Amendment 42

Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill - Committee (3rd Day) – in the House of Lords at 4:00 pm on 14th September 2020.

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Baroness Hamwee:

Moved by Baroness Hamwee

42: After Clause 4, insert the following new Clause—“Right to rent (EEA and Swiss nationals) (1) The following provisions of the Immigration Act 2014 shall cease to apply to EEA and Swiss nationals and their dependants.(2) The provisions are sections 20 to 37 and Schedule 3 (right to rent).”Member’s explanatory statement This new Clause would require the Secretary of State to ensure that landlords do not carry out immigration checks on EEA and Swiss nationals under the Right to Rent scheme.

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

My Lords, in moving Amendment 42. I will speak also on Amendments 50 and 71. These amendments deal with the so-called hostile environment measures. That phrase is used by the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, in her Amendment 71, which extends to the Data Protection Act; that is the subject of the next group. I am aware the term used now by the Government is “compliant environment”, but I am concerned with the substance not the terminology.

We have turned citizens, our public services and the police into border guards. We have dumped on them the enforcement of immigration control. The policies encourage us to be suspicious of each other and undermine trust in our public services. People are deterred from seeking medical treatment for fear of a large bill or being reported, detained or deported. An answer to this would be that emergency treatment would not be withheld. A condition not an emergency today may still need treatment and it may become life-changing or life-threatening.

To what end is the hostile or compliant environment? I understand that the Home Office acknowledges that the “vast majority”—I quote that term—most of whom are people who came here legally but subsequently lost status, have done nothing wrong. Landlords are required to check the immigration status of potential tenants and face huge fines or imprisonment if they fail to check or get it wrong. Can it be any surprise that many landlords take the easy course and look for tenants who are British passport holders? They must regard this as being simply practical, not discriminatory. It is—though without any real sanction.

The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, whose action against the Home Office continues, says on its website:

“It takes BME people and migrants up to twice as long to find a home to rent as a white British person.”

Recently, the organisation the3million commissioned a poll of employers in connection with its campaign for physical documentary proof of EU settled status; we will come to that shortly. The poll seems relevant to this issue. It was a poll of professionals with authority over hiring decisions. It said that it was worth noting that the picture is bad when considering all employers in the UK; the fact that the poll was online means that there will be a certain amount of oversampling of employers who are more comfortable with digital technology. This affects EEA and Swiss citizens in the immediate short term, but the Government aim to roll out the digital-only status to an ever-expanding group of immigrants.

The poll’s findings included the fact that employers are very concerned about the consequences of getting it wrong. This creates an incentive to play it safe and avoid recruiting people from outside the UK, so there is just the same risk of discrimination as in the landlord/tenant sector. Thank goodness the “Go home” vans were short lived.

We can address only address legislation through our amendments. The legislation sets out the policy, and from the policy, practice flows.

A week ago, Ian Birrell wrote an interesting and powerful article in the i about the impact of our arrangements. He talked about the large number of people who

“had never bothered applying for passports, while the Home Office had lost their papers” and then discovered that they were “technically undocumented”. One young woman who found herself in that situation was precluded from attending university, for which she had qualified, and is behind a report showing how lives are “distorted and damaged”—her words—by a

“callous bureaucratic system that sows division, hurts mental health and condemns families to more than a decade of massive financial strain … Talk to these young adults and you hear tales of life on the edge as they are pitched into a Kafkaesque process that is complex, intrusive, often incompetent, demands huge and constantly rising fees”— the fees are no little part of the picture—

“yet make one mistake and, like a dystopian game of snakes and ladders, applicants slide back down to start the torturous … process to citizenship again.”

I will discipline myself and not quote further from the article, but it ends by saying that

“the horrors of the hostile environment have not faded”.

The Government talk of welcoming people from the EEA making a home here within the Immigration Rules, but the application of the hostile or compliant environment legislation does not say, “Welcome to the UK.”

I beg to move.

