Amendment 9

Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill - Committee (1st Day) – in the House of Lords at 8:45 pm on 7th September 2020.

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Baroness Hamwee:

Moved by Baroness Hamwee

9: Clause 4, page 2, line 34, leave out “appropriate” and insert “necessary”Member’s explanatory statementThis amendment would restrict the Secretary of State’s discretion and preclude her or him from making regulations which are not necessary.

Photo of Baroness Hamwee Baroness Hamwee Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Immigration)

My Lords, in moving Amendment 9, I shall speak also to Amendments 10, 11, 13, and 35 to 38, in my name and that of my noble friend, and to my objection that Clause 4 should stand part of the Bill.

In the debate on Amendment 3, we heard some precise and forensic criticism of the drafting of the Bill. I could almost say—but I will not—that we could just read across to this group all that was said in that debate. I will resist that temptation.

Clause 4 provoked the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee to repeat the view of the Constitution Committee that skeleton Bills inhibit parliamentary scrutiny, that it is difficult to envisage any circumstances in which their use is acceptable, and that the Government must provide a justification for them. The committee describes the Bill as leaving so much of the post-transition period regimes for immigration and for social security co-ordination—the subject of Clause 5— to be “provided for in regulations”. “By-passing Parliament”, the phrase used, must cause anyone with any interest in the governance of the UK to be really worried. I must say that people are worried about the governance of the UK whether they think about it in those terms or, as is currently the position, they do not under- stand what the Government are telling them to do.

There is a need for the provision of mechanics for ending free movement; this has not suddenly come upon us out of the blue. While of course I accept that this is a complex area, it means that there is all the more need to have got on with the detail and published it, even during the Parliament before last, so that we could have considered it. After all, the referendum was held four years ago last June, and Article 50 was triggered in March 2017.

The “breathtakingly wide” powers—I quote the Public Law Project—which it is proposed will be given to the Secretary of State, would give anyone pause. The Public Law Project says that its work on Brexit

“seeks to promote Parliamentary sovereignty.”

That is a point worth making in the context of this debate. The term “parliamentary sovereignty” may have a familiar ring in the context of Brexit.

The Minister has circulated an illustrative draft statutory instrument, and I thank her for that. However, noble Lords will not miss the significance of the terms “illustrative” and “draft” coupled with “statutory instrument”. For those who have not looked at it, it has 42 pages. I am not suggesting that it is totally impenetrable, but you need to have both the expertise and the time to work through all the omissions of certain words, or their substitution for other words, in section such-and-such of such-and-such an Act. I, for one, do not feel capable of making comments on that, given the short period for which we have had this statutory instrument, since late on Friday. In any event, it is illustrative and a draft, so it may not be in its final form at all. If this were to be the final form, it would have the inherent limitations of which we are all aware.

This group of amendments consists of omitting words which add up to what I regard as an offensive provision, together with the objection to Clause 4 in its entirety, to which I have put my name. Amendment 9 substitutes the word “necessary” for “appropriate”, to restrict the discretion of the Secretary of State; “appropriate” does not provide for the objectivity of “necessary”.

Amendment 10 would limit the regulations to those “in consequence” of primary legislation, not “in connection with”. In paragraph 12 of its report, the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee said that:

“The combination of … the permissive concept of ‘appropriateness’ … the words ‘in connection with [Part 1 of the Bill]’ … the subject matter of Part 1 (ending free movement), and … the large number of persons who will be affected, make this a very significant delegation of power from Parliament to the Executive.”

Amendment 11 would limit the use of regulations to matters for which the Government have already indicated they are intended to be used: the coherence of legislation; the consistency of treatment of differing nationalities; and the retention of the rights of persons with leave to enter or remain in the UK. This amendment does not seek to do anything against government policy. Amendment 13 would also set limitations.

