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House of Commons Hansard
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Public Bill Committees
12 February 2019

Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill (First sitting)

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chairs: †Sir David Amess, Graham Stringer

Badenoch, Mrs Kemi (Saffron Walden) (Con)

† Blomfield, Paul (Sheffield Central) (Lab)

† Brereton, Jack (Stoke-on-Trent South) (Con)

† Caulfield, Maria (Lewes) (Con)

† Crouch, Tracey (Chatham and Aylesford) (Con)

† Dakin, Nic (Scunthorpe) (Lab)

† Davies, Glyn (Montgomeryshire) (Con)

Duguid, David (Banff and Buchan) (Con)

Green, Kate (Stretford and Urmston) (Lab)

† Khan, Afzal (Manchester, Gorton) (Lab)

† Maclean, Rachel (Redditch) (Con)

† McDonald, Stuart C. (Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East) (SNP)

† McGovern, Alison (Wirral South) (Lab)

† Maynard, Paul (Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty's Treasury)

† Newlands, Gavin (Paisley and Renfrewshire North) (SNP)

† Nokes, Caroline (Minister for Immigration)

† Sharma, Alok (Minister for Employment)

† Smith, Eleanor (Wolverhampton South West) (Lab)

† Thomas-Symonds, Nick (Torfaen) (Lab)

Joanna Dodd, Michael Everett, Committee Clerks

† attended the Committee

Witnesses

Professor Bernard Ryan, Professor of Migration Law, University of Leicester

Professor Alan Manning, Chair, Migration Advisory Committee

Lord Green of Deddington, Chair, Migration Watch

Dr Benedict Greening, Head of Research, Migration Watch

Chai Patel, Legal Policy Director, Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants

Public Bill Committee

Tuesday 12 February 2019

(Morning)

[Sir David Amess in the Chair]

Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill

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Before we begin, I have a few preliminary announcements. As usual, please switch off your mobile phones—I have done so. Tea and coffee are not allowed, and we have been told to be strict about that—I am a tea-oholic myself, but I am afraid it is just water.

Today we will consider the programme motion on the amendment paper. We will then consider a motion to enable the reporting of written evidence for publication, and then a motion to allow us to deliberate in private about our questions before the oral evidence session. In view of the time available, I hope that we can take these matters formally, without debate.

I call the Minister to move the programme motion, which was discussed yesterday by the Programming Sub-Committee for the Bill.

Ordered,

That—

(1) the Committee shall (in addition to its first meeting at 9.25 am on Tuesday 12 February) meet—

(a) at 2.00 pm on Tuesday 12 February;

(b) at 11.30 am and 2.00 pm on Thursday 14 February;

(c) at 9.25 am and 2.00 pm on Tuesday 26 February;

(d) at 11.30 am and 2.00 pm on Thursday 28 February;

(e) at 9.25 am and 2.00 pm on Tuesday 5 March;

(f) at 11.30 am and 2.00 pm on Thursday 7 March;

(2) the Committee shall hear oral evidence in accordance with the following Table:

TABLE

Date

Time

Witness

Tuesday 12 February

Until no later than 10.30 am

Professor Bernard Ryan, Professor of Migration Law, University of Leicester; Professor Alan Manning, Chair Migration Advisory Committee

Tuesday 12 February

Until no later than 11.00 am

Migration Watch UK

Tuesday 12 February

Until no later than 11.25 am

Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants

Tuesday 12 February

Until no later than 3.00 pm

Universities UK; TUC; Royal College of Nursing;

Tuesday 12 February

Until no later than 4.00 pm

Liberty; Justice

Tuesday 12 February

Until no later than 4.30 pm

CBI

Tuesday 12 February

Until no later than 5.00 pm

Focus on Labour Exploitation

Thursday 14 February

Until no later than 12.30 pm

Detention Action; The Children‘s Society; Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association; Deloitte LLP; Amnesty International UK

Thursday 14 February

Until no later than 1.00 pm

Hilary Brown, Director, Virgo Consultancy Services; Martin Hoare, Senior Partner, H & S Legal Solicitors

Thursday 14 February

Until no later than 2.30 pm

National Farmers Union

Scotland

Thursday 14 February

Until no later than 3.00 pm

Professor Steven Peers, Professor of EU, Human Rights and World Trade Law, University of Essex

Thursday 14 February

Until no later than 3.30 pm

Professor Stijn Smismans, Director of the Cardiff Centre for European Law and Governance; The 3 Million

Thursday 14 February

Until no later than 4.30 pm

Institute for Government

Thursday 14 February

Until no later than 5.00 pm

Britain in Europe

(3) proceedings on consideration of the Bill in Committee shall be taken in the following order: Clause 1; Schedule 1; Clauses 2 to 5; Schedules 2 and 3; Clauses 6 and 7; new Clauses; new Schedules; remaining proceedings on the Bill;

(4) the proceedings shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at 5.00 pm on Thursday 7 March.—(Caroline Nokes.)

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That means that the deadline for amendments to be considered at the Committee’s first sitting for line-by-line consideration will be the rise of the House on Thursday 21 February.

Resolved,

That, subject to the discretion of the Chair, any written evidence received by the Committee shall be reported to the House for publication.—(Caroline Nokes.)

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Copies of written evidence that the Committee receives will be made available in the Committee Room.

Resolved,

That, at this and any subsequent meeting at which oral evidence is to be heard, the Committee shall sit in private until the witnesses are admitted.—(Caroline Nokes.)

The Committee deliberated in private.

Examination of Witnesses

Professor Bernard Ryan and Professor Alan Manning gave evidence.

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Welcome, everyone. I want our two witnesses to enjoy the session. I do not know whether you have appeared before parliamentarians before, but you are not on trial. You both look innocent as far as I am concerned. It is really just a question of Committee members getting information from your good selves, which will help them when they deliberate the Bill.

We will now hear evidence from Professor Bernard Ryan, of the University of Leicester, and Professor Alan Manning, who chairs the Migration Advisory Committee. I remind all Members that questions should be limited to matters within the scope of the Bill, and that we must stick to the timings in the programme motion that the Committee has agreed—I hope that colleagues have the timings in front of them. They are either half an hour or an hour.

The scope of the Bill is quite narrow. It is not a wide-ranging immigration Bill. It would end free movement of European economic area and Swiss nationals in the United Kingdom, and questions should be focused on the effects of that, rather than on wider immigration matters. I ask that witnesses also try to keep their comments focused on the scope of the Bill. We have until half-past 10 for this witness panel.

Do any members of the Committee wish to declare any relevant interests in connection with the Bill?

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In relation to this afternoon’s sitting, I am a founding trustee of Focus on Labour Exploitation, but I cannot be here for that part of the sitting anyway.

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Q It is very good of you to make us aware of that. I assume that there are no further interests to declare. Would the panel members please introduced themselves?

Professor Ryan: I am Bernard Ryan. I am professor of migration law at the University of Leicester.

Professor Manning: I am Alan Manning, current chair of the MAC and professor of economics at the London School of Economics.

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Q Good morning, both of you. Let me start with two questions for Professor Ryan. You said in your written evidence that we need a legislative guarantee for EU citizens’ rights in the event of no deal. Why is that necessary?

Professor Ryan: I see the Bill as an historic measure. If you take a long view, it is one of the moments at which the basic categories of immigration law are being redefined. In relation to EU citizens, it is essentially just a framework for switching off the rights that exists, but what about the people who are here already? If it is such a fundamental change, should provision not be made for them? Particularly in a no-deal scenario, which of course we have to look at, there is clearly a question about the people who are here now. If we get a withdrawal agreement, there will be implementing legislation for that, but there is no clear plan to have implementing legislation or equivalent legislation in the absence of an agreement. That would leave the people who are already here exercising rights without legislative protection.

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Q Professor Ryan, may I ask you about clause 2, which relates to Irish citizens? Obviously, the rights of Irish citizens and the common travel area were outlined in the Immigration Act 1971. What does the Bill do to that? Does it add to it? Is clause 2 necessary?

Professor Ryan: I welcome clause 2. Some of us have been arguing for a long time, particularly since the referendum in 2016, that there is not full provision for Irish citizens in immigration law. There is, in a somewhat obscure manner, recognition of Irish citizens coming from other parts of the common travel area—that, in practice, means coming from the Republic—but, of course, that does not give protection or recognition to the position of Irish citizens who might simply enter the United Kingdom from elsewhere, or indeed who are born in the United Kingdom. That is the gap in legislative terms. Of course, the policy in practice is not to require of Irish citizens leave to enter or remain. That has always been the position, but it has never been clearly expressed in legislation. Clearly, this is the time to do it.

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Q Am I understanding you correctly? You feel that clause 2 is necessary to add to the existing rights.

Professor Ryan: In terms of legislation, Irish citizens are protected only when they enter the United Kingdom from elsewhere in the common travel area; they are not exempt from immigration law when they enter the United Kingdom from the rest of the world. That is the large gap that clause 2 addresses.

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Q Where do you see the risks of the Government rolling back their promises to EU citizens?

Professor Ryan: I would not want to be specific about what might happen in future. I am conscious that the Bill will potentially define a framework for decades regarding EU citizens. We just have to look at the Windrush story. The way in which Commonwealth citizens of that generation still rely on the Immigration Act 1971 to protect them is not fully understood. Section 34 conferred upon them automatic indefinite leave to remain. That is more than 40 years ago. What was put in place then is still being used. We have to think in that kind of timescale. I do not want to be specific about what might change in the future regarding public policy for EU citizens.

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Q Professor Manning, in the White Paper the Government proposed a temporary 12-month work visa to help businesses to transition. What do you think are the possible problems with the proposed route?

Professor Manning: The first potential problem is that an employer-driven system can lead to workers being extremely vulnerable. They are here only for short periods and do not really understand the system, and so on. We would need quite extensive regulation to prevent potential abuse of those workers.

Secondly, if you are concerned about the social integration of migrants, it will not help with that. Inevitably, there is no point in people who are here only for a short period investing in building a life here, and links to the wider community.

Thirdly, historically it has been the case that, because it is quite artificial—at the end of 12 months a worker has to leave, perhaps to be replaced by another—it generally sets up some kind of pressure for employers to extend the 12 months. It may start off in that form, but there is a risk of drift into a more permanent migration route.

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Q How do you see the changes to free movement affecting the economy? Do you think they will have a positive or negative impact, or do you have more detailed concerns?

Professor Manning: The view in the report that we published in September is that EEA migration has not had very big costs. It has not had very big benefits either. The technical analysis in the White Paper indicated that. There would be impacts here and there. The general point is that after 2004 free movement, more by accident than design, was a system for primarily lower-skilled migration. Most countries have a preference for higher-skilled migrants. The proposals that we made, and that were taken forward in the White Paper, were essentially to alter the balance towards more higher-skilled migrants.

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Q Do you think that lower-skilled labour has had any impact on wage levels?

Professor Manning: Not to any great extent—we are fairly confident about that. There is some evidence of a small effect but, because of the minimum wage, there has been quite a substantial protection against that at the bottom end of the labour market. It has certainly not had a positive effect on wages—the evidence there is neutral to negative. I would not say that any of that effect has been very big.

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Q Professor Manning, you may have seen the CBI Wales analysis showing that 58% of workers in the manufacturing sector in Wales, over one quarter of whom are EU nationals, earn below the £30,000 threshold. There is real concern about how this would impact on manufacturing, in Wales in particular and across the country. What analysis have you done about the potential adverse impact on the manufacturing sector?

Professor Manning: Our proposal was to maintain the existing system of salary thresholds, of which £30,000 is one but not the only one. A lot of commentary omits that important detail. If you take that number, we think that the argument for having migrants is normally that there is a shortage of workers in the domestic labour market to do that job. Our proposal is that you should be able to employ migrants, but you have to be paying above the going rate for wages; you must not be employing migrants to undercut the domestic labour market. The absolute minimum salary threshold that you would consider would be something like the average, which is about 50% of workers. When you say it is 58% of workers, I think it is entirely reasonable to think that there is some upward pressure on wages in the manufacturing sector. I understand that the CBI is not very keen on that, because to the CBI wages are a cost, but to other people it is their income.

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Q No one is suggesting that migrants should be exploited or paid less than they deserve, but there is also a concern in Wales that the average salary for the whole of Wales is below £30,000. Let us take the care sector, for example, which relies heavily on those coming to this country to work. If you are enforcing the £30,000 salary threshold, what on earth is the care sector in Wales supposed to do?

Professor Manning: Care is a very particular problem, as we singled out in our report. It faces very serious recruitment and retention problems. The root cause of the problem is that it does not pay enough. The root cause of why it does not pay its workers enough is because no one has sorted out the funding situation for social care, even though it has been known for many years that this is not a functional system. We understand that there is a real problem in social care, but it is important to focus on the root cause of the problem, and that will not be solved by immigration.

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Q No one would disagree that social care is in need of reform. Assuming that reform does not happen any time soon, I take it from your answer that the £30,000 will have an adverse threshold on the care sector.

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Q We have already fallen into the trap that we fell into on Second Reading, which is to start discussing issues around the Government’s White Paper on immigration. Do you think that the Bill and the Government’s White Paper on immigration have set out a coherent position—a position that allows them to work together beautifully?

Professor Ryan: Because I work in immigration law, I see the Bill and the White Paper as quite separate from one another, and the discussion about future labour migration policy and other aspects of immigration policy as very much apart from the Bill. I see the Bill as providing a system for switching off EU rights and dealing with the particular case of Irish citizens. I see them as very separate from one another.

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Q We do, too—we should be doing so as well—but in terms of them working alongside each other, do you think they set out a coherent position?

Professor Ryan: I see them as essentially different projects, if you wish—different aspects of where things are going. They certainly can fit together, but it seems to me that the Bill does not predetermine anything about what future policy would look like.

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Q Professor Manning?

Professor Manning: The Bill does not have any details on exactly what the future system will be. The White Paper talks about a consultation as well, and there is still quite a lot of detail to be filled in. There is still considerable uncertainty about exactly what that future system would be.

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Q I wonder whether I can go back to your earlier points about the historic nature of the Bill, Professor Ryan. You commented that citizens of Commonwealth origin still draw their rights from the 1971 Act. Do you think that the Bill adequately defines the rights that those acquiring settled status will have?

Professor Ryan: It does not, because it does not really attempt to do that. In a sense, that is the gap that I am identifying. In relation to EU rights, the Bill provides for switching off, but it does not provide anything about prior residents or people who are already exercising rights. There is nothing said about that in the Bill. We do not know the exact intentions on how transition arrangements would be operated, for example, under the powers in the Bill. Nothing has been said so far to indicate that the Bill is going to provide protection to anyone who is here already.

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Q Do you not find it extraordinary that such a historic measure, which affects so many people in this country, does not have that provision?

Professor Ryan: Yes, indeed. That is why I started with that observation—to try to ask for the Bill to be seen in those terms. Understandably, because of the politics around leaving the European Union, everyone is concerned with the moment, as it were, but I urge the Government to take a longer view of what the Bill really means and think about other things that could go in the Bill because of the long life that it may have.

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Q Professor Manning, on behalf of the Migration Advisory Committee, in relation to EEA nationals working in this country, you were careful to say just now that the root cause of low wages in the care sector is not immigration, but rather the funding of the system. In relation to other sectors, you seem to be saying that you believe that constraint in the labour market could have a positive effect on wages. Could you just say a little bit more about what you think the channel to that is? Is it excess profits in manufacturing that management will decide to divert to wages? Is it efficiencies that the manufacturing industry has not invested in, and now will? What do you think the channel will be? It is one thing to say that immigration has been neutral to negative—your words—but another to say that constraint in the immigration system affecting the labour market will push up wages. This is not simple supply and demand, is it?

Professor Manning: It is not just simple supply and demand, but supply and demand is relevant. It is important not to exaggerate the role that immigration plays in everything that is happening in the labour market as a whole. We have a very tight labour market at the moment, and demand for labour is running ahead of supply in many sectors. There are complaints about shortages and vacancies in a lot of places. Solving that through immigration, it is said, means increasing the supply of labour to bring demand and supply into line, but in our view that will not work because when immigrants come, they increase supply. They earn money, spend money, and add to labour demand more or less in balance. That is why the overall effect is neutral.

We think the way in which you should respond to imbalance in the labour market is through raising wages. Where do those rising wages come from? Partly, employers are put under pressure to use labour more efficiently when labour is scarce, so that is part of the efficiencies that you talked about. There might be some sectors that have been quite profitable in recent years, so there is some scope to squeeze profits, although there are many sectors where margins are tight. If you talk to employers, they would say they really have not got that much choice.

It is also the case that workers will vote with their feet and go to work for employers that they think offer them the best deal. In that process, there are good employers and bad employers. When labour markets are tight, good employers do well and bad employers find it harder. That is a natural process by which we have rising living standards in the economy.

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Q I just want to be clear about what you are saying. Obviously, there are second order effects, so there is the simple function of supply and demand, which might put pressure on employers to raise wages, but the second order effects will depend on their business circumstances. For example, take a manufacturing firm in the north of England where they have already heavily invested in machinery and robotics, where the nature of what they do has not been profitable. The car industry has not been massively profitable over the past few years. They will find it quite difficult to put wages up and maintain viability for their business.

Professor Manning: There are British employers at the cutting edge of new technology, so it is very hard to find productivity gains. But we also know that productivity in British industry across the piece lags behind our competitors, notably in Germany, quite substantially. Within all sectors there is a huge range of productivity. There are very efficient employers, but a lot of research suggests there is quite a long tail of not-so-productive employers where there are potential productivity gains to be had by moving to current best practice.

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Q Has MAC disaggregated that data? Productivity gains and where they could be made affect different regional economies in quite a diverse manner. Areas dominated by manufacturing, where there has been investment, would be different from areas that have many more firms that are less productive. Does MAC have any evidence on the regional impact of the Bill?

Professor Manning: In the interim report that we published last spring, we did a broad sectoral analysis in which we looked at trends in productivity. We also did a regional analysis, but we have not done a full mix of regions by industry. I don’t know if you can say a particular industry in a particular region, but I have a particular view on that.

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Q Okay. Professor Manning, you are saying that we do not fully understand how the Bill will affect the different locations in our country, even though, economically speaking, we know we have a pretty unequal country. We do not really know, do we?

Professor Manning: We did an analysis of how it would impact different regions. For example, when one talks about salary thresholds, we have tables on how this would affect different regions. But you are right to point out that there are very big regional inequalities in the UK that probably have been allowed to fester for too long. One of the reasons, for example, why we do not recommend regional variations in salary thresholds is because we do not want to institutionalise some parts of the country as low wage and other parts as high wage.

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Q One final question, if I may. Professor Ryan, you have said to us on several occasions that there is a major gap in this Bill as regards EU nationals who will have settled status. You mentioned a parallel with the Windrush scandal. Is the message we should take from your evidence that unless the Bill is amended, it will open us up to another Windrush?

Professor Ryan: I would not want to be that dramatic.

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Q Or it could.

Professor Ryan: It is more that Parliament needs to think about future-proofing the immigration arrangements that are put in place, to think about whether this will work over the long term and not leave people out. To take the Windrush parallel, it is the children from those times who, later in life, are having to prove their status. Exactly the same could happen with EU citizens; the children of those citizens may struggle later if things are not designed correctly to establish what is happening now. Whatever arrangements are put in place, that should be part of what is being addressed.

I believe that, somehow, through primary legislation, guarantees need to be put in place for current residents. I recognise that could be done in subsequent legislation—the withdrawal agreement Act would be another opportunity to consider this question—but, of course, if we do not have that legislation because there is no deal, this seems to be the opportunity. I realise that is a difficulty, but perhaps it should be addressed now.

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Q The clock is ticking.

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Q You are being very clear, Professor Ryan, that something should be written into the Bill that protects the rights of people who are here at the moment.

Professor Ryan: This is not the only opportunity to do it, but if there is no deal, this may be the best opportunity to do it. That is really what I am saying.

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Q If you were advising the Committee, you would say, “You might as well do it now.”

Professor Ryan: Yes.

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Q To use your words, that would help us in “future-proofing” the Bill and make it less likely that 40 years down the line, there will be a Windrush scandal in relation to this.

Professor Ryan: Yes. The numbers are massive; we are talking about more than 3 million people who potentially have claims. It is not realistic, in my view, to think that they will all come forward and that everyone who needs to prove later on that they made those claims will be able to do so. It is just too large a cohort.

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Q Because of what has happened with Windrush, we should have our eyes open to this problem in a way that perhaps people in the past did not.

Professor Manning: Yes, indeed.

