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General Committees

Debated on Wednesday 3 March 2021

Delegated Legislation Committee

Draft Authority to Carry Scheme and Civil Penalties Regulations 2021

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chair: †Dr Rupa Huq

Andrew, Stuart (Treasurer of Her Majesty's Household)

Daly, James (Bury North) (Con)

Davies, Geraint (Swansea West) (Lab/Co-op)

Docherty, Leo (Aldershot) (Con)

† Foster, Kevin (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department)

Freer, Mike (Comptroller of Her Majesty's Household)

Harris, Rebecca (Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty's Treasury)

Holmes, Paul (Eastleigh) (Con)

Lloyd, Tony (Rochdale) (Lab)

† McGinn, Conor (St Helens North) (Lab)

Mahmood, Shabana (Birmingham, Ladywood) (Lab)

Owatemi, Taiwo (Coventry North West) (Lab)

† Pursglove, Tom (Corby) (Con)

Thompson, Owen (Midlothian) (SNP)

† Throup, Maggie (Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty's Treasury)

Tomlinson, Michael (Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty's Treasury)

† Twist, Liz (Blaydon) (Lab)

Sarah Ioannou, Committee Clerk

† attended the Committee

Third Delegated Legislation Committee

Wednesday 3 March 2021

[Dr Rupa Huq in the Chair]

Draft Authority to Carry Scheme and Civil Penalties Regulations 2021

Before we begin, I would like to remind hon. Members to observe social distancing. I think everyone is sitting in a place with a tick on it—yes. Hansard colleagues would be grateful if they could receive a copy of your speech at

I beg to move,

That the Committee has considered the draft Authority to Carry Scheme and Civil Penalties Regulations 2021.

Dr Huq, it is a genuine pleasure to serve under your chairmanship—and not just when we are campaigning to save whales in Iceland.

The purpose of the regulations, laid under sections 23(2) and 24(7) of the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015, is to give effect to the authority to carry scheme 2021—the 2021 scheme—to make consequential amendments to the Authority to Carry Scheme (Civil Penalties) Regulations 2015 and to revoke the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 (Authority to Carry Scheme) Regulations 2015. Once given effect, the 2021 scheme will in turn replace and revoke the authority to carry scheme 2015.

Authority to carry is, in effect, the UK’s no-fly scheme. It is operated to prevent certain individuals from travelling to or from the UK when that is necessary in the public interest. The scheme is operated by the National Border Targeting Centre, which processes information about individuals, both passengers and crew, intending to travel to or from the UK. Where an individual is identified who is in a class of persons described in the scheme, the carrier may be refused authority to carry the individual either to or from the United Kingdom. Authority to carry is a key part of the UK’s border security arrangements, preventing individuals, including known terrorists, serious criminals and those subject to sanctions, from being able to travel to the UK.

The 2021 scheme applies to all carriers who have been required by law to provide passenger and crew information before departure. It applies on all international routes to and from the UK, plus routes within the common travel area where advance passenger and crew information is received from a carrier.

The authority to carry scheme has been extremely successful. Since the scheme’s introduction in March 2015, the National Border Targeting Centre has refused carriers authority to carry more than 8,200 individuals seeking to travel to the UK. That has included about 200 individuals excluded from the UK, about 3,300 individuals previously deported from the UK and more than 4,700 individuals using invalid, lost, stolen or cancelled travel documents. It has also included subjects of international travel bans. Those are all individuals who otherwise would have arrived in the UK and been refused leave to enter by Border Force officers. The carrier would then have been required to remove them and, in some cases, meet their detention costs. Some of those individuals, once in the UK, might also have taken the opportunity to challenge their removal, potentially through abuse of our humanitarian protection routes, by submitting spurious claims aimed purely at preventing their removal from the UK.

I hope that, with the description that I have given, the Committee has a full picture of the regulations.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship for the first time, Dr Huq, and it is always a delight to see the Minister in his place and to follow him on behalf of the Opposition.

