New Clause 6 - Additional measures in relation to victims of domestic violence or human trafficking

Immigration Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:15 am on 17th November 2015.

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‘(1) The Immigration Act 2014 is amended in accordance with subsection (2).

(2) In Section 21 after sub-section (4) insert—

“(4A) P is to be treated as having a right to rent in relation to premises (in spite of subsection (2)) if they are in the process of applying for leave to remain under Paragraph 289 of the Immigration Rules as a victim of domestic violence.

(4B) P is to be treated as having a right to rent in relation to premises (in spite of subsection (2)) if they have received a reasonable grounds decision from UK Visas and Immigration that they are a victim of human trafficking.”’—(Keir Starmer.)

This new clause would enable suspected victims of human trafficking or domestic violence, who do not have a final visa giving them leave to remain, the right to enter into a tenancy.

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of Keir Starmer Keir Starmer Shadow Minister (Home Office)

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Photo of Albert Owen Albert Owen Labour, Ynys Môn

With this it will be convenient to discuss new clause 10—Persons disqualified by immigration status or with limited right to rent—

‘(1) The Immigration Act 2014 is amended in accordance with subsections (2) to (3).

(2) Omit section 21(3) and insert—

“(3) But P is to be treated as having a right to rent in relation to premises (in spite of subsection (2)) if:

(a) the Secretary of State has granted P permission for the purposes of this Chapter to occupy premises under a residential tenancy agreement; or

(b) P has been granted immigration bail; or

(c) P is to be treated as having been granted immigration bail.”’

To ensure that persons seeking asylum who can afford to rent privately, persons with outstanding applications and persons with outstanding appeals or judicial reviews are able to rent.

Photo of Keir Starmer Keir Starmer Shadow Minister (Home Office)

I will do my best to be as persuasive as my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham had she spoken on the proposed provisions. It is convenient to take the two new clauses together.

New clause 6 is in essence an attempt to carve out an exemption to the restrictions on right to rent in relation to two particularly vulnerable groups—suspected victims of domestic violence or human trafficking—and gives them the right to enter into a tenancy. Our concern is the unintended consequence of those two groups not being able to be properly accommodated.

New clause 10 is different. It is intended to provide a right to rent to anyone known to and in touch with the authorities, whom the authorities have chosen not to detain, where they are in a financial position to rent privately. If they are not in a position to rent privately, they would be catered for differently through support, so this is a sub-group within the group that is known to be in touch with the authorities, but not detained. It has been suggested that the Secretary of State will exercise discretionary power in relation to that group. The new clause is intended to put that on a proper statutory basis so that that group is properly protected.

Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire Minister of State (Home Office) (Security and Immigration)

The Government completely agree that victims of domestic violence and human trafficking should not be disadvantaged as a result of this legislation or the previous Immigration Act. We accept that individuals in such a vulnerable position should have access to the private rented sector. The aims and objectives in new clause 6 are laudable, but we do not believe they are necessary.

When the 2014 Act was before Parliament, we were concerned that the Secretary of State should have sufficient latitude to be able to exempt specific persons from the disqualification on renting premises if need be. Subsection (3) of section 21 of that Act provides that a person is to be treated as having a right to rent if the Secretary of State has granted that person permission to occupy premises under a residential tenancy agreement. That can be exercised on behalf of vulnerable people. In addition, the Act provides exemptions whereby the provisions do not apply to certain excluded tenancy agreements. Schedule 3 specifically excludes hostels and refuges. Paragraph 6(5) to schedule 3 defines refuges as accommodation used for persons who have been subject to violence, threats and other coercive and abusive behaviour, so persons in refuges will not be disadvantaged.

Where a potential victim of human trafficking has received a positive reasonable grounds decision through the national referral mechanism, the Government fund specialist accommodation and support, as do the devolved Administrations, which is provided until a conclusive grounds decision is reached on their status as a victim and on any discretionary leave resulting from that status.

New clause 10 is also unnecessary. Persons seeking asylum who can afford to rent privately, and persons who have a genuine barrier preventing their departure from the UK, can already obtain permission to rent from the Home Office. That permission to rent mechanism  already exists in section 21(3) of the Immigration Act 2014. Landlords of prospective migrant tenants who believe that they may qualify for permission to rent can contact the Home Office to conduct a right to rent check.

There is also no need for a statutory provision for permission to rent for persons granted immigration bail. Such persons are always given permission, and Home Office presenting officers have been instructed to assure immigration judges that, should they choose to release an immigrant on bail, the Home Office will provide permission to rent. That is our very clear policy. The tribunal has found this approach acceptable. It is also the case that there may be other instances where permission to rent is appropriate, such as where an illegal immigrant faces a recognised barrier to returning home.

On the national referral mechanism, we aim to make a reasonable grounds decision within five days. Once a positive reasonable grounds decision is made, potential victims of modern slavery can access accommodation and support through the Government-funded contract run by the Salvation Army, which many hon. Members will be well aware of. It is therefore normally through that mechanism that support is provided. The hon. and learned Gentleman highlights the issue of discretion. I think that I have explained that we seek to apply discretion if there is continued consideration moving towards a conclusive decision. However, in all practical circumstances, support would normally be provided through the Salvation Army-run contracts and through the arrangements of the devolved Administrations. We judge that, practically, these amendments are not needed because support is given.

Photo of Keir Starmer Keir Starmer Shadow Minister (Home Office) 10:30 am, 17th November 2015

I am grateful to the Minister for his comments. I think we share concerns about the particular groups that are dealt with under the new clauses. The gap between us is between a statutory scheme under the new clause and a discretionary scheme exercised by the Secretary of State. The Minister has, however, set out in some detail what the policy approach is and has given a clear steer as to how measures are being and will be operated. In those circumstances, the gap is in fact smaller than it might otherwise have been and I will not press the new clause. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Clause, by leave, withdrawn.