Examination of Witnesses

Part of Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:00 pm on 12th February 2019.

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Jodie Blackstock:

At Justice we have deep concerns about the potential reach of clause 4, which provides extremely broad delegated powers to the Minister of State in connection with repeal of the current free movement provisions relating to EEA nationals. Of course the provisions have to enable the repeal of those measures after we leave the EU, but it is not at all clear from the Bill what is intended to replace them. We consider that a number of changes are necessary, and we will provide separate detail on those subsequently in our written evidence—I apologise for not having that before you now, but we will provide the detail this afternoon.

First, the primary policy aims ought to be stated on the face of the Bill in primary legislation, so that Parliament has the opportunity to scrutinise those principles and amend them as appropriate. Those provisions would be to enable the accrued rights of EEA nationals who currently have settled status in this country to remain and for the transitional provisions surrounding those rights to be introduced in a clear way. Currently, the Government have proposals on both issues, and we see no reason why they could not put them on the face of the Bill. I can come back to that in more detail.

Secondly, we consider that the delegated powers set out in clause 4 should be substantially limited. The memorandum on delegated powers that the Government have provided seeks to explain that the two key aims of that clause are to deal with technical amendments to remove references that are no longer appropriate to the EU from legislation and also to protect the accrued rights of EU and EEA nationals. If that is the intended aim, those can be the powers as set out in the Bill, and we would propose that it be constrained in that way, through a provision relating to technical amendments and a power to provide consequential amendments that will give effect to accrued rights.

In our view, there are additional consequences from that relating to section 3 of the Immigration Act 1971, which provides for the immigration rules. In these circumstances, which to a certain extent are unique and will create the biggest change to immigration policy since the Maastricht treaty in 1992, we suggest that the power to make those changes ought not to be left simply to immigration rules but should be set out in the Bill, or the use of section 3 of Immigration Act to do so should be specifically constrained as an alternative to the Bill. If you would like me to go into any of those points in a bit more detail, I can do so, but I wanted to set out our primary concerns about the way the delegated power operates.