Amendment 1

Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill - Committee (1st Day) – in the House of Lords at 2:47 pm on 7th September 2020.

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Baroness Neville-Rolfe:

Moved by Baroness Neville-Rolfe

1: Clause 1, page 1, line 9, at end insert—“(2) Within six months of this section coming into force, the Secretary of State must lay a report before Parliament on how the provisions under Schedule 1 are to be enforced.”

Photo of Baroness Neville-Rolfe Baroness Neville-Rolfe Conservative

My Lords, I rise to speak to Amendment 1 in my name and that of the noble Lord, Lord Green of Deddington. I start by thanking my noble friend the Minister and her team for the briefing sessions arranged since Second Reading and the substantial package of materials circulated last week, including some illustrative statutory instruments, which I always find helpful in understanding how Bills will work. We will come on to those in later groups.

I know from all the legislation that I have made as a civil servant and as a Minister, and complied with as a businesswoman and a citizen, that how a new law is enforced and the resources devoted to it is almost as important as the law itself. Our amendment, the first in this group, is a probing one designed to elicit detailed information on enforcement ahead of Report. I note that there is very little in the Bill, no doubt because the enforcement provisions, penalties, powers of entry and enforcement officers responsible sit in existing legislation, but we need a road map. We need to know as much as possible now and, failing that, we need a public report to Parliament within six months, as stated in my amendment—the way the excellent Bill clerks thought that we could ensure the provision of adequate information.

As discussed at Second Reading, my general approach is that government policy should align itself more closely with the majority of public opinion, which has consistently held over many decades that more rigorous controls are needed and that the rules should be enforced fairly and firmly. This was shown unequivocally in the Brexit referendum.

There are a number of troubling issues with enforcement implications. The number of migrants seeking ever more novel ways to get into the UK illegally is growing. Last week, it was reported that a record 416 migrants exploited fine weather to make the crossing from France to England in one day, arriving on beaches all along the south coast. Immigration law can be enforced by tightening border controls or by deporting those without a right to remain in our country, yet we see repeated reports of the failure of government steps to remove migrants who have already sought asylum elsewhere or have no right to remain for other reasons. Last week, a charter flight took off for Spain that was meant to carry 20 such migrants; in the event, only 11 boarded the plane, after late legal challenges. The week before, the Government abandoned a similar flight with 23 migrants on board, after last-minute legal action. Many thousands are attracted to dangerous ways of entering the UK, because the authorities are known to be useless at enforcing the law.

We have passed many laws and regulations in recent years, including in 2014—when I had the pleasure of supporting the then Home Office Minister, my noble friend Lord Taylor of Holbeach—but enforcement has been weak. As a result, businesses, banks and landlords play a big part in policing the rules at very considerable cost to themselves—as I remember well from Tesco. Yet immigration continues to increase. There are large numbers here illegally, both putting pressure on our public services and housing and risking ill treatment and exploitation—for example, in modern slavery or in dangerous low-paid working environments.

The Bill focuses on the EEA and Switzerland, and migrants arriving from those countries are not exempt from the problems that I highlighted. There is never-ending pressure on the EU’s southern and eastern borders, and the growth of hotspots of deprivation in EU urban centres. This phenomenon, most shockingly shown by the queues across Europe a few years ago, helped to bring us Brexit. The Bill must provide the powers we need to tackle these issues properly or we will never be forgiven.

Against this background, I have some questions. First, where are the enforcement provisions that will apply to the Bill and regulations made under it? What are the fines and criminal sanctions that apply and to whom? Secondly, the Bill contains powers to amend primary legislation elsewhere. Can that include enforcement provisions and how would such powers be limited? Thirdly, what are the enforcement authorities—the Border Force, the police, local authorities, the Home Office or the DWP?

Fourthly, what resources are available for enforcement and how much will they be increased? For example, the UK points-based immigration system, set out in CP 258 and at the useful briefing arranged by my noble friend the Minister, requires a huge new administrative structure post Brexit and an ESTA-style system involving millions of individuals every week. According to the department’s interesting impact assessment—thank you to the Home Office for doing one, by the way—there were 142.8 million passenger arrivals in 2018. That included nearly 41 million from the EU and 20.5 million non-EEA citizens. That necessitates a lot of checking. Add to that the pressure on our authorities of the illegal attempts I described earlier, the complications of Covid and post-Brexit trade, and you have a case for much more resource.

Fifthly, what scope is there for the use of technology to ease the obvious pressures on our enforcement? Does that also have downsides too that have been anticipated?

Finally, will the Minister take another look at the economics of deportation flights? At Second Reading, I suggested the Government take advantage of the current market to buy some small planes for this purpose. Having some experience in this area, I was not happy with the response in the Minister’s letter. Given the failure rate and the apparent ability of lawyers to delay deportation on flimsy grounds, I am sure it would be cheaper, in the longer term, than charter flights. I am clear that, given media coverage and public concern, the public would not put up with the use of scheduled or mixed flights for that purpose. This approach would generate more confidence, and we need that. I urge the department to work with the Treasury if necessary to do a proper cost-benefit analysis, rather than applying some narrow procurement mantra.

In conclusion, I support Clause 1. However, we need to be clear about the rules for enforcement and entry. The other amendments in this group cover other aspects, and I look forward to colleagues making the case for these, although I must to admit to reservations about some of them.

Photo of Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Green

My Lords, in following the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, I agree with her that we need to tackle modern slavery and exploitation in the UK and that this is something the Government need to properly fund and prioritise, focusing on the exploiters, not the victims. I am, however, speaking in direct opposition to her statement as I am opposing Clause 1.

Today marks another step in the robbing of rights from millions of Britons that they were born with and the removal of rights for future generations. Clause 1 is a key step by which freedom of movement for Britons and to Britain ends. I believe we should not allow the destruction of rights and freedoms for Britons to pass unmarked, which is why I have put down my intention to oppose Clause 1 standing part of the Bill.

As I did that, I was thinking back a couple of years to a rally in the centre of Brussels, held in ankle-deep snow, where I heard from lots of Britons who had come from across the continent to talk about how freedom of movement had changed and improved their lives. In particular, I think of a woman who, when young, had upped sticks when her life in the UK had not worked out, moved to several European countries over the years, built a couple of different careers and made a full, interesting, varied life for herself. She came from a very poor area of England and from a family with few financial resources. But she had bought a cheap coach ticket, shifted across a continent and found opportunities, interesting experiences and a comfortable place for herself in the world.

The wealthy have always been able to do this and, no doubt, will always be able to. Many an aristocrat set out on the Grand Tour and, by choice, never came home. Many a black sheep from a wealthy family snuck off to the continent and rebuilt their life away from scandal. The arrival of freedom of movement meant the chance for everybody to exercise that freedom to seek the opportunities, the experiences, the enhancements of life that change can bring and the chance to meet new and different people, learn a new language and find a different culture, environment and way of life.

Making that opportunity available to all was a huge step towards balancing inequality, and now it is being wiped out. All our lives are much poorer with the loss of freedom of movement. Of course, it has also been a safety net. British builders escaping the deprivations of 1970s Britain in Germany became a stereotype, but it was a fact. In our shock-ridden, insecure and unstable world, how vital might that right have been to many in the future?

As a noble and learned Lord pointed out to me when I was discussing my intention with him, I do not have the power to simply restore that movement right for Britons. That right is granted by other states under EU membership, which we have now lost, and all those rights will go when we end the transition period at the end of this year. These are rights, incidentally, that quite a number of Members of the House of Lords have availed themselves of. Freedom of movement exercised before the end of December will continue, unless by tearing up the withdrawal agreement signed just eight months ago, as was being threatened this morning, Boris Johnson puts into question the rights of the 1.3 million Britons who thought they were secure through their existing residence in the EU. What I am proposing would keep the rights of citizens from EU states in the UK. But the principle of reciprocation is strong, and we could, in accepting these rights, expect that reciprocation.

Moving countries is something that many people will never consider. My aim will always be for a world where no one is forced to leave their home by poverty, war, discrimination or environmental crises. But there are always people for whom this is an exciting idea: for some, the possibility of escape is attractive, and for others, the possibility of a fresh start they cannot find in their birthplace is essential.

We are also denying ourselves the talents, skills and energy of people from across the continent, who, without free movement, will not have the same opportunities their elders enjoyed. I am sorry about that too.

When young British people ask me what I did to keep their freedoms and opportunities, I will be able to say I did my best to defend them. I ask Members of your Lordships’ House: how would you answer that question? I am not going to ask Members to put their votes on the line today, but I intend to in the future.

Photo of Lord Pannick Lord Pannick Crossbench 3:00 pm, 7th September 2020

My Lords, that was indeed a passionate speech.

When I was a first-year law student at Hertford College, Oxford, we learned that apparently the Roman Emperor Caligula ordered that laws should be displayed in small letters as high up as possible to make it difficult for people to know their legal rights and obligations. Amendment 3 focuses attention on an extraordinary provision in this Bill—paragraph 4(2) of Schedule 1—which, if enacted, will make it impossible for people today to understand their legal rights and obligations.

