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Settled status: right to appeal

Part of 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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Photo of Alison McGovern Alison McGovern Chair, Speaker's Advisory Committee on Works of Art, Chair, Speaker's Advisory Committee on Works of Art 10:30 am, 5th March 2019

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.