With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:
Amendment 11, in clause 4, page 3, line 1, leave out “make provisions applying” and insert
“give leave to enter the United Kingdom”.
Amendment 2, in clause 4, page 3, line 8, leave out subsection (5).
This amendment would narrow the scope of the powers provided to the Secretary of State in Clause 4, as recommended by the House of Lords Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee.
Amendment 3, in clause 4, page 3, line 11, leave out subsection (6).
This amendment would narrow the scope of the powers provided to the Secretary of State in Clause 4, as recommended by the House of Lords Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee.
Amendment 5, in clause 4, page 3, line 17, leave out “other”.
This amendment is consequential on Amendment 3.
Amendment 6, in clause 4, page 3, line 17, leave out from “subsection (1)” to “is” on line 19.
This amendment, along with Amendment 7, will ensure that all regulations made under Clause 4(1) are subject to the affirmative procedure.
Amendment 12, in clause 4, page 3, line 18, leave out
“that amend or repeal any provision of primary legislation (whether alone or with any other provision)”.
This amendment would mean that all regulations made under Clause 4 would be subject to the affirmative procedure.
Amendment 7, in clause 4, page 3, line 21, leave out subsection (8).
This amendment, along with Amendment 6, will ensure that all regulations made under Clause 4(1) are subject to the affirmative procedure.
Amendment 10, in clause 7, page 5, line 44, at end insert—
“(10A) Section 4 and section 7(5) of this Act expire at the end of a period of one year beginning with the day on which this Act is passed.”
This amendment would place a time limit on the Henry VIII powers contained in Clause 4.
It was a little while after my first election in 2015 that I first heard the term “Henry VIII clause,” but I have become very familiar with it since then. The clauses in the Immigration Act 2016 were outrageous enough, but they are small beer compared with the powers the Government have helped themselves to in the European Union (Withdrawal) Act and in this Bill. There is no need to take my word for it; we have ample evidence. The amendments are largely based on submissions from the Law Society of Scotland and the report of the House of Lords Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee. I am very grateful to both. It is unusual to have the benefit of the Lords Committee report for a Commons Bill, but it has certainly proved helpful. The Committee said:
“The combination of the subjective test of appropriateness, the words ‘in connection with Part 1’, the subject matter of Part 1 and the large number of persons who will be affected, make this a very significant delegation of power from Parliament to the Executive. The scope of this broad power is expanded even further by subsections (2) to (5).”
If we are serious about our role as legislators and about separating the Executive from the legislature, we must start putting our foot down and reining in these clauses. Otherwise, what on earth are we here for?
We can start that process through amendment 4, by replacing the subjective test of appropriateness. Through amendment 1 we can ditch the phrase “in connection with”. The Committee was absolutely scathing here. It said:
“We are frankly disturbed that the Government should consider it appropriate to include the words ‘in connection with’. This would confer permanent powers on Ministers to make whatever legislation they considered appropriate, provided there was at least some connection with Part 1, however tenuous; and to do so by negative procedure regulations (assuming no amendment was made to primary legislation)”.
Amendment 2 is also from the House of Lords Committee’s recommendations. It removes clause 4(v). It noted that subsection (v)
“confers broad discretion on Ministers to levy fees or charges on any person seeking leave to enter or remain in the UK who pre-exit would have had free movement rights under EU law”.
It recommended removal
“unless the Government can provide a proper and explicit justification for its inclusion and explain how they intend to use the power”.
That is the challenge for the Minister this morning.
As for the Government’s justifications and the memorandum on delegated powers stating that the powers are needed to protect EEA citizens, it is fair to say that the Committee was not persuaded. It said:
“We believe that transitional arrangements to protect existing legal rights of EEA nationals should appear on the face of the Bill, and not simply left to regulations with no opportunity for parliamentary scrutiny until after they have been made and come into force.”
That is exactly what Opposition MPs have sought to do with other amendments that we will come to later. The consequence of that for the Committee was that there would be no need to use made affirmative procedures set out in clause 4(vi). It recommended removal of that subsection, which is what my amendments 3 and 5 seek to do. The very unusual made affirmative procedure means that the regulations are actually in force when they are tabled in the House of Commons before we have even voted on them. Our position is that the more common made affirmative procedures should be followed, and instruments should be laid in draft and should not come into force until we examine and approve them—hence amendments 6 and 7.