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Q Professor Manning, could I come back to the issue of thresholds? At the moment, £30,000 is the threshold written in, but I think you suggested that the threshold needs to be less than that in certain areas. We talked about care, but we might also talk about something such as butchery in the food sector. Clearly, there is a shortage of those skills, and this could be a way of addressing it over the short term. Immediately, there would be a problem: a £30,000 threshold for something such as butchery would create significant problems in the food sector if you are at an edge.

Professor Manning: I am not sure that is quite right. There is a system of salary thresholds, of which £30,000 is one, but there are others. For example, there is a new entrant rate of £20,800; for NHS staff and teachers, the national pay scales are the relevant salary thresholds. To take the two examples you gave, butchery is one of the medium-skill occupations that we recommend should become eligible for non-EU migrants, but it is one of the lower-paid occupations. We do think that the sector needs to offer more. It is not terribly attractive work, particularly when one is talking about the big food-processing plants; I have visited one. That sector is, again, not paying wages that are competitive in the domestic labour market.

I do not think it is unreasonable to expect it to be able to compete for labour in a tight labour market. We want people to have high-quality jobs, which is partly about high wages but also about good terms and conditions. I do not feel that that sector is fully stepping up to the mark at the moment.

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Q What my hon. Friend the Member for Torfaen said about Wales could well be said about the Lincolnshire area I am in, where average salaries are not at £30,000. You are setting a bar at a high level compared with what people are already being paid in those areas. I am with you in terms of pushing up wages. I am happy about that, but it needs to be done in a way that allows business continuity. I am trying to understand how that works.

Professor Manning: Across the piece, if you take the medium-skilled jobs that would be brought within the non-EU system, we recommend the existing salary thresholds. I keep pushing back a bit when anyone says £30,000, and saying that it is actually wider than the £30,000.

Across the piece, our estimate for April 2017—it will be slightly lower now—was that something like 60% of people in those medium-skilled occupations are currently paid less than £30,000 on a full-time basis. We view that as appropriate because, as I said, we want the salary thresholds to be above the average wage.

We want sizeable amounts. We want to be able to say to employers, “Fine. You need migrants, but you have got to pay above the going rate in order to have access to them.” We think the salary thresholds have to be a little bit above at least the minimum—a bit above the average salaries.

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Q A little bit above.

Professor Manning: There is a debate. When I say “a bit above”, I accept that there is a contentious issue about how much above. Some people are saying, “The absolute minimum salary threshold you would consider would be the current average,” and yet some people are talking about salary thresholds that are well below average earnings in many of these sectors.

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Q Going back to care, for example, a little bit above would not get you to £30,000, would it?

Professor Manning: I go back to what I said earlier. When people say, “We have to have migrants,” they only feel as though they have to have migrants because they are not competitive in the domestic labour markets. To work as a care assistant—the main job in social care—does not require formal qualifications.

There are currently quite large numbers of people in the UK who are not in work but who report their last occupation as being in social care. There is a labour supply for social care out there at the moment, but people do not want to work there, because the labour market is quite tight and the terms and conditions are very poor.

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Q That is partly because, at the other end, Government are not putting enough money into the system. There is a bit of a dilemma there, isn’t there?

Professor Manning: We accept that, and we singled it out as a big problem. The issue with financing social care is not just with this Government; it is a long-lasting issue that has not been addressed, and I am not sure it is being particularly addressed at the moment.

There is a risk if you have a carve-out for social care. A good example is Canada, which had a live-in caregiver programme. It was about live-in carers, but it was similar. That programme expanded incredibly rapidly, but as soon as the migrants who had come in under that route had the opportunity to leave the sector, they left the sector because—just as the existing residents found—the terms and conditions were poor and they could get better elsewhere. After 10 years, only something like 10% of workers were still working in care. The Canadian Government shut that programme down last spring, because it did not solve the problem.

Our concern about this is that a carve-out for social care will be a short-term fix. It will stop the real, underlying problems being addressed. It will look successful in the short run, but in the medium to longer run it will not work.

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Q I want to get your views on clause 1, which will repeal free movement of EU citizens. What effect will that have on overall immigration to the UK?

Professor Manning: I must confess that I am not absolutely sure what clause 1 says.

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Clause 1 basically repeals free movement between the EU and the UK. Do you think that that will have an effect on overall immigration to the UK?

Professor Manning: We do not focus so much on numbers. In general terms, it is about being more restrictive on the EU side, but liberalising on the non-EU side. We think that what is more important is not the overall numbers but ensuring that migration is for the benefit of existing residents, which is the criterion that we use in deciding on policy. We think that making migration easier for higher-skilled than for lower-skilled workers would serve that end, but the numbers will depend on how the British economy is doing and lots of other factors. We do not really focus on the numbers so much; it is about making sure that we think each individual migrant who comes in under a work migration scheme is contributing to the UK.

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Professor Ryan, do you have a view on that?

Professor Ryan: I think it would be surprising if it did not have an effect on numbers.

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But do you have an idea of what the scale of that effect will be?

Professor Ryan: No, but impressionistically, there has been a significant increase in EU migration over the past decade or more. Presumably that will be slowed by switching off the rights.

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Q You have both said in your evidence that the scope of the Bill does not cover future immigration policy, but do you have a view on how quickly that future immigration policy should follow the Bill?

Professor Ryan: Only that they should go together, I suppose, at the commencement of the switch-off, the moment it happens. I am thinking particularly about a no-deal scenario; that has to be in step with the arrangements for the future.

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Q Professor Ryan, you said earlier that there was not enough in the Bill. Is the Bill’s lack of detail a problem?

Professor Ryan: I was focusing particularly on the question of guarantees for people who are exercising rights already—prior residents, as it were. That is the key detail that is left out. Apart from that, it is understandable that it is a framework and that details will be filled in later, particularly as regards timing.

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Q Professor Manning, you talked about the need to regulate against the risk of abuse of a 12-month visa. What safeguards would be needed to prevent that sort of abuse?

Professor Manning: One example that you could use is the old seasonal agricultural workers scheme. In its early years, there were issues with some undesirable practices, but in later years the MAC’s view—it was before my time, so I was not involved in that piece of work—was that it was a fairly well run system. What is envisaged in the White Paper is potentially on a much bigger scale, which would mean much more expenditure on enforcement and so on. At the moment we do not really have the infrastructure in place for enforcement; it would have to go along with development of the programme itself.

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Q On expenditure, are there any further details that you can give us on what you expect, or in which area?

Professor Manning: That kind of scheme was not in our report. We laid out reasons why we were not terribly enthusiastic about it, but it was a feature of the White Paper more than of our report.

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Q Professor Ryan, I think everyone welcomes what clause 2 does to protect the rights of Irish citizens and their leave to enter, but your written evidence and other submissions that we have received seem to suggest that it does not go far enough. What else should the Bill do to protect the position of Irish citizens?

Professor Ryan: That is correct: I have argued in the written evidence—and I believe they will be saying something similar—that there are some adjustments that one could imagine. As it stands, the Bill does not guarantee equality as regards family migration for Irish citizens. That is thinking especially about Irish citizens who might want to relocate to the United Kingdom: they are not guaranteed to be in the same position as British citizens. That is a provision that could be made—or, one hopes that a commitment could be made that the rules will be framed so that Irish citizens will be treated in the same way as British citizens as regards family migration.

There are questions about the deportation provisions as well. I am not disputing that it should be possible to deport Irish citizens or to exclude them, but we need to recognise that the policy has been to do that only in exceptional circumstances. That is somewhat different to the “conducive to the public good” standard that is usually applied in deportation cases. It is important to get clarity about the intentions going forward as regards use of the deportation power. There is a specific issue about Northern Ireland, because of the Belfast Agreement and the entitlement of people from Northern Ireland to identify as Irish citizens. It is important that that entitlement is not compromised by the possibility of deportation of Irish citizens that is confirmed in the Bill.

I have suggested that it could be done through amendments, but the Government could clarify their intentions in relation to Northern Irish citizens.

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Q A couple of times you have referred to the possibility of things happening in the rules—when you were asked about separating out the immigration White Paper from the Bill. Is that not one of the problems we have in this country—that we leave so much to rules? We have had something like 5,000 changes to the immigration rules since 2010, and that gets virtually no attention in this place. Should we be rethinking how we go about setting out people’s rights and obligations in immigration law? Are you happy enough to see these constant changes to the immigration rules?

Professor Ryan: Immigration policy is complex and it evolves so there has to be a structure that permits that to proceed. Perhaps immigration rules could be drafted differently; I know that work about that is going on. I am certainly not against the idea of having immigration rules, and doing the bulk of immigration policy in that way.

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Q But key rights, for example?

Professor Ryan: Exactly. The question is whether certain guarantees should be written into primary legislation. I suppose that that is what I am asking for.

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Q Turning to the question about the Government’s settled status scheme for EU nationals, one of my colleagues, the hon. Member for Scunthorpe (Nic Dakin) referred to 40 years down the line. The problem would arise sooner, as things stand, because you are talking about a cut-off date of December 2020. It could be June 2021, if there is a deal. The issue then arises that people might miss that deadline. What can be done to avoid that happening—with tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people missing out on a status that they have a right to?

Professor Ryan: Are you assuming that the withdrawal agreement—

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Q Yes. Well, there are different deadlines, depending on whether there is a deal or no deal. Regardless of that, within the next couple of years tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people will be passing that deadline.

Professor Ryan: I question why we even need a deadline for applications under the settlement scheme. There will be advantages to individuals to registering through that scheme, regardless. I do not see why we need a hard line that says, if you do not register by x date, then unless you come within some exception that we formulated, tough luck. I do not see why we need a deadline at all.

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Q And the benefit of that would be that in 10 years’ time, if somebody had not realised—for instance, the grandmother about whom we heard earlier; she tries to change house but fails the right to rent check, because she does not have the documentation—she would be able to apply for settled status, whereas as things stand, she would be in limbo.

Professor Ryan: Children are the key test here. A child who is here now is eligible under the settled status scheme. Other people are taking those decisions for them, or failing to register. Even if they are registered, how do they know that and prove it later on? The opportunity for them to come back and make the application much later is a way of fixing any difficulties that arise. It would solve a lot of problems if there were no hard deadline for the settlement scheme.

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Q It would have a similar effect, but probably going slightly further. Just now, obviously, an EU national’s right does not depend on them having a bit of paper or a bit of code—depending on how you do it. They get the rights directly from EU law. Would it be preferable if, in this Bill, we said, “Here are the rights for people who qualify for settled status right now”? They get their rights from the statute and applying to register simply proves they have that right, rather than that they have no rights if they do not have that bit of paper. This, essentially, echoes what happens now for EU citizens: they all have rights whether or not they have a settled status document or anything else.

Professor Ryan: It would be possible to formulate a guarantee in that way as well. I have been focusing on the people, ensuring that individuals are protected without specifying what protections they get. It clearly would also be possible in a guarantee to consider the core rights that would be obtained by the beneficiaries of any guarantee.

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Q Professor Manning, the Government’s White Paper suggests that the proposals, if implemented, could mean that GDP is between 0.4% and 0.9% lower than it would have been otherwise in 2025, which represents a reduction in GDP per capita of between 0.1% and 0.2% in 2025 and a cumulative fiscal cost to the Treasury of between £2 billion and £4 billion over the first five years to 2025. Have you any reason to dispute those Treasury figures?

Professor Manning: I am not sure it is just Treasury—

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Q White Paper figures.

Professor Manning: Yes, of course. It is important to realise that it is only modelling being more restrictive on the EU side. It is not modelling at all the liberalisation on the non-EU side. So it is not modelling the whole package at all.

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Q To follow up on that, the White Paper modelling is based on, essentially, a status quo for non-EEA.

Professor Manning: That is my understanding.

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Q So, then, to try and avoid these costs to the Treasury in GDP and GDP per head, you would have to liberalise non-EEA migration?

Professor Manning: The numbers that you quote make the point we made in our report that neither the costs nor the benefits have been very large. When you take that £4 billion over five years, quoted on the public finances, that adds up to a bit under 25p per person per week for a really quite substantial reduction in migration.

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Q You could do quite a lot with £4 billion. It is easy to be relaxed about £4 billion disappearing from the Treasury.

Professor Manning: I could do quite a lot with £4 billion, yes, but it is under 25p per person per week. You can say that is not a good idea, but you cannot say it is a big negative impact. It is what we said: the impacts, both costs and benefits, have been modest.

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May I remind colleagues that this session finishes at 10.30 am? I have got two people waiting to catch my eye, one of whom we have not heard from before. I also want to give the Minister a chance.

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Do you have any concerns, Professor Ryan, about British nationals living in the EU?

Professor Ryan: It is not something I have looked at, to be honest with you. Clearly, their protection requires an agreement between the two sides. It is far more secure with an agreement than without. The European states, the EU27, are now starting to take or announce measures to protect British citizens themselves in the event of no deal. That could be co-ordinated at the European Union level as well. I suppose that if we do end up without the withdrawal agreement, we cannot rule out a special agreement concerning citizens’ rights in the future as well. Even in a no deal situation, there are mechanisms by which British citizens in the rest of the EU could be protected.

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The previous Government policy was to reduce net migration to the tens of thousands, but the Home Secretary seems to be saying now that immigration should be at sustainable levels. Professor Ryan, what sort of factors do you think we should take into account to decide what sustainable levels are? Professor Manning, should the Migration Advisory Committee have some sort of role in assisting the Home Office to set what these sustainable levels are?

Professor Ryan: I would rather not answer that question. The question of what sustainable levels are is not really a legal question.

Professor Manning: We make our recommendations based on what we think is in the interests of the resident population. The Migration Advisory Committee has never focused on numerical targets for net migration. We have always been more interested in actual migration policy. We think of the net migration target more as a statement of political intent that might influence policy. It is not, in itself, a policy. We do not see ourselves as making recommendations to meet that particular target. We always make recommendations on what we think is in the interests of the resident population.

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Q My question is slightly different though. I was referring to “sustainable levels”. Would you ever express—or wish to express—a view on what that might be in a given year?

Professor Manning: I do not think that is a phrase that we would particularly use. I go back to what I said earlier: the right system is one in which you make sure—as best you can—that migrants coming to the UK on work systems are providing benefits to the resident population. The word “sustainable” does not seem to fit into that sentence very easily.

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If no other colleagues wish to ask questions, I will bring in the Minister.

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Q I have a number of questions. Professor Manning, thank you for your hard work on the various reports, and indeed your ongoing work on students and on the shortage occupation list. In your report you veered away from sectoral schemes. Would you expand on which sectors of the economy you think might be most impacted by the end of free movement? Why do you suggest that sectoral schemes are perhaps not the solution?

Professor Manning: The proposals are mostly going to affect those sectors that have relied heavily on lower-skilled EEA workers: food processing, hospitality, warehousing and transport. It is not care assistants, for example, who account for a lower fraction of EEA migrants than the national average. It is not the NHS, which has a lower fraction of EEA migrants than then national average. There is also agriculture. Our view is that if you have a special scheme for a sector, you are giving that sector privileged access to labour; you are preferring that sector over some other sector. Generally, we think there should be a level playing field of competition, particularly in lower-skilled sectors. It is reasonable to think that people working in hospitality might also work in retail and so on, and those sectors should be competing for workers.

The one exception is that we did recommend a seasonal agricultural scheme, because seasonal agricultural workers are 100% migrant at the moment. No other sector gets close to that. We do not think it is realistic to fulfil seasonal work with a resident settled population. That is the one exception, but generally we do not see a strong argument for giving preference to one sector over another, particularly when that sector may use that privileged access simply to keep terms and conditions worse than they would otherwise have to be in the wider labour market.

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Q I am conscious that the Migration Advisory Committee has, over many years, given close thought to the whole issue of migration, particularly when it comes to free movement and the analysis of the impact that has, and will have. What role do you see for the Migration Advisory Committee going forward?

Professor Manning: There was a page or two in the White Paper about expanding the role of the Migration Advisory Committee. We particularly welcome two aspects of that. First, we have more independence, in a way, to set our own agenda at times, and not just take commissions from Government. Secondly, a big issue is the availability of data. We strongly feel that at the moment—this is very long standing—there is insufficient evaluation of policy. When a policy is announced there is really not that much follow-through, looking at what exactly the impact of the policy was. Did it actually achieve what it set out to?

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Q I have a final question for you, Professor Manning, on shortage occupation lists. We have heard about shortages in the care industry and other parts of the economy. Do you see the SOLs, and potentially regional shortage occupation lists, as one mechanism by which you can resolve those challenges after the end of free movement?

Professor Manning: Potentially. At the moment we are doing some work on the shortage occupation lists, although that is within the current system, so it is eligible only to graduate-level occupations. It is really important that it is used in a discerning way. It is not a solution to generalised shortages of labour; it is for targeted solutions to particular bottlenecks in the economy. When a sector reports a shortage, it is always really important to ask why it has a shortage, and why migration is the only solution to the problem. For some of the sectors that we have been talking about, the answer is really due to a failure to offer jobs that are sufficiently attractive in the domestic labour market. In such cases, we are not clear that migration would not actually worsen rather than alleviate the problem.

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Q Thank you. Professor Ryan, thank you for your really extensive written evidence, and for the thought that went into it—it is very impressive and helpful. I want to talk to you a bit about the settled status scheme, and whether from a legal perspective you think that the rights of EU citizens would be best enshrined in this Bill or in a specific vehicle, namely the withdrawal Bill, which will encompass all the elements of the withdrawal agreement should we get that agreed by Parliament.

Professor Ryan: I think I have made the point that, if there is not a deal, there is a difficulty with relying on subsequent legislation that may never come. There may be a case for making provision just for that scenario in this Bill. If there is a withdrawal agreement that is then implemented through legislation, one has to recognise that the settlement scheme is, in many ways, more generous than the withdrawal agreement. It has taken out the requirement for qualifying conditions to be met by EU citizens, and the approach to evidencing residence is pretty open.

The question arises: would the second Bill actually protect everyone who is in the settlement scheme? I would hope that, in the end, anyone who gets recognised through that scheme can rely on those rights, and that, even if they are not covered by the withdrawal agreement, anyone who gets recognised through that scheme, without fraud and misrepresentation, has statutory protection for their position going forward.

There is a separate issue about people who do not apply. I have already said that I do not really understand why we have to have a hard deadline. One could imagine—in either Bill, I suppose—legislation ensuring the right to come back at a later date to apply, for those who are entitled to do so.

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Q The settlement scheme is already up and running in public testing mode now. The legislation is in both secondary legislation and immigration rules. I concur with you that it is important to have it in primary legislation. Do you see any legal difficulty with the status quo prevailing, where the scheme is open, and we have it enshrined in secondary legislation, albeit not primary? Does it matter if there is a timing gap?

Professor Ryan: I am sorry, but I did not quite follow the question.

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The settled scheme is up and running. We are awarding EU citizens their status, and we have achieved that by secondary legislation; we laid various statutory instruments that enabled us to open the settlement scheme. Whether as part of the withdrawal Bill or potentially as part of this Bill, do you see any challenge whatsoever with a gap between the end of free movement and the rights of individuals through the settlement scheme being enshrined in primary legislation?

Professor Ryan: Do you mean a gap with regard to timing?

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Order. I am afraid that we will never know the answer to that question, because we have come to the end of our allotted time. On behalf of the Committee, I thank both witnesses for their time. Thank you very much indeed, gentlemen.

Examination of Witnesses

Lord Green of Deddington and Dr Benedict Greening gave evidence.

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Welcome, Lord Green and Dr Greening. We have until 11 o’clock for this session. I think we all felt that the previous session went very quickly, and I am sure this will go even more quickly. First, could you please introduce yourselves?

Lord Green: Thank you, and good morning. I founded Migration Watch 18 years ago and have been the chairman ever since.

Dr Greening: I am Ben Greening. I have worked for Migration Watch for three years.

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Splendid. Which colleague would like to ask the first question? I call Afzal Khan.

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Q I have a question for Lord Green. Would you agree that there are certain professions that are not highly paid but are nevertheless highly skilled?

Lord Green: Yes—probably medium skilled. Before I answer your question, can I just thank the Chairman for the invitation? I notice that you have about 25 witnesses and we are the only ones whose view is that immigration should be reduced. In saying that, we have the support of some 38 million people. I just leave that on the table as something that the Committee might like to be aware of.

Certainly there are medium skills that are not very well paid. I would have thought that very high skills probably are well paid.

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Q I believe you have expressed concern about the Government’s ability to enforce the deadline on the 12-month visa. Can you elaborate on your concerns?

