Settled status: right to appeal

Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:30 am on 5th March 2019.

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“(1) When a person whose right of free movement is removed by the provisions of this Act makes an application for settled or pre-settled status, that person may make an appeal to the First-tier Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum Chamber) if—

(a) the application is turned down, or

(b) the person is granted pre-settled status but there is evidence to show that the person should have been granted settled status.

(2) Subsection (1) applies if the United Kingdom leaves the European Union—

(a) following a negotiated withdrawal agreement, or

(b) without a negotiated withdrawal agreement.”—

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of Afzal Khan Afzal Khan Shadow Minister (Home Office) (Immigration)

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Photo of Graham Stringer Graham Stringer Labour, Blackley and Broughton

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

New clause 14—Right of appeal against refusal of settled status—

“(1) Any person who—

(a) loses the right of free movement under the provisions of this Act; and

(b) is refused settled status; or

(c) is refused settled status but granted pre-settled status;

has the right of appeal to the Tribunal.

(2) In this section, ‘Tribunal’ means the First-Tier Tribunal.”

New clause 34—Right of appeal—

“(1) The Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 is amended in accordance with subsections (2) and (3).

(2) After section 82, insert—

(1) This section applies where an EEA or Swiss national has applied for settled or pre-settled status under appendix EU of the Immigration Rules and a decision has been made to refuse the application.

(2) Any person who has had their application for settled or pre-settled status refused may appeal to the Tribunal against that decision.

(3) In subsection (1) above, a refusal of the application includes where an application for settled status is refused but pre-settled status is granted instead.

(4) The lodging of an appeal under subsection (2) against a refusal to grant settled status has no impact on the grant of pre-settled status.’

(3) After section 84(5) insert—

‘(6) An appeal under section 82B may be brought on the grounds that the decision was not in accordance with the Immigration Rules.’”

This new clause would ensure a right of appeal for EEA and Swiss nationals refused status under appendix EU of the Immigration Rules.

Photo of Afzal Khan Afzal Khan Shadow Minister (Home Office) (Immigration)

My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield Central, the shadow Minister, will speak to the new clause.

Photo of Paul Blomfield Paul Blomfield Shadow Minister (Exiting the European Union)

New clause 10 is important because, as the Committee should be aware, the Bill removes the current right, under EU law, to appeal against decisions relating to settled status. The new clause seeks to fill that gap by giving the right to appeal to the immigration and asylum chamber of first-tier tribunal to those whose application is rejected and those who have been granted pre-settled status but there is evidence to show that they should have been granted settled status.

As discussed during the oral evidence sessions, as it stands the only right to appeal consists of an administrative review at a cost of £80 or a judicial review at a significantly greater cost and with a drawn-out, time-consuming process. Ms Blackstock from Justice told us that it

“seems to be the most bureaucratic and inappropriate method for what is…potentially a simple grey area that requires a simple review.”––[Official Report, Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Public Bill Committee, 12 February 2019; c. 62, Q162.]

This is a problematic issue.

We also heard from Professor Smismans, who represents the3million, that there had been “considerable problems” with past administrative reviews by the Home Office. I am sure the Minister is aware of that. An administrative review may be fine as a first access point, but it is not sufficient on its own.

The Government clearly recognise the need to make the right of appeal available, as they have agreed that with the EU as part of the draft withdrawal agreement. That right exists under the withdrawal agreement that the Government have signed up to; UK courts and tribunals are authorised to refer cases on citizens’ rights to the European Court of Justice within eight years of the end of the transition period.

The withdrawal agreement also provides for an independent monitoring body to conduct inquiries into alleged breaches of part 2 of the withdrawal agreement. That body would also be able to receive complaints from EU nationals and bring legal action on their behalf.

So far so good, but both those mechanisms fall away in a no-deal situation. Following the delayed publication in December of the Government’s paper on citizens’ rights in the event of no deal, my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton and I wrote to the Minister and the Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, Mr Walker with our concerns. In reply, they stated their view that it is fair in a no-deal scenario to provide the remedies generally available to non-EU citizens refused leave to remain in the UK in other parts of the immigration system.

I ask the Minister: how is that fair? In the event of no deal, the Government are proposing to reduce the time that people have to apply for settled status. The process of registering 3 million people is already a challenge, and some people believe it might be beyond the Home Office. With less time comes greater risk of mistakes, so why are the Government reducing the means of appeal?

We are talking about a finite number of people who have already been subject to two and a half years of uncertainty. It is worth remembering that about 100 EEA citizens were erroneously threatened with deportation by the Home Office in 2017. Is it really fair to anybody that we are expected to trust the Home Office to mark its own homework? An accessible right of appeal under any terms on which we exit the European Union would provide much-needed reassurance to EU nationals.

Photo of Stuart McDonald Stuart McDonald Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Immigration, Asylum and Border Control)

My original intention was to speak in support of new clause 34, but having considered the matter I have to say that new clause 10, which also covers family members of non-EEA nationals, is better drafted, so I will speak briefly in support of it instead. Hats off to the shadow Ministers for getting it right when I have not.