Amendments 35 to 38 relate to the mechanisms. Clause 4(6) would make the first statutory instrument “made affirmative”; why? As the DPRRC notes, this could mean that the first regulations could be in force for a lot longer than 40 days without scrutiny. However, as it happens, the House has got to the Bill so late, and after the Summer Recess—I do not foresee any other long recesses this year, unless it is to shut us up a bit— and so this is not the issue that it was. However, that does not detract from the importance of having timely scrutiny of the first regulations. In the context of Covid, there have been many recent examples of regulations coming into force and being superseded, before either House has had an opportunity to consider them.

I will of course wait to see what the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, says about her Amendment 32. I do not disagree with the point, but it seems to be expressed rather narrowly.

This group of amendments amounts to opposition to the whole approach of Clause 4. I look forward to what I hope may be quite excoriating speeches from noble Lords. I beg to move Amendment 9.

Photo of Baroness Neville-Rolfe Baroness Neville-Rolfe Conservative 9:00 pm, 7th September 2020

My Lords, I rise to speak to my Amendment 32 and to thank the noble Lord, Lord Green of Deddington, for his support. This amendment would ensure that the powers in Clause 4 were limited in line with the spirit of the Long Title, which addresses EU law, and would not allow the Secretary of State to change the rules regarding non-EEA or Swiss migrants under the cover of “connected purposes”.

I tabled this amendment for two reasons. First, like the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, I am concerned about the wide nature of the powers in the Bill—breath-takingly wide, in her words—and the excessive use of secondary legislation. Others have already made this point better than I can in earlier discussion, and I look forward to hearing the Minister’s response to concerns expressed today and to the recommendations of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee. It would be a great pleasure to hear from its chairman, my noble friend Lord Blencathra, who is sitting next to me in a socially distanced manner.

Secondly, in discussion with our excellent clerks, it emerged that amendments to Clause 4 tabled in this House could relate only to EEA or Swiss citizens. Examples include Amendment 26 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Green, on immigration caps, Amendment 27 on the prior advertising of jobs in the domestic market—to which I have added my name—and Amendment 29 on the employment of asylum seekers in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher.

My reading of the paperwork on, for example, the points-based immigration system, and the discussion to date is that the Clause 4 power may be used to set down immigration rules or revisions which apply to third-country citizens as well. I must ask my noble friend the Minister for a clear answer on whether this is the intention or not. If that is the case, I am sure that she and the whole House would agree that we must be able to table amendments to the Bill that relate to third-country citizens as well, otherwise we will not be scrutinising the Bill properly.

Photo of Baroness Ludford Baroness Ludford Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Exiting the European Union)

I also very much look forward to hearing from the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, as his committee has provided us with two excellent reports which have been of great assistance, particularly with regard to Clause 4.

My noble friend Lady Hamwee pinched one of my quotes, but I will use the other one from the Delegated Powers Committee report, which stated that

“we are frankly disturbed that the Government should consider it appropriate to include the words ‘in connection with’. This would confer permanent powers on Ministers to make whatever legislation they considered appropriate, provided there was at least some connection with Part 1, however tenuous”,

and by negative procedure regulations, unless it amended primary legislation. I think we can take from that that they do not think very much of Clause 4 and the schedule.

Even if there is some value in the fact that the first regulations are by “made affirmative” rather than negative procedure, those rights could be abolished by new regulations under Clause 4, when the negative procedure would apply. Therefore, any value there is in “made affirmative” over negative procedure could be removed by some deft sequencing of regulations. Everything points to the justification of having a test of necessity.

Paragraph 6 of Schedule 1 is also problematic. It potentially disapplies any retained EU law in the context of immigration. This could lead to the repeal of legal protections far beyond the realms of free movement. It could dent the EU law retained by Section 4 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 because, even though provisions might have been partially saved by the Act, those provisions would not apply to the extent that

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

That is amazingly broad. We had some fun over the Brexit draft legislation with delegated powers, Henry VIII clauses and so on, but I have not seen anything quite to match this. The phrase

“functions in connection with immigration” can relate to almost any aspect of immigration control within the UK. This is broadened even further when it is linked to the test of “capable of affecting”. It lacks any objective parameters by which to be able to ascertain the intended targets. Immigration practitioners trying to advise clients will be totally at sea. It undermines the rule of law if people do not know what the law is or could be in this area. They are going to be unable to make their behaviour fit the law.