Lord Green: Yes, certainly. First of all, we are very doubtful about it in principle. It seems to us to be a rather obvious way of avoiding getting people into the official immigration statistics. I think that is a mistake in terms of public trust. We are assuming, by the way, that EU citizens will be eligible for this, and there are indications that that will be so. There is no difference in effect between somebody who is here for 11 months, goes away for a year’s cooling-off period, and who can then come back and work for a period that has not yet been defined. I only have to say that to illustrate the difficulties of knowing who these people are, where they are and how long they have been here. We simply do not have the necessary information to do that.

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Q Do you think the Government will be able to make sure that anyone who comes on a 12-month visa leaves at the end of that period?

Lord Green: No, absolutely not.

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Q What do you think of Border Force? Is it adequately resourced at present?

Lord Green: No. Its funds have been cut back as part of general cuts in public funds. It does not have the people it needs and it is simply not able to do the job that I am sure it would wish to do. You only have to look, for example, at the number of people who are here illegally and are removed, which has declined very sharply in recent years.

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Q What are the risks associated with giving the Government carte blanche to introduce a replacement immigration system?

Lord Green: I think you are implying that the Bill does just that—that it is a framework Bill. I think it has to be read in conjunction with the White Paper. We have looked at that to see what the risks might be, and today we are publishing an estimate that it will lead to net foreign migration of about 430,000 a year in a few years’ time. It could even hit half a million unless serious moves are taken to reduce it. From that figure, you have to subtract roughly 50,000 a year, which is the 10-year average of British emigration. You are looking at something like 380,000 net migration quite soon, which is higher than the previous peak of 340,000. Reaching that calculation—as I said, I will send it to the Committee—has very serious political implications, but I will leave that to you. In reaching it, we have deliberately ignored the 11-month workers to whom you referred in your first question, Mr Khan. We think that is misleading, and in practice there will be circular migration that amounts to significant numbers of low-skilled workers.

Let me just explain the proposal to weaken the highly skilled department. As you probably know, the proposal is to reduce the level of skills from degree to A-level, to reduce the salary level from £30,000—even £21,000 has been mentioned—to remove the requirement to advertise a job beforehand, and so on. You would be left with pretty much free movement, because 50% of EU migrants who have come here already are in those higher-skilled categories that the Government are now talking about. The other 50% could come as the 11-month brigade.

You would be looking at something that is very close to free movement, and you would have enormously increased the scope for migration from around the world. As outlined in the White Paper, these moves will open 9 million UK jobs to worldwide competition. That is bound to have a very substantial effect, partly because employers will understandably scour the world for less expensive employees. What is more, there will be a substantial number of employees who would want to come here, because those routes will lead to settlement. Our view is that this is a very dangerous policy in terms of numbers, and therefore in terms of the public response to immigration and immigrants.

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Lord Green, the Clerk has taken careful note of your remarks about the balance of witnesses. I did not have any hand in it, and we will reflect on the issue.

Lord Green: It is not a criticism. This is life—we are the only body in the UK that makes these points.

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Q Would you agree that delivering on free movement and on the control of free movement, which the Bill would achieve, would be a key part of delivering on the 2016 referendum result?

Lord Green: Yes, I certainly would, and I think the public would certainly take the same view. As we have mentioned before, the Bill is only a framework. I think the Scottish National party and the Lords have pointed out that it has enormous secondary powers, which I am sure you will consider. In effect, it opens the door to whatever the Government might later decide. Reading the White Paper, I think we will all be in difficulty.

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Q What do you think would be the consequences of not delivering on the control of free movement?

Lord Green: That is a political question and your Members will know better than I do, but I think they will be serious.

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Q I think you have been very firm in your views on levels of migration being too high. What is the right level of migration?

Lord Green: Until 1998, the level of net migration had never been more than 50,000 a year, and on some occasions it had been negative. Times were different, but we did not really need large-scale migration until then. You probably remember—you may have been an MP at the time—that when the Labour Government eased the immigration system, the numbers trebled in a couple of years. You will also remember that when the points-based system was introduced in 2008, we found very soon that we had something like 40,000 bogus students arriving in one year, mainly from the Indian subcontinent. We also found that 1,000 bogus colleges had to be closed. I am not trying to criticise the Labour party in this matter. My point is more general: the pressures on our immigration system worldwide are very strong indeed. We have seen it twice and there is every risk that we are going to see it again.

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Q I became an MP in 2015, as it happens, but I remember the history you are setting out. Surely it is not the case that the needs of the economy in the 2020s will be the same as they were in the 1990s.

Lord Green: No, but I agree with almost everything that Professor Manning said. The needs of the economy change, but we also need to make sure that there is an incentive or pressure on employers to use their labour more efficiently, to increase productivity and so on. If you look at a graph, you will see that productivity in the UK, apart from being well below France and Germany, has been flat for 10 years, and immigration has been several million in that period. You cannot possibly argue that immigration on its present scale is improving productivity or anything else.

It is also a key point that there is no evidence for the UK that immigration adds to GDP per head. I think there are one or two studies in the United States about Mexicans providing home assistance for computer experts, or something, but in the UK there is no such evidence. The basic pressure for large-scale immigration comes from employers who make money out of it. They are there to make money if they are able to do so.

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Q The right level of migration for the 2020s will be very different from what it was in the 1990s.

Lord Green: Not necessarily. We would settle for the Government’s policy until very recently at 100,000. I think that is a reasonable number. While we are on the general point, if we go on as we are, we will continue to add 1 million to our population every three years by reason of immigration. This has enormous effects, starting with housing, and they cannot just be put aside.

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Q Once we have left the EU, can you envisage any scenario in which EU citizens should be given preference in a future immigration system?

Lord Green: I do not see any need for it.

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We have just heard from Professor Manning about seasonal workers, for example. The NFU has sent out a briefing for a debate this afternoon, which makes it clear that the food and farming business is worth £113 billion to our economy. As we have just heard from Professor Manning, seasonal workers mainly from EU countries make up a significant percentage of that. Can I ask the question again: once we have left the EU, can you see any preference within that system for EU citizens?

Lord Green: I am sorry; I did not realise you were including that. We do not oppose a seasonal agricultural workers scheme, for the reasons you have described, but they are not immigrants; they are shipped in for the season and shipped out again. The system was run for about 50 years after the war and only closed down when the eastern Europeans arrived. It should be possible to reinstate a system that does not affect migration but does provide these workers—hopefully not so many that British workers will be unable to get jobs of that kind.

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Q Can I ask about reciprocal arrangements? Do you have any concerns about British nationals living in the EU? Do you think there should be any preference for British nationals living and working in the EU? If you see no preference for EU nationals here, what would the reciprocal arrangements be?

Lord Green: The arrangements are not reciprocal, in the sense that in the EU these matters are very largely a national decision—almost the only things that are—so we cannot run, as it were, a reciprocal policy that relates to what is happening in the EU. The EU is introducing a blue card scheme, which is the equivalent of our tier 2, but it is not being very widely used. The only point I would make about British citizens is that they are not being given enough attention, in terms of their future in the countries where they are. I do not think the Commission has been very effective, frankly. While we are paying great attention to the European Union citizens who are here, as we should, we should pay equal attention to Brits in Europe.

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We are more than halfway through this session, and we have not heard anything from Dr Greening.

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Q If I may say so, I would hesitate to describe anybody who comes to work in this country as “shipped in”. I think that is unfortunate. I want to ask about our ageing population, to follow up on the question asked by my colleague Nick Thomas-Symonds. Do you think that the dependency ratio, under the situation that you envisage with reduced immigration, will get better or worse?

Lord Green: First of all, what was the word that you were worried about?

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Q You described people coming to work in this country as being “shipped in”.

Lord Green: Oh yes—well, they were shipped in.

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Q It is unfortunate language, with respect, Lord Green. It is dehumanising language.

Lord Green: I want you to understand how this system worked. It was actually employers who brought them in—can I say in bulk?—together, as a group, in order to work in the fields.

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Q The point has been made. How do you see your proposal as improving—or otherwise—our dependency ratio in the labour market?

Lord Green: Of course it would increase the dependency ratio. There is no doubt about that. Equally, there is only one way to deal with that, which is to raise the retirement age. If you are going to try to use immigration to deal with the dependency ratio, it becomes a Ponzi scheme, because as the new migrants get older you have more older people, and therefore you need more migrants in order to restore the balance. That is the oldest story in the book.

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Q What would you like the retirement age to be raised to—something like 70 or 75?

Lord Green: You can do various calculations on that. I do not have them in my head. I think that so long as we live longer and healthier, there is perfectly good reason to raise the retirement age.

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Q I want to follow on the back of Ms McGovern’s question. You did speak of humans as being shipped in and shipped out, as if they were canned goods rather than actual human beings. That leads me to a point you raised in the oral evidence session for the previous Immigration Bill, when you described asylum seekers, and victims of exploitation and traffickers, as “these people”. Would you agree that this sort of careless and dehumanising terminology has fuelled much of the anti-immigrant rhetoric in the UK, and has perhaps even led to Brexit itself?

Lord Green: No, I think that is completely irrelevant, frankly. I hope that this is a meeting in which I can speak to you clearly and simply. If I was making some public speech, I would use different words. This is not a public speech, I hope.

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Q It may not be a public speech, but it is very much on the record, and I have to say that that is not very helpful. In terms of the Bill itself and border enforcement, I think that during evidence on the previous Immigration Bill—this was in late 2015—you said that something around £750 million a year was being spent, which you described as absolute peanuts. Do you think that the Border Force and the Home Office are adequately resourced to deal with the post-Brexit migration system?

Lord Green: No, I don’t think they are.

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Q Would you care to elaborate on how much more should be spent or is required?

Lord Green: The first thing is to restore the cuts that have been made, but I think they will probably need more than that, because they will have a new situation to deal with. But I am not an expert on the administration of the Home Office.

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Q Do you have any thoughts on how the settlement scheme has been set up for EU nationals who are already there? Do you anticipate any difficulties in making sure that as close as possible to 100% have applied for settled status by the deadline?

Lord Green: There are bound to be problems. You are talking about literally millions of people, most of whom have good English, but not all. There is certainly a possibility—a probability—that by the time the deadline comes, there will be people who have not registered. I listened to what the previous witness said about that.

We will need to be careful that we do not accidentally find that a large number of people have rights that they are not aware of—have rights through their parents that they are not aware of, as one of the Committee members put it. There is a risk there, but that is administration and I am sure that the Home Office will do its best.

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Q Professor Ryan specifically suggested removing the deadline altogether. Do you think that is a sensible proposal?

Lord Green: I do not have a strong view on that, but it does seem sensible to have a deadline, otherwise people will leave it and leave it and never get it done. The deadline helps to get people in and do the registration, so it is at least a line in the sand, but I do not think it should be the end of the world.

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Q The motivation to apply for settled status is that if you do not have it, you will not be able to work or rent, and so on. Even without an official deadline, surely that would be enough in itself. You are saying, “All this will come into force for you on a certain date,” and surely that is sufficient motivation to encourage people to apply in advance.

Dr Greening: I have seen something from the Government in which they specified that the deadline was somewhat flexible, so if there were good reasons why people had not applied by the deadline, they would be treated on a case-by-case basis.

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Q Is that really a satisfactory response, when we are probably talking about a couple of hundred thousand people?

Dr Greening: It is reassuring to see in the White Paper that the Government said:

“The EU Settlement Scheme…will ensure that those who successfully apply for it have a clear immigration status in the UK, safeguarding against what happened”

to some members of the Windrush generation. The Government are clearly aware of the lessons to be learned from Windrush and are applying them in applying the EU settlement scheme. There are bound to be some teething issues and problems.

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Q Two hundred thousand people being unable to access employment or housing or whatever else is not a teething problem, with respect.

Dr Greening: That would be a major problem. I hope that the Government take—

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Lord Green has highlighted the problems in terms of funding for Home Office administration. I think the Home Office is pulling out all the stops and doing its best to try to register as many EU nationals as it can, but even if it achieves a 90% success rate, 400,000 people will still be in a similar situation to the Windrush generation.

Dr Greening: We do have concerns about that. We will be watching closely to monitor it and ensure that it is efficient, that it works for the millions of people who will use it, that it reaches everyone and that it makes sure that no one who has rights loses their rights.

Resources are relevant to that. It is important to note that Lucy Moreton, of the Immigration Service Union, said that immigration enforcement is not adequately resourced at the moment to deal with illegal immigration. Combined spending on Border Force and immigration enforcement has fallen by £100 million over the last three years. The chief inspector of borders has said that the capacity simply will not deal with numbers. Officials have complained to him about security at southern ports being resourced to—

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Q The problem I have is not about enforcement. I do not want people who fail to meet the deadline to be enforced against; I want them to be able to apply and to have their cases processed in time.

Dr Greening: As do we.

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Q I think you were saying earlier that this legislation as it stands, along with the White Paper, is likely to lead to an increase in inward migration. Is that right? That was my understanding.

Dr Greening: Yes.

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Q Given that we are setting a future direction now, what would you like to see in this legislation to make that less likely to happen?

Lord Green: First, it is quite difficult to set out immigration policy in primary legislation. That is why this Bill is drafted as it is. I have, as I say, some sympathy with the Scottish National party in the House of Lords in saying that this is really very wide. We would like to see something pretty close to the existing tier 2 system, with a salary threshold of the order of £30,000, and the shortage occupation list developed. I think that can deal with a number of problems; it already does nurses, and it could do laboratory assistants, for example. We favour the seasonal agricultural workers’ scheme, which has just been mentioned. We suggest that the way to deal with the lesser skilled—if I may use the term, meaning that middle group—is to have temporary visas for semi-skilled workers, limiting them to three years and having an escalating annual cost of £1,000, £2,000 and £3,000, so that there is a financial incentive for employers to train their own people. For the past 10 years, the training of apprentices and so on has gone through the floor, and it has done so because you can take a plumber or whatever from Poland without bothering to train them. We need to make sure that there is a financial incentive for employers of these skills to train British replacements.

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Q So that is how you would tackle the issue of butchery, for example, which I raised earlier?

Lord Green: I am not an expert on butchery, and there will be special cases of various kinds, but for most of these skills we think that would be a sensible approach.

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If no other colleague wishes to ask a question, perhaps we will give the final opportunity to the Minister.

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Q We have three minutes to go, and I will try to give you time to answer, Lord Green. We have heard from employers’ groups, among others, that what they want from a future immigration system is simplicity, and of course free movement has the advantage of being very simple. Do you think that simplicity is important, or would you prefer to see a much more complicated scheme, perhaps such as what you have just begun to outline, with differential costs of visas depending on which year of stay people are in?

Lord Green: I think simplicity is important, but effectiveness is more important. If you have a system that is wide open to these middle skills, you will lose control of the numbers. What you have to do, given that you cannot follow everyone around the country to remove them after x years, is to put a financial burden or incentive on employers to train the replacements that we need.

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Q A number of members of the Committee asked about flexibility and meeting the future needs of the economy. How important do you consider it to be that we should have a future immigration system that allows a level of flexibility?

Lord Green: The main flexibility is the free market system, where wages go up and attract people into the places where they are needed. Where you do not have that financial incentive, it does not happen. We should allow the market system to work. Indeed, as Professor Manning said, if your first reaction to a shortage is to produce immigrants, you will never deal with the shortage and you will never improve the working conditions of those who are already in that industry.

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Q Taking the £30,000 threshold as suggested by MAC, do you see a case in which, potentially, that could go up year on year?

Lord Green: Did you say £30,000?

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Yes.

Lord Green: Possibly. I don’t know. It depends on what happens. But I think that the £30,000 is a sensible level, and it does mean that you are then dealing with highly skilled people. I would not want to lower it, and there may be a case for raising it as time goes on.

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Q Do you think that salary level is always necessarily a proxy for skill?

Lord Green: Not always, but it is not a bad proxy. It is probably the best you have.

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Lord Green, thank you very much for your evidence to the Committee.

Examination of Witness

Chai Patel gave evidence.

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This final session is even shorter—we have only until 25 past 11. Will our witness kindly introduce himself?

Chai Patel: I am Chai Patel, I am the Legal Policy Director at the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants.

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Q Your organisation played a key support role in the Windrush scandal. Do you think the Government have addressed the systematic issues in the Home Office so that another Windrush for EEA citizens who are about to come under the UK’s immigration system can be avoided?

Chai Patel: No. I think to some extent that is because of failings in the Home Office and the Government, but to another it is because the issues that were exposed most clearly by Windrush are very deep-seated in immigration law and the way we conduct almost all our immigration system. I would not necessarily have expected the Government to be able to do that in the time that we have had. The problem we face is that we are moving very quickly towards a situation in which between 3 million and 4 million more people’s immigration status or leave to remain in this country will not be as clear as it once was. That is because European nationals will no longer simply be able to show a passport and have everyone immediately assume that they have the right to work, to rent, to access healthcare and to simply live their lives here.

Over a period of years, several Governments have introduced a compliant or a hostile environment where immigration checks are part of day-to-day life and where private individuals have to carry them out, which we know causes discrimination for non-EU citizens. For example in the right to rent, we know that landlords are less likely to rent to people without British passports. We know that in some situations that can cause ethnicity discrimination. We are now proposing that the status of another 3 million to 4 million people should be potentially uncertain because their passport does not mean what it once did.

As an organisation, we do not have a formal position on the continuation of free movement or on exactly what the best political solution is to these problems. We are concerned with the human rights, the procedural rights and the legal rights of all people in this country, particularly migrants. The situation we are in and the way in which the Government have approached the settlement scheme and resolving some of these issues increases those risks.

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Q Do you feel there is a real risk of EU citizens having the same difficulty as the Windrush people?

Chai Patel: Absolutely. I think you have already heard evidence that, at the end of the period allowed for people to make their settlement applications, potentially hundreds of thousands of people will not have been successful in doing so. Those people will be undocumented. They will be in exactly the situation that Windrush people found themselves in. If there is no deal, that could happen much earlier because it becomes very unclear what the difference is between the rights of EU nationals who arrived during the transition period and those of EU nationals who were already here. You might start to see some of those problems occurring much more immediately.

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Q On clause 4, what concerns do you have about the scope of powers granted to the Home Office to create an immigration system through secondary legislation, and how well do you think the system of parliamentary scrutiny of immigration is working at the moment?

Chai Patel: At the moment, non-EU immigration law is extraordinarily complex. Supreme Court judges, Court of Appeal judges, immigration experts and immigration lawyers have all said in public that it is almost impossible for anyone to navigate, let alone for people who are expected to do so without necessarily having perfect English or legal aid. To a great extent, the reason why it is so complex is that immigration rules have been made over many years and over many Governments, and they are frequently made in response to political pressures, without very much consideration of the consequences or of the underlying evidence for making them. They just pile on top of each other and you end up with a system that does not work for anyone.

You have that in the context of a Home Office that has been underfunded for some time and which has seen real-terms cuts to its funding over the past few years. It is now about to be asked to move from a system of free movement, which was, as the Minister said, a light-touch and simple system, to one that is potentially very complex. You, as parliamentarians, are being asked not just to approve that move but to approve the Home Office taking complete control over how the new system is going to work at a time when successive Home Secretaries and Prime Ministers have failed to construct a system that works when they have had the power to do so. At this time, Parliament should not be abdicating its responsibility to scrutinise and to decide what the immigration system should look like. At the moment, from everything that we have seen, the Home Office is not capable of administering the existing system.

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Q In the light of what you have said about the complexity and difficulty of the system, would it have been helpful if the Government had followed the Law Commission’s idea of simplifying immigration and then added the 3 million or 4 million, so that it would have been easier to operate?

Chai Patel: One of our recommendations is certainly that the Law Commission’s exercise of simplification should be carried out before any substantial changes are made to the position of EU nationals.

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Q What changes would you like to see the Government make—I think you have just mentioned this—to the EU settlement scheme?

Chai Patel: We have a number of recommendations that we would make if the settlement scheme remained an application process, but we think that, by far the simplest, most cost-effective and safest thing to do is to make it a declaratory scheme immediately and for all EU nationals and all relevant individuals who are currently in the UK under the EU treaties to be granted a legal right, as of law, permanently to remain in the UK. They should then be given the opportunity, over a number of years and with no strict cut-off, to register for documents as they need them.

I understand that concern has been expressed about how to encourage people to apply if there is no cut-off. I think that people will need those documents as part of their day-to-day lives and will apply for them when they need to. It is really important that they are not at risk of becoming undocumented because they have not done so. I hesitate to suggest this because we do not agree with it, but at the moment, the penalty for failing to apply is to lose your status. I understand that there are potentially exceptional circumstances or even some good reasons that might mean that you do not lose it, but the default is that you will lose your status. It is not beyond the wit of Government, if they want to, to devise some other incentive scheme that does not involve losing immigration status.

