this manner the Government are not allowing themselves the benefits of that, as there are many experts in this House who can help the Government improve what they want to do.

It could also be said that the instrument seems to be overreaching itself. The immigration Bill has not yet completed its parliamentary passage—it has certainly not got to this House. This statutory instrument makes changes for a post-Brexit immigration landscape that is not yet assured.

Finally, as noble Lords have heard before, this statutory instrument revokes the Dublin III regulation, which determines which EU member state is responsible for determining an asylum claim. I accept that leaving the EU will mean leaving Dublin III, but I would have liked continuing co-operation on family reunion, even in a no-deal situation. Dublin III has been a crucial mechanism for reuniting refugee families. As we have heard, in 2018, over 1,000 people were reunited with their family members in the UK under that regulation, including over 150 children. If the UK leaves the EU with a deal, Dublin III will remain in place until the end of the transition period, during which the Government have committed to negotiate reciprocal arrangements on separated children. This should not be so much of a narrow agreement; it should be expanded to include all the family reunion cases allowed under Dublin III.

If we leave without a deal, we will immediately cease to be part of Dublin III, and many refugees will not be able to reunite with their families from 29 March. The UK Immigration Rules make provision for refugee family reunion, but evidential requirements are higher than under the Dublin regulation, and the definition of a “family member” is broader. Therefore I support the calls for the UK’s Immigration Rules to be more generous in family reunion cases. I look forward to the Minister’s response to the points raised.