Motion E1 (as an amendment to Motion E)

Part of Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill - Commons Reasons – in the House of Lords at 5:45 pm on 21st October 2020.

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Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department 5:45 pm, 21st October 2020

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken on this amendment—in particular, the noble Lord, Lord Oates, who moved it.

One of the first areas of disagreement that he raised was on costs. We have used published costs for enrolling biometrics and issuing a BRP, which are £19.20 and £56 respectively. They cover only the casework in the applications and not the significant set-up costs. There are costs of issuing and replacement, and one-off costs of upgrading pre-settled status cards. There is a cost of communication of the change and, of course, of facial technology.

The noble Lord, Lord Oates, suggested that the system should be trialled. The fact is that people are using it now. It is not going live on 1 January; people are already using it to prove status. That is proof of the success of the “trial”, as he puts it. Surely the fact that 4 million applications have already been made suggests that the system is working. This takes me to the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, regarding the difficulties of the system. I have seen how the application process works. It is very easy; I have suggested previously in this place that noble Lords take time to look at just how easy it is to set up.

The noble Lord, Lord Oates, also stated his dismay that the PSED has not been published. I do not have any update on my previous statement that we intend to publish it.

On discrimination, the BNO route will be launched in January. Applicants will receive digital status using the technology based on the EU settlement scheme. People receiving that status will be required to use it from January, so the system relates not just to people from EU member states but to our BNO friends who we expect to come here from then. The system is therefore not discriminatory in the sense that our BNO friends will use it from January as well.

My noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe is absolutely right: although it might not be the way forward for older people, digital by default is the way forward. It is completely retrograde to talk about physical documents when in fact, to date, the system appears to be working well. The noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, talked about physical documents being less open to abuse. They are more open to abuse and far easier to forge than a digital status that an employer or landlord can access.

Finally, regarding a power outage at the PNC, I should tell my noble friend Lord Polack that our back-up systems are very robust, as I have previously explained.

I do not think that I will convince some noble Lords—indeed, I think that the noble Lord, Lord Oates, intends to divide the House—but it is a retrograde step to talk about returning to physical documents. I remember my noble friend, joined by the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, talking about the importance of physical identity, which we fully intend to take forward. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Oates, will withdraw his amendment but I do not think that he will.