A number of measures could be cited. Trafficking victims have already been discussed on an earlier group of amendments. Asylum seekers were protected under the reception conditions directive, which the UK opted into although it did not opt into all the asylum legislation. During the debate on an earlier group of amendments, my noble friend Lady Hamwee mentioned the protection of victims of crime and the victims’ rights directive. These protections are potentially at risk as collateral damage from the ending of free movement. Even if the Government do not intend at this moment to repeal these provisions, they must explain why they could fall within the Bill and how they are going to introduce some rigour into the drafting of the Bill, such that this collateral damage does not happen.

With my support, my noble friend Lady Hamwee has put forward one solution in Amendment 11. All the amendments in this group are intended to provide the tightening up that is so sadly lacking from the drafting of the Bill as presented to us.

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

It is my pleasure to follow the three noble Baroness who have spoken. In our earlier session I strongly disagreed with the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, but in this case, I agree with her concerns and share her experience of apparent inequality. I sought to table a number of amendments to the Bill to deal more broadly not with just EU and EEA citizens, but I was told that they were outside the scope, yet it appears that the Government are being given open slather to address anything they like through the Bill.

I rise specifically to speak to Amendment 11 in the name of the noble Baronesses, Lady Hamwee and Lady Ludford, to which I was pleased to attach my name. As other speakers have said, this group of amendments broadly addresses the problem that this is a skeleton Bill that gives the Government a huge range of powers and opportunities to make decisions in an undemocratic, untransparent way, and to make mistakes.

I reflect on that particularly because last week I took part in the debate on the Jobseekers (Back to Work) Schemes (Remedial) Order. The Grand Committee of your Lordships’ House spent a fair bit of time disentangling something that had been going on for the best part of a decade, with inadequate and inaccurate information being provided to people being forced into workfare. The Minister told us it affected some 5,000 people, who spent 30 hours a week on it. The Bill’s skeleton framework gives the Government powers that are so much broader and larger in terms of the impact on people’s lives that it will be as large as workfare was.

This Bill gives the Government the chance to decide at the stroke of a pen where people can live and work, where they can form relationships and whether they can spend years of their life living with their children. If they lose those years they will never be able to get them back. Given the capacity taken up by one error in workfare, does your Lordships’ House and the whole system have the capacity to deal with the level of mistakes and legal errors and do the courts have the capacity to deal with issues being taken through them? We need to focus on the human impact.

The explanation given by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, for Amendment 11 is that it limits the use of regulation-making powers to matters for which Her Majesty’s Government have indicated that they are intended. In this area—in every area, as we soon will be talking about the Agriculture Bill, which is crucial for our environment and society—but particularly when we are making crucial decisions about people’s lives, there has to be legal clarity. As the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, said, for people to be able to follow the rules, they have to know what the rules are, the intentions behind them, and that Parliament has been able to scrutinise them democratically.

Photo of Lord Green of Deddington Lord Green of Deddington Crossbench 9:15 pm, 7th September 2020

My Lords, I am glad to support Amendment 32, which is an important amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe. As she indicated, this amendment bears directly on the anomaly that lies at the heart of the Bill. It purports to deal with aspects of our withdrawal from the EU, so one would expect it to deal with the consequences for citizens of the EU and the EEA only. However, in its report of 2 September the Constitution Committee stressed that this Bill effectively changes significant areas of immigration law from primary to secondary legislation.

I expect the Government to argue that changes to Immigration Rules have long been dealt with by a process similar to that for statutory instruments, but to introduce an entirely new system in this way is a very different matter. Furthermore, in its report of 25 August, the Delegated Powers Committee, from which we will hear very shortly, pointed out that the “made affirmative” procedure that the Government have chosen will mean that the new regulations will come into force before they are debated in Parliament.

