Amendment 1

Part of Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill - Committee (1st Day) – in the House of Lords at 3:30 pm on 7th September 2020.

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Photo of Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Conservative 3:30 pm, 7th September 2020

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.