I conclude with some comments by the Law Society of Scotland. It said:
“The abrogation of parliamentary scrutiny is deeply concerning and the cumulative effect of these provisions is to reduce the role of parliamentary scrutiny of legislation relating to immigration, both EU and non-EU”.
For all these reasons, I hope that the Government will listen carefully and rein in their desires for extensive delegated powers under clause 4.
I wish to speak to amendments 11, 12 and 10. Throughout the Brexit process, the Government have been carrying out a power grab, acquiring powers to amend primary and secondary legislation with little parliamentary scrutiny. The debates on Brexit legislation have shown that there is cross-party support for limiting Henry VIII powers. Back Benchers on both sides of the House recognise that Parliament’s role in making legislation is crucial and must be protected. We accept that there will be aspects of statutory legislation that the Government will need to adjust as a result of ending free movement; we need a functional statute book. However, there must be limits on these powers to ensure that Ministers cannot make significant policy changes, including to primary legislation through statutory instruments.
Currently, scrutiny of secondary legislation is weak. Statutory instruments are unamendable and the Government have a majority on all SI Committees—if the SI even gets a Committee. Those subject to the negative procedure may never even be discussed by parliamentarians, as Adrian Berry said in our evidence session. He said:
“It is true that you have the affirmative resolution procedure, but it is clearly a poor substitute for primary legislation and the scrutiny you get in Select Committees.”—[Official Report, Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Public Bill Committee,
He recommended the Henry VIII powers be radically redrawn. We know that the Government plan a major overhaul of our immigration system for EU and non-EU migrants set out in the White Paper. There is a risk that these powers could be used to bring in that entirely new system. Will the Minister confirm whether the Government would use the powers in the Bill to bring in the new system or if there would be a new immigration Bill? If there will be another Bill, when might it come? Would it be in addition to a withdrawal and implementation Bill, if we get a withdrawal agreement?
Immigration is already an area where the Government have extensive delegated powers. Since 1971, almost all major changes to our immigration system have been made through the immigration rules. We want to move to a situation in which there is more scrutiny of immigration changes, not less.
Labour has many issues with the proposed immigration system, but we broadly believe in the principle that certain major changes should have the chance to be fully discussed and debated before they are introduced. We are being asked to take it on trust that Ministers will not abuse the powers delegated to them in this clause. In the wake of Windrush, we should be particularly sceptical of this Government’s promises. The Windrush scandal was the result of a long period of under-the-radar changes to immigration rules, which chipped away at the rights of Windrush migrants and plunged their status in the UK into uncertainty. In the aftermath of Windrush, we should be particularly attentive to the risks of allowing Ministers the power to amend people’s rights after they have been debated and enshrined in primary legislation.
Clause 4 offers the Government a blank cheque to change our immigration laws and reduces the level of parliamentary scrutiny of immigration legislation. The Labour amendment and the SNP amendments, which we support, do four things.
First, they limit the scope of the powers. As currently drafted, changes to our immigration laws will be only in consequence of or in connection with the withdrawal of EU free movement legislation. We support the SNP’s amendment 1, which would limit the scope here. We support amendment 4, which would allow the Secretary of State to make only changes that are necessary rather than those that the Minister considers appropriate. The House of Lords Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee recommended the amendments because they were disturbed by the use of “in connection with”, as it would confer primary powers on Ministers to make whatever legislation they considered appropriate, provided that there was at least some connection with part one, however tenuous, and to do so by negative procedure regulations.
Amendment 2 would prevent the Secretary of State making changes to fees and charges. Labour has tabled new clause 38, which states that visa fees should be set at cost price. The Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee raised significant concern about this sub-clause as it confers broad discretion on the Minister to levy fees or charges on any person seeking leave to enter or remain in the UK who would have had free movement rights under EU laws pre-exit. Fees are already so high that they are unaffordable. The Home Office makes enormous profits out of visa fees, and it is concerning that the Government are granting themselves the power to increase them even further.
