“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 Caroline Nokes Caroline Nokes The Minister for Immigration 10:15 am, 5th March 2019

I am grateful to the hon. Members for Manchester, Gorton and for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East for providing a further opportunity to discuss parliamentary scrutiny of immigration rules, which is raised in all three of these proposals. Parliamentary scrutiny is an important issue, and I am aware that Committee members are very interested in it. I will take each new clause in turn, but first I will briefly cover a few background points.

As Committee members will be aware, the detailed provisions on who is entitled to enter and remain in the UK, and on how to apply for such leave, are set out in the immigration rules. The rules are made under the power in section 3 of the Immigration Act 1971. This power to change immigration rules, and the procedure for scrutiny of any changes, are long established. I remind hon. Members that the immigration rules were used, back in 2008, to introduce the points-based system that we currently operate.

I reiterate that none of the changes that we are making through the Bill are intended to affect that power or procedure. We will use that well-established power to set up the future immigration system once we have ended free movement and left the EU. I am in favour of parliamentary scrutiny of changes to the immigration rules, but I am not persuaded that there is any reason to depart from the existing scrutiny mechanism, which has been used to scrutinise all Governments, whether they are making minor or significant changes, for more than 45 years.

In addition, the new clauses are framed as applying only to those who lose their right to freedom of movement under the Bill. However, the Government have been clear that, once free movement ends, EEA nationals will be subject to UK immigration law, including the immigration rules. That means that all subsequent changes to the rules will potentially affect EEA nationals, so the new clauses would alter the parliamentary procedure for changing the immigration rules while purporting to be more limited.