Amendment to the Motion

Part of Citizens’ Rights (Application Deadline and Temporary Protection) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020 - Motion to Approve – in the House of Lords at 4:32 pm on 22nd October 2020.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Lord Rosser Lord Rosser Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (Transport) 4:32 pm, 22nd October 2020

My Lords, the terms of my amendment are that this House regrets that citizens’ rights applications in the Citizens’ Rights (Application Deadline and Temporary Protection) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020 do not provide clear statutory protection during the grace period for all EEA, Swiss nationals and their family members who are eligible for the EU settlement scheme. Unless the Government persuade me otherwise in their response, I will seek the opinion of the House on my amendment.

We will not support the amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, because it is well established that this unelected House, except in the most exceptional circumstances, does not vote down statutory instruments. This instrument has already been through the elected House of Commons, where it was passed following a Division in which we voted against it. It is also the case that voting down this SI would mean that the unelected House had voted down a measure passed by the elected House and as a result, the rights and protections applicable very shortly, which this SI guarantees to a significant number of people, would no longer be there.

We are considering three draft regulations. In respect of the Citizens’ Rights (Frontier Workers) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020, we do not have any specific concerns. The regulations fulfil our obligations under agreements to allow those who are employed or self-employed in the UK but living elsewhere to continue to do so as long as they remain a frontier worker. This group of people will be required to obtain a permit as evidence of their right to enter the UK after 1 July 2021.

The Citizens’ Rights (Restrictions of Rights of Entry and Residence) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020 deliver our obligations under the withdrawal agreement to consider the conduct of a person before the end of the transition period in accordance with the current EU thresholds when relating to deportation decisions. These decisions will continue to be appealable.

I have a couple of questions. As with the grace period SI, which I will come on to, are there any EU citizens who are currently living in the UK to whom the current thresholds will not continue to apply for conduct committed before the end of the transition period and who will have the UK thresholds after 1 January 2021 retrospectively applied to them?

Crucially, there have been reports this morning that the Government intend to make homelessness grounds for deportation. The shadow Home Secretary has raised his concerns over these immoral plans, which are particularly shocking in the midst of a pandemic and a jobs crisis. This issue is not covered by the SI before us today, but it would be good to have further clarity on the changes we are paving the way for. Can the Minister tell us whether it is the Government’s view that a person falling into homelessness is grounds for deportation?

Our main concern today is with the draft regulation usually referred to as the grace period SI, to which our amendment to the Motion relates. The3million, representing EU nationals in the UK, and the Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association are concerned that the way in which this regulation is drafted could technically mean that a large number of people would have a question mark over their rights during the grace period and while their application under the settlement scheme was pending. The Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association did suggest that changing the text from “lawfully resident” to “resident or present” would align much more closely with the spirit of the EU settlement scheme and our obligations under the withdrawal agreement.

Currently there is no provision in relation to the resident’s status during the grace period for EEA and Swiss citizens, or their family members, who are not granted leave under the scheme by the implementation period completion date in some 10 weeks’ time and are not lawfully resident as defined by the SI. Such persons could therefore face difficulty in accessing services, such as healthcare or employment, during the grace period or during the time that an in-time application is decided or an appeal is pending.

Can the Minister confirm that the individuals not covered by this SI would include a person who is dependent on their spouse, so is self-sufficient but does not have comprehensive sickness insurance, and a person who is unable to enter the labour market due to a disability, and so is not working? If no further provision is made for these people, it would seem to diminish the meaning of the grace period and contradict the mechanisms made in what I understand to be other related regulations which do provide for protection for persons who are eligible under the EU settlement scheme but not lawfully resident under the EEA regulations.

As we understand it, the protected cohort under the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020 should include all those who are eligible for status via the settlement scheme, not just those exercising their rights within the EEA regulations. In Committee on the immigration Bill in the Commons, assurances were sought from the Government on this point. The Government gave an unequivocal assurance in Committee when the Minister said, during the sixth sitting, that

“section 7 of the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act provides powers to make regulations to provide temporary protection for this cohort during the grace period. That means that if someone has not applied under the EU settlement scheme by the end of the transition period, they will be able to continue to work and live their lives in the UK as they do now, provided that they apply by 30 June 2021 and are then granted status.”—[Official Report, Commons, Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill Committee, 16/6/20; col. 195.]

The draft regulation ought to reflect that position and protect the entire cohort of those who are eligible to apply for settled status. As it stands, the consequences of the wording of the draft regulation are potentially severe for those affected, who are eligible for status via the EU settlement scheme but will be left in legal limbo, entirely of the Government’s own making, if this is not resolved.

In addition, anyone who has submitted an application to the EU settlement scheme before the end of the transition period and is pending a decision after the transition period ends will have to demonstrate that they fall within the scope of the draft regulations to have the benefit of their protection. The Government’s answer so far on this issue appears to be that no one will be challenged on their rights during the grace period, but that is no way to make law. If the Government knew this was to be their position—if they planned this carefully—what extra work has gone into ensuring that those who will not be covered by this SI have been supported to apply for the EU settlement scheme before 31 December this year?

What statutory provision do those EU citizens not protected by the regulations but eligible for status via the EU settlement scheme rely on in relation to their rights to work or to rent, and rights to protection from removal from the UK during the grace period? What statutory provision do those EU citizens not protected by the regulations, who have an application pending with the EU settlement scheme past the grace period deadline, rely on in relation to their rights to work or to rent, and rights to protection from removal from the UK?

The terms of the regulations ought to make it clear beyond any doubt, but fail to do so, that they are giving statutory protection during the grace period for all EEA and Swiss nationals and their family members who are eligible for the EU settlement scheme—as the Minister said in the Commons was the Government’s position. I beg to move.