I echo everything said by the hon. Member for Sheffield Central. He is right to characterise this not just as a failure to grant the right to appeal, but as the taking away of the right to appeal currently available to EEA nationals under European law. I remind the Minister that the Home Office statement of intent, published in June last year, said:

“Primary legislation is required to establish a right of appeal for the scheme, but subject to Parliamentary approval, we intend that those applying under the scheme from 30 March 2019 will be given a statutory right of appeal if their application is refused. This will allow the UK courts to examine the decision to refuse status under the scheme and the facts or circumstances on which the decision was based.”

The question is simple: why is that appropriate if there is a deal, but not appropriate if there is no deal? There should be a right of appeal regardless of whether a deal is reached. The distinction is absolutely unjustified.

From the point of view of principle and practice, appeal rights are hugely significant in immigration law. It is about the separation between those who review a decision and the decision makers themselves, and about not allowing the Home Office to mark its own homework, thereby ensuring a fair and independent hearing. It is also about the fact that the Home Office simply gets it wrong far too often. Before the current Prime Minister started her slash-and-burn approach to appeal rights, half of Home Office decisions were being overturned by the tribunal. Administrative reviews and judicial reviews are a sub-standard alternative.

Finally, we have to bear in mind that these decisions will have hugely significant consequences for those individuals affected. If the decisions are wrong, the consequences could be catastrophic. It is a small ask to ensure that they have appeal rights, regardless of whether a withdrawal agreement is reached.

Photo of Alison McGovern Alison McGovern Chair, Speaker's Advisory Committee on Works of Art

I want to add to what the shadow Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield Central, and the hon. Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East have said about the importance of appeal rights. All of the new clauses make the same point. We all have suspicions that if the question of appeal rights is left unanswered, the process for EU citizens who need to apply for settled status might go terribly wrong.

There are two facts at the heart of this argument: first, the quality of Home Office decisions and the magnitude of the impact of the policy decision to end free movement; and secondly, the impact on a large number of people—some 3 million people and their families—in this country. We should not proceed without ensuring that protection is put in place in case the process goes wrong.

It seems absurd to have to offer any evidence of the quality of decisions taken by the Home Office, because as constituency Members of Parliament we deal fairly regularly with their inadequacy. That is not a comment on the Minister, who I have no doubt does her best to exercise good judgment on the issues put before her, but she has to do that far too frequently because of the poor quality of decisions taken, by and large, by the Home Office. This is not to point out the failings of individuals, either. I simply think that, systemically, the Home Office is not able to cope with the job that we task it to do.

We know that from recent media reports. We have already heard that when the Home Office appeals against immigration court decisions on asylum, it loses 75% of the cases. Mr Justice McCloskey, former president of the upper tribunal, said that the Home Office had launched one appeal

“on a wing and a prayer…It was manifestly devoid of any substance or merit and should have been exposed accordingly.”

The Law Society has described the Home Office processes as “seriously flawed”, and 50% of all appeals are upheld across the wider immigration and asylum system. We all know this to be true; these facts barely need repeating.

We are adding to that possibly the biggest single influx of work for the Home Office in generations. It involves a huge number of people, and we cannot look away from the fact that the decision to remove rights from EU citizens in this country—to force them to go through a process to demonstrate their right to be here—is retrospective. Many EU nationals came to live in this country and were perfectly legally entitled to do so. They took a decision for their family and for their future in a way that they could rightly have expected to persist over time, but the facts changed underneath their feet. This is about how we treat people who moved here in good faith and their families, because it is also about families.

We in this room are all currently EU citizens. We all enjoy rights to meet, fall in love with, work with and start a family with other EU nationals. We do not know when the process that the Government are embarking on might affect any of us. There is often in our politics an othering of immigrants. We talk about these processes as though they were affecting someone else and their family, but if anything this should bring the matter close to home. We all know friends and family who are currently having to wrestle with the settled status issue; even if that is not the case, we have constituents who are affected, so we should understand the scale of the matter.

We are pulling the rug from under people when they have made perfectly reasonable and rational decisions about where to base their family, where to live, where to work and how to conduct their lives. The idea that we would allow the Home Office, with its poor record of decision making, to undertake this process, which is huge in scale and really significant in impact, without there being appeal rights seems to me to be a fundamental mistake. My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield Central commented on the poor quality of casework. There is the Windrush situation. There are so many examples that it seems obvious to me that we cannot let this go by.

Finally, if appeal rights potentially insert more complexities into the system, it could be argued that the Home Office simply does not have the capacity to deliver a more complex system. It cannot be fair in the current circumstances, however, to expect the Home Office to get sufficient decisions correct—and for their quality to improve in the required time—such that we ought to remove people’s rights without proper due process. People need to be empowered to enforce their rights in a meaningful way.

Photo of Caroline Nokes Caroline Nokes The Minister for Immigration 10:45 am, 5th March 2019

Hon. Members have tabled three new clauses concerned with providing a right of appeal against refusals under the EU settlement scheme. I absolutely understand the sentiment behind the new clauses and would like to confirm that if there is a deal with the European Union, the Government will use the withdrawal agreement Bill to provide a right of appeal in respect of refusal of leave under the settlement scheme.