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Q In your briefing, you said that you would prefer the UK to have a simpler immigration system overall. Does removing free movement for EU citizens and standardising it for citizens—whether from the EU, the Commonwealth or the rest of the world—not answer your request for a simpler immigration system?

Chai Patel: It might if there were any proposal on the table for such a system, but we have not seen one. We have seen a White Paper that would increase the complexity of the system. There is the simplicity of system but also the simplicity of the ways in which people use the system.

At the moment, roughly half of all immigration to the UK occurs under a very simple system. We are now talking about moving all of it into a very complex system. A proposal to simplify the entire system and, importantly, to do so in a way that does not put EU nationals into the current system for non-EU nationals, which is frankly completely unfit for purpose, brutal in many ways and does not work, is something that might be welcomed, but we have not seen such a proposal.

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Q In a new system would you want to see any preferential rights given to EU citizens as opposed to citizens from the rest of the world?

Chai Patel: In an ideal world, people from all countries would be treated equally under the immigration system. What I would be careful about is the fact that we have heard a lot from people who have suggested that Brexit provides an opportunity for us to move to that, but the Government’s plans in the White Paper certainly do not provide that because it specifically states that, of course, preferential treatment will continue to be given to people where trade deals require that to be the case. So, yes, in theory, but at the same time I would be reluctant to suggest that I think that is going to happen.

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Q Mr Patel, you have declared your preference for a declaratory EU settlement scheme, which I think is a very good idea. Professor Ryan’s alternative would be simply to remove the cut-off date for applications. Have you any thoughts about the pros and cons of that argument?

Chai Patel: I think that in effect it is the same thing. I might be wrong if there is no cut-off date. What is someone’s legal status at the end of the transition period or the grace period until they apply? If they are in legal limbo at that stage it seems simpler to grant them the legal right as of law, rather than saying they can apply later and be reinstated, because there might then be a question of what their status was in the intervening period.

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Q That is an interesting point, thank you. We heard Professor Manning talking about some of the challenges or problems with the one-year visas that are proposed in the White Paper, as a stop-gap measure for so-called lower-skilled forms of work. He talked about the potential for exploitation and problems with integration. Have you any thoughts on that type of visa?

Chai Patel: I think that will inevitably lead to exploitation. It contradicts the reasons that the Government have given for wanting to reduce immigration in the first place. Of course, we do not accept all of these, but in theory there is an idea—not borne out by evidence—that immigration reduces people’s rights in the workplace, because immigrants can be treated less well. That only happens when immigrants are given fewer rights. If they are put on short-term visas, that increases the potential for exploitation.

We do understand that there is concern about integration and people wanting more integrated and cohesive communities. We do not think there is any contradiction between immigration and cohesive communities. What we do think is that, if people are required to come here for a year and then to leave, they will not be able to make those community links.

It may well be that people are rightly resentful of people who come in for a year and then leave, having left no long-standing mark. I think people welcome immigration whereby people are able to come to this country to live as people who belong to this country and, if they choose, to stay as long as they want to put down roots and build families here.

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Q On a different question, were you surprised there are no appeal rights for EU citizens in relation to the settled status scheme in the Bill? Or are they expected somewhere else?

Chai Patel: I am surprised. The withdrawal agreement clearly sets out that appeal rights will exist. The Government have said that legislation is required to make those appeal rights a reality, which is why we have not got them in the pilot scheme. Therefore, it seems very strange to us that the Bill does not contain that legislation.

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Q The Government might suggest that the best place for them is the withdrawal agreement implementation Act, or whatever it will be called, but does that leave us with a problem? The Government seem to be suggesting that there will not be formal rights of appeal in the event of no deal. What are your concerns about that?

Chai Patel: That is certainly a concern. All the rights that have been set out for EU nationals under the withdrawal agreement must be available to them in the event of no deal, if it is accepted that those rights are required. Certainly it must be right that people who are denied settled status have the right to appeal to an independent tribunal, rather than having to seek a Home Office administrative review or a judicial review, which is not sufficient to deal with the merits of their case and is very costly both for the Government and for the person pursuing it. There needs to be a simple and fair appeal system in which an independent tribunal can look at the merits of someone’s case when they are denied the right to stay in this country.

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Q You have argued that the Bill should be withdrawn and should instead form part of a wider Bill that encompasses the future immigration system. How does that sit with the commitment to leave the EU and end free movement as soon as possible?

Chai Patel: First of all, our view is that it would be open to the Government to put forward an immigration Bill that did that very simply, but they would need a plan for the new system. No such plan exists; until it does, ending free movement simply cannot be tenable, for the reasons that we have given. We are not saying that it is invalid for the Government to choose to end free movement. We may disagree about precisely what system will replace it or about whether free movement was the best system in the first place, but that is fine. What you cannot do, however, is end free movement overnight, because that will lead to a situation in which between 3 million and 4 million EU citizens were here with no documentation beyond their EU passport, while new EU migrants were coming in with their EU passport plus some other document. We have in-country immigration checks, and people may want to leave and come back, but they will not be able to until they have been registered and a clear new system has been set out. The Government should have put that forward in the Bill.

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Q Do you not recognise that the Bill is a critical component of delivering the 2016 referendum result? That is the question that the previous witness was asked.

Chai Patel: I do not see how that is the case. This Bill is premature. If the Government want to deliver that result, they must put forward a system for immigration control that will apply afterwards. They have not done so.

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Q The question that I was going to ask about appeal rights has been largely covered, but may I ask whether you feel that it is rather exceptional within our immigration system to deny any appeal rights to a category of people who seek status within the UK?

Chai Patel: Unfortunately not. It is important that we also say that appeal rights should be reinstated across all immigration matters. The removal of appeal rights has caused significant problems, which we are seeing in our work—particularly because at the moment, unfortunately, the Home Office is not capable of making decisions correctly. Where people are allowed appeal rights, the success rates on appeal are remarkable: around 50%, or even higher in some categories of case. That should be fixed, and one of the ways to fix it is to have oversight. If caseworkers know that people will be given a right to appeal and legal aid to pursue that right, they will be incentivised to make good decisions in the first place.

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Q How confident are you that the option offered by the Home Office of administrative review, and ultimately judicial review, provides any real opportunities for challenge within the system?

Chai Patel: The chief inspector’s reports on administrative review have raised some concerns. Simply as a matter of practical reality, administrative review is the

Home Office marking its own work. If it is not getting decisions right the first time, it is not getting decisions right the second time. The point is that people are trying to get through decisions. The Home Office is understaffed. The people making the decisions are undertrained and struggling to get through huge backlogs and delays.

I am not an expert on the internal workings of the Home Office, but in the decisions that it makes you see that frequently people have not read the papers, or have copied and pasted reasons across decisions. Very minor inconsistencies are picked up in order to make rejections. Those things cannot always be corrected by judicial review, because judicial review is a very restrictive form of court oversight. The court cannot remake the decision that the caseworkers made; it can look only at whether it was egregiously irrational or unlawful.

An appeal to the tribunal allows an independent person to look at the case as a whole and to decide what is fair. That corrective mechanism is a key part of ensuring that the Home Office improves its own systems, because there is an external oversight mechanism.

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Very brief questions and brief answers.

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Q Following Brexit, do you think that there should be a preferential system for all EU citizens?

Chai Patel: I do not have any opinion on that, I am afraid. That is beyond our remit as a charity concerned with the human rights of immigrants going through the system.

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Q You said the Bill is premature. Can you quickly give us your major concerns about the Bill?

Chai Patel: The Bill is premature because there is no plan for what follows. Our primary concern is the Henry VIII powers given to the Home Secretary to remove people’s rights, without the new system having been clearly set out. I know that there is the White Paper, but I also know that it is contested in Cabinet, and is still subject to intense debate.

The White Paper itself raises concerns about, for example, the one-year visas, which would cause exploitation and problems with integration. It also misses the opportunity to fix many of the problems that we saw with Windrush. There is nothing to address Home Office capacity, with so many new people coming through the system, or the problems with the hostile environment, which remain. We know that it causes discrimination, and we have not seen anything from the Government to roll back those provisions, or to thoroughly review them.

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Q I am sure that Hansard will correct me if I misheard you, but I think you said very early on in your evidence that short-term visas inevitably lead to exploitation. Do you think that the same holds true for seasonal agricultural worker schemes, or perhaps the tier 5 youth mobility schemes?

Chai Patel: I think so, yes. Any kind of scheme relating to someone’s rights in respect of continuing work, changing employment or changing the sector in which they are employed will result in exploitation, because they have fewer rights to move between employers than British nationals.

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Q Is it your contention that we should not have an agricultural worker scheme, and should perhaps seek to do away with tier 5?

Chai Patel: I would have to think about that. Perhaps we can respond in written evidence later. I am afraid I have not thought that through.

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Q One final question. Under the EU settlement scheme, the plan is that people are not to be presented with a physical document but essentially with a bit of code that the employer can go away and check. Does that give rise to any concerns about how that will work?

Chai Patel: Yes. The key reason why discrimination happens under, for example, right to rent is not that landlords, or whoever needs to do the check, are prejudiced; it is the administrative hassle of having to deal with it. It is simple just to check a British passport. By not giving people a physical document, you are creating a massive problem for them in terms of having equal access to work, housing or other things that they might need.

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That brings us to the end of the session. Thank you very much, Mr Patel, for the time that you have spent with the Committee.

The Chair adjourned the Committee without Question put (Standing Order No. 88).

Adjourned till this day at Two o’clock.

Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill (Second sitting)

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chairs: †Sir David Amess, Graham Stringer

† Badenoch, Mrs Kemi (Saffron Walden) (Con)

† Blomfield, Paul (Sheffield Central) (Lab)

† Brereton, Jack (Stoke-on-Trent South) (Con)

† Caulfield, Maria (Lewes) (Con)

† Crouch, Tracey (Chatham and Aylesford) (Con)

† Dakin, Nic (Scunthorpe) (Lab)

† Davies, Glyn (Montgomeryshire) (Con)

† Duguid, David (Banff and Buchan) (Con)

† Green, Kate (Stretford and Urmston) (Lab)

† Khan, Afzal (Manchester, Gorton) (Lab)

† Maclean, Rachel (Redditch) (Con)

† McDonald, Stuart C. (Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East) (SNP)

† McGovern, Alison (Wirral South) (Lab)

† Maynard, Paul (Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty's Treasury)

† Newlands, Gavin (Paisley and Renfrewshire North) (SNP)

† Nokes, Caroline (Minister for Immigration)

Sharma, Alok (Minister for Employment)

† Smith, Eleanor (Wolverhampton South West) (Lab)

† Thomas-Symonds, Nick (Torfaen) (Lab)

Joanna Dodd, Michael Everett, Committee Clerks

† attended the Committee

Witnesses

Vivienne Stern, Director, Universities UK

Rosa Crawford, Policy Officer, TUC

Professor Dame Donna Kinnair, Acting Chief Exec and General Secretary, Royal College of Nursing

Gracie Bradley, Policy and Campaigns Manager, Liberty

Jodie Blackstock, Legal Director, Justice

Matthew Fell, Chief UK Policy Director, CBI

Caroline Robinson, Chief Executive, Focus on Labour Exploitation

Meri Åhlberg, FLEX Research Officer, Focus on Labour Exploitation

Public Bill Committee

Tuesday 12 February 2019

(Afternoon)

[Sir David Amess in the Chair]

Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill

Examination of Witnesses

Vivienne Stern, Rosa Crawford and Professor Dame Donna Kinnair gave evidence.

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Colleagues, before we continue to take oral evidence, could we turn our mobiles phones off? I think only one went off this morning. I have checked mine. Representations have been made to me about tea and coffee. Unfortunately, until the Panel of Chairs, under the excellent chairmanship of Sir Lindsay Hoyle, changes its view, I am afraid only water is allowed—and we are not even in lent.

We will now hear oral evidence from Universities UK, the Trades Union Congress and the Royal College of Nursing. We have until 3 o’clock to take evidence from these good people. Would the witnesses kindly introduce themselves?

Professor Dame Donna Kinnair: I am Dame Donna Kinnair, acting chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing.

Rosa Crawford: I am Rosa Crawford. I cover migration policy at the Trades Union Congress.

Vivienne Stern: I am Vivienne Stern, director of Universities UK International.

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Thank you very much. Professor, you may have to project your voice.

Professor Dame Donna Kinnair: I will try.

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That is better.

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Q 109 I thank all three of you for coming today. I will start with the TUC, although I will probably bring all of you in later down the road. What in the Bill do you see as a threat to social security or as increasing the potential for exploitation?

Rosa Crawford: The TUC is very concerned that the Bill opens up a wide scope for increased exploitation and insecurity among not only European Union citizens in this country, but UK citizens abroad. To focus on the first part of your question, we are worried that the legislation, by removing EU rules on social security co-ordination, paves the way for the Government to bring in plans to restrict EU social security entitlements for EU citizens, such as jobseeker’s allowance.

We have also seen in the White Paper plans to bring in an immigration health surcharge on EU citizens. From a welfare point of view, we are very concerned that that will mean 3.8 million citizens facing increased poverty and having to pay health charges. The TUC absolutely opposes the immigration health surcharge both for EU citizens and for all migrant workers.

Also, in the context of the Brexit negotiations, it seems reckless to suggest that we will introduce restrictions on EU citizens claiming social security entitlements here in the future when we know that more than 1 million British people live in the EU, many of whom now claim pensions, or will do soon. It is expected that EU countries may well reciprocate, with restrictions on British citizens abroad claiming sickness insurance and unemployment insurance and on claiming their pensions abroad, which is obviously a huge injustice. People have paid all their lives in one country and expect to be able to claim in another. We are very worried about the increasing social insecurity and the welfare repercussions for British people abroad.

On the second half of your question, on exploitation, we have said that the Bill will not only make life harder for EU citizens and workers in this country, but have the effect of making conditions worse for all workers. We say that because, by ending EU rules on free movement, and the right to change employers freely that comes with that, the Bill also paves the way for a more restrictive work visa regime, as the Government outlined in the immigration White Paper. What we have seen of those proposals is a recipe for increasing worker vulnerability.

We know that time-limited visas of the kind the Government have said they want to introduce—specifically the 12-month time-limited visa for low-skilled workers—would increase worker vulnerability exponentially by limiting people’s legal status in a country to their employment. If workers have a limited time to move from one employer to another, we know that will be an incentive for them to stay in abusive forms of employment, because of the difficulty of getting another legal form of employment.

If workers leave an abusive employer and cannot find another, legal form of employment, they become undocumented workers and, under the terms of the Immigration Act 2016, they are committing a criminal offence by working. That means that if they are then abused in an undocumented form of employment and go to the authorities, they could face a jail term and deportation as a result of reporting abuse.

We at the TUC are absolutely opposed to those measures, because they just encourage exploitation. As I said, they make it easier for bad employers to use irregular migrants or those with question marks about their immigration status, who accept lower conditions and undercut UK workers on terms and conditions and on pay. We already see that happening in agriculture, distribution and some sections of cleaning and care. The Bill will make it easier for that exploitation to happen, which is why we are calling on MPs to oppose it.

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Q What protections are needed to make sure that the Government’s proposed seasonal agricultural workers scheme and temporary 12-month work visas do not lead to exploitation?

Rosa Crawford: The TUC has said that the Government should scrap all the proposals in the Bill and that we should instead continue to have the current system in place for EU workers to come here, work freely and have all the legal protections in place. For any temporary visa migration system, as I said, time-limited visas bring the inherent risks that workers will face further exploitation because their condition of employment is linked to their legal status in the country.

An important change that would mean that all workers were less at risk of exploitation would be to make sure that workers, regardless of immigration status, could enforce their employment rights. That is in line with the International Labour Organisation’s recommendations. Employment rights are human rights—it is not a crime to work and it should not be a crime to try to claim your right at work. An important step would be to roll back the provisions in the Immigration Act 2016 that criminalise undocumented working. As I said, we have grave concerns about the introduction of any temporary visa scheme for EU citizens, because it would just increase exploitation and make it easier for bad employers to commit undercutting.

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Q The next question probably applies, in different parts, to all three of you. What experience do you have with the current system for non-EU migrants, and what do you make of the Government’s proposals? I would particularly like for Universities UK and the Royal College of Nursing to comment on the current tier 2 route, and for the TUC to comment on the proposed 12-month temporary visas.

Vivienne Stern: Perhaps I could start with a comment on the tier 2 route? For a long period, we have had some concerns about the way that the visa regime is working for universities for non-EU nationals, particularly the compliance system, the burdens of the compliance system and the overall effect on the attractiveness of the UK as a place to come and work. The extension of that regime to European economic area nationals raises some significant challenges because of the dependence of universities on EEA workers in some areas; because of the really rather significant increase in the compliance burden that could result—although I understand that there may be opportunities to think about how that can be reduced—and because of the impact of the proposed salary threshold on universities’ ability to recruit in some occupations where it has historically been quite difficult to fill roles with UK-domiciled workers.

Professor Dame Donna Kinnair: We would add to that. We think that we, as a country, are dependent on nurses coming from overseas, so we are absolutely dependent on overseas workers. We know that the impact of the threshold would damage our profession if it were applied to it, because its emphasis is on “Agenda for Change”. The £30,000 is an arbitrary figure and we do not understand where it has come from. Most skilled nurses that come into the country from overseas are not getting that.

We know that there have been some exemptions, but the whole process is arbitrary and we think that it would impact negatively on the workforce on which we are highly reliant. The nursing workforce are one of the major planks that this Government are using to fill shortages in the nursing profession, particularly in social care. It is highly important that the unintended consequences do not apply to the profession, because otherwise we will not have the people to care for our patients.

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Q Can I ask the other two witnesses to comment on the effect that the £30,000 minimum would have on their sectors and members?

Rosa Crawford: The TUC is very concerned about the impact of the £30,000 threshold. We are concerned about it now—it applies to non-EU workers—and applying it to EU workers would have a devastating impact on many sectors. The Government estimate that 80% of EU workers would fall below the threshold. It is not only nursing and other parts of the health service, but distribution, hospitality and many parts of industry, that are heavily dependent on EU workers. There would be a really negative impact on those workers if that threshold was introduced.

The TUC is saying that, in the long term, there needs to be action on pay so that more workers receive a better settlement. The Migration Advisory Committee has suggested that this threshold would be an incentive to improve pay, but unfortunately that is not what we have seen. The pay cap has been in place for seven years, and we are only just moving out of that. The TUC is still calling for a fully funded settlement to ensure that workers are decently paid and that their wages keep up where they have fallen behind for the last seven years. We have not yet seen that.

Unfortunately, there are not enough employers in the private sector paying workers decently, so many million workers are still in insecure contracts and are not being paid a living wage. We want action on pay alongside action to ensure that the workers we need now to fill the critical shortages that Donna has talked about can come in. We need not to have the £30,000 threshold, and we need serious action on pay in the public sector and key parts of the private sector to ensure that everybody is treated decently and that migrant workers and UK workers receive decent pay for their work.

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Q Professor Kinnair, the chair of the Migration Advisory Committee gave evidence to us this morning, and he said that he did not feel that immigration should be used to deal with staff shortages. He argued that we should be paying people significantly higher wages. Is it not true that the RCN should be lobbying for nurses’ pay, rather than trying to keep wages down by promoting immigration to fill the gaps?

Professor Dame Donna Kinnair: You will have seen that the RCN has been lobbying for an increase—we lobbied long and hard on “Scrap the Cap” for nurses—but we are where we are. We have a shortage of 42,000 nurses at the moment, and it is predicted that it will rise to about 100,000 in the next 10 years. Those are people who look after our patients. We are where we are.

Of course we need to increase the domestic supply of nurses, and that includes paying them appropriately. We fully support that, and we have been lobbying on that basis. However, the people who gave evidence to the Select Committee about the Government’s plans talked about three areas: international recruitment, return to practice and retention. We know that you cannot have a nursing workforce fit for the needs of the population of this country unless you increase the domestic supply. As you will have heard, we have been lobbying up and down the country. Unless we get the right staff in the right organisations, we will also seek legislation on staffing. We know that if we do not have the right number of people, care falls, and that is damaging to our patients.

In summary, we are lobbying. We do not understand the proposal about low-skilled workers, because who in nursing is a low-skilled worker? What does that mean? The 12-month visa does not allow continuity of care, because by the time someone has got to grips with the culture of this country, they are ready to go. It is also contrary to people being able to bring their dependants into the country. Many nurses have families. Are we going to split up families? Are we asking them to leave their children while they come and provide care for the UK population?