Paragraph 4 is concerned with the EU regulation on free movement of workers. Paragraph 4(1) is a model of clarity; it says that Article 1 of the regulation “is omitted”. However, paragraph 4(2) displays the parliamentary draftsman at his or her most coy. It is so extraordinary that it must be read out:

“The other provisions of the Workers Regulation cease to apply so far as—

(a) they are inconsistent with any provision made by or under the Immigration Acts (including, and as amended by, this Act), or

(b) they are otherwise capable of affecting the interpretation, application or operation of any such provision.”

It is simply not acceptable that when people want to know whether a provision of an EU regulation continues to apply, they must ask themselves whether the provision is

“capable of affecting the interpretation, application or operation" of a provision of the immigration Acts. This is drafting so opaque that it puts a brick wall between the individual and the law which applies to him or her. It is drafting so lazy that it is comatose. The same woeful drafting technique also appears in paragraph 6(1) of Schedule 1, a provision addressed in Amendments 4 and 5 in this group tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, which I support. If the Government want to ensure that provisions of a regulation cease to apply, they should say so with clarity.

Amendment 3 is in my name, and in the names of two other members of your Lordships’ Constitution Committee, the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor of Bolton, our chair, and the noble Lord, Lord Beith. The Constitution Committee’s report, published last week, drew attention to paragraph 4(2) of Schedule 1 as unacceptably vague and inevitably productive of legal uncertainty. We quoted the evidence given to the Commons Public Bill Committee by Adrian Berry, the barrister chair of the Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association. He said of this provision:

“You need to make better laws. Make it certain and put on the face of the Bill those things that you think are going to be disapplied because they are inconsistent with immigration provisions.”—[Official Report, Commons, Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill Committee, 9/6/20; col. 52.]

I agree. Basic standards of legislative drafting need to be upheld. Paragraph 4(2) of Schedule 1 is way below what is acceptable. I can think of no precedent for such a provision.

I hope that the Minister says that she understands the objection to this provision and that she will bring forward a suitable amendment on Report. I give due warning that if the Government do not address this concern, and if other noble Lords share my concern, I will return to this topic on Report.

Photo of Lord Beith Lord Beith Liberal Democrat

My Lords, I support the amendment and the arguments advanced by the noble Lord, Lord Pannick. I apologise if the Committee starts its debate on another report from the Constitution Committee before this section is concluded.

In many respects this is a skeleton Bill, and in this area it changes significant amounts of primary legislation into secondary legislation, therefore making it open to less effective parliamentary scrutiny when powers are used. If something needs to be changed because of inconsistency, then the face of the Bill is the place to put it, but here we are with the concept of inconsistency so subjective and vague that it is difficult to imagine how a court would interpret it. Is

“otherwise capable of affecting the interpretation, application or operation of any such provision” restricted to precluding the operation of the Act, or does it extend to casting doubt on provisions in this Act? What is it supposed to mean?

In our report on Brexit legislation, the Constitution Committee said that

“delegated powers should be sought only when their use can be clearly anticipated and defined”,

yet in this Bill we get terms such as “appropriate”, “in connection with” and the ones which I have just quoted. It is an unsatisfactory way of drafting, and I am bound to wonder what instructions were given to the parliamentary draftsmen when they worked on this section.

The Constitution Committee has had quite a bit of discussion over the last couple of years about the drafting of legislation and the circumstances in which parliamentary draftsmen should say, “No, this is not a way in which we write laws, this is not acceptable”, and if a dispute arises, then not only departmental Ministers but also law officers should be involved in defending the basic principles of law. Having looked at these provisions, which I hope the Government will find a way to remove, we concluded that

“they risk making a complex area of the law even more difficult to navigate and understand for practitioners and individuals alike”,

and that they threaten to

“frustrate essential ingredients of the rule of law.”

These seem to me to be compelling arguments for the Government to have more thought on this issue.

Photo of Baroness Prashar Baroness Prashar Crossbench

My Lords, the proposed new clause in Amendment 60, which has cross-party support and is sponsored by the noble Baronesses, Lady Fookes, Lady Garden of Frognal, and Lady Morris of Yardley, is largely self-explanatory. If accepted, it would continue allowing minors to travel from the European Union, other European Economic Area states and Switzerland to the UK on identity cards rather than passports beyond 31 December 2020.

Large numbers of junior nationals from these jurisdictions travel to the UK every year for school exchange visits, English language courses, adventure holidays and a range of sporting and cultural activities. Last year over 150,000 European Economic Area juniors travelled to the UK for English language courses alone, many of them travelling in groups for study programmes that lasted for less than two weeks. This is an invaluable cultural and educational exchange that builds friendships and fosters good will between the UK and other nations. Most of these students currently travel on identity cards. Many do not own passports but travel freely on identity cards throughout the EU and EEA states with no need for passports.

A survey last year by English UK, the trade association for English schools, showed that, in 2019, 90% of under-18 EU students who came to this country did so on an identity card to study at colleges accredited by the British Council, an organisation on which I served as a deputy chair for six years. The parents of these under-18s do not want to go through additional bureaucracy or incur the cost of getting a passport, having saved for the cost of the trip itself. Furthermore, if just one junior due to travel in a school exchange group is without a passport, the viability of the whole visit could be put in jeopardy. If this travel on identity cards ceases, the UK will lose out to other countries and its position as a popular destination could decline. This new clause would help to rectify the situation and sustain the UK’s position as a popular destination. I emphasise that the proposed extension of identity card-based entry for under-18s coming to the UK for a single stay of no longer than 30 days in any calendar year means that this concession would be available only to those presenting little or no border security issues or risk of abuse.

Some may object that allowing the continuation of ID card travel presents the UK with an unacceptable security risk. EU citizens with settled status will be allowed to continue to travel on ID cards, so why not children coming for short-stay trips, largely travelling in large managed groups?

Furthermore, the EU passed a regulation last year to increase the security of ID cards issued in EU states. The regulation requires that within two years of June 2019, all new ID cards need to be machine-readable biometric cards. Existing cards will be phased out by 2023 if they are not machine readable. This will bring the security features of ID cards into line with those of passports.

As this small exception would be a continuation of an existing procedure, I do not believe it will be very complex to administer. If the clause is accepted, it will be welcomed by our European partners as a significant gesture of good will. It is also worth noting that Iceland, Norway and Switzerland allow travel for EU nationals on an ID card, so I urge the Government to accept this amendment.

Photo of Lord Green of Deddington Lord Green of Deddington Crossbench

This is rather a mixed bag of amendments. I would like to return to Amendment 1, on enforcement; a very useful amendment proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe. As she so clearly described, enforcement has long been one of the weakest points in our immigration system. Indeed, enforced returns have been in steady decline for years. They fell from 16,000 in 2010 to just under 7,000 in 2020—that is more than half—and that was the lowest level since records began. Voluntary returns have also fallen since 2015. Partly as a result of these failures, we now have 90,000 immigration offenders living in the community; that is somewhat more than the size of the British Army. Furthermore, more than half of them—about 55,000—no longer even bother to report to the Home Office as they are supposed to do: they have simply disappeared.

I shall make three brief suggestions about how this could be tackled. First, we should adopt a much tougher approach towards those countries that take an unreasonable attitude to taking back their own citizens—India, Pakistan and Iran come to mind, but there are a number of others. As noble Lords will know, illegal immigrants frequently destroy their documents, and these countries usually refuse to accept the biometric identity documents that the British Government produce for them. I think that our willingness to issue visas for the UK should take this attitude into account.

Secondly, we also need to retain—indeed, restore—the detained fast-track system for asylum claims that are obviously very weak. It was very effective for some years, but was quietly dropped by the Government quite recently after several years in a legal morass. Thirdly, we should be much more effective in enforcing the laws on illegal working. It is clear that this is a major pull factor for illegal immigration.

Finally, a particular difficulty facing the new immigration system is that of preventing EU visitors and other non-visa nationals working while in this country. A report to Parliament on enforcement, as proposed in this amendment, would be a valuable first step.

Photo of Baroness Garden of Frognal Baroness Garden of Frognal Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

The noble Baroness, Lady Taylor of Bolton, has withdrawn from the debate, so I call the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford.

Photo of Baroness Ludford Baroness Ludford Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Exiting the European Union) 3:15 pm, 7th September 2020

My Lords, I very much regret the end of free movement rights. This has often been presented as a one-way system, as if it applied only to nationals of other EEA countries inward to the UK, but it has of course been a two-way system, and something over 1 million UK citizens have taken advantage of their free movement rights to live, work and settle in other EU and EEA countries. When I was an MEP, I was proud to work on the 2004 citizens’ rights directive, which is often called the free movement directive. We did not get everything we wanted, as the European Parliament did not have quite the rights over legislation that it has today. However, it allowed lots of people who were not particularly well off to take advantage of EU rights to move, live and work abroad—it was democratised, if you like.