As I have said before, the security of our country and its citizens is a top priority for the Opposition. Strengthening protections at our borders is integral to keeping the public safe, and we fully agree that our authorities should be able to pre-emptively stop and disrupt individuals posing a significant threat, terrorism related or otherwise, from travelling to or from the UK. We recognise, therefore, the practical necessity for an efficient and effective authority to carry scheme to ensure that those individuals cannot make their way into this country. We recognise also the need to update the 2015 legislation to reflect new and changed circumstances, particularly regarding the deportation and exclusion of European economic area nationals post Brexit, and including those affected by recent travel-related sanctions. Of course we, like the Government, would not have wanted the existing scheme to lapse without an adequate replacement, as it otherwise would have done in April 2022.

We welcome these measures, which will relieve our hard-working UK border officials and their operational partners of additional and unnecessary burdens, because they will not have to stop, process and report people at the border. We also recognise the vital importance of ensuring that people who pose a threat to our safety and way of life never make it to these shores.

However, even as we support these measures today, the Minister will understand that we have some questions to ask, particularly on some of the technical implications of the scheme. First, what discussions has the Home Office had with UK Border Force and its operational partners, not just on the proposed renewed scheme but on the effectiveness of the strengthened 2015 model, and are UK Border Force and its operational partners in full accordance with the proposals? Also, what benefits and challenges have they identified in relation to the new proposed arrangements?

Secondly, could the Minister update the Committee on the effectiveness of the scheme and carriers’ compliance, and does he have any information on where it has worked well and where it has not worked so well? The explanatory memorandum says that “Updated guidance” for carriers and

“industry on the operation of the 2021 Scheme and penalty regime”

will be provided, but it does not make clear when. Could he clarify that, not just for us here but of course for the carriers themselves, who at this current time, more than ever, will want maximum operational clarity?

Regarding the maximum penalty for carriers, can the Minister confirm that it will remain at £50,000? What assessment has the Department made about the effectiveness of that figure as a deterrent? Have any carriers actually being fined this amount? If not, is it a realistic amount and does it work as a deterrent? Will the 2021 scheme, if it is passed, be monitored and reviewed regularly by Ministers? And when, if at all, will the scheme be up for renewal?

I appreciate that some of those questions are technical questions, so I am very happy for the Minister to write to me if he does not have the information to hand now.

In summary, however, we find these measures to be reasonable, proportionate and practical, as we said in 2015, when a predecessor of mine in this role—David Hanson— responded to the Government. While it is important that we ensure that the existing regime does not collapse without the maintenance of these measures, it is also right that we subject them to scrutiny, as we have done today, because the safety and protection of the public is the responsibility of us all. I know that the carriers themselves take their duties seriously, and we in this place must ensure that we provide clear and robust regulations to support them.

May I genuinely thank the shadow Security Minister for the overall tone and constructive nature of his comments? I will respond to some of his questions in writing, to ensure that he receives the detail that he is entitled to ask for. And I know that he will appreciate why we do not have the number of officials in the room today that we would normally have. However, I will give some practical and brief replies to some of his questions.

The regulations certainly have been discussed extensively with UK Border Force; indeed, UK Border Force has been involved in their formulation. As the shadow Minister rightly said, the regulations are a protection for UK Border Force, as it will deal with complex and difficult individuals at the UK border and then arrange for a carrier to remove them from the UK, rather than having to prevent their arrival in the first place.

Of course, the regulations are also a protection in terms of aviation security and security on other modes of transport. Obviously, the general approach of the carriers to this issue has been extremely constructive; they do not want people on their services who may be a threat to the train, ship or plane that is coming to the UK.

Perhaps I can give a little flavour of the nature of the compliance with the measures. I mentioned that more than 8,200 people—I think that figure is right—have been excluded and prevented from travel. With the 2015 regulations to date, when we compiled the figures for the Committee we found that there have been only 51 breaches of the 2015 scheme. And to respond to another of the shadow Minister’s points, 18 penalties have been imposed for non-compliance, which led to total fines of just over £186,000.