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

My Lords, I will speak to Amendment 71 in my name and also to Amendments 42 and 52 in the names of the noble Baronesses, Lady Hamwee and Lady Ludford. They cover parts of Amendment 71 and also Amendment 43, which covers data sharing.

I pay tribute to the campaign group Liberty for its help with my preparation of this amendment and for its support through its unfortunately unsuccessful struggle to see its scope allowed to cover everyone affected by the hostile environment, rather than just those who face being newly affected by it—for whom, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, said, the digital-only status is likely to create particular issues.

In short, Amendment 71 would introduce to the Bill a series of sunrise clauses that would prohibit the Secretary of State from making regulations to commence the end of free movement until the estimated 3.6 million people newly affected by the hostile environment were exempted. I will continue to use the term “hostile environment” because, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, said, that is the practical reality and substance of what it is.

I will outline briefly three elements of this. Subsection (2) of the new clause proposed by Amendment 72 would ensure that people have the right to rent a home, receive essential healthcare, open a bank account and hold and use a driving licence. Subsection (3) of the proposed new clause would ensure that all migrants can access public funds, subject to a habitual residence test. Subsection (4) of the proposed new clause would prohibit data collected or held by essential public services being used for immigration enforcement purposes—known in shorthand as a data-sharing firewall.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, set out some impacts of the right-to-rent element of the hostile environment. It is worth noting that this was the subject of a legal challenge brought by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, in which both the High Court and Court of Appeal made factual determinations that it caused discrimination. The High Court went further and found that the discriminatory effects of the scheme could not be justified and made a declaration of incompatibility under Section 4 of the Human Rights Act. In allowing the Government’s appeal, the Court of Appeal said that it was up to Parliament to decide, so the matter has been put back in our hands. This is the first chance that we have had to have another look at the scheme in the light of the stark findings of the courts. It is a chance to remedy the discrimination it is causing. I note that research found that 42% of landlords said that they were less likely to rent to someone without a British passport as a result of the associated penalties.

In October this year, the NHS surcharge will rise to £624 a year. It represents an unjustified double taxation for temporary migrants who already contribute to the NHS through regular taxes. I note that the Government have made a U-turn and decided to remove the surcharge for NHS and care workers. But, following on from my Written Question HL5749, tabled on 16 June 2020, can the Minister confirm for me—either today or in future—whether all those who paid in funds without needing to have been refunded?

We know that many of the lower-paid workers likely to be affected by the surcharge are essential workers, as Covid-19 has made all too clear. Of course, there are both public health and individual health impacts from this. There is an exemption for Covid-19 testing, but it applies only up to the point when a person receives a negative test, at which point charging resumes for any other condition requiring treatment. The risk of a huge bill is likely to be a significant deterrent to people seeking care in a timely way. During this pandemic, that is a significant threat to public health.

Moving on to the banking point of the hostile environment, if a person is in the UK unlawfully, or is believed to be, banks or building societies must refuse them an account, yet bank accounts are an essential part of everyday life these days, particularly for paying for necessities. Of course, it is more expense to live if you cannot pay for many services particularly through direct debit. Denying people access to bank accounts leaves them with nowhere secure to put their money, which in turn leaves them vulnerable to robbery, reliant on cash-in-hand work and at the mercy of payday lenders.

On driving licences, bulk data-sharing arrangements between the Home Office and the DVLA allow them to check people’s entitlement to a licence. However, although more than 4,000 driving licences were revoked in 2017-18, in the previous year—there is no real reason to think that this has changed—250 wrongly revoked licences had to be reinstated, raising serious concerns about the accuracy of the data.

On illegal working, criminalising work and penalising employers for taking on undocumented migrants does not prevent them working; it simply pushes them into the shadow economy, where they are at risk of exploitation and harm. The fear of criminalisation is one of the primary tools used by traffickers to control exploited workers.