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Q I have a follow-up question on that. This Bill is about ending freedom of movement for EU workers—EU nurses and midwives. The latest figures from the Nursing & Midwifery Council show that the greatest increase in the number of nurses registering with it has come from non-EU nurses—2,808—so there is clearly a group of nurses from outside the EU who want to register and work here, but it is difficult for them to do so because of the restrictions in place. Do you welcome the level playing field that would enable nurses from outside the EU to come and work in the NHS as easily as EU nurses and midwives can do currently?

Professor Dame Donna Kinnair: We welcome the fact that there is one system. The less complex a system is, the better it is, because people can navigate it. It has been a particular Government intention to turn to non-EU nurses, and once we knew that we were coming out of Europe, they sought to draw in nurses from outside the EU. We have concerns because we believe in ethical recruitment. We do not believe that we should be raiding countries that require their nurses, despite the risk of not increasing our domestic supply.

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Q May I ask Universities UK to comment on the £30,000 minimum income threshold?

Vivienne Stern: For the university sector this is primarily a question of access to specific sorts of skills, and competitiveness. Overall, almost a quarter of academic staff in the university sector come from outside the UK, and in some disciplines and roles the reliance is much greater. EEA nationals make up 11% of all staff in universities, and they comprise 17% of academic staff. For staff on research-only contracts, that figure is 27%. In particular subject areas the concentration of EEA nationals can be even higher, particularly in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, as well as areas such as economics, where more than 30% of academic staff come from outside the UK.

Universities require specific skills, sometimes at relatively short notice, and the pool of talent is geographically distributed in some funny way. For example, the University of Cambridge has a world-leading strength in Arctic and Antarctic research, and it requires a pool of technicians who are able to analyse certain sorts of geological data. Quite often, those teams of individuals are deployed at relatively short notice when the climate conditions are right and boats are available, and it all comes together at the last minute. A group of individuals in Italy possess those skills, and historically Cambridge has called on them, and recruited from Italy to staff up those teams when they need those skills. That does not mean that over time we could not generate our own labour force with those specific skills, but in the short term if we moved from one regime to another, would institutions simply be unable to access the specific skillsets they need for one reason or another? Would they be less able to compete effectively and perform their research because they are constrained in that regard?

Overall, our particular concern relates to staff in technician roles, 63% of whom earn below the £30,000 threshold. That is why we propose that the Government should consider a lower threshold. We would like to suggest £21,000 as the level at which the majority of staff—particularly in those technician roles—will be able to continue to come to the UK. That would be a compromise. We also suggest that for staff whose jobs fall under the shortage occupation list there should be no salary threshold. As others have argued, a salary threshold is not a good proxy for skill level.

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Q The NHS and universities were both part of the pilot for EU settled status. What feedback have you had from your members on issues with that system so far?

Vivienne Stern: My concern right now is the low level of take-up of that scheme. I think the last I heard was that the Department for Education estimated that something like 20% of the staff who should have gone through that process had done that, so for us right now, there is a communication effort to make sure that staff are aware of the scheme and how to apply. There were some early glitches. There was a bit of frustration about the app in the very early days, but I think those problems were pretty swiftly resolved, and I am not aware of any significant concerns about the operation of the scheme.

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Q I have a few questions, which I want to put first to the TUC representative. You talked about having a system that would allow EU citizens similar access to the UK as they enjoy now. How do you think that that would square with the referendum result in 2016, and the clear indication that people wanted to end freedom of movement?

Rosa Crawford: I think you can take many things from the referendum result in 2016. What is clear is that we need working people to not suffer as a result of that referendum result. As I have outlined, the provisions of the Bill make it easier for bad employers to use one group of workers to undercut other groups of workers, at the cost of everybody’s rights. We want a Brexit deal that ultimately delivers ongoing protections for UK workers at EU levels of rights, as well as tariff-free, barrier-free trade, and that ensures that there is no hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic. For us, probably the best way to achieve that at this stage would be ongoing membership of the single market and a customs union.

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Q So your view is that free movement should continue.

Rosa Crawford: We want the provisions in place to make sure that we get that kind of Brexit deal. To have the deal that we think would be the best for working people, we would need to follow the rules of the single market, which needs rules that are very close to, if not approximating to, free movement.

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Q My second question is to the professor. We heard evidence this morning that there is on average a lower proportion of EU workers in the NHS and the care sector than in other sectors, so do you think that ending free movement would have such a significant effect on the NHS and the care sector?

Professor Dame Donna Kinnair: We have a large proportion of EU workers; 10% to 11% of nursing workers are from the EU currently, and with a backdrop of 42,000 vacancies in nursing, losing any nurse is a problem, so this does have unintended consequences, but what is more, we would be quite concerned about some of the powers that the Bill gives to Ministers. What we want is somebody scrutinising the unintended consequences of the Bill.

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Q The key point that I was trying to understand was: would changing the ability of new nurses to come here from the EU have an impact on the NHS? I was not talking about the ones who are already here.

Professor Dame Donna Kinnair: It has an impact, because actually that has been one of our policy planks, hasn’t it? Instead of growing our own domestic supply, we have relied on international recruitment, so whether we are talking about people from the EU or outside the EU, anything that inhibits that will impact on our ability to deliver care to the people of this country. It has been a major plank of policy that instead of growing our domestic supply, there has been reliance on that by successive Governments, so of course there will be unintended consequences for the care we are able to deliver to meet the needs of our population.

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Q I have two or three questions, probably mainly for the TUC. Again, they are about the £30,000 threshold. In Greater Manchester, for which I am an MP, the average salary is quite a bit below £30,000, and that will be true in a number of other parts of the country, too. We also know that younger workers and women are likely to be on lower salaries. Does the TUC have a view on whether there should be different thresholds for different industry sectors, different workers or different geographies? Perhaps Vivienne and Donna would also like to reply.

Rosa Crawford: It is important to highlight the vulnerable groups that would be particularly negatively affected by the £30,000 threshold. Of course, women and other groups that are already marginalised are likely to become more marginalised by that threshold, and caught in it.

Regarding your question about the specific thresholds that we would want to set, as I hope my earlier question suggested, the TUC is calling for a future immigration policy that sits with an overall Brexit deal that delivers for working people. For us, that would mean a policy that does not introduce additional restrictions, but rather promotes the rights of all workers. It would have stronger domestic enforcement and stronger regulation of the labour market, which is an important point to highlight, because undercutting is taking place right now. We are well aware of that, and we feel it fuelled some of the insecurities that were taken advantage of during the Brexit referendum. However, it is about domestic labour market reforms and enforcing additional rights, rather than a differentiated migration regime.

We want to address the problems with the current regime, such as the thresholds that are limiting recruitment from outside the EU, and where there are insecurities or certain visas for non-EU workers, such as overseas domestic workers. We would not want anything that narrows down EU citizens’ ability to come into the country, because of what that would mean for overall rights and our overall prospects for a Brexit deal.

Vivienne Stern: There is an argument for differentiating by occupation and by geography, but the problem is that if we introduce a system that is so nuanced, it becomes difficult to explain to people and operationalise. We are really quite concerned about the bureaucracy that will be associated with moving from a system in which, frankly, we do not have to worry about these individuals from a compliance point of view, and they do not have to worry too much about the requirements of applying for a visa, to one in which we have to explain to EU nationals what this all means and help them through the process, just as we do for non-EU nationals.

There is an argument for simplicity, which is why we decided that our position would be to suggest a lower threshold overall. However, the point you make about the potential for this system to be unintentionally discriminatory by gender is an important one. I imagine that we will come on to talk about the impact that this will have on students. One of the arguments we have made in relation to those students who want to stay and work in the UK on the tier 2 regime is that if you are in the north of England and you happen to be a woman, you quite often do not meet the minimum required salary threshold. It is not a policy that is intended to be discriminatory by gender, and you can say that it is not the Government’s fault that there continues to be a gender pay gap—it is a wider issue—but none the less, if this policy does not address that issue, that is its effect.

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Q And your suggestion for addressing it is to lower the threshold.

Vivienne Stern: Overall, yes.

Professor Dame Donna Kinnair: We would argue that it is probably not essential to use salary as a level of determining skill. It does not really work, because nurses will be highly skilled, but £30,000 is neither here nor there. The £30,000 level features too heavily in the debate, and there are better mechanisms for determining skill.

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Q What would you suggest would be more useful in identifying the roles that need to be filled? How would we measure that?

Professor Dame Donna Kinnair: I think that we know what we need in this country. We know that we need nurses, so it might be that we are looking for that skill, as opposed to an arbitrary salary figure.

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Q My colleague asked part of the question that I wanted to ask, regarding comments made this morning by the Migration Advisory Committee about EEA migrant workers making up a lower fraction of care assistants and NHS workers than the national average. Did you say that the percentage of nurses from the EEA is 10%?

Professor Dame Donna Kinnair: My understanding is that roughly 10% come from the EU.

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Q Is that 10% of the entire workforce?

Professor Dame Donna Kinnair: It is 10% of the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s register. We would be using the NMC register. I think that is right.

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It would be helpful if we could have some clarification.

Professor Dame Donna Kinnair: We can write to you with that clarification, but my understanding is that 10% of people on the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s register are from the EU.

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Q Do you know what percentage of your overall workforce is from overseas?

Professor Dame Donna Kinnair: I thought it was 17%, but I can write to you to clarify that.

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Q That would be enormously helpful. I have a very quick question for Universities UK. The Home Secretary said explicitly on Second Reading that there would be no cap on student numbers. Did that provide you with the reassurance you were looking for in terms of students?

Vivienne Stern: Up to a point. Ministers have been saying for many years that there is no cap on the number of students who can come to the UK under a tier 4 visa. That is not actually the problem. The things that have been standing in our way are features of the visa system that, frankly, make us uncompetitive compared with some of the other major destinations that international students choose to study in. A visa system that, for example, restricts the opportunity for international graduates to stay and work in the UK for a little bit post-graduation is, frankly, not that appealing when you compare it with the opportunities offered by Australia, Canada and the US.

There are other things the Government could do to make the system more welcoming. There have been some really quite positive signals in what Ministers have said recently about a willingness to look at the compliance system. We hear from prospective international students that they are put off by a feeling that the immigration system treats them with suspicion from the start, so we should look at things like credibility interviews and how they operate, decision making by entry clearance officers, and some of the compliance requirements on institutions, which require them to interact with international students in a way that can be rather off-putting.

All those things should be looked at, if for no other reason than that there are huge opportunities for the UK as one of the most popular destinations for international students. We are in a hugely privileged position, and at this particular moment in our national history we have the opportunity to open our doors to people at a very early stage in the development of their professional lives, to establish strong bonds and, in many cases, to leave a lasting legacy of affection for the UK. We could do with more of that, not less.

Education is also a hugely important source of export earnings for the UK. Although international students have value far beyond their financial or economic value to the UK, it is not trivial that this is an increasingly important export sector. The Government’s figures point to quite significant growth in our export earnings from education, which are now around £19 billion a year. We should be pursuing that opportunity, rather than tripping over our own feet. The new international education strategy announced in January is a great opportunity for the Government to get their policy aligned with their international ambitions. The visa system has to be part of that. There are some modest steps in the right direction, including in the White Paper, but we really think the Government should go a bit further than that.

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Q On that theme, I think I am right in saying there are around 450,000 international students in the UK. What proportion of those are from the EU?

Vivienne Stern: There are 442,000 students from all around the world, and just less than a third of those are from the EU. As a proportion of our total student population, that is around 6%. It is a source of significant concern that that enormous pool of talent will find it a bit more difficult to come to the UK after our departure from the European Union.

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Q Vice-chancellors I have talked to across the sector suggest that universities might be planning to lose up to 80% of EU students. Is that a figure that strikes a chord with you?

Vivienne Stern: It is hard to predict. We can see a certain pattern in the response by EU students to previous changes in the UK. For example, with the increase in the fee from £3,000 to just over £9,000, you saw the numbers of EU students decline, and they took quite a while to bounce back. That indicates that there is a certain price sensitivity among EU students. They also have a huge amount of choice in relatively close geographic terms in Europe—other high-quality destinations that they could choose over the UK if we seem to make it difficult for them to come.

My long-term prediction, which is not shared by all our university vice-chancellor members, is that because the UK remains a first or second-choice destination for students who are globally mobile in many countries around the world, over time, we will work back to a position where we are still a very attractive destination for EU students. My real concern is what happens in the short to medium term, where we go from being very attractive, and it is very easy to come to the UK, to putting in place higher barriers in the form of a new visa regime. We could see a significant decrease as a result of that, at least in the short to medium term.

The fundamentals are strong, however. We have a high-quality system, and we offer something that is valuable in the long term. That is what we have to work to communicate to international audiences.

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Q May I return to the question of academic staff? I asked vice-chancellors in Sheffield how many early career academics could not be here if they were subject to the non-EEA immigration rules. They said that something like 600 would have no right to be in the country under that regime. Does that reflect the picture across the country?

Vivienne Stern: To take one group as an example, if you look at staff who are on research-only contracts, 27% are from the European Union. About 8% of them earn less than £30,000. It is not a huge proportion—those are probably people who are very early in their research careers—but it would none the less be a loss to the UK, if you imagine that those people might otherwise have stayed and made their careers with us. Although numerically it may not seem a significant proportion compared with technicians where the proportion is 63%, it should still be a matter of concern.

The other thing, which is perhaps not a matter for this Committee, is that we do well in competitive grant competitions—for example, in competitions for European Research Council funds. I think more than half those awardees are not actually from the UK, but are European nationals who have decided either to bring their grant to the UK or apply from the UK for that grant. If we lost those individuals—if they decided to apply for those same grants from a German or French institution—it would diminish our research base. So it is not necessarily just a matter of the numbers of individuals who might not be able to get visas. There is a knock-on effect that is quite difficult to predict.

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Q There has been a great deal of comment about the inclusion of students in the net migration statistics. Does Universities UK have any evidence to illustrate the impact of overseas students on healthcare provision, public transport and that kind of thing?

Vivienne Stern: We have done a bit of analysis as Universities UK on the economic impact of international students. The headline figure is that those students contribute about £29 billion to the UK economy through various mechanisms and create 200,000 jobs—I will write to the Committee with the figures, because I am concerned that I will misquote them.

They have a significant effect not only directly on institutions but on the many parts of the UK economy that they touch, such as taxi drivers, corner shops, bars and restaurants. The university sector is distributed right across the UK. There is almost no part of the UK that does not have a university in some geographical proximity. If you think of it as an industry, it is not one that is concentrated in London and the south-east.

I was in Paisley recently and I went to visit the University of the West of Scotland. I got off the train and the thing that pottered through my mind was, “Why on earth would you not want international students coming to Paisley, spending money in the local economy, enjoying Scotland, going and spending money on the west coast—all the things that those individuals can do in terms of attracting their friends and family to come and spend some time with them?” I think there is really good reason to think that this is not just special pleading for universities; these are attractive individuals for a much broader range of reasons.

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I thank you for your response; I am only sorry that Mr Newlands was not here to hear you refer to his hometown.

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Q Professor Kinnair, to begin with, this morning we heard from Migration Watch and I asked them what they thought the consequences might be of restricting immigration to this country in the way that they say they have ambitions to achieve, and what that would do to our labour market and the dependency ratio, which is the ratio between the number of people working and the number of retired people. The response was that, of course, the retirement age would need to rise in line with their proposals.

Professor Kinnair, could you just give us what you think the view would be from the nursing profession if the Government, in response to the policy choices we are making now, were required to raise the retirement age to, say, 70?

Professor Dame Donna Kinnair: I will just put in that 11% of our registered nurse workforce in the UK are non-EEA nationals and 5% are EEA nationals. So that is a combination of about 90,000 to 120,000 nurses.

On the impact of raising the retirement age for nurses, nursing is a very physically demanding job. There is an anticipation—people are already talking about this, but I suspect we will have nurses on zimmer frames pushing patients on zimmer frames if we continue to carry on in this manner. Nursing is a very physically demanding job and you also have to be mentally on the ball to give the drugs and the care; it is quite a high-pressured environment. So it sounds very easy—“Let’s just raise the retirement age”—but people physically need to have the stamina to be able to deliver the care to patients, whether it is in their homes or in hospitals.

My view, and I have written about this, is that raising the retirement age is something we do with great caution for the nursing community. One plank is bringing back people who are retired to fill the gaps we currently have, but that can only suffice for a small percentage, because nurses, too, are subject to the long-term conditions and all the other things that the general population is prone to.

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Probably more so, because they do a physical job.

Professor Dame Donna Kinnair: Yes.

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Q Rosa, any thoughts on this particular subject?

Rosa Crawford: I think this just underlines the lunacy of a policy that is about making life harder for the people living here—the workers living here—by suggesting there are additional burdens that they will have to bear, such as working longer hours, or there is the suggestion that we are always presented with, “Oh, why don’t local people want to be the ones living in caravans, five of them living in a caravan, going to pick strawberries from 5 am?” I wonder why people are not attracted to that.

As for the suggestion that there should be more burden on UK workers to do more undesirable work, working in worse conditions, rather than having an immigration policy that supports a joined-up economic and industrial strategy—that strategy is really, to us, what we need and the approach that we need to take. Anything else is essentially pitting worker against worker, saying, “UK workers should pick up the slack and we don’t want the non-EU workers”—or the EU workers now—“to come here.” To us, that is continuing the hostile environment.

What we actually need is a policy that promotes good jobs and good conditions for all workers, and a route to get the workers that we need from outside the country, when there are shortages. However, to build on the discussion earlier, the TUC is calling loudly for there to be an increase in training and in funding for that training. The cutting of the nursing bursaries and also bursaries to other allied health professions has had a really serious cost on the number of workers being trained for those professions. There is a shortfall of about 5,000 people taking up training places for nursing, and in education it has also had a big impact. In sectors such as agriculture, where employers say they face shortages, we are having no increase in funding for skills and apprenticeship training. The onus is also on employers to increase the amount of training.

This all suggests that immigration policy cannot be considered in a vacuum. It needs to be connected with a skills policy, which unions are very keen to be involved in. You are probably aware of Unionlearn. Trade unions are involved with a number of employers across the country delivering courses for thousands of people and developing those skills, but it is not happening enough. Further restrictions on migration are just a form of economic self-harm and will impact on UK workers worse and increase the anxieties that they already have.

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Colleagues, we have under 15 minutes left and at least four more people wanting to ask questions and I want to allow time for the Minister.

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Q I want to pick up on the point just made by Rosa Crawford about UK citizens not wanting to do undesirable work and the need for migrants to do it. Do you think that sort of rhetoric is appropriate—that certain types of job are not good for UK citizens and we need other people from elsewhere to come in and do them? Do you not think that creates a perception that dirty, tough and difficult jobs are for other people and not for us? I say this as an immigrant myself.

Rosa Crawford: We have always said as a union movement that we stand for workers from all countries. We do not believe any workers should be working in degrading or exploitative conditions. That is why I say it is very important that the law allows workers from all countries, regardless of immigration status, to claim those employment rights.

Unfortunately, we have seen the deregulation of the labour market. In agriculture, the example we have been talking about, there used to be an Agricultural Wages Board that provided a floor level of conditions and pay in that sector. That was abolished under the coalition Government and Unite, the union that represents workers in the agricultural sector, has said since that has been abolished, there has been a proliferation of precarious contracts, illegal forms of contract, people in very exploitative conditions, people not receiving the pay they should, and people often not being paid the minimum wage in certain cases.

That form of labour market regulation, the Agricultural Wages Board, is just one example of how the removal of domestic employment protection results in more exploitation and an increase in the number of migrant workers employed in that sector. We know migrant workers are particularly vulnerable to taking up those forms of employment, or ending up in them, often because they need to secure an income quickly, because they have paid money to come to this country. Unfortunately, precarious jobs are the most likely type of job they are going to get, because those are the sectors of the economy that are expanding.

On average, if you arrive in this country needing a job quickly, you are probably going to end up on a zero hours or temporary contract or in a job with an illegal contract. Unfortunately, migrant workers are particularly likely to work in that sector. We have said that is absolutely unacceptable. We want good conditions in those sectors, for the migrant workers who come and the UK workers who are here already. If you improve conditions and pay, restore things such as wages councils, not just in the agriculture sector, but across the private sector, in hotels where—

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Q I am going to stop you because you are not answering the question that I asked. I hear you on the discussion on labour market regulation, but that is something completely different. It was about the rhetoric which you just used, and perhaps you did not hear yourself when you said it. I am going to assume that you did not quite mean what you said, that undesirable jobs are for people outside this country.