I fear that there could well be resentment in future, as divisions appear between those who retain a right to move around and those who do not. I also think that some British citizens who currently enjoy EU free movement rights may not fully have taken on board what is about to hit them. When I talk about divisions, for instance, there are those who will be able to get an Irish passport. I declare an interest here: apparently—I did not realise this until a few years ago—I am already an Irish citizen because my mother was born in Dublin. I have not yet got round to applying for the passport. I put it off partly in the hope that somehow Brexit would be averted, and also because I feel a little sheepish about my right to it. But I have not had to apply for Irish citizenship, as it has sort of fallen out of the sky, courtesy of my mother—or her mother, I should say.

There will also be people with means who will be able to move abroad. We know that it is possible to buy so-called golden passports in some EU countries. There are also investor visas. One way or another, it is not going to be the rich who will be affected by the grab of free movement rights.

This Bill is largely about the future of EU and EEA citizens in the UK and them coming under immigration control, but as the organisation British in Europe so splendidly details, we must remember the difficulties for UK citizens in EEA countries.

Reference has been made to Amendments 4 and 5, which my noble friend Lady Hamwee will probably talk about. The noble Lord, Lord Pannick, talked about Amendment 3. These amendments are similar in that they are objecting to wording about powers,

“capable of affecting the interpretation, application or operation of any provision … under the Immigration Acts … or … capable of affecting the exercise of functions”.

The two committees that have very helpfully reported to us—the Constitution Committee and the Delegated Powers Committee—have pointed out the legal complexity of immigration law. It is a complicated policy area. I think it was the Constitution Committee that said,

“the complexity of law had developed to the point that it was a serious threat to the ability of lawyers and judges to apply it consistently—not to mention raising rule-of-law concerns as to the ability of the general public to understand the law to which they are subject.”

This is the system into which we are catapulting EEA citizens who, up to now, have enjoyed the protection of EU law. I hope they continue to enjoy the complete protection of the withdrawal agreement, but noises off in the last 24 hours have not reassured people of the Government’s commitment to upholding all the provisions of the agreement.

This is a complex area. I know we are going to talk about the Immigration Rules on a later amendment but, as this Bill does not set out the domestic immigration framework that will apply to EEA citizens, there is understandable nervousness. One of the things that people are worried about is a retrospective demand to show private health insurance—the famous “comprehensive sickness insurance”. The Minister will know that it is interpreted by the European Commission—and was always understood when we were legislating on the citizens’ rights directive—that in a country such as the UK, which has a national health service, free at the point of delivery, the right to use the NHS is the comprehensive sickness insurance for people paying tax and national insurance. They should not be required to have private health insurance. There is a lot of worry that when people come to apply for citizenship the Government will say, “Show us that you had private health insurance all the time that you have been resident in the UK.” Perhaps the Minister will be able to reassure me on that point.

Colleagues in my party and, indeed, people in other parties believe that there should be an automatic system instead of the EU settlement scheme, which is an application system. A letter went to the Prime Minister yesterday from representatives of five parties, including my friend in the other place Alistair Carmichael MP, urging the Government, even at this stage, to replace the settled status process with an automatic right to stay for EU citizens, guaranteed in primary legislation, as a declaratory system. It is something that we have persistently asked for and will not stop asking for. I see that the Minister looks dismayed.

One group—I think it was Law Society of Scotland—raised an interesting question. Perhaps the Minister can clarify this. It asked whether Clause 1 is necessary in the light of powers in the EU withdrawal Act 2018 for Ministers to repeal retained EU law. I would be grateful for her guidance on that subject.

Finally, I thoroughly support Amendment 61 on EEA citizens having access to eGates, which the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, will speak to.

Photo of Baroness Fookes Baroness Fookes Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

My Lords, before I turn to Amendment 60 to which I have added my name, can I say, as a member of the Constitution Committee and a former chairman of the Delegated Powers Committee, I agree wholeheartedly with the searing criticism from the noble Lords, Lord Pannick and Lord Beith? I am appalled that we should start to have laws that are incomprehensible. It might be meat and drink for the satirist, but it should be no part of our arrangements.

By contrast, the amendment to which I have added my name, that of the noble Baroness, Lady Prashar, is clear, straightforward and simple to understand. The noble Baroness gave a very good account of it and its intentions so I will not repeat them now for lack of time, but I want to make a serious point. If young people—minors—are not able to come to this country without a full passport, it is unlikely, when things return to normal, that many of them will come at all. They are far more likely to go to some other English-speaking country—one thinks immediately of the Republic of Ireland or even Malta. One might even think of the Netherlands, where it seems to me that they sometimes speak English better than we do.

Be that as it may, this is a very real worry. It is bad enough that young people have suddenly stopped coming over to schools and organisations as a result of Covid-19. Such organisations are in dire straits and we do not want to put some ghastly obstacle in their way as things gradually return to normal. I hope that my noble friend the Minister will look carefully at this to see if we can simply have the identity cards, which are used at the present time and are simple and easy to use. They would be using only those that are properly instituted by the various countries of the EEA and Switzerland.

There is a further problem, looking forward. Many people first come to this country as a youngster on an exchange. Very often they will return, perhaps for higher or further education. We do not want to cut that off at the beginning. That would be extremely short-sighted.

Some areas of the country have a number of language schools. I am thinking of where I live in East Sussex where, within quite a small area of Hastings, St Leonards and around, there are three notable language schools. The same could be said of the constituency in Plymouth of which I had the honour to be the MP. If one looks round at some of the seaside resorts, one will find a good many more there too.

This is a useful, small part of the major issues of which this Bill is party, but I believe it is very important and I hope that my noble friend will be inclined to accept the amendment.

Photo of Baroness Morris of Yardley Baroness Morris of Yardley Labour

My Lords, along with the noble Baroness, Lady Fookes, I support Amendment 60, which the noble Baroness, Lady Prashar, spoke to so ably. It is a good thing for young people to come over to learn English here or to have adventure holidays or to do an exchange. We can all remember it if we had that opportunity. Those, who like me who were teachers, knew the benefit for children, and the children and grandchildren of many of us have taken this opportunity.

I cannot think of one reason why we would want to make it more difficult for these things to continue. It is one of those things that we can all agree on—it is what we would want for young people, whether they are our own children or somebody else’s. It is not just meeting people and learning the language, there is something about it that, perhaps, you only realise as you get older. The seeds that you sow in those early years, culturally and in terms of understanding, stay with you for life. Even if you do not come back to university in the United Kingdom in a few years’ time, in your heart you remain friends with somewhere you have been as a young person. I had an opportunity to be an exchange student in America when I was doing my teacher training. It has had a huge effect on me throughout my life. There is an affection, a loyalty and an understanding that I have never lost. Why would we want to make it difficult in the future for more children to have an opportunity like that?

There is a problem with the Bill. I do not think it is intentional, but an unintended consequence of the rules and regulations. It is not just a few young people who would be affected; most young people in this group travel with identity cards rather than passports, and that certainly makes it easier for the group organisers. If a card is lost, it is easier to replace it when you are abroad than it is to replace a passport. Quite simply, it is an extra cost, and parents will have choices—there are English-speaking nations other than ours that their children could visit. Therefore, it will make a difference. Schools are already trying to recruit for next year and they will be put at a disadvantage because we are now putting a further barrier in the way.

The noble Baroness, Lady Prashar, outlined the solution very clearly. Along with people who are here with European Union settlement status, for the next few years—at least, while we think this through—there should be the opportunity for people to make this kind of journey, restricted to 30 days once a year and very often to language schools approved by the British Council, with an identity card, rather than putting a barrier in their way and making them have a passport if they make such a journey.

Photo of Baroness Garden of Frognal Baroness Garden of Frognal Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords) 3:30 pm, 7th September 2020

My Lords, having been reprieved from the Woolsack, I rise to speak on Amendment 60, to which I have added my name and which was so ably introduced by the noble Baroness, Lady Prashar, and to which the noble Baronesses, Lady Fookes and Lady Morris, have also spoken persuasively.

In the post-Brexit landscape, preserving good relations with our EU neighbours is of the utmost importance. Of course, freedom of movement is ending but that does not mean that we need to create unnecessary barriers to cultural exchange and destroy all the good will and soft power benefits created by school exchange visits, English language study programmes, sports, culture, leisure holidays and the like.

As someone who has covered, among other policy areas, education, rural affairs and tourism, either from the Opposition Front Bench or as a coalition Minister and Whip—we were multitalented in coalition—I can certainly attest to the important educational role played by school exchanges and the opportunities they afford our children to experience other cultures, as well as the economic contribution that the English language teaching sector makes to, for instance, rural and seaside communities here in the UK. Equally, the sector plays an important export role, as evidenced by its membership of the Education Sector Advisory Group, run out of the Department for International Trade.

As a linguist who studied French and Spanish at university before going on to teach both languages here and in Germany, I know the value of spending time in the country of the language being learned—it really is the best way to do so. I was a child in France and a student in Spain, and I lived in Germany with my RAF husband, where, as a French and Spanish speaker, I managed to get a job teaching in a German school, so I learned quite a lot of German as well. I fully agree with some of the other arguments that have been made in support of this proposed new clause. They are also familiar to me as a co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary University Group and a vice-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Modern Languages.

