Amendment 80

Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill - Committee (4th Day) – in the House of Lords at 4:45 pm on 16th September 2020.

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Baroness Hamwee:

Moved by Baroness Hamwee

80: After Clause 4, insert the following new Clause—“Protections under the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020At least three months before the commencement of Part 1 for any purpose, the Secretary of State must publish drafts of such statutory instruments as are proposed to be laid under the powers contained in the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020 to protect the rights of EEA citizens and their family members’ rights of residence, entry and exit until 30 June 2021.”Member’s explanatory statementThis amendment aims to clarify the rights that would be available to EEA citizens during the ‘grace period’ under the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act.

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

To follow the previous speech, this may be the first time we are taking this particular car round the track but I do not think it will be the last, because this amendment is aiming

“to clarify the rights … available to EEA citizens during the ‘grace period’ under” the recently published SI. It is about the period to the end of June 2021. I say it aims to clarify the issues but it is more about putting some issues on the table. The Minister will be able to say that the amendment is not necessary because we have already done it. I thank her or possibly him—I am peering at a computer screen—for that and for what I saw being called the “bounty” of the recently published draft SIs. I think that was a reference to their length and complexity.

The instrument in question is the draft citizens’ rights (application deadline and temporary protection) (EU exit) regulations 2020. However, I am afraid that the debate now will not be the end of it. After this debate, as well as before it, stakeholders will be grappling with the detail of it and the other published SIs. I do not regard myself as having the knowledge required to appreciate the significance of the modifications to all the provisions listed across the 14 pages of this instrument.

My first question is about the status of the draft, which has been referred to throughout as an “illustrative draft”. What does illustrative mean? Is this simply because draft statutory instruments have a formal status, while this publication has not reached that status?

Exactly who is protected by the grace period provisions? Is it only those exercising treaty rights by the end of 2020, while, for instance, people who are self-sufficient and without comprehensive sickness insurance—what might better be called in this country private health insurance—are not covered? When the 2020 withdrawal Act was going through Parliament, there were clear assurances that everyone eligible for status via the EU settled status scheme would be protected during the grace period. The Minister will appreciate the importance of the issue: protection is not to be withdrawn from those currently eligible otherwise than through treaty rights who have not applied by the end of the year. In previous debates, I raised the importance of information being not just available but actively provided to those who are affected, in the context of who will be applying after next June. If this SI is to restrict applications, the matter is really very urgent.

The Minister, Kevin Foster, said that the regulations would be

“debated and made in good time prior to their entry into force at the end of the transition period.”—[Official Report, Commons, Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill Committee, 16/6/20; col. 191.]

I am sure noble Lords will understand that what is “in good time” for the Home Office could be very last minute for the individuals affected.

Will the Minister comment on one of the draft illustrative regulations? Regulation 7 in Schedule 1 to the 2016 regulations, which this modifies, acknowledges the discretion of member states

“acting within parameters set by the EU Treaties” in taking a decision conducive to the public good. This discretion will become:

“acting within parameters set by the law, to define its own standards of public policy and public security, for purposes tailored to its individual context from time to time.”

I will not go down the route of saying that this is quite topical, given both the political and politico-legal debate that is going on, but I am sure the Minister will understand that there is a worry about moving the goalposts.

Will the Minister agree to meet parliamentarians if necessary—I understand there is a similar concern in the Commons—and for officials to be able to meet stakeholders, and the legal experts who are advising them, who are considering this draft and the other draft published at the same time? They are concerned, and they need the time. I ask that knowing that there is the opportunity for the Government to withdraw a published draft and reissue it, but it is always much easier, because of how human beings behave—they do not like to be thought to be backing down, and so on—to have the conversations before the final form is published, when it will be that much more difficult to withdraw.

My amendment provides the opportunity to make those requests for what I am sure could be productive discussions with people who are not in the Chamber at the moment and who will have other points they could usefully make. I beg to move.

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

We had a short debate on this issue when we debated Amendment 52, and I raised one or two questions about the draft SI, which, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, said, is called the Citizens’ Rights (Application Deadline and Temporary Protection) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020. One of the questions I raised, to which I do not think I had an answer, related to Regulation 13, which states:

“Where any question arises as to whether a person is or was lawfully resident in the United Kingdom at a particular point in time … it is for the individual in question to prove that they were”.

I asked in what situation the Government expect that people would have to prove their ongoing status; how they envisage people will do this, in the sense of what documentation they might need, for example; and, crucially, what support there would be for a person who found themselves in this situation and who might well in fact be perfectly lawfully resident in the United Kingdom.