We believe it is appropriate that there is a significant financial penalty. The regulations are not about basic immigration failings or not checking someone’s passport. They are about preventing someone who could be an active danger to this country from coming to the UK and people whose presence in the UK would be wholly unconducive to the public good. One person we excluded in September 2019 was a notorious holocaust denier, a US citizen, who had booked a flight to the UK from a European country. They were picked up and the carrier concerned denied boarding.

We will issue updated guidance, and we have already engaged with the carriers. We have made it clear that a lot of this is about updating the fact that we have now left the European Union and EEA nationals now have a different legal position. The guidance makes it clear to the carriers when someone cannot fly, get a train or come to the UK. Where there is passenger information in place, it gives certainty and also takes the decision away from the carrier so that they do not have to get into a debate with someone who has appalling views or who has committed serious crimes. The carrier can be clear that they have been advised by the Home Office that someone cannot travel. The person concerned is then given contact details at the Home Office. For the carriers, there is the advantage of an additional layer of security for their own staff and passengers and customers, and also a firmness about the position.

The renewal period will be confirmed in writing. We have introduced the update slightly earlier, rather than in 2022, to reflect the fact that now that the transition period for free movement rights has ended, we cannot create new ones in terms of coming to the UK for the first time. It is therefore appropriate to update the scheme. To reassure the shadow Minister, we will keep it under constant review. With regard to those who are subject to this system change as people are added to sanctions lists or deported from the UK, the list is constantly updated and we take into account the international situation. For example, if the United Nations imposes a travel ban on someone, the scheme will apply to them.

I hope my response has been helpful. I thank the shadow Minister for the tone of his reply.

Question put and agreed to.

Committee rose.

Draft National Minimum Wage (Amendment) regulations 2021

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chair: †Sir David Amess

Andrew, Stuart (Treasurer of Her Majesty's Household)

† Chamberlain, Wendy (North East Fife) (LD)

Docherty, Leo (Aldershot) (Con)

Freer, Mike (Comptroller of Her Majesty's Household)

† Furniss, Gill (Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough) (Lab)

Gideon, Jo (Stoke-on-Trent Central) (Con)

Harris, Rebecca (Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty's Treasury)

Hendrick, Sir Mark (Preston) (Lab/Co-op)

† Holden, Mr Richard (North West Durham) (Con)

† Hussain, Imran (Bradford East) (Lab)

Keeley, Barbara (Worsley and Eccles South) (Lab)

Lewis, Clive (Norwich South) (Lab)

† Pursglove, Tom (Corby) (Con)

† Scully, Paul (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

Thompson, Owen (Midlothian) (SNP)

Throup, Maggie (Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty's Treasury)

† Tomlinson, Michael (Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty's Treasury)

Robi Quigley, Committee Clerk

† attended the Commit

Fourth Delegated Legislation Committee

Wednesday 3 March 2021

[sir david amess in the Chair]

Draft National Minimum Wage (Amendment) Regulations 2021

I beg to move,

That the Committee has considered the draft National Minimum Wage (Amendment) Regulations 2021.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir David.

The purpose of the regulations is to raise the national living wage and national minimum wage rates on 1 April 2021. The economic impact of coronavirus has been significant—the UK economy contracted by 9.9% in 2020. This recession has clearly been more severe than previous ones. However, effects on the labour markets have so far been muted. The latest Office for National Statistics headline estimate of the unemployment rate was 5.1% from October to December 2020, lower than forecasted, or than following the 2008 recession. That is partly due to Government intervention, including the coronavirus job retention scheme, which allowed workers to retain some form of attachment to a job. I am pleased that earlier today, the Chancellor announced that this scheme would continue until September, with some changes in the final months. That will bring businesses and workers much needed certainty.

The regulations will increase the minimum wage rates. We estimate this will give around 2 million workers a pay rise. I am delighted to say that we accepted all the recommendations made by the Low Pay Commission in 2020. The independent LPC brings together business and worker stakeholder views, supported by research and analysis, to provide their advice. I would like to state my gratitude for their work.