As has been mentioned, many Europeans under the age of 18 do not own passports and their parents will find it expensive, cumbersome and unnecessary, in the ordinary run of things, to obtain them. If these trips do not go ahead because one or more of the children in a group does not possess a passport, that means that UK teenagers are likely to miss out too. School exchanges are just that—reciprocal exchanges. If schoolchildren from Europe cannot travel here for lack of a passport, ours are unlikely to be hosted by their counterparts in France, Germany, Belgium, Spain or other countries.

Currently, nearly 40% of UK children in our secondary schools take part in at least one international exchange visit during their school careers. This rises to nearly 80% of teenagers at independent schools in the UK. Therefore, while privately educated children from the independent sector may go on exchanges to wealthier parts of Europe, where parents may have less financial difficulty in obtaining a passport for their children to come to the UK, pupils in state schools could be very badly affected by this.

The stated aim of the Government is to boost these sorts of trips for all British schoolchildren, given the life-changing experiences and academic opportunities that they can afford them. However, the Government can hardly be said to be promoting this if one of their first acts is to place barriers in the way of under-18s from the European mainland coming here. A simple amendment to the Bill, in the form of this proposed new clause, allowing these children to continue to come to the UK on their national identity cards for short visits, would resolve this issue. As a former member of the EU Sub-Committee on Home Affairs in this place, I too look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say. This amendment will do the Government no harm and will generate a great deal of international good will.

Photo of Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Conservative

My Lords, I am delighted to follow the noble Baroness. I associate myself with comments made during this debate by the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, and my noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe, and I would like to ask a couple of questions in this regard.

If the purpose of the Bill is to repeal EU law on the free movement of people and if the provisions are not already enshrined in retained EU law elsewhere, can my noble friend the Minister take this opportunity to explain why, as has already been mentioned, Clause 1 is required? Like others, I would like to say how much I benefited from the free movement provisions—which have been in place since 1973—as a student and then as a stagiaire in the European Commission. I went on to practise European Union law before becoming an adviser to, and eventually being elected to, the European Parliament.

I come to my main concern with Clause 1. Can my noble friend put my mind at rest that, in repealing EU law on the free movement of workers from the EEA and Switzerland, we will still have access to a constant supply of labour in essential services such as health and social care? I would also like to add food production, farming, and vegetable and fruit growing. I know that the amendments failed in the other place, but I hope that my noble friend will look very carefully at this with fresh eyes.

It is also extremely important to ensure that those whom we welcome from the EEA and Switzerland after 1 January 2021 are made to feel welcome and are employed and given access on exactly the same basis as UK nationals. In this regard, will my noble friend confirm that migrants will continue to be employed on the same basis as UK nationals? Will the principle that has existed to date of non-discrimination on the grounds of nationality still apply, so that no employer can discriminate between a UK national and an EEA or Swiss national who might find employment in this regard?

I am conscious that there have already been a couple of very unfortunate cases of Covid-19 outbreaks in food processing plants, partly due to the fact that the working environment is very cold but also partly because, by necessity, the employees probably sit very close to each other. We will obviously need to revisit many of these conditions going forward, but will the principle of non-discrimination on the grounds of nationality still apply to the Bill and other provisions?

Given my background, I have some sympathy with those who have put their names to and supported Amendment 60, and I will listen very carefully to what my noble friend says in replying to that debate.

I support the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, who spoke to his amendment. I regret the lack of transparency and what appears to be very poor drafting, and, again, will listen very carefully to what my noble friend says in summing up on that. However, as regards this amendment, those are the questions I would like to put to my noble friend at this stage.

Photo of Lord Kerr of Kinlochard Lord Kerr of Kinlochard Crossbench

My Lords, I strongly support what was said so authoritatively about Amendment 3 by the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, and the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, supported by the noble Lord, Lord Beith, and the noble Baroness, Lady Fookes. We need to hear what our Constitution Committee has said, and I hope the Minister will tell us that the Government will do this.

My purpose is to say a few brief words on Amendment 61 in the names of the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. Before I do so, I want to say a quick word on the wider context. Admirable though the quality of this debate is, I cannot help feeling that we are fiddling while Rome burns. In Downing Street, it seems that the Government are planning to take powers in the internal market Bill to override certain provisions of the withdrawal agreement—in particular, Articles 5 and 10 of the Irish protocol. Tearing up ratified treaties is what rogue states do; sanctions usually follow. If such a proposal were put to us, I would expect us to examine it particularly stringently. I cannot recall any precedent in UK diplomatic history. What we are doing today is important, but what we might have to do then would be historic.

Turning to Amendment 61, it seems to me that it is either completely unnecessary or absolutely essential. I hope the Minister will be able to assure us that it is unnecessary because the Government have no intention of making our closest neighbours stand in a queue at the frontier. If she cannot make this assurance, we must surely ask the Government to think again.

It seems highly likely that, for the next few years, the relationship with the EU will become damagingly rebarbative. That would, of course, become a racing certainty if we tore up the withdrawal agreement, but even if we do not, the disruption, the economic damage and the inevitable frontier friction—deal or no deal—is likely to drip poison into the relationship for some time to come. So we should be careful about choosing to add insult to injury. We have left the EU, but we do not need to leave Europe. If the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, is right to detect a risk, we would be right to support her Amendment 61.

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

My Lords, I have Amendment 61 in this group, and I am grateful for the support that it is receiving. Clearly, the Government say that EU citizens will be allowed to continue to use e-passport gates at airports after the end of the transition period, but that is the problem. From what I can see, as a result of leaving the European Union, far from ending free movement of people, the Government are effectively opening it up to the citizens of more countries outside of the European Union, the EEA and Switzerland.

I must make it clear that, like the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, and my noble friend Lady Ludford, I am in favour of free movement. The point I am making is that lack of enforcement means that, in practice, free movement will not end at the end of the transition period.

EU, EEA and Swiss nationals have been able to use the e-passport gates at UK airports because, under European Union freedom of movement rules, they have been entitled to come to the UK without restriction. With the UK’s imminent departure from the EU, and the Government’s commitment to ending preferential immigration from the EU, the Government were faced with turmoil at the UK border if EU, EEA and Swiss nationals were not able to use the e-passport gates but had to be manually checked by Border Force staff; the queues for non-EU passport holders were already verging on the unacceptably long. Rather than remove the ability of EU citizens to use e-passport gates, the Government extended their use to citizens of Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and the United States of America, thereby delivering on their promise not to give EU citizens preferential immigration rights, as these are now shared with the citizens of some non-EU countries.

Continued use of the e-passport gates means that, at the end of the transition period, and as set out in documentation from the Government, EU citizens will be able spend up to six months in the UK with no visa and no stamp in their passport, and with no questioning of the purpose of their visit, how long they intend to stay, or how they are going to sustain themselves financially during their time in the United Kingdom. As far as I know, there is no way of checking whether they have left the UK before the six months expires—or gone to Lille for the day at the end of that time and then stayed here for another six months.

The Government may reply that these people will not be able to work or continue to live in the UK because of the hostile environment that they have created for those who plan to live and work in the UK illegally. Under the hostile environment strategy championed by the former Prime Minister, Theresa May, when she was Home Secretary, the onus has been put on landlords, banks, employers and even hospital staff to check the immigration status of those with whom they come into contact. However, according to a report in the Times on 3 September, an analysis of Home Office data carried out by the Institute for Public Policy Research found that these measures do not appear to be working.

The IPPR analysis comes up with different numbers from those given this afternoon by the noble Lord, Lord Green of Deddington, but it paints a similar picture. According to the report in the Times, since 2015, the number of undocumented migrants leaving the UK voluntarily has fallen from about 4,000 to 2,000 a year, and the number of controlled returns supervised by the Home Office fell from about 3,000 to less than a 1,000. Research cited by the National Audit Office puts the number of people in the UK with no legal right to remain at more than a million.

Let us take the right to rent as an example: can an EU citizen or a citizen from one of the other B5JSSK countries—those who are allowed to use the e-passport gates—rent a property? Noble Lords might think not, but, in A Short Guide on Right to Rent, the Home Office advises that landlords can establish a B5JSSK national’s right to rent by checking their passport—which will of course have no stamp to show when they entered the UK—together with evidence of the date they last travelled to or entered the UK. What happened to the solely digital system for proving immigration status? This evidence might be a boarding pass or an airline, rail or boat ticket, a booking confirmation, or

“Any other documentary evidence which establishes the date of arrival in the UK in the last six months.”

The Home Office guidance also confirms that, although visitors have only six months’ leave to remain in the UK, landlords who have conducted these right-to-rent checks correctly will obtain a statutory excuse against a civil penalty for 12 months from the date of the check.