We now come to what this proposed new clause would stop applying to the 3.6 million people newly potentially affected: the offence of driving while unlawfully in the UK. Studies have shown evidence of discrimination in the use of traffic stops by police, with disproportionate targeting of black and ethnic-minority drivers. The offence and the search powers that go with it risk people being stopped on unfounded and stereotyped assumptions, resulting in deeply discriminatory stops that do serious harm to police/community relations—something that my noble friend Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb has often raised, as I am sure your Lordships’ House is aware.

On the data protection elements of this amendment, we have a situation in which the exemption from the general data protection regulation and Data Protection Act 2018 is likely to facilitate the development of the status-checking project. Given the quality of Home Office data management, this project is likely to result in people being denied access to essential services.

Proposed new subsection (3) is on “no recourse to public funds”, which I think has been exercised broadly elsewhere in the debate on this Bill. The High Court recently found that part of that policy is unlawful and that current instructions to Home Office caseworkers do not adequately account for human rights obligations. In the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, the effect of “no recourse to public funds” is even more significant. People are forced to continue to work even when it is not safe for them, and all of us, for them to do so. It is clear that “no recourse to public funds” keeps people in destitution, which is simply unacceptable in a civilised society.

Finally, proposed new subsection (4) would ensure that before ending free movement the Home Office is prohibited from processing, for immigration enforcement, data held for health, education, banking, driving, welfare benefits, employment, homelessness, local authority support and policing reasons. This data sharing often occurs without the knowledge or consent of the data subject and in some cases the trusted public servant who initially collected the data. We have seen some truly awful consequences of this. For example, take the case in 2017 when a woman who was five months’ pregnant reported to the police that she had been raped and was subsequently arrested on immigration grounds at a rape crisis centre. It discourages access for children to education, which is crucial to them, their future and rights. We also have the problem of inaccurate data, leading to the wrongful denial of services—as was the case for some of the Windrush citizens.

It may be that the Minister, in responding, notes that the Home Secretary recently announced a review of the hostile environment as part of the Government’s acceptance of the Windrush Lessons Learned Review. That may be cited as a reason not to accept this amendment, but there can be only one conclusion of any proper, independent, robust, evidence-based review of the hostile environment—to scrap it. This is an opportunity for your Lordships’ House to back that scrapping and prevent much further suffering.

Photo of Lord Paddick Lord Paddick Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 4:15 pm, 14th September 2020

My Lords, I support my noble friend Lady Hamwee in her opposition to the hostile environment in her Amendments 42 and 50—an argument eloquently and powerfully made by her. The hostile environment has turned our citizens into border guards and made us suspicious of our fellow citizens, even those legally in the UK. On right to rent, it is the safest option for landlords to rent to white people, or British passport holders if landlords go beyond seeing the white face in front of them.

The evidence suggests that the Government’s right to rent scheme is being seriously enforced against only those who require a visa to enter the United Kingdom and not those who are allowed visa-free entry. This again calls into question whether the Government are really serious about ending the free movement of EEA and Swiss citizens, or indeed the free movement of B5JSSK citizens. The only alternative explanation is that there is no way of legally enforcing right to rent against these citizens.

When I spoke to the first group of amendments a week ago, I referred to A Short Guide on Right to Rent, a publication in which the Home Office advises that landlords can establish a B5JSSK, EEA or Swiss national’s right to rent by checking their passport, which will have no stamp to show when they entered the UK, together with evidence of the date they last travelled to or entered the UK.

I have had the opportunity to go back to make sure that the Home Office advice I referred to was up to date. It is even worse than I thought. I quote:

“Acceptable evidence of entry to the UK may include (but is not restricted to) one of the following, or a combination of: An original or copy* of a boarding pass or electronic boarding pass for air, rail or sea travel to the UK … An original or copy* airline, rail or boat ticket or e-ticket … Any type of booking confirmation (original or copy*) for air, rail or sea travel to the UK”.

There is an asterisk by the word “copy” and an explanation that

“a copy can be a hardcopy such as a photocopy or an electronic copy such as a screenshot”.