Secondly, these amendments limit the nature of these powers. Amendment 11 in my name would allow Ministers to grant status to a group of EEA nationals but not allow them to remove any such rights without primary legislation. I am grateful to the Immigration Law Practitioners Association for its help in drafting it. We believe this is a vital safeguard and that right to remain should be set in stone, and not subject to amendment or to being removed by secondary legislation.
Thirdly, these amendments improve the scrutiny that changes to immigration rules will be subject to. Clause 4(6) sets out that some immigration rules may be made by the made affirmative procedure, which means that they will be assigned into law before being laid in Parliament. There is then a period of 40 days in which the House must approve them or they will cease to have effect. The House of Lords Committee recommended that this be removed, which is what amendment 3 does. Amendments 12, 13 and 7 will ensure that immigration rules are subject to the affirmative procedure. Labour has tabled new clause 9, which will subject them to super-affirmative procedure. Our immigration rules have an enormous impact on people’s lives, but they often receive very little scrutiny. The made affirmative procedure means that they will receive no scrutiny before coming into effect and that scrutiny will only be retrospective.
Fourthly and finally, amendment 10 will place a time limit on the Henry VIII powers in clause 4. The Government have said that they will review the White Paper proposal for 12 months. The sunset clause should ensure that they can use the Henry VIII powers in clause 4 to make small amendments to the legislation, but that at the point at which they will make bigger changes, the Henry VIII powers will expire.
We have serious concerns about the extent of the delegated powers in clause 4. Our amendments and the amendments tabled by the SNP would go a long way to limit the powers and would ensure that changes to immigration policy are properly scrutinised.
Will the Minister place on the record more information about how the Government intend to use the scope of the legislation? As we heard from the hon. Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East, the language of clause 4, such as “connected with” and “appropriate”, means that the legislation could be used to make sweeping changes to immigration rules, not just in relation to EU nationals but across the whole immigration system.
The long title of the Bill says that its intention is to
“Make provision to end rights to free movement of persons under retained EU law and to repeal other retained EU law relating to immigration; to confer power to modify retained direct EU legislation relating to social security coordination”,
but the devil is in the detail of “and for connected purposes.” It would be reassuring for the Committee if the Minister could place on the record this morning exactly how widely the Government intend to make use of the legislation.
Notwithstanding the brief contribution from my hon. Friend the Member for Chatham and Aylesford, the hon. Member for Stretford and Urmston invites me to delve into the detail, which is what I plan to do. It is right that the Committee pays close attention to the delegated powers in the Bill, which are key to delivering the changes linked to the end of free movement. I am grateful to the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee for its report and recommendations on the Bill, which I am carefully considering.
The power in the clause is similar to that found in many other immigration Acts. It is needed for the effective implementation of the Bill and the ending of free movement. A great deal has been said about the power granting Ministers a blank cheque—a slightly 20th century analogy, but one that I have used as well; perhaps I should talk about chip and PIN or contactless—so I want to explain exactly and in some detail how the power can and cannot be used.
I reassure the Committee that, with clause 4, the Government seek to ensure that we can manage the transition of EEA nationals, Swiss nationals and their family members from free movement to our domestic immigration system. For the sake of brevity, I will refer to that group collectively as EEA nationals.
First, the power will enable us to protect the status of EEA nationals and their family members who are resident in the UK before exit day and ensure that their residence rights are not affected by the UK’s departure from the EU. It will enable us to save the operation of otherwise repealed legislation, such as section 7 of the Immigration Act 1988, which relates to the requirement to have leave to enter and remain in the UK, and the Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2016, which implement the free movement directive. It will preserve the position of EEA nationals in the UK before exit day, or in any agreed implementation period, so they do not require leave to enter or remain until the deadline for obtaining leave under the EU settlement scheme passes in June 2021, or December 2020 in the sad event of no deal.