So after the transition period ends, EU citizens can rent a property for six months from the date shown on any boarding pass or airline, rail or boat ticket they present to a landlord, who can rent the property to them for up to 12 months without fear of any penalty—a day trip to Lille on the Eurostar would provide new evidence of entry into the UK within the past six months. In fact, as long as someone has a ticket or a boarding pass, they may not even have to make the journey.

I asked at Second Reading how the Government will ensure that EU citizens who use e-passport gates at UK airports leave after six months, and ensure that, as the Government has promised, they cannot

“in effect live in the UK by means of repeat continuous visits.”

After repeatedly asking for a response, last Thursday I finally received an email; I am grateful to the Minister for that, although a letter copied to others who spoke at Second Reading, with a copy placed in the Library, would be usual. The email says, among other things, that “we are satisfied” that the use of e-passport gates

“has been implemented in a way that will still allow the Home Office and these nationals”

—that is, B5JSSK nationals—

“to continue to prove their status in the UK, as we use various data sources to confirm time spent in the UK, not just date stamps, and we are able to confirm their status in the UK if needed.”

My understanding is that, before they were allowed to use e-passport gates, about 1,600 United States of America citizens a year were refused entry to the UK by UK Border Force officials, mainly on the basis of the interview conducted at the border, where, among other things, the Border Force official was not satisfied that the passenger would leave the UK at the end of their permitted visit.

I understand that e-passport gates will deny entry only if an alert has been placed on the system against the passenger prior to their arrival in the UK. EU citizens seeking to live and work in the UK illegally are extremely unlikely to have an alert against their name. What data sources are the Home Office relying on to ensure that EU citizens leave before the end of their six-month permitted visit? I understand that the National Border Targeting Centre screens incoming passengers, but that is not linked to passengers leaving the UK. If their systems do not detect—if indeed they can—that the EU citizen has not left the UK, what systems will the Government use to find that EU citizen amongst the 66 million residents and the estimated 1 million who are already illegally in the UK?

Rather than taking back control of our borders by ending free movement of people from the EU, the Government have effectively opened up free movement by adding citizens from seven more countries to the citizens of the EU member states, EEA countries and Switzerland who have unrestricted entry to the UK.

The analysis by the IPPR and the examples I have given suggest that it would be very difficult if not impossible to ensure that, once in the UK, they leave again. Apparently, the end of so-called uncontrolled immigration from the EU, itself a fallacy, was a major if not a potentially deciding factor in the referendum on our continued membership of the European Union. If leavers believe the UK is taking back control of its borders at the end of the transition period, the evidence suggests they have been misled.

Photo of Lord Adonis Lord Adonis Labour 3:45 pm, 7th September 2020

The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, has raised pertinent points on which we look forward to hearing from the Minister. Like so many of the groups when we are in Committee, this is a massive catch-all group, and I sympathise with the Minister for having to cover so many bases at the end.

I completely sympathise with the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, in not wanting Clause 1, but we are a revising Chamber and have to take for granted that this broad power is going to be taken because it is consequential on us leaving the EU. The issue for us is what its specific and defined consequences will be. All the issues raised so far seem to be valid ones that we would wish to return to on Report if the Minister cannot give us sufficient assurance. On Amendment 60, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Prashar, I agree with everything that my noble friend Lady Morris said: it is vital we do not do anything to imperil the free exchange of students and young people in and out of the country. I cannot believe it is in the mind of the Government for that to happen. If this simple change in Amendment 60 can safeguard that, we should surely make that possible.

The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, and others have spoken powerfully about Amendment 61. The points made by the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, about the legal abuse involved in Schedule 1 were also very well made. Could I ask the Minister more about the consequences for British citizens when seeking to exercise their existing EU rights on the continent? One of the problems of legislating on this issue in real time is that it is not always clear to the House what we know and what we do not, and that will be important when we come to Report.

The big issue when we leave the EU is that the rights we take away from EU citizens are liable to be taken away from British citizens in respect of travel, work and study on the continent. As the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, said, these are essentially reciprocal rights. It is hard to think that if we take the rights away from fellow EU citizens, they will not be taken away from us. The question is, what exactly are we taking away? The single biggest source of the exercise of these rights by UK citizens is those who want to travel as tourists and those who want to study, live or work on the continent. On the biggest group—those who travel—I want to ask the Minister if my understanding is correct because it will have some bearing on where we go on Report. My understanding at present is that for travel from 1 January 2021 no visa, or visa equivalents such as an ESTA, will be required for what are defined as short trips to the EU. Short trips are defined as 90 days in any 180-day period. I assume that that would be reciprocal. However, I quote from the Government website on changes from 1 January:

“You may need a visa or permit to stay for longer, to work or study, or for business travel.”

Therefore, under the current withdrawal agreement—that said, almost everyone is concerned that this could all be thrown up in the air—is there agreement that visas will not be imposed on EU citizens coming here, or vice versa for short, tourist-related trips, but it is entirely open as to what will happen about visas or permits required for longer stays or for work, study or business travel? If I have got that right, what is the regime likely to be for working longer periods and business travel, which is of huge consequence to us?

Just as the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, said, we are legislating in the dark for the withdrawal of many rights of EU citizens coming here, it is also true that we are legislating in the dark for the rights that we are going to be taking away from UK citizens that they can currently exercise in respect of their travel and legitimate business on the continent. That is not sufficiently appreciated. Could the Minister confirm the situation? What is definitely agreed? My understanding is that short trips will definitely not be covered by visas or ESTAs. Also, what is the situation for other forms of travel, work and study, including business travel?

It may seem an unlikely alliance but I agree entirely with the noble Lord, Lord Green, and the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, about the integrity of the immigration system. There cannot be any doubt that one of the things that causes most public concern about extending the rights of people to come here is the fear that those rights will be abused. In principle, their concern about the implementation of Clause 1 is well-founded, and it does not apply to policing and monitoring of the immigration system just for EU countries, but for other countries. This amendment, which is just a probing amendment, asks for a report after 90 days on what progress Government are making and their policy on security.

As our legislative stages are a process of mutual learning, I wonder whether I could put the debate back to the noble Broness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, and the noble Lord, Lord Green—particularly to the noble Lord, who is probably one of the greatest experts in the country on the detailed working of the immigration system. I can see the Minister is smiling; the noble Lord creates a great deal of work for her and others. I do not begrudge that: it is the job of people in this House and in interest groups and policy groups to see that we are well-informed. It would be useful for us to know, if they want to retable this amendment on Report, what specific changes and improvement to the policing of the immigration system they think Parliament should be considering. The noble Lord referred to recent changes to the policing and detaining of asylum seekers and illegal migrants. It would be useful for us to know what they would wish to do and see the Government report on within 90 days. That might get a more fine-grained debate on Report on what further steps we should take to police the immigration system.

Although the Bill is partly to do with EU withdrawal, it is also an opportunity to legislate on immigration issues more widely. We should not lose the opportunity to see that the system is as robust as it could be. Unless it is robust, what the noble Lord, Lord Green, raised in his important Second Reading speech may happen: the fear that we could find that, in the guise of taking back control, we have lost significant further control over the immigration system—the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, in this respect were well made. If that were to happen, the great British public would feel a deeper sense of betrayal than there is now about the whole way the immigration system is managed.

Photo of Baroness Hamwee Baroness Hamwee Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Immigration) 4:00 pm, 7th September 2020

My Lords, we on these Benches—I am on them virtually—make no bones about how much we oppose the ending of free movement. That includes both welcoming EEA citizens—the collective term which includes the Swiss for this purpose—and their families to live and work in the UK, and the equal and opposite right for British citizens in the EU. For myself, it offends my politics, my emotions, my values, my logic and, you might say, my whole outlook on life. However, I will endeavour to keep my remarks within the scope of the Bill and not to seek to reopen what has irreversibly been decided—although “irreversible” may have gained a new definition overnight—nor do I want to make a Second Reading speech.

What is relevant is that the Bill does not set out what will be in place of the current arrangements. Like the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, I am with the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, regarding the importance of the integrity of the system. We might want different systems, but what we have should be robust.

The noble Baroness and the noble Lord spoke in terms of enforcement—a term used in the amendment. I prefer to talk in more inclusive rather than exclusive terms. She talked about so many of the issues that we are addressing now, or failing to address. One must use the opportunity to say that the best way to address them is to create safe and legal routes to the UK. I do not want to divert on to the wider question of those who seek sanctuary, but I have to disagree with her approach and some of the language that she used.

By no means all of the new, much-heralded immigration system which will apply to EU citizens is yet in the public domain. The noble Lord, Lord Adonis, referred to UK citizens in the EU; he may see that Amendment 23, which we will come to later, may give us more of an opportunity to discuss their position. When the system is in the public domain, however, we will not be able to rely on it in the same way as we can rely on primary legislation because of the flexibility—would that be a polite word?—provided by the Bill. So much of our system is contained in rules which Parliament cannot realistically amend, and indeed often it takes an awful lot of background knowledge and experience, application and concentration to understand those rules. It is no wonder that the Government had some years ago to require a particular level of expertise to advise on immigration. The rules are difficult for most of us—other noble Lords may say that they waltz through them with no difficulty; I do not—and they are often impenetrable to those directly affected. I have too often heard Ministers say, “It is on GOV.UK.” That is not everyone’s bedtime reading. Indeed, however detailed the rules and however much they flesh out the Bill, it remains a skeleton.