Rosa Crawford: I absolutely want to correct that if it was ever the perception. We would say undesirable jobs are undesirable for all workers. No worker should suffer them. All workers deserve to work in dignity.

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Q Under the proposal in the White Paper, the UK will move to a system where every single migrant entering as a student or under the skilled route from any country will need to be sponsored. There have been concerns about this will raise an additional burden on businesses, universities, the NHS, schools and charities. What are your views on this?

Vivienne Stern: Perhaps I can start. The cost of managing the compliance requirements for non-EEA students and staff for universities is about £66 million a year—a huge cost. I want to make it clear that universities are one of the biggest users of the immigration system and there has never been any suggestion from us that they should not be responsible for working to make sure that the visa system is not abused, but the cost is huge.

If we increase the number of individuals coming through that sort of system by adding EEA workers to the group of people that universities have to manage through the compliance system, the cost will increase, at least in proportion, unless something has changed. We have got a piece of work going on at the moment about estimating the cost of compliance to improve on that £66 million figure. When we have got the results of that, I am quite happy to write to the Committee with a sense of what we think the cost might be.

As I understand it, there is an opportunity now to try and refine the compliance system to make it easier for those sponsors to discharge their responsibilities without it being a massively burdensome and costly exercise, but also make it more appealing for people who are coming into the UK and experiencing it from the other side. I would like to add that the Home Office has said repeatedly that universities are highly compliant. There is a genuine desire to make sure the system is not abused, so I hope we can get to a position where it is a little bit lighter touch.

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Q Ms Stern, may I ask you first about the £30,000 threshold? In particular, let me take technicians, who you mentioned earlier, as an example. When Professor Manning or the MAC are challenged on this, they will say it is not just a £30,000 threshold, because you have this new starter salary of £20,800. Why does that not help answer the problems that you would have in attracting technicians?

Vivienne Stern: This is about the criteria you have to meet to have access to the lower threshold. The individuals I mentioned—the population of technicians whose salaries generally fall below the £30,000—would not qualify for the lower threshold level, which would apply, for example, to international graduates who were staying on in the UK for some time post graduation. There is probably a group in the middle who would qualify under those criteria for the lower threshold, but it will not address the bulk of the problem, where we have a large population of workers who would not qualify and yet will not make the £30,000 threshold.

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Q Thank you. You mentioned concern with the low take-up in relation to the settled status scheme. Do you worry about the implications of that if staff members do not make the deadline put in place by the Government and would you support any moves to scrap that deadline or make the system a declaratory one?

Vivienne Stern: We have not called for the deadline to be extended or scrapped. We feel that there is time for us to get the message out that these individuals need to apply for settled status and we are certainly working on that front.

Our bigger concern is about the possible difficulties created by the no-deal Brexit scenario and by the regime that the Government have set out for an interim arrangement, between the point of a no-deal Brexit and the implementation of the new immigration system, which is currently being consulted on. There is a very significant concern about the time limits that will apply to those individuals who, having arrived in the UK after 29 March or whatever the date of Brexit is, have to apply for the European temporary leave to remain. That will only be valid for three years. A student who is planning to arrive in the UK after 29 March can come for three months—they don’t need anything for that three-month period. After that, we need something that gives people certainty that, if they are embarking on a programme that lasts longer than three years, they will not find they get towards their final year and, somehow, are not able to switch into a category that would allow them to remain in the UK.

It is that inability to say with certainty “Don’t worry, you come, you’ve got a status that will see you through this programme, you can stay to the end” that is tripping people up. Also, we need to be able to say to people “This is a registration scheme. It is not something you apply for and maybe you get and maybe you don’t.” If you have arrived in the UK, and you have started a programme—maybe a Scottish programme that lasts four years—you need to know that you are not going to be kicked out halfway through. If the Government could give some attention to that, we would be grateful. It’s not that we don’t appreciate that three years is longer than the period that would be covered by the withdrawal agreement—we do—but it is a kink and it could be ironed out.

Rosa Crawford: May I add a concern that we have about the settled status programme from those who have already been through the process? Some people are finding that they do not have sufficient evidence from their national insurance records to prove that they have had five years’ continuous residence in the country. Rather than settled status, they are receiving pre-settled status. The Government said that the intention is for pre-settled status to lead to indefinite leave to remain, but it is not a legally watertight guarantee, and we know from the Windrush scandal that any time there is a question mark over immigration status, it can, in the hands of the wrong employer, be used as a means to threaten or dismiss workers.

That is already a problem in the university and health sectors, and now we know that the third phase of the pilot is being rolled out across the economy. As I said, in many parts of the private sector, in distribution and hospitality, people often do not receive any employment contracts at all, so they struggle to provide evidence that they have five years of continuous residence. We worry that they might fall into a legal limbo in which they are unable to demonstrate their legal status, and potentially cannot claim their employment rights and are subject to further exploitation. We want that entire scheme looked at, and for the burden of proof to be taken away from the worker having to prove their five years’ continuous residence, in a more all-encompassing process.

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Q Professor Kinnair, going back to the issue of the £30,000 threshold, I remember your “Scrap the cap” campaign very well, which I and many colleagues supported. You have done a great deal of work trying to raise nurses’ salaries, and I would be fully in favour of that. Is not the reality that at the moment there are 90,000 to 120,000 nurses from overseas in our NHS?

Professor Dame Donna Kinnair: EU and EEA.

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Yes, collectively. But if there was ever a measure that restricted the number of nurses coming from overseas, such as the £30,000 threshold, clearly that would have a detrimental effect on the NHS. It is as simple as that.

Professor Dame Donna Kinnair: It is as simple as that, given that one of our major policies is that we recruit from overseas rather than growing our own.

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Q Professor Kinnair, I have a question on shortage occupation lists and the removal of doctors and nurses from the tier 2 cap. Notwithstanding the £30,000 threshold, do you see the shortage occupation list and a lower salary threshold as a potential solution to that?

Professor Dame Donna Kinnair: I think it possibly would be a solution to that; I think you are right. But we have “Agenda for Change” for a reason: so that we have a national approach to salaries. Why would we then treat people coming in from overseas differently? We know that our salaries are not high enough to live on in this country. Why would we be starting to think that it is okay to lower it to £20,000, £18,000 or some arbitrary sum that people cannot live on in this country?

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Q I have a question for Vivienne. We know that last year the number of applications from international students rose by 9%. I want to clarify your comment that EU students have a lot of choice. We will agree on that. They can go all over the continent for their university education. The phrase you used was, “We seem to make it difficult for them to come”. But we have free movement, so is that us—the Government—making it difficult for them, or is it the universities?

Vivienne Stern: With free movement there is a distinction between EU nationals and non-EU nationals. The 9% increase is in visa applications.

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Q It is, but we know that the numbers are up. You specifically referred to EU students and said that we make it “difficult for them to come”. How?

Vivienne Stern: My comment about making it “difficult” relates to non-EU students. It refers to the visa system.

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Q So you were not talking about it in the context of EU students having a lot of choice?

Vivienne Stern: What I am suggesting is that should EEA nationals find themselves in a system such as the one that currently applies to non-EU nationals, we would be making it less attractive compared with the many other high-quality destinations they could choose within Europe, where there would not be such a visa hurdle.

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Q Can I just clarify that Universities UK has long lobbied for more generous post-study work visas. Those proposals are included in the White Paper. What calculations have you made on how many more students you expect to see on top of the 9% increase in visa applications we saw last year?

Vivienne Stern: The White Paper proposals are really welcome. It is great that the Government have acknowledged that we need to create more generous post-study work opportunities, and not only for Masters and PhD students—as recommended by the MAC—but for undergraduates. It does not quite achieve what we suggested needed to be achieved. I may betray my age by saying that this is a Cuprinol test question. When you are a student and thinking, “Do I go to the US, or maybe Australia or the UK”, we believe you ought to look at the visa regimes—

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Order. I really am sorry; we needed a lot more time. On behalf of the Committee, I thank our three witnesses. We are very grateful for the evidence you have presented to us today.

Examination of Witnesses

Gracie Bradley and Jodie Blackstock gave evidence.

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We will now take evidence from Liberty and Justice. I welcome our witnesses. We have until 4 o’clock for this session. Please both introduce yourselves.

Gracie Bradley: I am Gracie Bradley, the policy and campaigns manager at Liberty.

Jodie Blackstock: I am Jodie Blackstock, the legal director at Justice.

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Q What concerns do you have about the Henry VIII powers granted to Ministers by the Bill?

Jodie Blackstock: At Justice we have deep concerns about the potential reach of clause 4, which provides extremely broad delegated powers to the Minister of State in connection with repeal of the current free movement provisions relating to EEA nationals. Of course the provisions have to enable the repeal of those measures after we leave the EU, but it is not at all clear from the Bill what is intended to replace them. We consider that a number of changes are necessary, and we will provide separate detail on those subsequently in our written evidence—I apologise for not having that before you now, but we will provide the detail this afternoon.

First, the primary policy aims ought to be stated on the face of the Bill in primary legislation, so that Parliament has the opportunity to scrutinise those principles and amend them as appropriate. Those provisions would be to enable the accrued rights of EEA nationals who currently have settled status in this country to remain and for the transitional provisions surrounding those rights to be introduced in a clear way. Currently, the Government have proposals on both issues, and we see no reason why they could not put them on the face of the Bill. I can come back to that in more detail.

Secondly, we consider that the delegated powers set out in clause 4 should be substantially limited. The memorandum on delegated powers that the Government have provided seeks to explain that the two key aims of that clause are to deal with technical amendments to remove references that are no longer appropriate to the EU from legislation and also to protect the accrued rights of EU and EEA nationals. If that is the intended aim, those can be the powers as set out in the Bill, and we would propose that it be constrained in that way, through a provision relating to technical amendments and a power to provide consequential amendments that will give effect to accrued rights.

In our view, there are additional consequences from that relating to section 3 of the Immigration Act 1971, which provides for the immigration rules. In these circumstances, which to a certain extent are unique and will create the biggest change to immigration policy since the Maastricht treaty in 1992, we suggest that the power to make those changes ought not to be left simply to immigration rules but should be set out in the Bill, or the use of section 3 of Immigration Act to do so should be specifically constrained as an alternative to the Bill. If you would like me to go into any of those points in a bit more detail, I can do so, but I wanted to set out our primary concerns about the way the delegated power operates.

Gracie Bradley: Liberty would echo those concerns. We are really quite concerned about clause 4, and particularly the fact that the purpose of regulations under the clause may be not just in consequence of the repeal of retained EU legislation relating to free movement, but in connection with that purpose. In our view, essentially any change to the immigration system for the foreseeable future will be in connection with the end of free movement, and therefore we are delegating a huge amount of power to the Secretary of State, effectively sidelining Parliament in a really significant policy change.

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Q The Bill would bring EEA citizens under UK immigration law and into the hostile environment. What do you think the impact has been of the hostile environment thus far? What would be the effect of extending it in the Bill?

Gracie Bradley: The impact of the hostile environment has really been laid bare by the Windrush scandal, and I would like to set Liberty’s comments in that context. We have seen people who had a right to be here made destitute, losing their livelihoods, and potentially being unable to come back into the country that they have called their home for decades. Some people have died as a result of the stress.

That is the impact of the Windrush scandal, but of course the effects of the hostile environment are not limited to Windrush citizens; it reverberates among undocumented people more generally. Those impacts are to do with children being afraid to go to school because of data sharing between the Home Office and the Department for Education, and people, some of whom are supposed to be receiving palliative care, being charged tens of thousands of pounds for medical treatment. We have seen victims and witnesses of serious crime deterred from reporting those crimes to the police. The impact is not just on the fundamental rights of undocumented people; the impact is to warp our public services and turn our teachers and doctors into border guards.

More generally, we see an environment of suspicion towards anybody who seems visibly foreign or who is black or minority ethnic. That discriminatory effect has been evidenced by the research of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants into landlord checks. We see that landlords are less likely to rent to BAME people without a passport as opposed to white people. We have seen incredibly broad and harmful effects of the hostile environment on the rights of undocumented people, people with a right to be here, British citizens and our public services.

Our concern is that the Bill essentially hands Ministers a blank cheque to bring millions more people into that system while doing nothing to remedy the injustices that have been exposed. We recommend that the hostile environment be repealed and that vital safeguards are restored to the immigration system, such as data protection rights and legal aid, and that there is also an end to indefinite immigration detention.

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Q On the question of indefinite detention, why have you proposed a 28-day limit on immigration detention? Why is that particularly needed in the context of the Bill?

Gracie Bradley: It is important to say first that the 28-day time limit on immigration detention is not Liberty’s proposal. The Joint Committee on Human Rights proposed that back in 2006 or 2007. A joint inquiry by the all-party parliamentary groups on migration and on refugees, which I know some of you were involved with, also recommended a 28-day time limit on detention. Why do we think the Bill is the place to implement that time limit? Put very simply, the Bill will most likely make tens of thousands more people liable to deportation, because EEA nationals will come under the automatic deportation provisions in the UK Borders Act 2007.

We know that the Ministry of Justice, in response to a freedom of information request, said that it expects that up to 26,000 people per year could be liable to detention as EU nationals come under domestic immigration law. At the same time, a parliamentary question revealed that there has been no assessment of the impact of the Bill on the detention estate. Of course, we know what the impact of indefinite detention is on people. They tell us that it is traumatic. They tell us that the lack of a time limit in itself is traumatic, because they do not know when their detention will end.

Liberty is not alone in advocating for a time limit. The lack of a time limit has been criticised by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the Bar Council and the British Medical Association, and on Second Reading parliamentarians from across the House stood up in support of a 28-day time limit. Given that the Bill is very likely to make more people vulnerable to detention, now is absolutely the time to implement a time limit on detention for everybody and, indeed, to begin looking at taking deprivation of liberty out of the immigration system more broadly.

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Q Either or both of you can answer this question. Is there any justification for creating an immigration system post Brexit that treats EU nationals better than those from the rest of the world? If so, how do you imagine that would be best achieved? If you think there is no justification, that is a reasonable answer.

Jodie Blackstock: It is not something that we at Justice specifically have an opinion on, other than to say that the arrangements that are created must ensure that the acquired rights that people currently exercise as a consequence of their movement between the UK and the EU are protected, and that the process that is decided for those individuals post exit needs to be subject to the scrutiny of Parliament and not decided simply through a delegated power without sufficient scrutiny. That is why we say the procedure ought to be encapsulated in the Bill through a requirement that such a policy must be subject to the scrutiny of Parliament.

There are two schemes that the Government have already implemented and will come to fruition once we leave: the EU settlement scheme for those who are already in this country and are requesting settlement, if they do not already have that status; and the proposal for temporary leave to remain for people coming into the country who wish to remain and work here. Given that one of those schemes is already in the immigration rules and the other is well advanced, so there must be policy for it, it seems to us entirely appropriate that the procedure should be laid before Parliament in the Bill and be subject to scrutiny, rather than simply left to a delegated power that does not provide you with the opportunity to debate the important issues concerning what preferential treatment EU nationals should be given.

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Q But is it your view that EU nationals, because they are moving from a position of having freedom of movement to a future immigration policy of a different kind, should retain some preferential treatment over non-EEA migrants?

Jodie Blackstock: It is not a position that Justice specifically holds. Our concern is ensuring that the procedures are fair and appropriate, and, if it is the view of the country that EU nationals should have preferential treatment, that there is a procedure in place to enable them to obtain it. That should include a right of appeal—one that is clear and open and that they are able to use—which currently is not provided for in the EU settlement scheme.

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Q Ms Bradley, does Liberty have a different or a similar view?

Gracie Bradley: Liberty would not really have a view, because we do not take a view on the immigration system in general. Our view would be that there should be minimum rights standards below which nobody should fall, related to convention rights, protection from indefinite detention, data protection, legal aid, etc., but on people coming in and out of the country, salary thresholds and things such as that, we do not take a view.

Jodie Blackstock: The frustration with this Bill is that the question you are asking is entirely the right one, but it does not give you the opportunity to debate it, because it leaves the power to the Government to decide.

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Q Could I turn to you first, Ms Blackstock? You were talking about improving the settled status scheme and putting it in the Bill. Do you think that scheme should be a declaratory scheme or the one that we have now, where essentially you do not have any rights until you have applied under the scheme? Do you understand the question I am getting at?

Jodie Blackstock: I think so, but do elaborate a bit more to ensure that I am answering correctly.

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Q Sure. In evidence this morning, we heard concerns raised about the risk that tens of thousands, probably hundreds of thousands, of people will miss the deadline and in doing so will end up with absolutely no status and subject to all the hostile environment measures that we heard about earlier. If you make the scheme declaratory—I think that is the word that the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants used—you are essentially getting that document just as evidence of rights that you already have thanks to the Bill, rather than having to apply before you have any rights. It would be somewhat similar to the permanent resident scheme we have now. Does that make any sense to you at all?

Jodie Blackstock: It does. There is certainly some sense in that argument. What it demonstrates is the difficulty of the gap that will be created with the repeal of these measures. Having a scheme that someone has to apply for means that they have to make that effort, and while their application is being processed, their status is uncertain. Indeed, it may be processed in error, which requires an appeal right, during which their status is also uncertain. We suggest that the transitional arrangements for that group of people should also be in the Bill, with a policy requirement to extend those accrued rights for that group of people until such time as their settled status is determined by way of the scheme.

The reality is that this scheme is currently in a pilot state and only a certain group of people can apply for it until exit day, when it becomes live. At the moment, they have an entitlement to remain here anyway. Even if people were fully able to apply now, they might not realise that they have that right. We have to make provision for that group of people before their status is confirmed. That should be done by way of a transitional arrangement. It could be simply by declaration, but either way, that is a transitional provision that should be clear in the Bill.

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Q Any thoughts on that, Ms Bradley? Do you have concerns about how to fix or address this problem? Inevitably, even if the Home Office does a fantastic job and gets 90% or 95% of EU citizens through the process in time, we are still talking about tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of people who will miss the deadline. How do we prevent that from happening?

Gracie Bradley: I cannot say that Liberty has briefed on this, but I would reiterate that there are basic safeguards that should be reinstated to the immigration system. We should ensure that people have access to legal aid, we should ensure that people have access to data protection rights so that they know on what basis the Home Office is granting or refusing them status, thinking about the automated checks, and we should protect them from a hostile environment. At the minute, the system is not geared towards helping people retain or access regular status, and as such the price that people pay for not having regular status is far too high.

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Q In terms of decisions where people have been refused settled status so far, what is your understanding of how much information people are given about what the Home Office has learned about how long they have been here, or how long it considers them to have been here?

Gracie Bradley: I cannot say that I have looked into that in any detail.

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Q No worries at all. Jodie Blackstock, you spoke about the section 3 powers that Ministers have to make immigration rules and said that you wanted them limited in some way. Could you say a little more about that?

Jodie Blackstock: Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1971 creates the provision to amend immigration rules, to administer the immigration scheme that the country gives effect to. As with the powers in the Bill, our concern is that that creates a very broad provision for the Minister to amend the rules, to replace the free movement process with something that would not be subject to sufficient scrutiny by Parliament. Our proposal is for an amendment to limit the ability of the Government to use immigration rules to amend the law to give effect to post-Brexit arrangements.

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Any thoughts on that, Ms Bradley?

Gracie Bradley: Liberty has taken a slightly different approach, recognising that, as you will have seen, the Law Commission has said that the immigration rules are incredibly complex; I think there has been more than 5,000 changes to them since 2010. Liberty is increasingly concerned that the rules are being used to make changes to immigration policy that affect people’s fundamental rights. We are looking at an amendment that stipulates that rules may not be made under that section of the Immigration Act where they risk a significant negative impact on human rights, and that Ministers should have to publish a human rights impact assessment when making changes to immigration rules.

Part of the reason why we are where we are is that we have had thousands of changes to the rules and significant policy changes that should have been set out in primary legislation. The Bill demonstrates a problem that has been running for years in immigration policy making.

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Q What impact will the Bill have on migration to the UK post Brexit?

Jodie Blackstock: It is very unclear, because the power to arrange the post-exit scheme is left to the Minister. That is our concern. Its impact could be profound or negligible, depending on what policy process the Government put in place.

The proposals for the temporary leave to remain scheme would enable someone to go through a process of application if they wanted to settle in this country, for work or otherwise. The proposals in that scheme, which I have not looked at so cannot assess, ought to be within the Bill, so that the Committee can scrutinise them properly. The problem is that by enabling everything to be done using such a broad delegated power, you are not in a position to know.

