Extent, commencement and short title

Part of Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:15 pm on 28th February 2019.

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Photo of Stuart McDonald Stuart McDonald Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Immigration, Asylum and Border Control) 2:15 pm, 28th February 2019

I will speak to amendments 38 and 39, tabled in my name and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire North, which are essentially subsections of the broader amendments that the shadow Minister spoke to. I absolutely endorse his comments, so I will be very brief indeed.

Essentially, the development of immigration policy has not been evidence-based or rights-based. My amendments pose a couple of questions. First, before we set out to apply the immigration rules to many thousands more people, why do we not review them and assess their impact on human rights? Secondly, my amendments ask us to revisit a pretty scandalous immigration exemption inserted into the recent Data Protection Act 2018.

On the first point, the Government tend to argue in their defence that the statutory duties that are in place are sufficient. However, we unfortunately all too often see statutory duties not properly discharged by the Home Office. For example, we heard in an earlier debate about the duty under section 55 of the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009. Justice McCloskey said in 2016:

“As in so many cases involving children, there is no evidence that the statutory duty imposed by section 55(2) to have regard to the Secretary of State’s statutory guidance was discharged. I readily infer that it was not. This, sadly, seems to be the rule rather than the exception in cases of this kind.”

Rather than leaving it to statutory duties and guidelines, we want a proper assessment, to make sure that those duties are complied with, and how they are complied with.

On the second point, that immigration exemption gives the Home Office sweeping powers to excuse itself or others from fundamental data protections, which are vital to ensuring that people are not subjected to wrong immigration decisions, and wrongly exercised functions and powers, as befell so many members of the Windrush generation. That exemption absolutely ought to be removed.

In particular, the sharing of migrants’ data between public services and the Home Office, and the erosion of migrants’ data protection rights, are some of the most controversial aspects of the hostile environment, turning traditionally safe spaces, such as hospitals and schools, into immigration surveillance services. The policy of sharing NHS patient data with the Home Office eroded the patient confidentiality rights of migrant patients, causing outrage among doctors, royal medical colleges and the British Medical Association. In the light of evidence that data sharing caused migrants to avoid healthcare services and presented a public health risk, the policy was suspended. We need to go further than that and row back on the immigration exemption altogether, which is why I ask hon. Members to support amendment 39.