My noble friend Lady Ludford and I have three amendments in this group, all to Schedule 1. The noble Lord, Lord Pannick, referred to the coy but comatose draftsman—I may use that term on other occasions—and my noble friend Lord Beith asked an important question about what instructions had been given to the draftsmen and draftswomen. After all, the responsibility lies with Ministers.

Amendments 4 and 5 take out some of the most offensive words in Schedule 1, which I do not think I need to read into the record again, as others have referred to them. They are wide and imprecise; there are references to “application or operation of” provisions, and

“otherwise capable of affecting the exercise of functions in connection with immigration.”

If any of your Lordships on Opposition Benches were to produce amendments using that sort of terminology, we would quite rapidly be shot down, and rightly so, by the Government Front Bench.

A lot of functions are connected with immigration, and we will come on later to employment, renting property —the rest of the hostile environment. There are also all sorts of functions which I would accept are necessary but which I would not want brought within the repeal of

“rights, powers, liabilities, obligations, restrictions, remedies and procedures”,

to which Section 1 applies.

Amendment 6 in our names would add words to the schedule by not applying it to rights which do not arise under an EU directive. Directives which do not relate to immigration include, in our view: the protection for victims of trafficking in the anti-trafficking directive—there is an amendment specifically on that—the protection for asylum seekers in the reception conditions directive 2013/33, and the protection for victims of crime in the EU victims’ rights directive 2012/29. We do not suggest that we believe that these protections are at risk, but we do not know. If the Bill remains as it is when it becomes an Act, the only way to know for certain is to test the matter in the courts. The noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, was critical in the context of removals from this country of applications to the courts. However, that is what they are there for, and they are applying law that has been made by Parliament, or by Ministers subject to the rather inadequate scrutiny that parliamentarians are able to give them.

On Amendment 6—this is something that has been identified by the Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association; the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, mentioned the comments on the Bill by its chair, Adrian Berry—the protections are potentially at risk as what the association describes as “collateral damage”. We hope that they do not fall within the scope of the Bill, but I think it is a matter for the Government to explain what the position is. This is all about the lack of clarity, the bad rule-making, to which other noble Lords have referred, all offensive to the rule of law.

To return to the first amendment in this group, I welcome reports to Parliament and parliamentary scrutiny. I am hesitant to criticise or comment on the wording of the clause, having learned from the noble Baroness that the clerks were involved in crafting it, but I am not sure that the provisions of Schedule 1 are correctly described as enforceable. A provision within six months would take us beyond the end of the year. However, I should not carp about that sort of detail because, whatever the language, I understand that the supporters of Amendment 1 are seeking to ensure that free movement ends and that Parliament is told how. We have made our views about the first part of that very clear.

Before I finish, I want to mention the amendment by the noble Baroness, Lady Prashar. I thought the points made by noble Lords were very telling regarding the reference to soft power. I was reminded of listening to the European Union Youth Orchestra a couple of years ago in Edinburgh. That was a very special experience and it rather goes to why we are so distressed by what we are having to go along with in the Bill.

I think I have said enough not to have to refer specifically to our opposition to Amendment 1.

Photo of Lord Rosser Lord Rosser Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (Transport)

My Lords, this group of amendments seeks to address the issue of the lack of clarity in the Bill, not least in Schedule 1. I am sure we have reached the stage now where noble Lords want to hear the Government’s response. I wish to comment briefly on three of the amendments in this group, although all of them raise issues of significance, as my noble friend Lord Adonis has said. That has become clear from noble Lords’ contributions, even though noble Lords have not all been coming from the same direction.

Three days ago, we were sent a letter from the Government sharing illustrative drafts of regulations that they propose to make under the powers in Clause 4 of the Bill. One wonders why at least some of the terms of these draft regulations could not now be or already have been incorporated in the Bill and thus be open to proper parliamentary scrutiny.

Schedule 1 revokes Article 1 of the EU workers regulation, which provides freedom-of-movement rights. Paragraph 4(2) of that schedule provides that other parts of the workers regulation cease to apply so far as they are

“inconsistent with any provision made by or under the Immigration Acts” or

“capable of affecting the interpretation, application or operation of any such provision”.

This is a very broad drafting. Amendment 3, to which the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, spoke with his usual considerable authority, would remove paragraph 4(2), as it is so broad and lacks clarity. We share the concern that that amendment seeks to address.

No doubt the Minister, in giving the Government’s reply, will be giving a pretty comprehensive list of examples of how and why, in the Government’s view, other parts of the workers regulation might credibly become, first, inconsistent with provisions made by the Immigration Acts and, secondly, capable of affecting provisions made by or under the Immigration Acts.

My name is attached to Amendments 4 and 5, to which the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, has already spoken. Alongside those specifically repealed, Schedule 1 provides that other EU-derived rights and powers cease to be recognised and available in domestic law so far as they are

“inconsistent with, or are otherwise capable of affecting the interpretation, application or operation of, any provision made by or under the Immigration Acts … or … they are otherwise capable of affecting the exercise of functions in connection with immigration.”

“Capable of affecting” in particular is very subjective and generalised wording that could be interpreted to cover a multitude of circumstances and situations.

Amendments 4 and 5 would tighten up the wording to a degree, so that only parts of the EU-derived rights that are inconsistent with provisions made by or under the Immigration Acts can cease to be recognised or available under domestic law. Once again, these two amendments provide the Government with an opportunity in their response to persuade the House, through a clear explanation of the specific circumstances in which the power would be applied, that the wording in paragraph 6(1) of Schedule 1 is not in reality “catch-all wording” enabling the Government to do whatever they want without further full parliamentary scrutiny in relation to the recognition and availability in domestic law of EU-derived rights, powers, liabilities, obligations, restrictions, remedies and procedures related to immigration.

As has been said, our Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee and our Constitution Committee have expressed themselves in pithy and forthright terms about the sweeping powers that the Government are seeking to grab under this Bill. We await the Government’s response to this group of amendments with interest.

Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department 4:15 pm, 7th September 2020

My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe, supported by the noble Lord, Lord Green of Deddington, for her thoughtful amendment. I understand noble Lords’ concern about the repeal of EU law relating to free movement set out in Schedule 1 and how that will be enforced. Before I address that, I want to pick up a question from my noble friend Lady McIntosh of Pickering, who wanted confirmation that the Bill was non-discriminatory. The whole point of this immigration Bill is that the whole world is treated the same, so I can confirm that.

Schedule 1 sets out a list of measures to be repealed in relation to ending free movement for EU, EEA and Swiss citizens, with the intention that both EEA citizens and their family members will fall within the scope of the Immigration Act 1971 and become subject to the UK’s immigration control—for ease of reference, I will refer to this group as “EEA citizens” during the committee debates. This will create a level playing field for EEA and non-EEA citizens. Those EEA citizens and their family members who arrive here after the end of the transition period from January 2021 must have leave to enter or remain. The Government want EEA citizens who are resident in the UK before that date, and who wish to do so, to stay, and our focus has been on helping them to apply for that status. They can apply online for the EU settlement scheme free of charge. As of 31 July, we have received 3.8 million applications, with plenty of time until the deadline of 30 June 2021.

In order to protect those living in the UK before the end of the transition period, we propose to use the power under Section 7 of the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020 to save free movement rights otherwise repealed by Clause 1 of the Bill and Schedule 1 so that those EEA citizens and their eligible family members resident by the end of 2020 but who have not yet applied to the settlement scheme will continue to be treated the same until 30 June next year. This will ensure that they are able to apply to the EU settlement scheme by the deadline and retain their existing rights in the meantime. This includes pending the decision on their application after that deadline and pending the outcome of an appeal against any decision to refuse status under the EU settlement scheme.

During this grace period, immigration officers who encounter EEA citizens who are still able to apply under the EU settlement scheme will not take any enforcement action but may encourage them to apply by the deadline. Furthermore, we have always been clear that where EEA citizens and their family members have reasonable grounds for missing the deadline, they will be given a further opportunity to apply. We will take a flexible and pragmatic approach to this, and those who need it will be supported through the application process.

Ultimately, however, we are aiming to reach the position where EEA citizens who do not qualify for leave are treated in the same way as non-EEA citizens. As such, if they require leave to enter or remain in the UK but do not have that leave, they will be liable to the same sanctions and enforcement measures. These enforcement provisions are set out in the Immigration Acts and my noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe has mentioned that those cover the rights of access to work, renting property and banking services. It would take a long time for me to list all the relevant provisions here, but I would be happy to write to my noble friend to set those out.