Secondly, in the unlikely event that we leave the EU without a deal, the power will enable us to make provision for EEA nationals who arrive after exit day but before the future border and immigration system is rolled out in January 2021. During the transition period the clause will enable us, for example, to ensure that EEA nationals need only provide their passport or other national identity document as evidence of their right to work or rent, as is currently the case. We need the power to ensure that, prior to implementation of the future system in 2021, EEA nationals can be treated as they are currently, in terms of checking for eligibility for benefits and public services and the right to work and rent property.
The clause is needed to enable us to meet the UK’s obligation under the draft withdrawal agreement, if that is agreed. In the event of no deal, the clause will enable us to implement the Government’s policy in the paper on citizens’ rights in the event of a no-deal Brexit, which was published by the Department for Exiting the European Union on
Thirdly, the power will enable us to align the immigration treatment of EEA and non-EEA nationals in the future, so that we can create a level playing field in terms of who can come to the UK. For example, the power will enable us to align the positions of EU nationals and non-EU nationals in relation to the deportation regime, where currently a different threshold applies to the deportation of criminals who are EU nationals.
As I have said previously, we are engaging extensively on the design of the future system, and our proposals were set out in the White Paper. The details of the future system will be set out in the immigration rules once they have been agreed, but without the power in the clause we cannot deliver the future system, and that is why it is crucial to the overall implementation of the Bill.
Fourthly, the power is important to ensure that our laws work coherently once we have left the EU. There are references across the statute book to EEA nationals, their free movement rights and their status under free movement law. The power needs to be wide enough to ensure that all such references can be adequately addressed as a consequence of ending free movement. By way of example, section 126 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 lists the documents that must be provided in support of various types of immigration application. One example relates to applications under the Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2016. An amendment is needed to remove that reference, because in the future there will no longer be applications under the EEA regulations, as they are repealed by the Bill.
Amendments 1 to 5 were tabled by the hon. Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East. As he explained, amendment 4 would limit the Secretary of State’s power to make regulations to instances where it was “necessary” rather than “appropriate”. I reassure the Committee that the clause is not a blank cheque. The regulations could be used only to make provision in consequence of or in connection with part 1 of the Bill. That means that they could be made only in connection with the end of free movement or the status of Irish citizens. They must be appropriate within that context, so the scope of the power is already limited, even without it being limited to what is necessary.
Not only is the test for what is necessary harder to meet; it is also harder to say whether it is met. To explain why I regard “necessary” as too high a bar, I refer to the courts, which have said that the nearest paraphrase is “really needed”. Such a test would be too restrictive: one person’s necessary amendment is another’s “nice to have”. Immigration is a litigious area and we do not want a provision that will lead to uncertainty and challenge about whether an amendment is appropriate or necessary. The Committee may recall that that point was discussed at some length during the passage of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 and that Parliament agreed that “appropriate” was the correct formulation when dealing with amendments in relation to EU exit. It is the right test here also.
Amendment 1 would limit the changes made under the regulations to those that are “in consequence of” the ending of free movement, rather than “in connection with” or “in consequence of”. I note that the amendment was recommended by the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee. As I have explained, references to EEA nationals occur in numerous places across the entire statute book and in numerous different ways, not always by reference to free movement rights. The inclusion of “in connection with” is more appropriate to describe the provision that needs to be made for some of those cases. It is also better suited than the phrase “in consequence of” for the making of transitional provision for those who arrive in the UK after the commencement of the Bill.
The Lords Committee made the specific point that transitional and savings provisions for pre-exit day EEA nationals should be made on the face of the Bill. Hon. Members are interested in that and some witnesses discussed it in evidence sittings. We have committed to protecting the rights of EU citizens who are resident in the UK. That has been our priority, and we have delivered it through our negotiations with the EU to secure protections of citizens’ rights, which are included in the draft withdrawal agreement. If that is agreed by Parliament, there will be legislation to implement it in UK law. The withdrawal agreement Bill will be the vehicle by which such protections are delivered. We have also opened the EU settlement scheme to allow EU nationals who are already living in the UK to obtain settled status or pre-settled status in the UK. That will provide them with a clear status once free movement ends and will ensure their rights are protected in UK law.