Low-paid workers have supported the country through these challenging times. The Government recognise that many businesses are also struggling during this crisis. The LPC sought to balance those needs against the wider economic conditions in its recommendations. Owing to this, the 2021 increase to minimum wage rates is smaller than previous years. We have concluded that these rates will give low-paid workers, who have contributed throughout this pandemic, a real-terms pay rise, recognising their contributions, without presenting a significant risk to employment prospects. Business stakeholders supported cautious increases to minimum wages. The regulations increase the national living wage by 19p to £8.91, and we are lowering the age threshold for the national living wage to 23. As a result, 23 and 24-year-olds will get a 71p increase. We are also increasing the rates for younger workers, apprenticeships and the accommodation offset.

This year, we are also making another change to minimum wage regulations to do with the records employers must keep to ensure compliance with the minimum wage. Currently, the records must be held for three years. We are extending that period to six years. This will align the time period for which an employer must retain records with the period of liability under the National Minimum Wage Act 1998, which is six years. I thank the hon. Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Paula Barker), who introduced a private Member’s Bill on this issue; our discussions on that helped to formulate the change. Making that change will ultimately enable underpaid workers to receive the money they are owed as soon as possible.

Last year, we announced a target for the national living wage to reach two thirds of median earnings by 2024. The national living wage is also to apply to those aged 21 and over by 2024. Earlier today, as part of the Budget, we published the Government’s remit to the LPC for 2021. In this, we reaffirmed our commitment to those targets, recognising decisions continue to be dependent on economic conditions. We asked the LPC to provide its recommendations for rates to apply from 2022 this autumn.

The regulations ensure that the lowest paid workers are fairly rewarded for their valuable contribution to the economy during this crisis. I commend them to the Committee.

It is a pleasure to serve under chairmanship, Sir David. I echo the thanks from the Minister to my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Wavertree who has done significant work on this matter and has an outstanding private Member’s Bill that addresses some of the issues that we are addressing today.

The regulations are not contentious and I hope that the Minister will agree that raising the minimum wage—the wage that some of the poorest in our society are paid—should never be contentious. We welcome any rise in the minimum wage and we also recognise the step in the right direction made by the change within the regulations, which will see a reduction in the age at which an individual is eligible to be paid the full rate from the age of 25 to 23.

Broadly, therefore, the regulations have our support. However, let us remember that when the Government speak of increases in the minimum wage, it was indeed a Labour Government who introduced the national minimum wage in the first place, and that when the Government pat themselves on the back for introducing, in their words, a national living wage, it is actually no such thing. The living wage is currently set at £9.50, and at £10.85 an hour in London, by the Living Wage Foundation, taking into account a range of living costs and considerations, compared with the Government’s rate of £8.91 an hour.

We recognise that the increases in the different rates of the national minimum wage for different age groups come at the recommendation of the independent Low Pay Commission, as highlighted by the Minister, and that the Government tasked the Commission with recommending the increases required to reach two thirds of median earnings by 2024. However, for too many workers with high costs of living, particularly in the capital and other urban areas, this increase may not prove sufficient to match their rising costs, particularly during this pandemic, when we have seen those on the lowest end of the pay scale being hit the hardest. Instead, the last Labour manifesto set out an ambitious but achievable goal of introducing a national minimum wage for all employees by 2020, creating a real living wage whereby everyone is rewarded with a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.

We also recognise the above-inflation rise for apprentices, who are woefully underpaid, and we hope that this increase will not end there and will also be matched by a real ambition to boost the number of quality apprenticeships across the country. The Government should seriously consider using the underspend in the apprenticeship levy to help pay the wages of new apprentices directly in order to boost take-up, as those of us on the Labour Benches have advocated many times. An apprentice is an investment by an employer in their local economy and their workforce, and employers must always be encouraged to treat them as an investment and not as low-paid, disposable labour.

Although reducing the age limit at which an individual is eligible for the full rate of the national minimum wage is, of course, also a step in the right direction, the Government have still retained the age limit. This retention fails to acknowledge that those under the age of 23 face many of the same pressures as those faced by someone over the age of 23. Many young people below the age of 23 still have to make rent, cover bills and put food on their tables, and it is wrong that they are being held back because the Government and employers do not believe that their contribution to society and to the economy is worth the full rate of the national minimum wage. Therefore, the Government should look closely at scrapping this ridiculous age limit. Those below the age of 23 are more likely to spend their wages than put them away in savings, which will put money back into our local economies at exactly the same time that we need to bolster consumer spending, in order to recover from the present crisis and get the country back on its feet.