Finally, as I understand the position, the Home Office is working on a complete revision of the Immigration Rules which might run to several hundred pages. They could be put through Parliament with no serious examination before they come into force. I think the Minister mentioned something to this effect earlier. Will she clarify the position? Is this indeed what is likely to happen?

Photo of Baroness Meacher Baroness Meacher Crossbench

My Lords, I support the noble Lord, Lord Rosser. As a member of the Delegated Powers Committee I strongly support all the points made in our report and, along with other noble Lords, I very much look forward to hearing from our chairman, the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra.

I am aware that part 6A of the Immigration Rules sets out the points-based system which applies to migrants from the rest of the world. EEA citizens will move from a position of free movement to having to find their way through a thicket of literally hundreds of pages of rules and guidance currently applying to the rest of the world. Will the points-based system be adjusted for EEA citizens? If so, in what ways will the EEA rules diverge from the current system set up in part 6A? The framework should surely be in the Bill.

Clause 4 has potentially life-changing consequences for a large number of people—an issue raised by the Delegated Powers Committee report. Ministers are given the power to modify primary legislation or to modify retained EU legislation, which has a similar status to primary legislation, as noble Lords know. These provisions, together with the power for Ministers to introduce regulations on any subject in connection with Part I of the Bill, provide incredibly wide powers for Ministers.

I want to take just one example of an issue which needs to be dealt with in the Bill and I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, will raise a number of others. Tier 3 of the PBS which applies to unskilled workers has never been opened. We know that the UK is likely to face severe shortages of so-called unskilled workers in some sectors, most particularly health and social care but a number of others as well. Can the Minister press her colleagues to spell out in the Bill the key changes envisaged to the PBS, at least for the short to medium term, to keep the UK economy functioning adequately? Then, of course, Ministers could have the powers to introduce regulations to adjust the system over time. I fully recognise that there would be a need for that.

We all understand the need for Ministers to be able to introduce consequential amendments through secondary legislation, such as removing the references to free movement scattered across the statute book. Typically, however, most consequential amendments are put in the Bill and then regulations are used to tidy up the bits and pieces that were somehow missed during its passage.

We are invited by counsel to the Delegated Powers Committee to consider whether Ministers’ powers to make consequential amendments through regulations should be restricted by a test of necessity. Can the Minister convince the Committee that the wide powers to make consequential amendments to this Bill are in fact necessary? It would be very interesting to hear the Minister’s defence, if you like, of the breadth of those consequential amendments left to regulations. Why cannot most such amendments be included in the Bill before Report? I am sure colleagues would support a short delay before Report to allow that to be done.

Even more serious than the power to make unlimited consequential amendments is the power to make regulations in connection with Part I of the Bill, as other noble Lords have mentioned. I strongly support the amendment from the Baroness, Lady Hamwee, to deal with that issue. This would of course become redundant if Clause 4 were replaced with a string of substantive clauses.

Can the Minister provide an adequate justification for the broad discretion given to Ministers to levy fees or charges on anyone seeking leave to enter or remain in the UK who until the end of the transition period would have had free movement rights under EU law? If not, then these matters must surely be in the Bill with provision for Ministers to adjust the fees or charges over time. As others have said, transitional protections for EEA nationals who are resident in the UK before the end of the transition period are surely known. Why are they not in the Bill? Perhaps the Minister could explain that.

Finally, I had understood that Brexit was all about restoring the sovereignty of the UK Parliament. This is just one of a series of Bills transferring powers from the EU not to the UK Parliament but to Ministers. We know that even where the affirmative procedure will be used, Parliament has no real power to influence the shape of those regulations. I hope the Minister will do all she can to achieve a more democratic outcome to this Bill, even at this late stage, by replacing Clause 4 with a series of clauses spelling out the Government’s policies, or at least the framework of those policies, to adjust the points-based system to meet the needs of the UK economy in the post-Brexit world.