I share the view that the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, expressed, that we need an opportunity for discussion of the provisions of the draft SI, and that it is a fairly complex process. At this stage, I have two further questions. First, are there any EEA citizens, and their families, resident in the UK by the end of the transition period whose full existing rights are not going to be protected during the grace period through secondary legislation made under the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020? Secondly, will the Minister spell out precisely whose full existing rights are protected by the draft SI?

Photo of Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, for speaking to her Amendment 80. Its purpose, as she said, is to require the Government to publish draft statutory instruments protecting the rights of EEA citizens who are eligible to apply to the EU settlement scheme but have not done so by the end of the transition period. It concerns, as she said, the statutory instrument that will be made under Section 7 of the EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020. As noble Lords are aware, and as the noble Baroness mentioned, my noble friend Lady Williams of Trafford wrote to all noble Lords on 4 September, sharing a copy of this draft statutory instrument together with a copy of the draft regulations to be made under Clause 4 of this Bill.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, asked about the nature of the use of the word “illustrative”. My understanding is that it is used to differentiate from “Draft” with a capital D, which has a formal meaning—so yes, they are illustrative. In making these draft documents available, the Government’s intention is to support your Lordships’ House in its consideration of the Bill. They are also made available to Members in another place and published in the Libraries of both Houses.

The instrument will set the deadline for applications to the EU settlement scheme as 30 June 2021. It will also save relevant existing rights, in relation to residency and access to benefits and services for EEA citizens and their eligible family members who make an application by 30 June 2021, until it is finally determined. This includes pending the outcome of an appeal against any decision to refuse status under the EU settlement scheme. This means that if somebody has not yet applied or been granted status under the EU settlement scheme by the end of the transition period, they can continue to work and live in the UK as they do now, provided they apply by 30 June 2021. The Government will shortly lay this statutory instrument, which will be subject to debate and approval by Parliament and will need to come into force at the end of the transition period.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, asked about CSI. The grace period statutory instrument does not change the eligibility criteria for the EU settlement scheme and those criteria do not include CSI. I can confirm that the Government are not changing the requirements for applications to the EU settlement scheme. The grace period SI maintains CSI as a requirement for lawful residence during the grace period for a student or self-sufficient person under the saved EEA regulations, as is consistent with EU law.

The noble Baroness asked a question on a specific draft statutory instrument. In the interests of brevity and accuracy, I shall write to her about that, as I will on any other questions I have not covered. I am certainly happy to give an undertaking to meet parliamentarians and those who are interested in this issue, so that we can look at it further.

The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, asked what documentation people might need. During the grace period, EEA citizens will be able to give evidence of their rights to work and rent property by showing their passport or identity card. If EEA citizens apply for benefits during the grace period, they may need to demonstrate that they were also lawfully resident under the EEA regulations at the end of the transition period, for example that they were employed, which they might demonstrate by providing a wage slip or a letter from their employer. That is a requirement that they must meet now.

As I said, I am happy to write with further answers on the questions that I have not covered but I hope that this gives the noble Baroness the reassurance that she needs to withdraw her amendment.

Photo of Lord Bates Lord Bates Deputy Chairman of Committees 5:00 pm, 16th September 2020

I have received no requests to speak after the Minister so I call the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, to respond to the debate on her amendment.

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

My Lords, I am grateful for that response. Of course, when one is dealing with something so technical, it is difficult to know whether one has thought of the right questions. I am therefore particularly grateful for the Minister’s offer of a meeting.

The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, mentioned Regulation 13. He asked what support would be given to people who need to prove their position. I marked that and, immediately afterwards, marked the comment at the end of the Explanatory Note that there is no full impact assessment for the instrument

“as no, or no significant, impact on the private, voluntary or public sector is foreseen.”

That made me think of the support that has had to be given to the voluntary sector in particular and the work for others in rolling out and attracting applications for the settled status scheme.

As I said, however, I thank the Minister. I suspect that this is not the end of our discussions on what I hope will not be set in stone until its impact is fully understood by everyone involved and until everyone is satisfied that it is a proper way to approach the matter.

I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 80 withdrawn.

Photo of Lord Bates Lord Bates Deputy Chairman of Committees

We now come to the group consisting of Amendment 81. I remind noble Lords that anyone wishing to speak after the Minister should email the clerk during the debate. Anyone wishing to press the amendment to a Division should make that clear in the debate.