With the way we are going, this will be left until post exit to be scrutinised, with the Bill proposing using the affirmative process for the first set of regulations, which we think is wholly inadequate, for the reasons we have given. If the scheme is already proposed, in draft or otherwise, it should be in the Bill, not left until the last minute to be announced, at which point it will not be possible to propose amendments to it. Our view is that it is a very simple step for the Government to bring forward their proposals for scrutiny, and they ought to do so for something that will create such a significant change.

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Q I would like to ask you about social security rights. To what extent does the Bill protect, or fail to protect, the existing social security rights of EU nationals in the UK? Given that those rights and the arrangements that apply are reciprocal, what are the implications of the legislation for UK citizens living elsewhere in the EU?

Jodie Blackstock: The Bill does not protect those rights, because it does not set out the principles by which it will do so. It simply provides the structure for the removal of all current reciprocal arrangements. As with the discussion we had on clause 4, it creates the power for not only a Minister but an appropriate authority to replace those current rights with an alternative arrangement.

For us, clause 5 is the most concerning clause in the Bill, as if clause 4 was not concerning enough. Our view is that the clause ought to be entirely deleted, and we say that for a few reasons—not just the extraordinary breadth of power that it creates, but the fact that the provision to remove the co-ordination regulations and replace them is already provided for by way of section 8 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. Indeed, there are four regulations that have already been laid, pursuant to that Act, before Parliament and that comply with what are perhaps broad powers, but at least are curtailed far more than the power here; and, because they have been laid, it is possible for them to be scrutinised by Parliament.

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Q Can you offer an explanation or a suggestion as to why, in addition to the powers that already exist in section 8 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act, we need these provisions?

Jodie Blackstock: The memorandum suggests that Government require the ability to change policy on social security co-ordination, and that is the purpose of creating a power here. Policy change would arguably not be possible under section 8 of the withdrawal Act, so Government are intending to do something broader here. In our view, it is wholly inappropriate to be changing policy relating to really fundamental provision for people who cross borders. We are talking about pension rights, access to healthcare, maternity and paternity leave—provision that may have built up over a significant number of years while a UK national resides in another EU country. It is simply not appropriate to leave that to a policy change by way of delegated power, but it seems to us, from their memorandum, that Government are expressly intending to do that to get around the limitations in section 8.

Gracie Bradley: I do not have anything to add to that.

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Q You spoke briefly about data protection and legal aid. Could you elaborate on that, and are there other safeguards that you would like to see?

Gracie Bradley: When it comes to data protection, many of you will be aware that the Data Protection Act 2018 includes a very broad exemption that allows a data controller to set aside somebody’s data protection rights when their data is being processed for the purposes of immigration control, essentially. Liberty notes from the White Paper that automated data processing is likely to be used increasingly in the context of enforcing the hostile environment, and Liberty has, for the last couple of years, been scrutinising what have been relatively secret bulk data-sharing agreements between the Home Office and other Departments, such as the Department for Education, and NHS Digital, as well as ad hoc data-sharing practices between individual police forces and the Home Office.

Essentially, what Liberty is concerned about is the fact that the Home Office is really quite a poor data controller, and yet automated data processing is increasingly going to be the linchpin of implementing the hostile environment. We see, in the most recent independent chief inspector of borders and immigration report, that actually the Home Office is developing a status-checking project that would essentially enable multiple controllers, such as landlords, employers, health services and law enforcement, to check a person’s immigration status in real time.

Liberty is concerned, first, that no mention was made of that project during the Data Protection Bill debates, despite Government being asked repeatedly what they wanted that exemption from data protection law for. Secondly, we are concerned, in the light of the Home Office’s track record on data protection, that this system is going to be implemented in such a way as to leave people without redress and without remedy when the Home Office makes mistakes.

Some of you will remember that, in 2012, Capita was contracted to text almost 40,000 people suspected of being in the UK illegally, telling them to leave the country. Those 40,000 texts were sent, and many people received the texts in error. Veteran anti-racism campaigners who had lawful status in the UK were sent texts telling them to go home. It is one thing to send somebody a text in 2012—I appreciate that will have been distressing for people—but it is entirely another thing for an error on someone’s record to mean that they cannot access housing, lawful work, free healthcare or education. The Data Protection Act immigration exemption stops people from being able to find out what information is held about them by a data processor, and stops them from having the right to know when information on them is shared between processors.

Our concern is that, in the context of the Home Office’s relatively poor track record on data processing, this digitised hostile environment will be enacted and people will be left without redress. Indeed, we see from the National Audit Office report on the Windrush scandal that the Home Office had been asked by the NAO and the independent chief inspector of borders and immigration to clean up its migrant refusal pool, and had resisted all requests to do so. We are concerned about the impact of error on people, but we are also concerned about the impact of being able, at the click of a button, to exclude people from essential goods and services that are necessary for the exercise of their fundamental rights. The hostile environment should be repealed, rather than entrenched using exemptions in data protection law.

You also asked me about legal aid. I do not have a huge amount to say about legal aid, except that for the most part, there is no legal aid for immigration claims. Again, we see from the Windrush scandal what happens when people do not have access to early, good-quality legal advice. There are people in the UK who are undocumented, not because they have intentionally tried to evade the rules, but because they have been unable to retain their status as a result of not being able to access good-quality legal advice—or, indeed, because they have been unable to make the necessary applications because they cannot afford to pay prohibitive application fees. Many of you will know that it costs more than £1,000 to register a child as a British citizen.

When it comes to safeguards, we would say: get rid of that exemption in the Data Protection Act—it is paragraph 4 of schedule 2—reinstate immigration legal aid, because it is a false economy not to give people access to it, and look again at your fees. It should not be the case that the Home Office is profiting from fees when people need to make applications to regularise their status in the UK, or to claim British citizenship—to which children should be entitled in any event. Those are the basic safeguards that need to be reinstated before millions more people are brought into the immigration system.

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Q I have a question for Justice. In relation to the discussion we were having about the powers in clause 5, is there anything that Ministers would need those powers to do that is not already within their power and would not warrant primary legislation?

Jodie Blackstock: In principle, there will be. At the moment, we have complicated reciprocal arrangements that require member states to give effect to policy schemes across borders. Without an agreement in place, we could unilaterally make a decision to honour those schemes in this jurisdiction, and that might be seen as a policy change that it is not possible to make pursuant to section 8 of the withdrawal Act. That might be a positive way of protecting the rights of individuals who have access to such schemes at the moment in the UK, or indeed the rights of UK nationals who are living abroad.

If that is the intention of the legislation, there must be—as the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee has said in the context of the made affirmative procedure—work that has been undertaken already, and proposals that Parliament can consider and scrutinise to ensure that they protect accrued rights. There may well be a policy decision to limit those rights, and for the same reasons we think it is appropriate that Parliament gets to see those proposals. At the moment, the provisions in this Bill, as opposed to the regulations that have been submitted under section 8 of the Act, are just too broad. We propose that there should be scrutiny of those regulations rather than having an unknown power here.

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Q This is another question for Liberty. You talked about 5,000 changes since 2010. That is huge, and it is why people say that our immigration system is really complex. We have also had the Law Commission talking about trying to simplify it. Would you not expect the Government to look at that first, before they add in another 3 million or 4 million EU citizens who will be subject to these immigration laws?

Gracie Bradley: Absolutely. There are many things that I would have expected the Government to do before bringing forward this Bill, not least setting out the detail of the future immigration system, so that it could be appropriately scrutinised.

The Law Commission’s proposals are another thing that we think the Government should have looked at, but they have not necessarily looked at. Although I appreciate that the Government have given themselves this very broad delegated power, through which they may be able to implement future changes to the immigration system that take those proposals into account, when it comes to policy making that affects people’s lives, livelihoods and fundamental rights, that is not the right way to make policy.

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Before I bring the Minister in, does any other colleague want to ask anything?

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Q Can I pick up on a point that you touched on earlier, Ms Blackstock, and which we talked about with earlier witnesses—the right of appeal for settled status? The Government have previously suggested that the process would be a relatively straightforward one, with very few areas of discretion. There does, however, seem to be some grey area in relation to how the Home Office might be able to treat those who have not exercised treaty rights, and so there is a potential for refusals that might require challenge. If there is no formal process of appeal, how satisfactory do you both think that the remaining options provided for people—administrative review and judicial review—are in exercising rights?

Jodie Blackstock: The problem with simply relying on judicial review as a mechanism is the difficulty in mounting a judicial review now, as a result of the changes made to access to legal aid prior to permission for judicial review, and the fact that judicial review is not perfect. In order to be successful in a judicial review, you need to demonstrate that the process by which the decision was made was flawed. That does not remake the decision; it sends the decision back to be made again, according to whatever error needs to be addressed. That, in itself, seems to be the most bureaucratic and inappropriate method for what is, as you say, potentially a simple grey area that requires a simple review.

Internal administrative review might be a sensible solution if it was not set against the context of a Home Office that has been struggling, as we know, for the past few years to make decisions in a way that provides public confidence. Without an independent appeal right, we are concerned that that would be all that was available. We are talking about a significant number of people who will apply to this scheme, with every potential for there to be inadequate administrative provision to deal with it, so an appeal right seems pretty important to us.

Gracie Bradley: I agree with that assessment, and I would add that up to half of appeals are successful, so it is all the more vital that people have an appeal right and that they have legal aid.

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Q I think you have both mentioned the Law Commission review and its publication of the consultation paper on how the immigration rules could be simplified. You will not get any argument from me about the idea that the rules could be simpler. I wondered whether you had both responded to that consultation, and whether—in as short a period as possible—you could set out any specific simplifications that you have asked for?

Jodie Blackstock: We did not respond to it, but we have spoken to the Law Commission in general about the need for simplification of procedural rules for people across the justice system. Our report “Understanding Courts”, which we produced a couple of weeks ago, calls for simplification so that litigants in person—or anyone seeking to use our justice system—can understand the system. The fact that immigration rules can be amended so swiftly and there is no requirement for primary scrutiny of those changes is problematic, but at the same time we accept that the rules deal with an incredibly complex set of arrangements, so some careful thought will be required about how to simplify those rules.

Gracie Bradley: Liberty did not respond to that consultation.

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Q Simplification could be something along the lines of ending free movement and bringing EU citizens in line with the rest of the world. Do you think that is a welcome simplification?

Jodie Blackstock: As I said in response to a previous question, Justice would not take a view on whether it was appropriate simply to remove the free movement process entirely and have the scheme that applies to third countries. Our concern is to ensure that people who are caught in the gap between those two schemes have their rights protected, if they currently exercise such rights, and that they are able to access the replacement scheme, whatever it may be, in a way that is clear and fair, and is subject to appropriate appeal.

Gracie Bradley: In general, it is not in Liberty’s remit to comment on people’s ability to come in and out of the country. Our remit does not really touch on that, and we do not have a view on the end of freedom of movement per se, so I cannot really comment on that.

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Q I have a final question on data and data sharing. I am going to gently correct something Ms Blackstock said about the settled status scheme: it is now in its public testing phase, so it is open for anyone to apply—it is not limited cohorts any more. We know from phases 1 and 2 that in excess of 80% of the people who have been through the process and been granted settled status have achieved that without having to provide any additional information on top of their records with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs or the Department for Work and Pensions. Is there a case to make that in some instances when Government share data across Departments, it can be a force for good?

Gracie Bradley: Yes. I really want to reiterate that Liberty is not opposed to data sharing per se, because that would be a somewhat luddite position. Where data sharing makes people afraid to access the central services that are necessary for the exercise of their fundamental rights, we would say that that is a problem, and that there should be a firewall between those essential services and Home Office immigration enforcement. However, the services that I have in mind are, of course, things such as education, healthcare and the ability to report crimes to the police. I am not really thinking about DWP or HMRC stuff, because I would not say that that is necessarily to do with essential services that relate to people’s exercise of their fundamental rights. We are not against all data sharing, but we are very concerned about some data sharing, where it stops people from accessing their fundamental rights.

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If there are no other questions, I thank our two witnesses very much for the time they have spent with us and the evidence they have given. We can start our next session a little early.

Examination of Witness

Matthew Fell gave evidence.

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Welcome Mr Fell. Would you introduce yourself?

Matthew Fell: Good afternoon. I am Matthew Fell. I am the chief policy director at the Confederation of British Industry.

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Q The CBI has said that the Government White Paper fails to meet the needs of our economy. Can you expand on that? In what ways does it fail?

Matthew Fell: There are a number of areas where we think there is a challenge. Most specifically, we would be very concerned about the imposition of a salary threshold—£30,000 is most commonly talked about at the moment. When we look at the shape of the economy today, we see a number of sectors—construction, logistics, hospitality—and many regions and nations around the UK where that threshold is significantly out of kilter with median salaries. There are a number of areas where that threshold would lead to a dramatic shortage of skills and of labour availability to meet the needs of the economy today. Although you could envisage a world in which, over time, businesses and other parts of society could adapt, we are concerned about going from the situation in which we are today in a very short period, without knowing precisely the nature of the rules or of the negotiation about what we are going to jump into. That lack of time to adapt is also a source of concern.

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Q What are your concerns about the Government’s proposal for short 12-month visas?

Matthew Fell: There are a number of areas. First, we fear that that could significantly lead to an increase in the rate of churn of people, which clearly creates problems for business: it impacts on productivity, if you are constantly having to get new employees up to speed, for example, it adds to recruitment costs if you constantly need to bring new people into the organisation, and it has impacts beyond business too. Thinking about societal impacts, it could undermine the integration of people into local communities, and so on.

The second bucket or basket of concerns is around the inability to then switch on to a more skilled visa route. For example, if you invest in the training and upskilling of an individual there is currently no proposed mechanism for them to transfer from a lower-skilled 12-month route to a proper skilled visa route, so there are a number of different concerns about that.

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Q Do you have concerns about the settled status system and the requirement on employers to check the immigration status of their employees if the UK leaves the EU with or without a deal?

Matthew Fell: I think I am right in saying, but I am happy to take a little more detail on this, that the Government have confirmed that even in the event of a no-deal scenario there would be no, or no significant, changes to the administrative burdens on employers before the proposed new immigration system came into play. Clearly, if that situation changed, the administrative burden would be a bigger headache for business.

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Q I recognise the views you have expressed about having a cap of about £30,000, but do you recognise the impact that immigration potentially has had on suppressing wage levels in certain sectors and certain parts of the country?

Matthew Fell: The Migration Advisory Committee looked at that heavily in terms of any potential impact on the rest of the economy, society and so on. I think the conclusion it drew was that there was no major evidence of an impact on either jobs availability or wages. I think it highlighted some impacts on public services, and a bit on house prices and so on in certain areas, but I do not think it identified any real evidence of that.

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Q Conversely, would having a reduction of free movement see wage levels rise, or changes in the availability of lower-paid work?

Matthew Fell: This is not primarily an issue that we are looking at as an impact on wage levels; it is purely about skills availability. The issue for many sectors of the economy and for many parts of the country that are currently looking at a situation of at or close to full employment, even in parts of the country, is primarily about the availability of the skills and the talent that they need to fulfil orders and so on. It is not in any way, shape or form about wage levels or undercutting wages; it is about having the people to do a job.

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Q In terms of productivity, do you think that immigration has any bearing on the levels of productivity in this country?

Matthew Fell: In the UK, there are quite clearly issues around needing to raise productivity. I do not think there is any evidence—I think the Migration Advisory Committee confirmed this too—that that is explained in any way by current approaches to immigration and levels of immigration in the country.

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Q We heard the argument this morning from the Migration Advisory Committee, which was supported to some extent by Migration Watch UK, that the threshold approach would encourage employers to push up wages and that would solve the problem. What is your response to that argument, which was consistently played back to us this morning?

Matthew Fell: I am not sure I agree with that. I will paint you a picture of the current situation in a number of sectors. If you take the construction industry, with two thirds of migrant workers, the median salary is currently under £30,000. If you look at the logistics sector, with about 10% or 20% of HGV drivers, or at the warehousing sector, with about a quarter of all fork-lift truck drivers, the wages for EU workers are quite significantly lower than that. I do not think that just changing a threshold level as a way of driving up wages is a helpful thing to happen in the economy.

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Q That was very much the argument that we were being given—that if you have a higher threshold, employers will be obliged to pay more for those scarce skills.

Matthew Fell: We have a better set of ideas for how you have the right checks and controls in place. If your concern is around whether that is doing any potential damage to local labour markets and local people, first, I do not think the facts bear that out, but even if that was a concern, our suggestions are that there are examples around the world, including relatively close to home in other EEA states, of something akin to a local labour market test where you have to give an initial preference in a simple and quick way. If they were the sort of concerns that you were driving at, there are better ways of doing that than a crude, flat salary threshold.

My other thought on salary thresholds is that, even if they are part of the overall mix of a system design, I venture that, rather than just picking a pure number today that is fixed over time, it would be much better to look at the median salary in the country today or to pick something like the 25th percentile of a particular skill area or something like that, so it adjusts over time and adapts to how the economy evolves. That would feel like a slightly more sophisticated way of going about it than just picking a crude number.

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Q What do you think about the argument that salary thresholds are a decent proxy for skill?

Matthew Fell: If the intention is to use a salary threshold, I think it is part of the answer, but I would not say it is the only thing you should look at. If it goes hand in glove with some other metrics, it is potentially part of a solution as a system design, but I would not have it as the sole arbiter.

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Q What other matrix would you suggest?

Matthew Fell: As I have just said, we think there is something quite interesting to look at in a simple and quick local labour market test.

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Q That is to do with shortages rather than skills, is it not?

Matthew Fell: Yes, but you would have a look at that, then skill levels alongside salary. Salary as a proxy in its own right is not helpful.

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Q One of the arguments Migration Watch came up with was the idea, for a middle-area skill, to have a sliding scale: a three-year visa and then a sliding scale where the salary levels are going up. Is that the sort of thing that would be attractive to you?

Matthew Fell: I have not looked at the specific proposal. I am very happy to go away and have a look at exactly how that would work. The one thing that that would have in its favour is the point I made about time to adapt. Within reason, if you have time to adapt, you can say “Okay, how do I configure around a particular system?”, if that has a combination of certainty to it and a length of time to adapt. As principles, those are helpful things to have.

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Q Finally, what are your members’ biggest worries at the moment in relation to this?

Matthew Fell: The single biggest area is time to adapt. It is not knowing exactly what new system they propose to jump into. They are completely crystal clear that free movement is coming to an end. The fear is whether a new system will be ready in time, with the promised reforms, streamlining and improvements. Will that be ready in time?

The vast majority of businesses in this country do not use the non-EU visa system at the moment. It is something in the order of only 30,000 firms in the country that currently use it and that tells me that it is a really quite restrictive, complex and burdensome system. If we are not ready with a new system that is ready to go from day one, without that clarity and without the time to transition into it, that, I think, is probably the biggest concern of all.

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Q You have spoken of the need to streamline and simplify the future immigration system. Following the question put by the Minister to the previous witnesses, did you manage to respond to the Law Commission’s consultation?

Matthew Fell: Here are a couple of examples around the sorts of streamlining we have in mind for the non-EU system right now. One of the requirements is around asking sponsor employers to provide evidence of their employers’ liability insurance. Nothing wrong with that per se, but you have to have a hard copy of that and today, most of those are issued digitally, so it is a headache. Another example of a day-to-day burden is that you are required to notify a change in salary for any individual. On those sorts of issues, for example, the check is required to make sure you clear the minimum salary threshold requirement, but there is still a requirement even if you raise an individual’s salary. You still have to notify. Again, when we are talking about simplifying and streamlining a system on a non-EU basis, those sorts of administrative headaches are the things that firms find unnecessarily complex.

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Q Those are good points, but did you respond to the Law Commission’s consultation, where you could make those points?

Matthew Fell: I would need to check, to be perfectly honest.

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Q The other thing you said in your evidence was around linking migration and labour market access to trade deal negotiations. Can you expand a little bit on that?

Matthew Fell: Many countries around the world have told us that that is quite important when they have negotiated trade agreements with other countries around the world. That is something they expect to be part of that overall trade negotiation. We have heard from India, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. They have all publicly said that if they are looking to strike trade agreements with the UK, ideally they would like to include migration as part of those talks on a future trade deal. When you look around the world and other trade agreements, it is frequently part of those discussions and part of the final deal and our sense was that, if, rightly, we want to seek to strike the most ambitious trade deals in many parts of the world, this is something that should be part of those conversations.

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Q Mr Fell, you have skirted round the issue a little bit. Putting aside the debate about the salary threshold, you spoke about how 30,000 firms are registered tier-2 sponsors. Is that right?