In addition, we have given unilateral assurances that EU nationals and their family members resident in the UK can stay if the UK leaves the EU without a deal, as set out in the no deal policy paper I previously mentioned. In the event of no deal, we will use the power in clause 4 to make provision to protect the status of EU nationals resident in the UK. One could speculate about whether such protections are necessary or merely appropriate, or whether they are in consequence of the end of free movement or only connected to the end of free movement, but I know that Members of the Committee agree with me that it is important to be able to protect EU nationals, and I want to ensure that the clause is broad enough to enable us to do so.
I am grateful to the hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton for raising an important issue in amendment 11, which would replace part of the power in subsection (4) of clause 4. The power allows us to make provisions applying to persons not exercising free movement rights. The amendment appears to narrow, or perhaps clarify, the power by including reference to the grant of leave to enter.
It may be helpful if I first explain our intended use of the provision. I am aware that there is a perception that clause 4(4) would allow the Secretary of State to make sweeping changes to the immigration system in respect of non-EEA nationals, but I assure the Committee that that is not the case. Subsection (4) does not provide a standalone power; it is part and parcel of the power in subsection (1) which we have previously debated. That means that it can be used only in consequence of or in connection with part 1 of the Bill, which is about the repeal of free movement and the status of Irish nationals. There is no risk that the power could be used to change the immigration legislation for non-EEA nationals in ways unconnected with part 1 of the Bill.
Subsection (4) is needed because not every person who is an EEA national in the UK is exercising free movement rights. EU law sets out the conditions for the exercise of such rights: for example, a person who is not working, seeking work, self-employed or studying can exercise free movement rights only if they have adequate resources and comprehensive sickness insurance. Putting aside any rights as a family member, a German househusband or wife who does not have comprehensive sickness insurance is not exercising free movement rights. We have taken the decision to be generous in our treatment of EU nationals already in the UK and we have opened the EU settlement scheme to them all, regardless of whether they are exercising treaty rights or not. However, we need to ensure that we have the power to amend other legislation to facilitate that—for example, checks on rights to work or access to benefits and public services that might otherwise apply to them. The amendment could prevent us from making those changes, potentially meaning that that group could fall through the gaps.
I reiterate that the power is not the means by which the future border and immigration system will be delivered. That will be done through the immigration rules made under the Immigration Act 1971. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman does not intend that group to be denied protection. I hope I have provided sufficient reassurance on the need for and use of the subsection. I respectfully ask him to not to press amendment 11.
Amendment 2, which stands in the name of the hon. Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East, would narrow the scope of the power by omitting subsection (5). The House of Lords Committee recommended that the Government justify the need for subsection (5) and I am grateful for the opportunity to do so.
The purpose of subsection (5) is to enable changes to be made to legislation that imposes fees and charges. For example, under the EU-Turkey association agreement, Turkish nationals are currently exempt from the immigration health surcharge. The directly effective rights under the association agreement, which will form part of domestic law from exit day by virtue of section 4 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, are disapplied by paragraph 9 of schedule 1 to the Bill. That would mean that Turkish nationals would become liable to pay the immigration health surcharge, but we think it appropriate to maintain that exemption for those already resident in the UK.
Another example of how we might rely on subsection (5) is in relation to persons granted limited leave to remain under the EU settlement scheme. As the law stands, they would be considered not ordinarily resident in the UK when their free movement rights end, and they would be liable for charges when accessing NHS treatment. We want to make it crystal clear that those EU nationals already in the UK should not be charged for NHS treatment. Without this provision, we could make such amendments to exempt people from charges that might otherwise apply. I hope that I have provided sufficient explanation of why subsection (5) is needed. I request that the amendments not be pressed.
We have heard from Members about the parliamentary procedure attached to the regulations made under clause 4. If I may, I will address amendments 3 and 5 together. They stand in the names of the hon. Members for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East and for Paisley and Renfrewshire North. The amendments would require the first set of regulations made under clause 4 to use the affirmative procedure, rather than the made affirmative procedure.
As Committee members will be aware, under the made affirmative procedure, regulations are made and come into force after being signed by the Secretary of State, and are then laid before Parliament. They cease to have effect if they are not then approved by both Houses of Parliament within 40 days of being made. Under the affirmative procedure, regulations cannot be made or come into force until they have been approved by both Houses.