Photo of Lord Blencathra Lord Blencathra Chair, Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee, Chair, Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee

It is a delight to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, one of the most distinguished members of the Delegated Powers Committee. I am particularly grateful that she has not stolen all the sexiest bits of our report and has left me some original bits to quote, although a number of noble Baronesses and the noble Lord, Lord Green of Deddington, also quoted extensively from it. Perhaps I should sit down and say, “I agree with everyone who has gone before me”, but since I have been here in the Palace for about eight hours, working upstairs, I feel I should earn my crust.

I am speaking on Clause 4 stand part only to draw attention to some of the key points of the Delegated Powers Committee report on the Bill. I am privileged to chair that committee but, in view of some of the highly critical reports we have made recently, my noble friends may be pleased to know that I will be standing down as chair. My term is up by Christmastime, so there may be a more emollient chairman in future.

Last week I spoke on the Delegated Powers Committee report on the medicines Bill and quoted extensively from it. Our report then was hard hitting and I make no apology that I was robust—I suppose I was not robust but scathing—in my condemnation of the delegated powers, which in my opinion were an affront to democracy. I said then that the Bill was “not unique”, just another in a long line of skeleton Bills with all the blank spaces to be filled in by delegated legislation—much of it negative, of course.

Today I will not be as vicious in my remarks, but I report in sorrow that this Bill also has some fundamentally excessive delegated powers. Clause 4(1) confers on the Secretary of State powers to make regulations containing

“such provision as the Secretary of State considers appropriate in consequence of, or in connection with, any provision” of Part 1 of the Bill, including Henry VIII powers to amend primary legislation. The combination of the permissive concept of whatever the Minister thinks appropriate, as opposed to necessary, the words “in connection with” the Bill, the subject matter of Part 1, ending free movement, and the number of persons who will be affected make all this a very significant delegation of power from Parliament to the Executive.

With regard to those provisions, my Committee said:

“As we said in our earlier Report, we are frankly disturbed that the Government should consider it appropriate to include the words ‘in connection with’. This would confer permanent powers on Ministers to make whatever legislation they considered appropriate, provided there was at least some connection with Part 1, however tenuous; and to do so by negative procedure regulations (assuming no amendment was made to primary legislation).”

As for the scrutiny of regulations, we are concerned that the first set of regulations would be made by the “made affirmative” procedure, avoiding legislative scrutiny before they come into effect, but subsequent ones would be draft affirmative—but only if they amended primary legislation. Everything else would be negative, even if the regulations amend or repeal what is known as retained direct principal EU legislation. By contrast, the approach in the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020 is that the affirmative procedure is mandatory where regulations modify retained direct principal EU law.

We were also concerned that delegated legislation could alter fees and charges enacted in primary legislation. As mentioned by noble Baronesses earlier, it is usual for legislation to have a schedule at the end listing consequential amendments and a provision that regulations can tidy up any missing bits or loose ends with further consequentials, but in Clause 4 the bulk of the consequentials will be done by regulations afterwards.

So we concluded, overall, the following:

“We remain of the view, expressed in our earlier Report, that clause 4(1) contains an inappropriate delegation of power and that the Bill should be amended so that: the words ‘or in connection with’ are removed from clause 4(1); consequential amendments are included in the Bill itself, but with a power to add others (subject to a test of necessity) by regulations (subject to the affirmative procedure if primary legislation or retained direct principal EU legislation is amended or repealed); transitional protections for EEA nationals who are resident in the UK before the end of the transition period are included on the face of the Bill; clause 4(5) (about fees and charges) is removed, unless the Government can provide full justification for its inclusion and explain how they intend to use the power; and clause 4(6), which provides for the first set of regulations under clause 4(1) to be subject to the made affirmative procedure, is removed from the Bill.”

Those were the principal conclusions that we reached.