The Government are clearly not serious about enforcing right to rent for citizens of these countries, as landlords have to see not even the original ticket, boarding pass or travel booking but an easily forged photocopy or screenshot.

Not only that, the guide goes on to say:

“Although these individuals only have six months’ leave unless they obtain a visa, landlords who have correctly conducted a right to rent check will obtain a statutory excuse for 12 months and must schedule a follow up check … before the end of the 12-month eligibility period if the individual is still occupying the accommodation.”

The Home Office’s own guidance talks about landlords being required only to do a follow-up check six months after EEA, Swiss or B5JSSK citizens should have left the country. At that point, the EEA citizen could produce another ticket, boarding pass or booking showing that they entered the UK within the last six months, and the landlord could then rent for another 12 months.

The question has to be asked, and I would like the Minister to answer this: why are the Government insisting on strict enforcement of right to rent against those who require a visa to enter the UK but apparently relaxed about those from B5JSSK countries and, at the end of the transition period, EEA and Swiss nationals? The Government either are not serious about enforcement of right to rent against these citizens or accept that it is unenforceable against them.

Photo of Baroness Smith of Newnham Baroness Smith of Newnham Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Defence)

My Lords, I support all the amendments but particularly propose to speak to Amendment 71 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett. I declare an interest: I have a property that I rent out. It is let by agents, in part precisely because the idea that I as an individual know what I should be looking for, in terms of right to rent, becomes really quite difficult. I will not discuss that any further.

The amendment from the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, talks about the so-called hostile environment. My noble friend Lady Hamwee pointed out that it is now known as the “compliant environment”. There should never have been the concept of a hostile environment. We heard earlier, at the end of the previous group of amendments, the words of the noble Lord, Lord Cashman, uttered by my noble friend Lady Hamwee, reminding us of the importance of our values. As the United Kingdom prepares to end the transition period, it is as important as ever that we abide by our values that are open and tolerant.

The suite of regulations that is covered by the noble Baroness’s amendment are all with the proviso that the people who would fall under the amendment are EEA nationals who are already present at the start of the Schedule. These are people directly affected by the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union but who had no say in that decision.

From June 2016 onwards, your Lordships’ House and the other place have talked about the rights of European citizens. Those rights will be removed, but surely it is appropriate that Parliament looks very carefully at how they are replaced. Simply to say that EEA nationals now fall under the wider immigration regime may be appropriate for someone who arrives from one of the EEA countries on 1 January 2021, but it should not apply to EEA nationals who are already resident in the United Kingdom but maybe have not already sought the right to reside. What guarantees do the Government intend to put in place for EEA nationals legally resident in the United Kingdom on 31 December 2020 to ensure that their rights are not removed overnight if they have not already put in a request for indefinite leave to remain? Otherwise, the amendment put forward by the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, seems to be wholly appropriate, and I wonder whether the Government could see their way to supporting it. However, I suspect the Minister has a whole suite of reasons that she can give us for why it is not appropriate.

Photo of Lord Judd Lord Judd Labour 4:30 pm, 14th September 2020

My Lords, Amendment 42 seeks to repeal the right-to-rent scheme introduced by Chapter 1 of Part 3 of the 2014 Act. That chapter, coupled with amendments made to it by the Immigration Act 2016 and amendments made there to the Housing Act 1988, requires landlords and their agents to refuse accommodation to people who require, but do not have, permission to be in the UK. Landlords and agents may indeed face criminal sanction if providing accommodation in these circumstances.

As Amnesty firmly argued in its excellent brief, the impact of this regime is more widely harmful for people of colour. It essentially promotes homelessness and race discrimination—for example, because it becomes safer for landlords to avoid providing accommodation to people who are not white, do not have recognisably British accents and have non-Anglo-Saxon-sounding names.