Matthew Fell: Correct, yes, it is of that order.

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Q Do you have a figure for how many businesses in the United Kingdom employ EU nationals?

Matthew Fell: I do not have that figure off the top of my head, no.

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Q Putting aside issues of salary threshold, could you talk us through what difference it would make to me as an employer if previously I have never been involved in the tier 2 system? From time to time I have employed chefs from Europe, for example, at £35,000. What difference will it make to me next year or in a couple of years’ time when a new system comes into force if I want to employ this chef from Italy at £35,000?

Matthew Fell: I would make a couple of observations which may be helpful. Clearly, the example I am going to give is retrospective, which does not apply. My understanding is that the figures are something in the order of three quarters of all EU workers in the UK today. If these rules were enforced with the new system as envisaged, those would be out of scope for the new proposed system. That gives you a little about the order of magnitude of the volume and scope of workers currently here that would be caught by that—that is what we believe.

You ask what an employer would face additionally. Those 30,000 firms are principally focused around the largest businesses in the UK. We know that the non-EU approach is quite complex. You typically enlist significant legal advice—it is sensible to do so—or you develop in-house expertise. While it is an administrative headache for the largest businesses, they are employing a sufficient volume of people to make it sensible and worth their while to invest in expertise and legal advice and so on—at least it is feasible for them to do that. I think it would have a stark impact on small and medium-sized businesses that possibly do not use the system with sufficient frequency that they get familiar with it, and in which the resources would bite even more if they needed to take on outside expertise and advice.

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Q They would need legal advice and help, and there would be a cost as well, because you would have to register as a tier 2 sponsor, which is the first process. After that, you also have to get a certificate of sponsorship for each individual that you are recruiting. Is that correct?

Matthew Fell: That is correct. Some of the admittedly small administrative examples that I just referred to are the sorts of things that you would have to be familiar with and continue to do. While they might be a headache in larger firms with dedicated teams, HR functions, compliance and so on who are able to provide those facilities, they are an even bigger headache for smaller businesses.

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Q Small businesses that are becoming tier 2 sponsors for the first time would also have to start paying a skills charge and the health surcharge for employers.

Matthew Fell: That is correct. That is my understanding of it.

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Q I saw a report yesterday, I think from Global Future, which suggested that between now and 2025 it would add £1 billion of costs to businesses.

Matthew Fell: I have not seen that specific report so I would need to go away to confirm that.

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Q Sure. May I also ask about the settled status scheme and the checks on a person’s right to work? Are you aware that there have been any difficulties because this is not in a hard document and is essentially a bit of code?

Matthew Fell: This is relatively new for many businesses. We have been working with the Government and businesses to help to inform the employer guide. We have been providing some guidance ourselves. We found that the level of interaction with businesses has been quite good, and there has been a spirit of helpfulness to be able to navigate that, recognising that it is a new approach. We are building up more familiarity with it.

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Q Do you have concerns that even if the Home Office puts everything it can into making this scheme as successful as it can be, we are going to end up with tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of people who will miss the cut-off date just because they did not understand that they had to apply, or maybe they were even born here?

Matthew Fell: There is a challenge of awareness. Organisations such as the CBI and other business organisations have a role to play in that, not just in raising awareness for their own employers, making sure they are properly informed about what they need to do and helping them through the process, but by encouraging them to do that with their friends, colleagues and contacts. There is a good role that business can play. That being said, however good the intent, awareness is clearly an issue. I do not have an exact feel for how many would or would not be aware. Ultimately, that is a bit of a judgment call, but that is the risk that would open up.

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Q We are looking at schemes that have been put in place internationally. On some of these schemes, even a 10% failure rate would be a magnificent achievement, but you are still talking about 400,000 people. Would you support, or have sympathy for, calls not to have a deadline at all? For example, if somebody is trying to switch jobs and their employer says, “You apparently haven’t got your settled status and you need it,” they could still go and put that right, even though they have missed the deadline by a couple of weeks.

Matthew Fell: We have not explicitly gone on the record and said that that is an approach we would advocate. My view is that you would hope that pragmatism would prevail. My feeling is that, if an individual and a business are coming forward with good intent and saying, “I am ready to do it and have everything I need,” pragmatism ought to prevail in such situations.

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Q What is the significance of what the White Paper says or does not say on self-employed people?

Matthew Fell: The CBI’s natural constituency, if you like, is typically employers as opposed to the self-employed. The self-employed population is a huge contributor and hugely important to the UK economy. It is not an area that we particularly speak about, though, or which I focus on.

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Q You talked about a number of sectors such as hospitality, logistics and construction. Are there any other sectors that would be impacted by this £30,000 threshold? You talk about sectors, but can you also expand on the impact on different regions?

Matthew Fell: I would be happy to share with the Committee a significant piece of work that the CBI published in the summer of 2018, where we took an in-depth look at a number of business sectors around the economy. The key conclusion was that it is hard to identify any sectors that are not impacted in this way. The reason for that is the interconnected nature of business today.

To give you a small example, we have a huge challenge in this country around house building. In order to build the 300,000 homes a year that we need, we need everything from architects to electricians, bricklayers and on-site labourers. The conclusion we drew was that if you take one piece out of that, the whole project does not get done. Our findings were that you could almost extend that logic to any part of the economy. For example, take the retail sector and its dependence on the logistics sector for distribution, and so on. It is really quite hard to identify any part of the economy where, even if we think it is not directly impacted by these issues, indirectly they do have a consequence.

On the regional aspect, looking at the statistics, we have a piece of work out today that looks at analysis by region. Even if you take a really quick glance at the numbers, median wages today are somewhere between £21,000 to £24,000 in most regions of the UK outside London. That tells you that the impact is quite significant across the country.

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Q On the question of impact, we know that there is inequality between different regions; do you feel that having the figure of £30,000 may further increase inequality?

Matthew Fell: I do not know whether it would further increase inequality. As part of my job I travel around the country quite extensively. I think it would create huge headaches in parts of the UK, not least in respect of the time to adapt. I spend quite a lot of time in Belfast in Northern Ireland and in some of the northern regions in England, for example, where it is really quite significant and they are deeply concerned by it.

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If there are no other questions from colleagues, I will bring the Minister in next.

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Q Thank you very much, Sir David. At various points earlier today, we heard suggestions that short-term visas and short-term contracts were inevitably exploitative. Does the CBI have a view on that?

Matthew Fell: I do not believe that short-term visas and short-term contracts are linked to exploitation. I think it is more a recognition of the way the world works today. Many businesses are done on a contracting basis, as well as a longer-term basis, so I do not recognise the link between the two.

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Q Would the CBI therefore support a seasonal agricultural workers scheme, for example, and do you see any other sectors that might benefit from something similar?

Matthew Fell: Our starting approach on that has been to say, “Could we look to design a system that works for all parts of the country and for all business sectors?” Working towards that is our ideal goal. That would be our preference before reaching for carve-outs for different industry sectors.

If that aim cannot be achieved—we know that seasonal agricultural workers are very important for the sector—and if that is the best solution that we can arrive at, clearly it has a part to play alongside a reformed and simplified system. However, our preference is to get the overall system right in the first instance in a way that works for everyone.

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Q I am conscious that we invited the Scottish CBI to come and give evidence, but it deferred to you and said it was happy that you would be able to represent its views. Was there anything specific that you would like to say about either regionality more generally or Scotland in particular?

Matthew Fell: I have made remarks about recognising different wage levels in different parts of the country and so on. I refer people to my colleague who gave evidence in Holyrood earlier today. There will be quite a bit on the record from that evidence session if you would like to tap into the Scottish-specific dimensions to it.

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Q Fabulous. I am sure we will. I was interested in your comments on a local labour market test. You will be conscious that in the White Paper are proposals to remove the requirement for a resident labour market test. Do you not support that?

Matthew Fell: Overall, I think we do support the removal of the resident labour market test. I was just illustrating that, if there is a desire to provide a sense of greater control of migration, you can use different mechanisms to provide that control that we think would provide the right balance between openness and the public assurances that are sought on control. It was an example of another mechanism to achieve it, but we do support the removal.

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Q In your evidence, and just now, you said that you do not think that the short-term, 12-month visas may lead to exploitation, but you gave a long list of concerns regarding training, recruitment, integration and switching between skills. Those were your concerns, so what is your solution? What do you think is better?

Matthew Fell: In the piece of work that we published in summer 2018 we asked, “How do you really build confidence and align that to control?” At the time, we proposed dropping the net migration target, because we felt that continually missing it was undermining confidence in the system. We said that there could be a number of different controls, such as registration on arrival. If you are not in work, in training or self-sufficient after three months, that would be a test of whether you can stay in the country.

We looked at other examples of labour market tests. The other issues that we identified at the time were the better and more rapid use of things such as the controlling migration fund, so that in areas of high immigration where there are clear impacts on public services we could better address and mitigate those concerns. Those were the clutch of proposals that we were talking about at the time.

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If there are no further questions, I thank Mr Fell very much indeed for his evidence to the Committee.

The final session starts at 4.30pm, so I suspend the sitting.

Sitting suspended.

Examination of Witnesses

Caroline Robinson and Meri Åhlberg gave evidence.

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Our next evidence session is with Focus on Labour Exploitation. Could our witnesses both introduce yourselves, please?

Caroline Robinson: Good afternoon. I am Caroline Robinson, the chief executive of Focus on Labour Exploitation.

Meri Åhlberg: Good afternoon. I am Meri Åhlberg, research officer for Focus on Labour Exploitation.

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Q In your opinion, what risks does the Bill pose for exploitation and modern slavery?

Caroline Robinson: At Focus on Labour Exploitation, we have been looking for some time at the risks that immigration control measures, in particular, pose for modern slavery. Obviously, with this Bill—as with all measures regarding Brexit—we have a new risk that a much greater proportion of workers could be undocumented if they do not register under the EU settlement scheme, or because of the confusion that Brexit provides.

We think that there are particular risks arising from measures set out in the immigration White Paper, namely the temporary and migrant worker programmes and the short-term visas discussed in that paper. Our particular concerns are about barriers to the integration of the workers, which could mean that they have limited access to their labour rights. That puts workers at real risk of not understanding their rights in the UK labour market, and at risk of exploitation. There is also the potential for things like debt bondage: if recruitment measures are taken overseas over which we do not have jurisdiction, and workers have to pay high fees in order to come to the UK—whether recruitment fees or just for work permits and travel—that could leave them open to a real risk of debt bondage.

Meri Åhlberg: There is a real risk, for instance, that the 12-month programme will mean a constant churn of vulnerable workers who are not aware of their rights and do not have the chance to build up social networks that could support them. Workers will not have recourse to public funds. Those coming here to work in precarious jobs—for instance, in the hospitality sector, in which they might be on a zero-hours contract and have 40 hours of work one week and two hours the next—will, if they have no recourse to public funds, be very vulnerable.

A lot of other specific migration policy issues make workers vulnerable. For instance, under the seasonal workers pilot, which is also in the immigration White Paper and is being brought in through secondary legislation, workers have no guaranteed hours or guaranteed earnings. If they come here to work in the agricultural sector and are on a zero-hours contract, they will not necessarily be earning enough to cover their flights or visa costs if there is a bad harvest, for instance. Those are the kinds of things that we need to think about.

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Q Do you both feel that the Government have done enough to minimise exploitation or mitigate the risks?

Caroline Robinson: We have had some positive signs from the Home Secretary, who mentioned at a hearing of the Select Committee on Home Affairs that measures would be taken to evaluate the risk of exploitation that the seasonal workers pilot presents to workers. However, we are still quite anxious about the detail and about what it will mean in practice.

We look a lot at the role of labour inspectorates in preventing modern slavery, and we have a particular concern about the limited resources of agencies such as the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority, which will need to license labour providers under the seasonal workers pilot, whatever country they may come from. Understanding the legislation of the countries concerned and identifying and engaging with prospective labour providers will obviously be a heavy drain on the agency’s resources, but we have not heard that any extra resources will be provided to facilitate that role. We also welcome the Government’s intention to create a single labour inspectorate, but the detail available at this stage is very limited.

It is positive that the Home Secretary has recognised that there is a risk. We look forward to engaging on the detail of how it will be addressed.

Meri Åhlberg: It is important to recognise that within the discussion about ending free movement and moving towards temporary migration schemes, we need to include labour market enforcement, as Caroline said. The UK has one of the least resourced labour inspectorates in Europe: the International Labour Organisation recommends that there should be one labour inspector per 10,000 workers, but the UK has 0.4 per 10,000. Per worker, half as much resourcing is put into labour inspection as in Ireland. There is a real need for proactive labour market enforcement, especially as more and more migrants are brought under immigration control, given fewer rights and made more vulnerable.

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Q We have just heard evidence from the CBI, which claims that the temporary scheme does not lead to exploitation. What is the evidence that it would lead to exploitation?

Meri Åhlberg: I have already mentioned a few of the features of temporary schemes that make people vulnerable to exploitation. One of the main ones is that allowing people to stay for only six or 12 months means a constant churn of workers who are not necessarily aware of their labour rights, who do not have time to build networks and so on. There are often other restrictions, such as “no recourse to public funds”, that come with temporary contracts and put people at risk of exploitation. Those are the key issues with temporary migration programmes—there is definitely a risk.

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Q Clause 4(5) will grant the Government power to impose or change fees for visas. The Government have said that fees for 12-month visas will increase over time to prevent businesses from relying on them. FLEX has raised the question of the risk of debt bondage. Can you elaborate on that?

Caroline Robinson: To allow businesses?

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To increase fees. You have said in the past that that might lead to debt bondage, so can you elaborate on how that would happen?

Caroline Robinson: Yes, certainly. We have looked quite extensively at other temporary migration programmes around the world and previous schemes in the UK, and we certainly see a risk in relation to recruitment fees. As I mentioned earlier, there is the possibility of elevated fees and also, as Members will be aware, the definition of debt bondage is an increased fee that is disproportionate to the initial fee paid, and using that fee to coerce an individual into an exploitative working condition.

We see that as a real risk in relation to overseas recruitment, but there are also the high fees that people will have to pay for their visa and for their travel to the UK. Obviously, because we know more of the detail on the seasonal workers pilot, we know that people will be coming for a short period of time—a six-month period—and, as Meri said, on zero-hours contracts, so there is no guarantee of a high rate of pay necessarily, and with potentially quite high up-front fees. So the risk is great there.

Also, we have looked at things like bilateral labour agreements. For example, Canada and Mexico have established an agreement on agricultural workers, where clear terms are established in terms of the minimum hours that workers will have, the minimum working week and the hours that people can be guaranteed, so that there are clear terms for workers, and so workers can budget accordingly and not face the risk of a huge debt that they cannot then repay, or, as I mentioned, a debt that increases disproportionately in relation to the initial debt, which is a risk.

Meri Åhlberg: For example, in Sweden they have migration from Thailand to pick berries, and what they were finding was that people would come, and they would pay high costs for flights, and then they would pay visa costs, and then they would come to Sweden and the blueberry season would be poor and they would not be able to pick enough even to cover their flights. So they would come, work for the summer and then leave in debt.

What Sweden has done, for instance, is that there is a minimum guaranteed wage that employers in Sweden have to prove they can pay. It is a minimum of approximately £1,100 per month for these workers, to each worker that they are recruiting, to make sure that people are not coming and not earning enough to cover their visa costs or their flight costs. There are also important protections that could be put in place.

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Q That is exactly my question. What could we put in place, or what could the Government put in place, to strengthen protections for workers in this situation? I wonder whether you might want to say a little more specifically about what you would look for in terms of a Government or legislative solution, and to what extent there might be other features or actors that might offer protections.

Caroline Robinson: As I said, we work a lot on the role of the labour inspectorates, particularly, while it still exists—as I said, there is a discussion about a single labour inspectorate and the Government have committed to that—at the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority’s licensing being expanded to high-risk sectors, particularly those that are likely to take on a number of short-term workers in the future. Those sectors are already high-risk and then they might have a high proportion of short-term migrant workers. We feel that there is a really strong case then for licensing those sectors—sectors discussed, such as care and construction—where there is a real risk to workers of exploitation.

We have also looked at the Agricultural Wages Board and the seasonal workers pilots, obviously in the agricultural sector. We are lucky that we still have an Agricultural Wages Board in Scotland and in Northern Ireland, but the absence of one in England and Wales is a real risk in terms of setting the standards for workers in the agriculture sector. So I think it would be useful to look at what kind of worker voice could be integrated in setting standards in the agriculture sector, again given the high risk of isolation and exploitation of workers.

Meri Åhlberg: Another important thing would be to grant people access to public funds. If people are coming here on work contracts they are paying taxes, so they are paying for their services. It seems counterintuitive to not allow people access to services they are already paying for, making them vulnerable in that process.

Caroline Robinson: I would mention again these bilateral labour agreements, to have some kind of engagement with sending categories. At the moment the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority has to rapidly try to license labour providers in a range of countries outside the EEA. They have already found it quite hard within the EEA to license labour providers, understanding the different jurisdictions and engaging with workers’ possible vulnerabilities. Having a structure and engagement on the basis of labour rights with a country that sends workers to our country and ensuring labour standards are upheld offers a framework, at least, for enforcing labour rights.

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Q How much of your research is focused exclusively on agricultural workers as opposed to workers in other sectors? Do you have any information or data on other areas in terms of the percentage of people using these visa schemes who would be working outside agriculture?

Caroline Robinson: The visa scheme announced in that amount of detail—and for which we have pilot operators—is the seasonal workers pilot. That is in the agricultural sector. The short-term—as they have been termed—visas in the immigration White Paper, the temporary short-term workers schemes, are for all sectors as far as we can see.

We looked particularly at high-risk sectors in the UK. The most recent in-depth piece of research we did looked at the construction sector. We are also conducting work looking at the hospitality industry, particularly at hotels. Generally we look at sectors that we believe are at risk of exploitation. We are particularly interested in the functioning of the seasonal workers pilot because that is up and running, in so far as we are engaging with the pilot operators. We are talking to the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority about how they will oversee that pilot.

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Q So that is why the focus is there. Have you looked at any other historical or previous temporary visa schemes that have occurred in the UK to see what sort of issues came out of them? Do you have any research on that?

Meri Åhlberg: Specifically in the UK?

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In the UK. There have been other temporary visa schemes, but I am not aware of high levels of exploitation around them. If there are lots of cases I would like to hear about them.

Meri Åhlberg: We have done research on the previous seasonal agricultural workers scheme, which ended in 2013, and we have also done research on the sector-based scheme, which brought workers into hospitality and food processing. That ended in 2013, but had been slowly being phased out.

In the sector-based scheme it was found that workers were paying up to £10,000 in recruitment fees to come to the UK. They were heavily in debt when they arrived in the UK, and were therefore unable to leave abusive or exploitative situations because they were afraid of not being able to pay back that debt.

In the seasonal agricultural workers scheme, there were a lot of issues around people being unable to change their employer. They had to have permission from the scheme operator to do so, but sometimes the scheme operator and the employer were the same person. In practice it was very difficult to change employers, meaning that if you were in an exploitative or abusive situation you had to either choose to leave the country and leave your source of income, or put up with it. There are a lot of cases of people not being paid the minimum wage, and of people not having guaranteed hours and so not earning enough. There was an over- supply of workers, meaning that employers did not have to provide enough work for people to earn money. There will be a similar problem in this scheme; there are not any guaranteed hours in the seasonal workers programme pilot.

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Q If I were to look at this from the perspective of my constituents, I do not think that a lot of the suggestions around just not having the visas would fly. I think people would want to know what sort of things the Government could do on the employer side, to improve the situation. For example, do you think that instead of a 12 month on, 12 month off regime, being able to renew after the end of a 12-month visa would be helpful in providing some type of certainty?

Meri Åhlberg: That would definitely be better than having to bring in people who had no networks here or no idea about their labour rights. If you have people who can stay for longer periods, over time they learn about their rights, and have a better chance of unionising and, essentially, of gaining employment rights, or enforcing their employment rights.

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Q Do you think that providing information about those rights on arrival, rather than by osmosis while they are here, would be a better way of ensuring that people were aware of what they could access and what their rights were?

Meri Åhlberg: Definitely. Pre-departure training and on-arrival training about people’s rights is really important. Having a multilingual complaints hotline or a 24-hour hotline, on which workers can make complaints is also important, but the most important thing would be to have proactive well-resourced labour market enforcement, to ensure that people were not depending on migrant workers and vulnerable workers coming forward and enforcement being based on reaction to a worker making a complaint. There is a lot of evidence to show that vulnerable workers do not come forward, so what needs to be in place is really proactive enforcement.

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