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Amendment 2

Part of European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill - Committee (1st Day) – in the House of Lords at 3:45 pm on 14th January 2020.

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Photo of Lord Warner Lord Warner Labour 3:45 pm, 14th January 2020

My Lords, I support these two amendments. I do so as the roommate of my noble friend Lord Kerslake, who sends his apologies for not being here but has strengthened my arguments for supporting the amendments. I speak as someone who, after the 1997 election—oh glorious days—spent two years in the Home Office and saw every submission of any significance that was made to the then Home Secretary. I always shuddered a little when we got submissions from the immigration part of the department. They sent a quiver through my soul, because of reliability. I remember a former Conservative Home Secretary briefed us shortly after that election. He said to the then Home Secretary: “You have to remember that there are always 500 people in the Home Office who can ruin your political career. The really scary thing is that none of them actually realises that they can do it.” The Windrush exercise demonstrated rather well the wisdom of those remarks.

The important thing about these two amendments is that they do not in any way disturb significantly what the Government want to do. They provide legal certainty, about which I think we will hear more later in Committee. They also provide some very practical stiffening of the arrangements around these new Immigration Rules. I went to one of the Home Office briefings for parliamentarians on the new scheme, at which everybody, MPs, Peers and members of MPs’ offices, made the point to the Home Office that in the real world a lot of people expect someone to produce hard-copy evidence, whether it is the landlord, the GP or whoever. I can speak from personal experience, having helped a number of people get permanent leave to remain here, and not that long ago either. These people had had experiences of having to produce some written documentation that they were entitled to live here.

I shall just tell the story of a person who has lived here 10 years and has a son at school who has lived here for that period of time. The child was bullied in his school because there was no evidence, as they thought, that he had an entitlement to be here. We could deal with that issue only by being able to produce Home Office evidence that this person had permanent leave to remain here. It was the piece of paper that convinced the head that something had to be done. The absence of that documentation is very worrying, and it is why I think Amendment 3 is so important: it would give people confidence that they can convince people that they are entitled to be here. Just think about the idea of someone having to say, “I have this code and if you go on the Home Office website it will prove to you that I am entitled to be here.” That is not the way the real world works; it is not a credible way of helping people to reassure others that they have an entitlement to be here.

I think this House would be very wise to send this Bill back with both these amendments in it, or some government alternative to the precise wording, because, however hard we try, we will not be sure that by the deadline everybody who has settled status at the moment will be able to ensure that they are registered in the new scheme. If one stops to think about it for a moment, it is counterintuitive. If someone has in recent years secured a permanent right to be here, why should it occur to them, despite all the briefings to the public by the Home Office, that they are not entitled to be here? Why should they have to go through another step to prove to the Home Office that they are entitled to be here when they have already received, within the last two or three years, a letter from the Home Office guaranteeing them the right to be here? The Home Office is asking a lot of people to do a counter- intuitive thing and I think we should support these two amendments.