Immigration Rules Advisory Committee for Immigration Rules for EEA and Swiss nationals

Part of Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:30 pm on 16th June 2020.

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Photo of Kevin Foster Kevin Foster The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department 3:30 pm, 16th June 2020

The hon. Lady makes a not unreasonable point. The MAC gives advice on general policies on immigration. For example, it came up with what occupations should be on the shortage occupation list. It does not necessarily draft the legislation. However, the core of what we are driving at is there. I will continue with my speech because there have been significant changes in relation to simplification since an identical Bill was considered in the previous Parliament. Fundamentally, creating a statutory advisory body would simply delay the Government from introducing new consolidated and simplified rules by 1 January 2021, which could cause considerable confusion and ambiguity about which rules apply to EEA citizens once free movement ends.

In any event, the new clause is unnecessary. The Law Commission, in its consultation paper on simplification of the immigration rules, published in January 2019, asked whether an informal consultation or review of the drafting of immigration rules would help to reduce complexity. In its final report, published in January 2020, the Law Commission recommended that the Home Office should convene at regular intervals a committee to review the drafting of the rules in line with the principles recommended by the Law Commission. That is the more nuanced point that the hon. Member for Stretford and Urmston referred to. On 25 March the Government published our response to the Law Commission report and recommendations, and we accepted that recommendation. We included in our response the terms of reference for and membership of the simplification of the rules review committee. To be clear, this covers the whole ambit of the rules, not just those as they relate to EEA nationals.

The committee is, as recommended by the Law Commission, made up of Home Office civil servants, immigration practitioners and organisations representative of non-expert users of the rules, including those representing vulnerable applicants such as children. The review committee meets monthly to advise on the Home Office’s proposals to draft simpler rules and accompanying guidance and how they can be made more accessible online.

I hope that, as we have already established a review committee and its terms of reference and membership are transparent, that will give the hon. Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East the confidence to withdraw new clause 16.

New clause 30 seeks to introduce the super-affirmative procedure for immigration rules. Typically, that procedure is used only for deregulatory orders that amend or repeal primary legislation, such as legislative reform orders or public bodies orders, or remedial orders under the Human Rights Act. In those circumstances, it is right that the highest level of scrutiny should be applied, but it is not appropriate to apply the same procedure in respect of changes to immigration rules, which obviously are not, and cannot amend, primary legislation.

Under the current, well-established procedure, the Government are able to update the immigration rules in a responsive way, to ensure that we have an immigration system that meets the UK’s needs, commands the confidence of the public and reflects the wider economic, social and political context in the UK at any time. Requiring a minimum 60-day standstill period—that would be a minimum, because if, for example, changes were laid in late June, the period would not expire until late October—would severely hamper our ability to make timely and effective changes to the rules to respond to emerging situations.