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 4:44 pm on 22nd October 2020.

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Photo of Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Labour 4:44 pm, 22nd October 2020

It is becoming increasingly difficult to reconcile debates in this House with the reality of the world outside, particularly in relation to whether and how the Government are adhering to the provisions of the withdrawal agreement.

As others have done, I want to deal particularly with the application deadline and temporary protection regulations, which we in Labour opposed in the House of Commons, as my noble friend Lord Rosser said, and were debated here during Report on the Bill. Incidentally, I do not understand why the extent of the regulations is described as

“England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland”,

while in the other two instruments it is “the United Kingdom”. What is the difference? Perhaps the Minister can explain. But that is just incidental.

The real concern with this instrument is that there is no provision in relation to residence status during the so-called “grace period”—which I must say is an unfortunate term; it sounds like grace and favour, and it may be that people on the other side of the House think of it in those terms—for EEA and Swiss citizens and their families, who are now “lawfully resident”, as they are defined in the statutory instrument. We sought to change that term in the Commons to something like “resident and present”—not, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, said, “resident or present”. Otherwise, as my noble friend Lord Rosser said, they are likely to face difficulties accessing services such as healthcare and employment during this period.

Given the hostility fostered towards those people by people such as the Home Secretary, I can understand their fear. Remember that many of them are the people whose dedication has kept our NHS and care sector going during the current pandemic. The implications are severe for those who do not have a legal basis to live in the UK, but they are eligible to apply for status under the scheme, and they will be left in legal limbo. Given the record of the Home Office on Windrush and other such issues, I must say that I do not think that any of the verbal assurances are sufficient. We need much greater clarification on this.

The Liberal Democrats have tabled a fatal amendment to the Motion, which I fear is either more of their virtue signalling or, it may be, an exculpation of their dark deeds when they were in coalition with the Tories. Presumably, they will then be on to social media like a measles rash attacking us for not supporting what they know is only a gesture but they pretend has some effect. As my noble friend Lord Rosser said, if we vote down this SI, it would mean not only the unelected House overturning the elected Chamber but losing the other rights and protections included in the regulations. Our amendment is meant to follow up the opposition in the Commons Committee, where Labour and, indeed, the SNP—no Liberal Democrats—voted against the regulations.

If the Government and this Minister had any sense, they would accept the powerful arguments we have made today but, more important, the concerns of the people involved, and the Minister would agree to take this issue away and look at it again. In the letter which she helpfully sent, dated today—and we received it today—the Minister says that, following my noble friend Lady Lister’s amendment at Report on the Bill on 5 October, she would be discussing this with the Home Secretary. Surely, this is the opportunity. This is where and when this issue could and should be resolved.