Amendment 50 essentially seeks the repeal of other provisions of Part 3 of the Immigration Act 2014, which provides for an immigration health charge and restrictions on who may open a bank account or obtain a driving licence. It is particularly important to emphasise the need for a repeal of the immigration health charge. As Amnesty again forcefully argues, it is nothing more than a tax upon people coming to the UK to work, study or join family—people who are already taxed by immigration fees often set far above the administrative cost, over and above the taxes that they, like others, pay by reason of their living and working in this country.

In the sad legislation before us, we need to take these points very seriously indeed.

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

I do not know what is going to be included in the Government’s response to these amendments, but we have heard today, as we have on previous days in Committee on this Bill, that an amendment or group of amendments is not relevant to the Bill. I am assuming that that is being said purely as the Government’s view, since presumably, through the changes that it does or does not make to a government Bill, it is for Parliament to decide what should or should not be in a Bill and is therefore relevant to it. So I would be grateful if the Government could confirm that when they say an amendment or group of amendments is “not relevant” to the Bill, they are simply expressing a view and accept that that is an issue that Parliament will have to determine.

Amendment 42 in this group would exempt EEA and Swiss nationals and their dependents from the right-to-rent immigration checks by landlords under the Immigration Act 2014. Amendment 50 would exempt EEA and Swiss nationals and their dependents from some provisions under the Immigration Act 2014, including the NHS surcharge and immigration checks on opening bank accounts and holding a driving licence. It would also exempt them from provisions in the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006, which disallows a person from being employed if they do not have a valid immigration status. Amendment 71 would exempt EEA and Swiss nationals residing in the UK immediately before the commencement of the Act from a variety of immigration provisions, including checks on renting, bank accounts, driving licences and illegal working.

We understand the concerns that these amendments seek to address. The experiences of the Windrush generation, when lives were ruined and families torn apart, simply highlighted the failures of the hostile environment policy, particularly the culture that it led to in the Home Office that determined how the policy was applied, and as reflected in the terms of the Immigration Acts in 2014 and 2016. Against that background, it is understandable why there is concern among EEA citizens living in this country about the impact that changes to their status following our withdrawal from the EU could have on their position in relation to the application of the terms of the Immigration Acts.

The Government could have used the Bill to signal the end of the hostile environment policy in reality, not just in name, and in so doing convince EEA citizens that their concerns were without foundation. The Government have chosen not to do so, and consequently these amendments seek to do what the Government have failed to do, by giving EEA and Swiss citizens exemption from some of the more contentious parts of the Immigration Acts, including in particular those parts of the now rebranded hostile environment policy that were effectively farmed out to private individuals and private companies to implement, such as the checks in relation to the renting of property or opening of a bank account.

I hope that when we hear from the Government, as we are just about to, we will hear some hopeful response to the thrust of these amendments and that the Government are equally determined to address—and how they intend to do so—the concerns that the amendments have raised.

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

My Lords, in thanking noble Lords for speaking on these amendments, I say to the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, that I am going to argue not that they are irrelevant to the Bill but that that they are discriminatory, in their own ways. They would undermine the commitment to the British people to introduce a single global system. They would also weaken the immigration system by reducing the incentive to comply with the UK’s rules and laws.

On right-to-rent checks, I say to the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, and to the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, that immigration does not begin and end at our borders; it is more far-reaching than that. Under our new immigration system, everyone will be required to obtain their current correct immigration status, and we will clearly distinguish between those who are here lawfully and those who are not, regardless of their nationality. The measures in question concern migrants’ eligibility to rent accommodation, to work, and to access healthcare, bank accounts and driving licences. These measures have all been approved by Parliament. They contribute to our efforts to tackle illegal migration and those who seek to profit from immigration offences, while protecting taxpayer-funded services. Exempting from these measures EEA citizens and their family members, including those who do not have lawful immigration status, would undermine the integrity of the new immigration system1 which we have promised to deliver.

