Amendment 1

Part of Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill - Committee (1st Day) – in the House of Lords at 3:45 pm on 7th September 2020.

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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.