Most noble Lords will know this but perhaps I may point out just for the record that my committee does not take a view on the merits of the Bill. We consider not the policy nor the politics but whether the proposed delegation of powers to Ministers is appropriate. If we had a Bill before us on the slaughter of the firstborn, we would comment not on the merits but on whether the powers delegated to Herod’s satraps or his personal guard, the Doryphnoroi, were appropriate and whether his earlier demand for all of Judea to be taxed should be on the face of the Bill. That would be our concern in the Delegated Powers Committee.

Nor have we changed our criteria one iota for what we consider to be inappropriate. It has stayed the same since 1922—I mean 1992; that was a Freudian slip from a member of the Conservative Party—when the committee was created. What has changed over the years, and not just in the last few years, has been the number of Henry VIII clauses included, regulations masquerading as protocols in order to avoid scrutiny, skeleton Bills, and the great myth perpetrated by the parliamentary draftsman’s department that there can be only negative or affirmative procedures, and draft affirmatives and made affirmatives do not seem to exist.

We reached exactly the same conclusion with regard to Clause 5, but I have no intention of boring the Committee by making the same arguments again. Noble Lords can take it as read that we have exactly the same concerns on that clause.

Therefore, I hope that the Government will make at least some of the amendments that we suggest. They will still get a good Bill which will deliver all they want and be able to deliver it just as quickly but with some proper parliamentary scrutiny added to it.

Photo of Lord Kennedy of Southwark Lord Kennedy of Southwark Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Shadow Spokesperson (Housing) 9:30 pm, 7th September 2020

My Lords, this group of amendments is concerned with the purpose, scope and extent of delegated powers conferred on Ministers by Parliament. I am grateful to the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee for its report on the Bill and to the members of the committee who have spoken, including their chair, the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra.

The report raises serious concerns about the inappropriateness of the delegation of powers to the Executive and proposes changes which I fully support and endorse. However, it is disappointing that, as the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, highlighted, the committee has over some considerable time produced such reports but then the next Bill has come along and the same issues have been identified.

During the Brexit campaign, we kept being told about taking back control and the sovereignty of our Parliament, but here lots of things are being passed on to Ministers and that does not quite seem to me to be taking back control. It is a bit like the pledge about the NHS on the side of the leave campaign bus that has quietly been forgotten about.

Amendments 9 and 10 seek to deal with the first two points raised by the committee by removing the word “appropriate” and inserting “necessary”, and removing the words “or in connection with”. They are amendments to which I have put my name and which I fully support.

Amendment 11 seeks to put on the face of the Bill what the power to make regulations is intended to do. I look forward to hearing the Government’s explanation if they are not prepared to accept this.

Amendment 13 again adds “only”, seeking to ensure the powers taken are used only for what they are intended to do. That seems sensible to me. I hope the Government will accept it.

Amendment 32, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, also seeks to ensure that the Bill does only what the Government say they want it to do. Like other amendments in this group, that seems a very sensible and proportionate measure, and I hope the Government will support it.

Amendment 35, which I have signed, seeks to implement the recommendations of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee and ensure that SIs under Clause 4(1) are affirmative. Amendments 36, 37 and 38 follow on from that. The clause takes considerable powers for the Executive, as we have heard from a number of noble Lords tonight. These powers are not justified, and I support those noble Lords, including my noble friend Lord Rosser, who have opposed the clause standing part of the Bill.

Your Lordships need only look at some of the points raised by the committee to see why noble Lords have tabled their opposition to the clause standing part. In paragraph 19, the committee is “disturbed” that the Government would use words to grant and confer permanent powers on Ministers to make whatever legislation they considered appropriate. In paragraph 26, the committee argues that

“transitional arrangements to protect existing legal rights … should appear on the face of the Bill”.

In paragraph 28, its expressed view is that

“clause 4(1) contains an inappropriate delegation of power”.

I hope that, in the response to the debate, we will see considerable movement from the Government and that they take on the comments from the committee, which I fully support.