Amendment 42 specifically relates to the right-to-rent scheme, the legality of which has recently been upheld by the Court of Appeal—to echo the point of the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett. By disapplying these checks to all EEA citizens and their family members, this amendment would significantly compromise the right-to-rent civil penalty scheme. Under the current system, when a landlord is found to be letting to a disqualified person, the Home Office can issue a civil penalty of £3,000. A scheme that does not require evidence to be obtained for every tenant would render unworkable the Government’s ability to impose criminal and civil sanctions against unscrupulous landlords, as this exemption would serve as a blanket defence.

It is not clear how Amendments 42 or 71 would work in practice. Eligibility checks by landlords, employers and the NHS apply to everyone, including EEA and British citizens. Those carrying out the checks would not be able to ascertain who was part of the exempt cohort, as set out in these new clauses, and so would need to check everyone anyway. Alternatively, landlords and employers would have to take, at face value, a self-declaration of anyone who claims to be within this particular cohort. Amendment 42, for example, would make the right-to-rent scheme inoperable, as migrants who are unlawfully present or ineligible could self-declare as an EEA citizen, which could prevent the landlord from requesting further evidence of eligibility.

The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, asked who will check whether someone has UK immigration status. Particularly after the grace period, EEA citizens granted leave under the settlement scheme will use their digital status information to demonstrate to employers their right to work, to landlords their right to rent, and to other government departments and local authorities their right to access benefits and services—if they meet the relevant eligibility criteria. The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, pointed out the various documents that would be required. I am wondering whether he was questioning whether they were up to date, but I am sure he will come back to me on that if I have not made that clear.

For Amendment 50, I will focus on two aspects of the new clause. As noble Lords know, illegal working is a key driver of immigration offending. The ability to work without lawful status encourages people to take risks and to break our immigration laws, and leaves people vulnerable to exploitation—I refer to the point of the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett—including being paid under the legal minimum wage. We are determined to continue to tackle illegal working, but this amendment would hinder our progress.

The proposal to prevent the application of provisions relating to healthcare charges to EEA citizens and their dependants would also have a significant negative impact. The immigration health surcharge is designed to help support the NHS, ensuring that temporary migrants who come to the UK for more than six months make a fair contribution to the wide range of health services available to them. By exempting such a large cohort, including those in the UK unlawfully, from being charged for accessing healthcare, this new clause would increase the financial pressure on the NHS considerably.

The noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, talked about the reimbursement scheme for the immigration health surcharge. I do not know if she knows but, on 15 July, the Minister for Health announced that reimbursement will be paid in arrears of six-month increments, and the scheme will launch in October.

More generally, exempting from the measures in question all EEA citizens, including those who come to the UK after the end of the transition period, would result in different rules continuing to apply depending on a person’s nationality. It would be inherently discriminatory, given there would be no justifiable reason for this distinction between nationalities after the end of the transition period.

Amendment 71 introduces a new clause which limits the scope of those who would be exempt from specified measures to those EEA citizens and their family members who are lawfully residing in the UK by the end of the transition period. However, it is problematic for several reasons, not least because the amendment appears unworkable, as explained previously. If the aim of the amendment is to ensure that EEA citizens and their family members currently resident in the UK are not adversely impacted by these measures, I share that wish. EEA citizens who are already resident here, or who are resident by the end of the transition period, can apply to the EU settlement scheme to secure their rights in UK law. This allows them to access work and services on at least the same basis as they were before being granted that status.

Until the end of the grace period on 30 June 2021, there will be no change to the current process of checks by landlords and employers for EEA citizens. They will continue to be able to use their passport or national identity card to evidence their right to rent or work. Furthermore, landlords, letting agents and employers will not be required to conduct retrospective checks on existing tenants or employees.

As the Government have repeatedly made clear, we will also accept late applications to the scheme from anyone who has reasonable grounds for missing the deadline of 30 June 2021. Should they be granted status, they will enjoy the same rights from that point as if they had applied before the deadline. These amendments are, therefore, unnecessary and could even be detrimental by discouraging people from applying to the scheme.

