Examination of Witness

Part of Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:30 pm on 14th February 2019.

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Joe Owen:

The Bill is a framework Bill that gives the Government broad powers with which to move forward. In some respects, particularly when we look at some of the criticisms we have already heard about this being a kind of blank cheque for Government, that is not uncommon on immigration. The basis of the legislation—the 1971 Act—means that the Government have pretty broad powers to start making changes in the immigration system. This is not necessarily a massive deviation from that.

Looking at this, there is an important question about whether the basis of immigration rules, with which this clearly shows a problem, is the right way to do immigration rules. It is certainly the case that between 2010 and 2013, for example, there were some pretty big changes in the immigration system, not least reducing non-EU migration, over which we had control—for want of a better phrase—by about 40%. That was all done without primary legislation, just through immigration rules.

There was also the introduction of the minimum threshold for family reunification, which meant that around 40% of British citizens, I think, would not be able to bring over spouses from the rest of the world under those rules. Whether or not you agree with the policy, there is a question about whether it is right that that can be done through immigration rules and negative procedure. The broad question with the Bill is the continuation of broad powers to make changes in the immigration system. There is a valid question at this point about whether that is the right way to progress with immigration legislation.