“Super-affirmative procedures for immigration rules

Part of Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:15 am on 5th March 2019.

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Photo of Stuart McDonald Stuart McDonald Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Immigration, Asylum and Border Control) 10:15 am, 5th March 2019

I will speak to new clauses 40 and 54. I know that Members across the Committee will be enthralled by the prospect of an immigration rules advisory committee. Indeed, if new clause 54 is agreed, to I am sure that straight away, the Minister will be open to considering CVs from people who might serve on that committee.

As the shadow Minister said, the new clauses are all about increasing the level of scrutiny. New clause 40 would require an assessment of the impact of any changes to the immigration rules on modern slavery and on children to be laid before Parliament before the changes could be made. Just as significantly, it would give rise to the possibility of MPs actually being able to debate and amend proposed changes to the immigration rules. New clause 54 would put in place an immigration rules advisory committee.

The kernel of these ideas came from a recent report by British Future, which simply points out, as the shadow Minister has done, that changes to immigration rules have been rapid and incredibly complicated. The Home Office has made more than 5,700 changes since 2010, with the rules doubling in length over the same period. Little by way of explanation is provided to MPs when changes are proposed, and even less of scrutiny or debate. In such situations it is near impossible for most MPs to keep track of changes and to fulfil their role of scrutinising the Government’s work.

Social security offers a comparison with our proposal for an immigration rules advisory committee. Like social security laws, immigration rules are constantly changed by secondary legislation. However, there has been a social security advisory committee since as long ago as 1980. It has an independent remit to scrutinise draft secondary legislation on social security, making advice available to both the Government and Parliament. It has 14 members, who come from a wide range of professional backgrounds, and Ministers are usually required to submit regulations in draft to that committee, which may decide to scrutinise them formally. New clause 54 essentially copies the language of the enabling legislation for that committee and applies it to immigration rules.

While I welcome what the Minister and the previous Home Secretary have said about the need to simplify the immigration rules, we need to improve our procedures for scrutinising changes. Our new clauses offer two reasonable and practical proposals for exactly how that could be done.