Amendment 71 also seeks to remove EEA citizens from the immigration exemption within the Data Protection Act 2018. When this was debated in the other place, it was made clear that this exemption is a necessary and proportionate measure designed to protect the integrity of our immigration system. The High Court has also judged the exemption to be compliant with the GDPR.

In future, once free movement has ended, it is right that our measures apply based on whether someone has lawful status or not, rather than on their nationality. It is also important that we have an immigration system that encourages compliance with UK tax laws and rules, and which protects taxpayer-funded public services from abuse. These new clauses contradict the Government’s position on both fronts. I hope that, with these explanations, noble Lords feel happy not to force their amendments.

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

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for expecting me to speak after her. I have two points. The first is that we seem to be playing a whack-a-mole game about whether the amendments are relevant to the Bill or discriminatory. Let us hit the other one on the head: the only reason these amendments are restricted to EEA and Swiss nationals is that the clerks would not allow broader amendments, because they would not be within the scope of the Bill. They are not discriminatory; they aim to get rid of the hostile environment for everyone. That is the first issue.

Secondly, on the specifics, I apologise to the Minister for not making it absolutely clear which group of people I was talking about when I was saying that the right-to-rent scheme did not work. I was talking about EEA and Swiss nationals, at the end of the transition period, and all those other nationals who can now use the e-passport gates to enter the United Kingdom for six months without a visa.

I demonstrated in my speech that these individuals could rent for up to 12 months without a landlord being in peril of a civil penalty or any other penalty. Indeed, if during that 12 months they produced another ticket, boarding pass or travel booking—or a copy of any of those—they could further extend their rental with the landlord, because they had produced evidence that they had arrived in the UK within the previous six months. Therefore, you can see that they could extend and extend their rental of a property, completely undermining the right-to-rent scheme. Only those nationals who can use the e-passport gates, who get six months’ visa-free travel, can circumvent the system in that way. Those other foreign nationals who require a visa cannot do that because the landlord has to check digitally with the Home Office. The Minister may say that eventually everything will be digital, but this will not be digital. There will not be a digital way to check the rights of people who have six months’ visa-free entry to the UK. It will still be done on the basis of passports, tickets, boarding passes and bookings. That is the point I am trying to make.

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

I see the noble Lord’s point. We need a further discussion or, indeed, an exchange of letters on this before Report. The first letter that I sent him clearly did not do the trick, so we will have further discussions on this.

I know exactly why noble Lords have tabled amendments that refer to EEA and Swiss nationals, because it puts them within the scope of the Bill. It does not make it any less discriminatory technically and legally, however, but I get his point.

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

My Lords, having a “non-Anglo-Saxon-sounding name”, to use the terminology used by the noble Lord, Lord Judd, I am very conscious of the position. The Minister is, of course, quite right about why we had to confine the amendments to EAA and Swiss citizens, but it is disingenuous to say that we are being discriminatory. I said on the last group of amendments that we take opportunities where we can. We are very happy to invite the Government to apply the amendments to every nationality. Sadly, this is not open to us; as there are no Private Members’ Bills at the moment, our opportunities are pretty limited.

My noble friend Lord Paddick is not into whacking moles—because he is kind to animals, apart from anything else—but he may be very challenging to the Minister. I think it is wise to try to bottom out this issue after this stage.

Reference has been made to the black economy and how people who do not have status are driven into it and are vulnerable to exploitation. There is a big difference between our position and that of the Government. We see that as the outcome of the hostile environment provisions, not as a driver for them. I am intrigued by the points about forgeries that have been made, because it is the Government’s position that physical documents for the EU settled status scheme would open up the possibility of forgery, but we will come to that later.

We have done what we can, for the moment at any rate. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 42 withdrawn.

Photo of Baroness Finlay of Llandaff Baroness Finlay of Llandaff Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

We now come to the group beginning with Amendment 43. I remind noble Lords that anyone wishing to speak after the Minister should email the clerk during the debate. Anyone wishing to press this, or anything in this group, to a Division should make that clear in debate.