The regulations also increase the time limit for which employers are required to retain records for the purpose of enforcement of the national minimum wage from three years to six years, following a recommendation from the Director of Labour Market Enforcement. Again, this change is, of course, welcome.

Underpayment of the national minimum wage remains a serious problem, which sees unscrupulous employers exploiting their workforce, particularly in certain sectors of the economy, such as the care sector, and we should rightly clamp down on practices that see staff being cheated of their pay. However, we note that this was a recommendation put forward by the now departed Director of Labour Market Enforcement, who left his post last month. His post remains unfilled, despite his offering to remain in the position over an interim period. Allowing this post to remain vacant during a pandemic in which many workers, and predominantly those on the lowest end of the pay scale, are being exploited is a grave oversight by the Government, particularly when we know that so many employers are trying to circumvent minimum wage rules and so few punishments for doing so have been handed down.

In conclusion, we will not oppose the regulations. However, we must leave ourselves in no doubt that, although any rise in the minimum wage is a positive thing, those proposed in the regulations will not be the answer to the endemic problem of low pay in our economy, and nor will they help deliver the transformation that our economy desperately needed even before this crisis. It will also not solve the ills that are faced by many workers in low-paid roles, who face disproportionately higher living costs and who have to pay a poverty premium, whereby they are financially penalised just for being poor. We therefore urge the Government to look at the remit and scope of the LPC—particularly during these pressing times, in which those who are on low pay have been hit the hardest—and to scrap the age limits for the minimum wage to ensure that all are paid fairly for their work, regardless of age.

I thank the hon. Member for Bradford East for his contribution to the debate, and I thank other colleagues for being here in a collegiate spirt to look at this important issue. The national minimum wage and national living wage make a real difference to millions of workers in this country, particularly during the current crisis. I am glad that he talked about apprenticeships, which are incredibly important to our recovery, as well about the prospects of young people, who have been particularly badly hit by this pandemic. I hope he welcomes the doubling of the apprenticeship payments to £3,000 for all new hires of any age, which was announced earlier by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the flexi apprenticeship scheme as well.

The hon. Member for Bradford East talked about the changes to the rates for younger people. Traditionally, we have looked at young people having more vulnerability in the employment market, but the LPC’s advice noted that, generally, employment transfers of workers aged 23 and 24 tended to be similar to those of workers aged 25 and over. That is why we have decided to cautiously expand the full rate to younger people.

Clearly, there is agreement that the lowest-paid workers in this country, who have contributed so much during this pandemic, deserve an above-inflation pay rise to protect their standards of living, which the regulations will provide. The policy of the national minimum wage was first announced in 2015, and workers will now be accumulatively £4,030 better off over each year compared with that point—a 33% increase. For the first time, the national minimum wage increases will benefit workers aged 23 and 24. We know that most businesses support increases in the minimum wage rates, and I am glad that we can bring businesses clarity by approving the regulations. I am also pleased that we are making changes to the record-keeping requirements for employers. That will improve our enforcement of the national minimum wage and ensure that underpaid workers receive the money that they are owed.

We committed to raise the national living wage to 60% of median earnings back in 2016. We reached that target with the increases in 2020. Although this year’s increases are more modest than in recent years, we remain committed to the target for the national living wage to reach two thirds of median earnings by 2024, provided that economic conditions allow. We will monitor the labour market closely and carefully over the coming months, to make the best decisions to support low-paid workers and their employers.

Again, I would like to thank the LPC for the substantial evidence gathering that it performs, and for providing well-reasoned recommendations. It reached a consensus agreement on its recommendations to the Government, and those increases balance the ambitions of the Government’s long-term target against current economic conditions. We look forward to receiving the LPC’s recommendations for 2022 later this year. I commend the regulations to the Committee.

Question put and agreed to.

Committee rose.