In response to my noble friend’s question on whether this Bill can be used to amend the legislation, I do not think this is the right Bill in which to make any changes to enforcement provisions, which would need to cover both EEA and non-EEA citizens because it is limited to immigration changes as a result of EU exit. However, we are actively exploring legislative options to ensure that key elements of our immigration system, including around enforcement, can be tightened up. This work is at an early stage.

My noble friend also asked me about who the enforcement authorities are. They are primarily those of the Home Office Border Force and immigration enforcement, working in partnership with the police and other government departments, including the DWP, HMRC and the Ministry of Justice.

With regard to my noble friend’s question about available resources for enforcement using technology and the economics of charter flights, which she was right to ask, planning is under way to factor in the requirements of the new points-based system and ensure that all aspects of operational resourcing, recruitment and training are fully delivered. These plans include the redeployment and/or recruitment of new staff where appropriate to deal with applications from EEA citizens. Part of our long-term vision has always been to make better use of digital technology and greater automation to improve the passenger experience while maintaining security at the border.

In terms of staffing, we will always ensure that the Border Force has the resources and the workforce needed to keep the border secure. We will also introduce electronic travel authorisations—or ETAs—for visitors and passengers transiting through the UK who do not currently need a visa for short stays or who do not already have an immigration status prior to travelling. I hope that answers the question of the noble Lord, Lord Adonis. This will allow security checks to be conducted and more informed decisions to be taken on information obtained at an earlier stage as to whether individuals should be allowed to travel to the UK. Therefore, the ETA scheme will add an additional security measure while also providing individuals with more assurance at an earlier point in their time about their ability to travel. The noble Lord also asked about longer-term visit visas for EU citizens, and he is right. Arrangements for longer visas will be set out in the Immigration Rules for people coming to the UK.

On my noble friend’s question about charter flights, the majority of returns take place on commercially scheduled flights. Where a chartered flight is required, the Home Office procures the use of chartered aircraft through a broker to ensure competitive pricing and access to different aircraft and contractors depending on the requirements of the operation. We think that this blended approach provides the best value for money for the taxpayer. However, I will take her point back and ensure that it is made. I also assure noble Lords that the Home Office will be updating its published enforcement policy with regards to EEA citizens at the end of the transition period.

The noble Lord, Lord Green of Deddington, pressed that point about enforcing laws on illegal working, as did my noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe. The overarching ambition of the illegal working strategy to tackle illegal working is to work with businesses to deny access to the labour market and encourage and ensure compliance. The illegal working strategy is intelligence-led and it focuses on three main areas: deterring illegal migration, safeguarding the vulnerable and protecting the UK economy,

The further report this amendment requires is unnecessary because policy guidance on enforcement is already published on the GOV.UK website. I can hear the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, virtually moaning from behind the screen on referring her to the website. However, I am sure noble Lords will join me in encouraging all those who are eligible to apply before the deadline expires next June. On that note, I hope that my noble friend will withdraw her amendment.

I turn now to the opposition of the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, in total to Clause 1. The clause introduces the first schedule to the Bill, which contains a list of measures to be repealed in relation to the end of free movement and related issues. Noble Lords have asked whether it is needed at all. It fulfils a purely mechanistic function to introduce the schedule. Without Clause 1, we cannot deliver on the will of the people in the 2016 referendum result; we cannot end free movement without repealing Section 7 of the Immigration Act 1988.

In line with long-established practice, the detail of this future system will be set out in the Immigration Rules rather than in this Bill and it will be in place from January 2021. It is of paramount importance that, as an independent sovereign state, the UK must have the ability to forge its own immigration policy and depart from EU law. The people of the UK gave us the mandate to end free movement when they voted to leave the EU and the Government gave a commitment in their manifesto to deliver on that mandate. The people are now expecting us to uphold that commitment; Clause 1 is essential to doing so and this House should not stand in the way of delivering what is a priority for the people of this country. I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, withdraws her opposition to Clause 1.

I turn now to Amendments 3 to 6. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, for speaking to their amendments. Their purpose is to retain rights derived directly from EU law after the end of the transition period. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, that, unlike Caligula, I am not going to put the law up at a height and in small writing so that people cannot read it.

However, I know that the noble Lord has an issue with paragraph 4(2) of Part 2 of Schedule 1 to the Bill, which disapplies directly effective provisions of the Workers Regulation where they are capable of altering the interpretation, application or operation of any part of the Immigration Acts. His amendment seeks to remove this paragraph, meaning that provisions within the Workers Regulation, which may be inconsistent with those in the Immigration Acts, will continue to apply.

For example, as we set out in the Explanatory Memorandum to the Bill, article 10 notes:

“The children of a national of a Member State who is or has been employed in the territory of another Member State shall be admitted to that State’s general educational, apprenticeship and vocational training courses under the same conditions as the nationals of that State, if such children are residing in its territory. Member States shall encourage all efforts to enable such children to attend these courses under the best possible conditions.”

If the noble Lord’s amendment were accepted, it would permit an EEA citizen to claim a right of residence here if their child was in education here. It does not support the ending of free movement.

Paragraph 4(2) of Schedule 1 does not prevent the child of an EEA citizen who is legally resident and employed in the UK being able to rely on article 10 to access UK education on the same conditions as a British citizen. This remains unchanged by the Bill as it relates to education and not immigration. However, I note the noble Lord’s criticisms and will arrange a meeting before Report with noble Lords on this provision so that we can perhaps go through it more fully.

Paragraph 6(1) of Schedule 1 disapplies directly effective rights under EU law to the extent that they conflict with domestic immigration law or immigration functions. The amendments of the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, would instead allow directly effective rights to be retained in an immigration context. Directly effective rights are rights conferred on individuals in EU law that can be relied on in national courts, even without national legislation transposing them.

The European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 incorporates EU law into UK domestic law at the end of the transition period. It incorporates directly effective rights deriving from EU directives and treaties. If no action is taken to curtail those rights, they will continue to apply and be available in UK law after the transition period. EEA citizens could then attempt to rely on those rights to resurrect provisions of EU free movement law which had otherwise been repealed by the rest of this Bill.

I mentioned in response to the opposition of the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, to Clause 1 the importance of the UK having the ability to forge its own immigration policy, independent of EU law. The Government are committed to delivering the people’s priority of ending free movement; terminating directly effective rights for immigration purposes is an essential part of that.

The purpose of paragraph 4(2) of Schedule 1 is to protect the new law the Bill outlines from being affected by any directly effective EU law not being repealed by this Bill. The paragraph ensures that the provisions of the Bill take effect as drafted, are not subject to interpretation and are clear. To remove this provision and potentially have the Immigration Acts operating in parallel with retained EU law, in so far as it is contained within the workers regulation, would have the opposite effect to the stated intention of the noble Lord, Lord Pannick. It would cause confusion in how the Immigration Acts operate and would allow EU law to continue to affect our immigration policy. We cannot allow that to happen.

In turning to the amendments proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, I note that the drafting of paragraph 6(1) of Schedule 1 ensures that nothing is missed that might mean free movement was only partially repealed. The noble Baroness proposes that we do not disapply directly effective rights deriving from EU directives. That would mean that all the rights conferred by the EU’s 2004 free movement directive—to enter and reside without leave and to be accompanied by family members—would continue even after the UK’s implementing legislation had been repealed. This would again lead to confusion and incoherence and would frustrate the will of the British people that EU free movement be ended, safely but completely.

Schedule 1 does not disapply directly effective rights in their entirety. Some, such as the right to equal treatment in the field of employment, as mentioned by my noble friend Lady McIntosh of Pickering, range more widely than immigration policy; they are disapplied only to the extent that they impact immigration laws or functions. With these reassurances, I hope noble Lords who have tabled these amendments will withdraw or not move them.

I move on to Amendment 60 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Prashar, supported by my noble friend Lady Fookes and the noble Baronesses, Lady Morris of Yardley and Lady Garden of Frognal. I thank the noble Baroness for her amendment, which, in light of the Government’s published intention to phase out the use of national identity cards for travel to the UK in 2021, seeks to encourage EEA minors to choose the UK for their English language studies by enabling them to travel here once a year using a national identity card. I note the concern of the noble Baroness, echoed today, that we might lose such students to Ireland or Malta.

We fully recognise the concerns of English language schools and acknowledge that they will have been exacerbated by the impact of coronavirus on travel, tourism and education this year. EEA students with status under the EU settlement scheme will be able to use their national identity card to enter the UK until at least 31 December 2025. However, it is our intention that all other EEA students should in future be treated like students from the rest of the world; they will be able to come either under the visitor route or as a student. We have, however, left the EU and it would not be appropriate for EEA students to be given the right of entry on production of an identity card that this amendment would confer.

Passports are required for travel to most countries outside the EU and are typically valid for between five and 10 years and priced accordingly, so should not be considered an uncommon or short-term investment. I also highlight that students of other nationalities, including those from the UK and from EU member states where ID cards are not available, must have a passport if they wish to travel abroad.