Unlike new clauses 10 and 14, under the withdrawal agreement Bill we plan to provide for an appeal right against refusal of settlement scheme leave even where the applicant continues to have a right of free movement in an implementation period. New clauses 10 and 14 are therefore less generous than the Government’s planned provision for appeal rights in a deal scenario.

New clause 34 is also more limited than the appeal rights that we propose in a deal scenario. Under the new clause, non-EEA family members eligible to apply under the settlement scheme would, if refused, not get a right of appeal. The Government’s intention is that, in the event of a deal with the EU, anyone refused leave under the settlement scheme will get a right of appeal.

I make those points not to pick holes in the new clauses but to demonstrate that appeal rights are complex and would require several consequential changes to legislation to ensure that they work effectively. However, I understand that hon. Members are concerned about what the Government intend on the issue, rather than about the wording of specific amendments, and I hope that I can provide some reassurance.

In setting up the EU settlement scheme, the Government have made a commitment to EU citizens, EEA and Swiss nationals, and their family members because we recognise that they make a huge contribution to our economy and our society. It is important to us that the settlement scheme works and that it works well. At the same time, in the event that we leave the EU without a deal and as we move towards a single immigration system, I believe that it is fair to provide consistency between the remedies available to those refused leave under the EU settlement scheme and the remedies generally available to non-EEA nationals.

Photo of Paul Blomfield Paul Blomfield Shadow Minister (Exiting the European Union)

I am grateful to the Minister for taking an intervention on this point, because we have come to the nub of the debate. The Prime Minister and the Government have said consistently that EU and EEA nationals are our friends, our neighbours, valued members of our community and an important part of our workforce, and that they will not have diminished rights when we leave the European Union. What message does the Minister think is being sent to them by the proposal that in the event of no deal their right of appeal would be withdrawn?

Photo of Caroline Nokes Caroline Nokes The Minister for Immigration

I was going to come on to talk about administrative review, which is available in the event of deal or no deal to those who are refused leave under the scheme on eligibility grounds. Under the settlement scheme, eligibility is focused primarily on how long an individual has been in the UK; it is not about demonstrating that individuals have been exercising free movement rights but simply about proving identity and that they are here. Administrative review will be able to correct any errors that might be made in calculating the time period, if necessary by considering new evidence. The hon. Gentleman will also be aware that application under the EU settlement scheme is free—I welcome the change that the Prime Minister made by removing the fee. It would be open to any individual simply to reapply, rather than go through an appeal or administrative review process, because there is no charge.

When an applicant is refused on suitability grounds, they will not have a right to administrative review. Refusals on suitability grounds will be made, in particular, if there is evidence of serious criminality. However, where people are refused on criminality grounds and subject to deportation, they can make a human rights or protection claim against their removal; they will have a right of appeal under existing legislation if that claim is refused. In addition, applicants who are refused leave under the settlement scheme have the right to apply for judicial review of the refusal, as we have heard. Such remedies exist now for those refused under the EU settlement scheme.

We are committed to protecting EU citizens, and I hope that what I have said provides reassurance to hon. Members that adequate remedies are already available to those refused leave under the settlement scheme.

Photo of Afzal Khan Afzal Khan Shadow Minister (Home Office) (Immigration)

Does the Minister not accept that judicial review or an internal review is no match for the right of appeal? Judicial review is narrow in how it is done, and internal review is marking one’s own homework.

Photo of Caroline Nokes Caroline Nokes The Minister for Immigration

The hon. Gentleman has referred again to judicial review. I absolutely accept that it can be time consuming, and I recognise Members’ concerns about appeal rights in the event of no deal, but I sincerely hope that we will not be in that position and that we will be able to introduce appeal rights under the withdrawal Bill. However, it would be confusing to have different provisions on appeal rights in different legislation, which is why I think that the amendments are premature. Nevertheless, hon. Members in Committee and those outside this place, including at the evidence sessions, have made a number of points about further reassurance being required, so I will certainly reflect on that to see what more we can do.

Photo of Afzal Khan Afzal Khan Shadow Minister (Home Office) (Immigration)

The question was not just about judicial review being time-consuming, which it is, but about the cost and how narrow it is in law.

Photo of Caroline Nokes Caroline Nokes The Minister for Immigration

The point that I have to reflect back every single time is that the Government are working incredibly hard to ensure that we secure a deal with the EU. That is obviously the best way to avoid that scenario.

Photo of Graham Stringer Graham Stringer Labour, Blackley and Broughton

Does the hon. Member for Sheffield Central wish to say anything before I ask the proposer of the new clause whether he wishes to withdraw it?

Photo of Paul Blomfield Paul Blomfield Shadow Minister (Exiting the European Union)

I acknowledge that the Minister’s wish to reflect on some of the issues raised is helpful, but there are still fundamental matters on which we have had insufficient reassurance.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time.

The Committee divided:

Ayes 7, Noes 10.

Division number 12 Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill — Settled status: right to appeal

Aye: 7 MPs

No: 10 MPs

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Nos: A-Z by last name

Question accordingly negatived.