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Amendment 11

Part of European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill - Committee (1st Day) – in the House of Lords at 6:00 pm on 14th January 2020.

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Photo of Lord Wigley Lord Wigley Plaid Cymru 6:00 pm, 14th January 2020

My Lords, I am delighted to support Amendment 59, standing in the name of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, to which I added my name, although too late for it to appear on the Marshalled List today.

The IMA is intended to provide assurance to EU citizens who have already established their rights to live and work in the United Kingdom that, after we leave the EU, they will continue to enjoy the same rights as they do now, which flow from the principle of freedom of movement under which they first moved to the United Kingdom. The IMA will be able to investigate complaints by individual EU citizens and members of their families if it believes these complaints to have been compromised in any way.

Since such rights include access to public services, such complaints could be directed against one of the devolved Administrations. An example pointed out to me is of a Polish citizen who moved to Wales perhaps 10 years ago, and who might take up a question with the IMA if they believed that, in 2022, changes to administrative procedures in the Welsh NHS had made it impossible for them to access its services on the same basis as UK citizens. That is a matter that quite clearly has a direct relationship to the responsibilities of the National Assembly for Wales, and there will be parallels in Scotland and in Northern Ireland. It is therefore essential that the IMA has a good knowledge and understanding of the circumstances in each part of the United Kingdom. This applies to its non-executive members, as well as to its staff, who I understand are likely to be based in Wales—perhaps the Minister can confirm that.

I understand that the Welsh Government have had intensive negotiations with UK Ministers to establish an appropriate role for Welsh Ministers in the appointment of an IMA member with knowledge of conditions in Wales. This does not involve Welsh Ministers appointing such a person, or them having a veto on any such appointment. However, I suggest it does require that UK Ministers seek the agreement of Welsh Ministers to the appointment of a named individual, and, if such agreement is not forthcoming, to make public their reasons for this.

When this agreement was reached between Ministers at Westminster and the Welsh Government, the draft Bill did not contain any provision for Ministers, by regulation, to transfer the functions of the IMA to another body. That is why, now, we need this amendment. It is necessary to include this provision to ensure that there is no danger of UK Ministers circumventing the appointment of members. Over the decades, there could be good reasons for a number of cases falling and for the merging of the IMA’s functions with another tribunal or court. If that is to happen, it is essential that these safeguards are built in. The point of this amendment is to try to ensure that that happens, if not in the Bill then perhaps by a statement from the Minister responding tonight. That would give some assurance that the agreement reached privately in Cardiff underpins the Government’s thinking at this stage in the process of the Bill.