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Amendment 2

Part of European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill - Committee (1st Day) – in the House of Lords at 4:00 pm on 14th January 2020.

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Photo of Baroness Ludford Baroness Ludford Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Exiting the European Union) 4:00 pm, 14th January 2020

My Lords, I too support these amendments, which were introduced by my noble friend Lord Oates and which are in his name and those of the noble Lords, Lord McNicol and Lord Kerslake.

I too was pleased to hear the noble and learned Lord, Lord Keen, say last night that those with pre-settled status would

“receive an automatic reminder to apply for settled status before their leave expires.”—[Official Report, 13/1/20; col. 552.]

I may have lost track of this issue, but is that new? I do not remember it. I remember that we on the EU Justice Sub-Committee asked repeatedly for that to happen, as well as for physical proof of status. Perhaps it is not new, but I do not recall when I was on that sub-committee that that system had been set up by the Government, and I am pleased that it now exists. Perhaps the Minister could explain whether it is new.

Some of us worry about 40% of people getting pre-settled status. Have the Government been able to do any surveys or analysis of how many people genuinely do not have the five years’ residence they need for settled status, or of those who give up because they have not managed to provide the evidence that is required for five years, some of which might be a little challenging to provide?

In a different context, I read in the papers about people who have had real problems convincing HMRC—regarding the years they need to clock up for a state pension—that its records are wrong about national insurance contributions. People have talked about how it has taken a year’s effort to persuade HMRC that they did indeed make national insurance contributions in a particular year. So the part of the supplying of evidence that relies on HMRC and DWP records may or may not be accurate. Some people might be struggling.

Can the Minister tell us whether there is any analysis of how many people genuinely do not have five years’ residence, and of those who are having difficulty providing the necessary evidence? A lot of us are very concerned about this. I agree that the Home Office appears to be putting good effort into it—some of my colleagues went to Liverpool; I did not manage to do that. None the less, the consequences come June of next year of people not having settled status are so severe that we cannot afford to overlook any possible problem—of course, I support the proposal that we pursued on the EU Justice Sub-Committee that applicants should get physical proof. We never managed to get, to my satisfaction at least, a good answer from the Home Office on why it refused to countenance that. I am sure the Minister will give us that answer.

That tracks into the fact that, as my noble friend said, there are people with permanent residence who believe, wrongly, that they do not need to apply for settled status. That adds to the concern about people who may find themselves bereft in 18 months’ time.

Then there are people who have been here for decades. They are often very elderly and just assume that, because they have always been allowed to stay, they do not need to do anything. They need our particular concern. I know that we are getting lots of reassurances and so on—we are about to get some more—but many of us will continue to worry very much about this situation and this scheme.