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

My Lords, I think I get the committee’s views on the delegated powers in this Bill, and they are not pretty. However, I thank the committee for making them.

I first thank the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, for speaking to this group of amendments and my noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe for speaking to Amendment 32. These amendments seek to limit the scope of the regulation-making power in Clause 4 and address the parliamentary procedure for the regulations. It is right that Parliament pays close attention to the provision of delegated powers. I have noted the recommendations made by the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee in its latest report of 25 August.

I am pleased that we have been able to share draft illustrative regulations to be made under this power later this year, subject to Parliament’s approval of the Bill. The draft regulations—which I understand will not be subject to any significant change, to answer the point of the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, from tonight and the other day—will, I hope, provide some reassurance as to how the Government intend to use the regulation-making power in Clause 4.

There are clear constraints on the use of the power in Clause 4. It can be used only to make regulations that amend primary or secondary legislation

“in consequence of, or in connection with”

Part 1 of the Bill on ending free movement and protecting the rights of Irish citizens. It cannot be used in relation to the UK’s withdrawal from the EU more generally or to make wider immigration changes.

Amendment 9 seeks to limit the use of the power to making changes that are considered “necessary”, not “appropriate”. Amendment 10 seeks to limit the power to changes that are only a consequence of Part 1 of the Bill and not in connection with it. I invite noble Lords to consider the illustrative draft of the regulations and take comfort that this power is specifically to deliver the end of free movement; it is not to be used for general changes to the immigration system.

The regulations will make the statute book coherent on the repeal of free movement, align the treatment of EEA citizens arriving from next year with that of non-EEA citizens and implement our obligations to afford equal treatment to those within scope of the residence provisions of the withdrawal agreement—nothing more than that.

Furthermore, Amendment 10 prevents the Government making changes required to align the treatment of EEA and non-EEA citizens in the immigration system, which would undermine the new global points-based system. We cannot, therefore, accept these amendments.

The Government have made every effort to specify in the delegated powers memorandum the type of changes to legislation required as a result of ending free movement and protecting the rights of Irish citizens, and to make provision for them in draft regulations. However, Amendment 11 would prevent the Secretary of State from making appropriate provision and would unacceptably narrow the scope of the power. Amendment 13 would have the effect of restricting the scope of the power to the powers listed in Clause 4(3).

Amendment 32, tabled by my noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe, seeks to confine changes to fees and charges to EEA and Swiss citizens. That is already the principal purpose of Clause 4(5). However, the amendment would then prevent us from applying the skills charge to non-EEA family members of EEA citizens and from exempting from the skills charge a non-EEA family member with rights of residence and equal treatment under the withdrawal agreement. It would amount to a breach of the UK’s commitments under those agreements, and for that reason alone we cannot accept the amendment.

It is the will of the British people that we bring free movement to an end. This means ending the bias in our immigration system that favours EEA citizens over the citizens of any other country, which is the primary purpose of the Bill. Limiting the Government’s ability to apply a skills charge to EEA citizens in the same way as they apply to non-EEA citizens would mean that certain elements of free movement had not been fully repealed by the Bill, and that EEA citizens still had an advantage in our immigration system. That is not an outcome that the Government can accept.

On Amendments 35, 36, 37 and 38, to which the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, has spoken, the first set of regulations made under this power will be subject to the “made affirmative” procedure, whereby they must be approved by both Houses within 40 days of being made if they are to remain in force. The “made affirmative” procedure is needed in the likely event that there is a short window between Royal Assent to this Bill and the end of the transition period. For that reason, the affirmative procedure proposed by the noble Baroness does not work.

The people of the UK voted to leave the EU and take back control of our laws and our borders. It is therefore imperative that this House helps to deliver on that democratic mandate by ensuring that free movement is brought to an end by 31 December. It is important to ensure that regulations made under this power commence by then. Under the “made affirmative” procedure, both Houses will be asked to approve the regulations within 40 days of them being made for them to continue in force, so Parliament has scrutiny over the use of this power. If Parliament does not approve the regulations then they will cease to have effect, but subsection (10) preserves the effect of anything done under them before that point in order to ensure legal certainty. Using this power does not mean avoiding parliamentary scrutiny—far from it—as the secondary legislation to be made under the power is subject to full parliamentary oversight using established procedures.

