Extension of the remit of the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration

Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:15 pm on 5th March 2019.

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“(1) The Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration shall have a remit to inspect any Government department insofar as the department is involved in the EU Settlement Scheme application process.

(2) Government departments in subsection (1) shall include the Department for Work and Pensions and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs insofar as they are involved in the automated residency checks for the EU Settlement Scheme.”—

This new clause would mean that the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration could inspect Government departments if they were involved in the EU Settlement Scheme application process.

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of Stuart McDonald Stuart McDonald Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Immigration, Asylum and Border Control) 3:30 pm, 5th March 2019

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

I will be very short, because this new clause is essentially tied up with the group we have just debated. Because the automated checks involve information passing to DWP and HMRC, the role of the independent chief inspector of borders and immigration should be extended so that they have the power to look under the bonnet, as it were, of both to see what is happening and to ensure that the process is running smoothly and appropriately. That is the new clause in a nutshell. I look forward to the Minister’s response.

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

This is a sensible amendment. The independent chief inspector of borders and immigration plays a vital role in inspecting and reporting on Home Office activities. Where the EU settlement scheme overlaps with other Departments, it is important that the inspector has the remit to inspect those. There is some ambiguity about the oversight of the EU settlement scheme if there is no deal. The withdrawal agreement makes it clear that if there is a deal, there will be an independent monitoring authority established to oversee the scheme.

The Minister, in her letter to me on 31 January, set out that if there is no deal, the independent chief inspector of borders and immigration will fulfil that function. Will they get any additional funding to carry it out? Will the Minister expand their remit to cover other Departments, to make sure the inspections are not limited in scope?

Photo of Caroline Nokes Caroline Nokes The Minister for Immigration

I thank the hon. Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East for new clause 30. However, it is unnecessary. The UK Borders Act 2007 allows the independent chief inspector to inspect the efficiency and effectiveness of services provided by any person acting in relation to the discharge of immigration, nationality, asylum and customs functions. The EU settlement scheme is primarily an immigration function. Therefore, the independent chief inspector of borders and immigration already has the powers to inspect Government Departments involved in the EU settlement scheme application process, and that includes activities undertaken by the Department for Work and Pensions and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs in support of the EU settlement scheme application process. I therefore request the hon. Gentleman to withdraw the new clause.

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

I am grateful to the Minister for answering my questions. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the clause.

Clause, by leave, withdrawn.