One alternative suggestion put forward by the noble Baroness at Second Reading was to create a passport-free joint travel document which could be used by a group of students travelling together with a group leader. The noble Baroness, Lady Morris of Yardley, alluded to that today. I am happy to report that such a document already exists in the form of the Council of Europe collective passport, which is a very good way for an organised group of young people to make a trip between certain European countries. While they are not widely used, the ratifying countries have the option to issue them.

The noble Baroness suggested that such a document would minimise delays at the border. However, for those eligible to use them, the fastest way to enter the UK is by using our e-gates. Following the end of the transition period, although we will keep our position under review, it is our intention that EEA citizens will continue to be able to seek entry to the UK using our e-gates—including 12 to 17 year-olds when accompanied by an adult—but only when travelling on a biometric passport.

The proposed amendment from the noble Baroness would also require an additional assessment of whether the EEA citizen was the right age and was seeking to enter the UK for the permitted period. That would further prolong the transaction time. Moreover, national identity cards are among the most abused documents detected at the border. Consequently, as well as reflecting our departure from the EU, limiting the use of national identity cards for travel to the UK to those with a retained right to use them under the withdrawal agreements will improve our national security.

Finally, the amendment proposed by the noble Baroness is inappropriate for this Bill because, as drafted, it does not recognise the ability of particular categories of EEA citizens to use their identity cards without restriction until at least 2025 under the terms of the withdrawal agreements. In addition, it would oblige us to treat certain EEA citizens without such rights more generously than others by giving them a right of entry at a time when we are ending free movement rights to align the immigration treatment of EEA and non-EEA citizens.

The noble Baroness also talked about improvements to the standards of ID cards. We recognise that EEA member states are looking to raise the standards of their ID cards, but the less secure documents will still be in circulation for quite a long time. I hope that, with all the explanation I have given, she will feel able not to press her Amendment 60.

I now finally move on to Amendment 61 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, which seeks to ensure that EEA and Swiss nationals continue to have access to e-gates at UK ports. The Government have previously set out that EEA and Swiss nationals may continue to have access to e-gates at the end of the transition period. However, it has also been clear that this policy will be kept under review to ensure that we can run our border in the UK’s best interests. This position was most recently set out in The UK’s Points-based Immigration System: Policy Statement, published in July. Further details of any changes to border control procedures affecting EU citizens will be announced in due course, following the negotiations on the future UK-EU relationship.

Changes to the methods by which non-UK and Irish citizens may be permitted to enter the UK are usually covered by changes to the Immigration (Leave to Enter and Remain) Order 2000. The vires for the 2000 order are derived from Section 3A of the Immigration Act 1971, which allows the Secretary of State to make provision for how leave to enter may be granted. This secondary legislation process has already been used to extend e-gate eligibility, as the noble Lord pointed out, to nationals of Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and the US.

The existing process of secondary legislation provides the flexibility required to run our border in the national interest, allowing us to respond quickly and appropriately to any changes in risk and threat. Therefore, we do not need to make the proposed change by way of this Bill, and noble Lords can be assured that there are processes available to make such an amendment to the 2000 order before the end of the transition period.

I finally turn to a question from the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, on comprehensive sickness insurance; the Committee will come on to amendments relating to citizenship another day, but I will answer that. It is a requirement, under EU law, for EEA citizens who are students or self-sufficient to hold comprehensive sickness insurance but, if people who were previously here as a student or as self-sufficient lack this, it does not mean that an application will be refused. The British Nationality Act allows for discretion to be applied around this requirement in the special circumstances of a particular case. My officials will examine each application to understand why such a requirement has not been complied with, together with any grounds which can allow us to nevertheless grant an application. Our guidance reflects this, and our application form encourages anyone so affected to provide as much information as possible to allow us to reach a decision.

I am sorry I have gone on for quite a long time, but I hope that noble Lords will not press their amendments.

Photo of Lord Brougham and Vaux Lord Brougham and Vaux Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords) 4:30 pm, 7th September 2020

My Lords, I have received requests to speak after the Minister from the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, and the noble Lord, Lord Pannick.

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

My Lords, I thank the Minister for her extended explanation. She talked about electronic travel authorisations and referred to The UK’s Points-based Immigration System: Further Details document. As far as ETAs are concerned, that document talks about the “border of the future” and that it is part of a phased programme to 2025. How will EU and EEA citizens using the e-passport gates be stopped from coming in if they have not provided details in advance? If it is not necessary for them to provide details in advance, why are the Government introducing ETAs for EU and EEA citizens up to 2025?

I am sorry to keep repeating this, but I specifically asked the Minister what the various data sources were to confirm time spent in the UK, to ensure that EEA citizens do not stay for more than six months if they use the e-passport gates or to stop them effectively having a continuous six-month rolling period by going out of the UK for a day and coming back again. She has not referred to that. In particular, I asked her what data sources would enable an EU citizen who had not left the UK after six months to be tracked down and, if necessary, deported.

Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department 4:45 pm, 7th September 2020

The noble Lord asked about the lead-up to 2025 and the ETA. It is a new immigration system—there will be a pragmatic approach to people coming in and out of this country, because it is a whole new system and will take some time to bed in. The ETA will give both security and certainty on people coming in and out of this country.

In terms of data sets, we obviously now use exit checks; if someone has a visa, it will be on their visa how long they are able to stay. The noble Lord talked about the person who literally went in and out of Lille in one day in order to update their boarding card. He makes a very good point.

This system will take some time to bed in. I will write to the noble Lord about some of the very specific supplementary questions he has asked; I am just giving him the answers that I know off the top of my head. As for sanctions for someone who has not complied, obviously it is easier for someone with a visa, and less easy for someone doing a series of short stays.

Photo of Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Green

I am very sorry to correct the Minister, but she made a statement earlier that was incorrect. In response to my noble friend Lady Bennett, she said of retaining—or not taking away —freedom of movement that it was the will of the people and what the people voted for with their Brexit vote. That is absolutely not true. We voted—I voted—for Brexit for many different reasons, and freedom of movement did not particularly come up as a reason. Quite honestly, none of us understood that the Government were going to make such a shambles of it. We could not have predicted that it could be so badly handled. So please, it is not the will of the people, and it was not what people voted for with Brexit. They voted for a variety of reasons.

Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department

My Lords, we did vote to leave the EU, and I do not think anyone can be in any doubt about some of the reasons. People voted for a variety of reasons, but the noble Baroness will totally understand that I am not going to get into a debate about why people did or did not want to leave the EU. I will leave it there.

Photo of Lord Pannick Lord Pannick Crossbench

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for her careful response to Amendment 3. It was very thoughtful—not a response off the top of her head. I am also grateful for the offer of a meeting, which I will happily take up.

The Minister gave an example of a provision in the regulations that she said was inconsistent with the immigration Acts. I accept that there may well be many such provisions. My point is very simple: spell them out in Schedule 1. Do not use this vague language of drafting which means that people cannot identify what their rights and obligations are. My amendment is not designed to keep or remove any particular right; it is simply designed to require the Government to instruct the parliamentary draftsman to produce a provision that implies basic standards of legal certainty. I hope the Minister has noted the substantial concern around the House at this lack of certainty in the drafting of Schedule 1. It is simply not good enough and it needs to be addressed. I look forward to discussing this with the Minister prior to Report.

Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department

I totally understand the point that the noble Lord makes about certainty. In addressing this, I should like to meet him, because I totally get what he is saying. He is not being difficult; he is just asking that we lay out the law and provide certainty.

Photo of Baroness Neville-Rolfe Baroness Neville-Rolfe Conservative

My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part in the debate on this catch-all group of amendments. There have been some very high-quality contributions. In particular, I thank my noble friend for her careful and full answers; they have got us off to a good start.

I was rather surprised to hear the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, quoting the insights of the sociopath Caligula. However, I think he—and other noble Lords—made some good points about clarity of drafting and the complexity of immigration law, which makes its fair, efficient and firm enforcement more difficult. It also creates a great deal of work for lawyers. That is not an unvarnished advantage.

The noble Lords, Lord Beith and Lord Rosser, rightly referred to the use of secondary rather than primary legislation, and I am sure we will come back to that when we come to scrutinise Amendment 9.

We heard good support for the two practical amendments on minors visiting the UK using identity cards and on e-gates. The response was a bit disappointing on identity cards, but there were some very good points made about e-gates, and the Minister will obviously answer the more detailed questions on that from the noble Lords, Lord Paddick and Lord Adonis.

The most powerful intervention about robust enforcement was from the noble Lord, Lord Green of Deddington, whom I call a friend. He made a number of practical suggestions. I am not sure I have heard quite enough about how the Bill will be enforced or its “integrity”, to quote the noble Lord, Lord Adonis. I will talk to the noble Lord, Lord Green, and we may return to the issue on Report, in the same or in some alternative form, because enforcement of the law is very important. For now, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 1 withdrawn.

Clause 1 agreed.

Photo of Lord Brougham and Vaux Lord Brougham and Vaux Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

My Lords, we now come to the group beginning with Amendment 2. I remind noble Lords that anyone wishing to speak after the Minister should email the clerk during the debate. Anyone wishing to press this amendment to a Division should make that clear in the debate.