I think it is right that Parliament should set the scope of the power in Clause 4 in terms that are appropriate to the purpose of the Bill in ending free movement and protecting the rights of Irish citizens. It is also right that Parliament should retain appropriate oversight over the exercise of this power. However, the Government are committed to ending free movement now that we have left the EU, and this parliamentary procedure is an essential part of delivering that. I hope the noble Baronesses and my noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe have been assured of the content of the draft regulations and the explanation of how the Government will use the delegated power. I therefore ask the noble Baroness to withdraw her amendment.

Furthermore, some noble Lords have spoken to oppose that Clause 4 stand part of the Bill. I must emphasise the importance of this power for the effective implementation of the Bill. I trust that sight of the draft regulations provides further reassurance that the power does not give Ministers a blank cheque to make wide-ranging changes to immigration policies. The power can be used only to make provision as a consequence of or in connection with Part 1 of the Bill on the ending of free movement and protecting the status of Irish citizens, but without the power we cannot align immigration treatment between EEA and non-EEA citizens, and cannot then build up our global points based system.

The regulations will be subject to full parliamentary scrutiny using well-established procedures. Free movement must end on 31 December and the “made affirmative” procedure is needed to ensure regulations made under this power align the treatment of EEA and non-EEA citizens who arrive in the country from 1 January 2021. It is important to debate the appropriate use of delegated powers, but the Government are committed to ending free movement now that we have left the EU and this clause is an essential part of it.

Photo of Baroness Hamwee Baroness Hamwee Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Immigration) 9:45 pm, 7th September 2020

My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, expressed some frustration about the limitations arising from the scope of the Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Green, referred to similar points on the report of the Constitution Committee. I have long taken the view that, when people with very differing views have the same criticism as I do, we must have a point.

I omitted to thank the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee and its chair, although my thanks must be implied by all the references I made to them. That I quoted from the report did not steal the thunder of the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, at all. He cannot be surprised, because they were very good quotes. I said that I hoped for some excoriating speeches. I had him in mind, but he has moved on to sorrow. However, he did not disappoint.

When I started to read Clause 4, I picked up my pen and did not put it down, which was obvious from my raft of amendments, which almost amounted to an edit of the clause. The Minister says that she seeks to reassure us about how the Government intend to use the powers. As I so often say, I do not doubt the good intentions behind all this, but I ask her if she would be comfortable if—unlikely as it may seem—our positions were reversed. Would she take comfort if I produced a draft that was illustrative only? She said several times that the Government cannot accept the amendments. It really amounts to “will not” accept the amendments. As regards “made affirmative”, how realistic would it be for Parliament to block the instrument regarding the ending of free movement, after free movement had ended?

There is such an absence of detail on the workings of the policy. The six “consequential repeals” in Schedule 1 do not “scratch the surface”; that is not my analysis but that of the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law, given the huge amount of immigration legislation. It also says that “a solitary page”, paragraphs 5 and 6 of Schedule 1, purporting

“to remove all rights, powers, liabilities, obligations, restrictions, remedies and procedures which derive from EU law … is lazy law-making. If people are going to have their rights removed, it is incumbent on Government to list precisely what those rights are and then specifically to remove them.”

It says that that would also enable

“parliamentarians to know precisely what they are voting for”.

To revert to the reference made at the beginning of today’s debate by the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, Caligula might have been proud of Clause 4. This is not the time to pursue the matter, although I am clear that we have to return to it. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 9 withdrawn.

Amendments 10 and 11 not moved.

Photo of Lord Lexden Lord Lexden Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

We come now to the group beginning with Amendment 12. 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, or any other in this group, to a Division should make that clear in debate.