Both procedures would provide a significant opportunity for Parliament to scrutinise regulations made under clause 4, but using the made affirmative option for the first set of regulations made under clause 4 will allow the Government to maintain the flexibility to deal with a range of potential EU exit scenarios. For example—I believe I mentioned this earlier—there could be a short period between the Bill receiving Royal Assent and the UK leaving the EU, at which point, in the event of no deal, we may want to end free movement. That would require regulations to be in place more quickly than could be achieved under the draft affirmative procedure.
The Government’s view is that the use of the made affirmative procedure for the first set of regulations under clause 4 is therefore both necessary and proportionate. It is not the case that Parliament is being denied a proper opportunity to scrutinise the regulations. Any regulations made must be approved by both Houses within 40 days; otherwise they cease to have effect. For those reasons, I respectfully ask the hon. Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East not to press amendments 3 and 5.
Amendment 6, 7 and 12, which stand in the names of the hon. Members for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East, for Paisley and Renfrewshire North and for Manchester, Gorton, would provide that all regulations made under clause 4 should be subject to the affirmative procedure. As it stands, regulations made under the clause will be subject to the affirmative procedure wherever they amend or repeal primary legislation. That will ensure appropriate scrutiny of the use of the power and is consistent with the usual approach to these type of powers.
Where regulations made under clause 4 do not amend or repeal primary legislation, they will be subject to the negative procedure. As Committee members will be aware, under the negative procedure, regulations are made and come into force after being signed by the Secretary of State and cease to have effect if either House passes a motion annulling the regulations within 40 days. That is in accordance with the principle maintained by successive Governments and is accepted by the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee as appropriate for amendments to secondary legislation.
Using these powers does not mean avoiding parliamentary scrutiny—far from it. Secondary legislation made under clause 4 will be subject to full parliamentary oversight using well-established procedures. I therefore ask the hon. Members not to press their amendments.
I am grateful to the Minister for her detailed response; she said she would go into the detail and she certainly did not disappoint. The one defence that does not really fly with me is that similar powers have been used in previous immigration Bills. I objected very strongly to some of the powers that appeared in previous immigration Bills, and certainly to those in the immigration Bill before this one. However, she gave useful examples of how the powers will have to be used. We will have to go away, think carefully about what she said and reflect on whether changes are needed.
The amendment about which I was not fully satisfied by the Minister’s answer, and which I still wish to push to a vote, is amendment 1. In my view, tidying up the statute book and putting in place transitional provisions, as the Minister gave as examples, would surely meet the “in consequence” test, and so the very loose “in connection with” test would not be needed. I also agree with the Lords Committee that transitional arrangements should be in the Bill, first to cover a no-deal scenario, secondly because it would be useful for the UK in Europe in such a no-deal scenario when trying to push other Governments around the EU for reciprocal treatment, and finally because the Bill is a much safer place for it to be than in delegated legislation.
I also have some concerns about the response to amendments 3 and 5 on the different types of affirmative procedure. I still find it startling that we are even contemplating, in a no-deal scenario, an end to free movement within a few weeks’ time. I do not think this country is remotely ready for any such prospect at all; a far more sensible option would be to put in place arrangements for free movement to continue even in a no-deal scenario until we are properly ready to make any changes that are agreed upon. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
“(5A) Regulations under subsection (1) must provide that EEA nationals who are employed as personal assistants using funding from a personal budget are exempt from any minimum salary threshold that is set for work visa applications.
(5B) In this section, personal budget has the meaning set out in section 26 of the Care Act 2014.”
I hope the amendment will attract at least some support from the hon. Member for Chatham and Aylesford, and that she will take the opportunity to offer her observations on it. The Minister will be pleased to hear that the amendment is probing; it is designed to enable us to explore some of the issues that might affect personal assistants employed by disabled people after Brexit, as some of those personal assistants will be EEA nationals and therefore affected by the freedom of movement provisions in the Bill.
Personal assistants are employed directly by disabled people to meet day-to-day needs for assistance, whether that be personal care or facilitating assistance—