House of Lords
Wednesday 1 March 2017
Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Newcastle.
Retirement of a Member: Lord McCluskey
My Lords, I should like to notify the House of the retirement, with effect from today, of the noble and learned Lord, Lord McCluskey, pursuant to Section 1 of the House of Lords Reform Act 2014. On behalf of the House I should like to thank the noble and learned Lord for his much-valued service to the House.
My Lords, according to the Office for National Statistics, 90% of the growth in households from 2010 to 2014 can be attributed to households with a household reference person born outside the UK.
My Lords, I have been asked to explain that a “household reference person” is modern bureaucratic-speak for head of household. Now we know what we are talking about, I thank the Minister for his response. Does he agree that we should welcome the many contributions that immigrants make to our society and economy, but that we should also be frank about the costs? Does he recall telling this House on 19 January that in the main scenario, just over one-third of additional households were due to net migration? Yet today he tells us that in the most recent period, 90% of additional households were headed by an immigrant. Surely it is now obvious that the DCLG should be using the high-migration scenario—that is, the one that implies a demand for a new house for a migrant family every five minutes, night and day.
My Lords, it is the case that 37% of household growth is due to net migration. I certainly endorse the noble Lord’s comment that we have every reason to be grateful for immigration; it adds to the diversity of national life and makes a significant contribution to national life, not least to the public services.
My Lords, these statistics need to be interpreted very carefully. For example, the Minister’s right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary was born in the United States of America so—although Marina might argue to the contrary—Boris Johnson is the head of a household who was born outside the United Kingdom. Does the Minister agree that overall, migrants, particularly those from the European Union, contribute far more to the United Kingdom than they take out, and not only should they be welcomed but, if they are already here, they should be allowed to stay?
My Lords, it is interesting to speculate that as the Foreign Secretary was, as the noble Lord has said, born in the United States, that makes him, I think, eligible to stand and become President of the United States—an interesting scenario. I certainly endorse the noble Lord’s effective point about the contribution that the immigrant communities have made to this country. As the Prime Minister has indicated, that will continue to be the case: in any scenario we will still be welcoming many people to this country as immigrants.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for correcting me in relation to the Foreign Secretary. I certainly was not trying to whip up a campaign on his behalf, and I now know that there would be no point in doing that any way.
The noble Lord’s very serious point about the contribution of EU citizens—as well as of other people who were not born in this country—to public services, including the National Health Service, is well made and the Government are well aware of that.
My Lords, I would not dream of asking the Minister a question about how many EU citizens are involved in building houses because he is very proficient and I am sure he would not have that information. However, would he agree with my observation that many houses—for both incoming and existing families—are built with the endeavours of migrant workers from the EU?
My Lords, the noble Baroness is very kind and her point is well made. It is certainly the case that a significant number of people who work in construction are from communities that were born overseas. We have regular discussions with the construction management board to ensure that the needs of that sector are taken account of, in view of the independent Farmer review which looked at that area.
My Lords, does the Minister agree that our universities are—along with those in the United States of America—the best in the world? This is greatly because of the foreigners who make up almost one-third of our academics. According to a recent report, almost 50% of academics in some subjects are from abroad. Without them we would not have excellence. It does not matter that they were foreign born: they are of benefit to this country.
My Lords, the Minister rightly pointed to the contribution made by immigrants to the health service, but a growing proportion of households have someone needing care at home. A report today from the TUC suggested that 7% of social care workers are from other EEA countries, with others from outside the EU as well. What effect would it have on informal care in the home if immigration were significantly reduced?
My Lords, the noble Baroness makes a very valuable point about the care sector, a large number of the employees of which undoubtedly come from overseas—not just the European communities. The Government are well aware of this and it will inform our immigration policy. We recognise that we need significant numbers of the brightest and best people with particular skills for our public services and elsewhere.
My Lords, I think that that is the essence of the Government’s policy. We recognise the need for particular skills. We recognise that over time we have relied on the skills of immigrant communities who have made a massive contribution to national life, and continue to do so. I endorse what the noble Lord said.
My Lords, we have heard a number of questions and all of them have commented on the very good things—the advantages of immigration to this country. Will my noble friend tell me how many of those convicted of terrorism or aiding terrorism have been immigrants, and how many of them have been the children of immigrants?
My Lords, my noble friend will appreciate that I do not have those figures to hand, but it is undoubtedly the case that there are people from any community who are involved in crimes—terrorist crimes or other crimes. I will endeavour to get the figures that my noble friend asked for and ensure that a copy of the letter is placed in the Library.
Circuses: Wild Animals
My Lords, the Government remain committed to banning the use of wild animals in circuses, and primary legislation will be introduced when parliamentary time is available. In the meantime, ahead of a ban, to safeguard the welfare of any wild animals still used in circuses, Defra introduced a licensing scheme in 2013, which is currently in use for 16 wild animals in two travelling circuses.
I thank the Minister for his reply, and I take his point that only a few animals are subject to this, but however well-regulated, they still suffer physical and social deprivation. Given that more than a dozen Private Members’ Bills on this issue have been blocked in Parliament over the last few years, will the Minister give us a timetable for the Government’s delivering on their promise of a ban?
My Lords, I am not in a position to say precisely, but I would like to take one issue up. One of the reasons we introduced the licensing scheme was to ensure the welfare of the animals. I have seen the conditions of the welfare scheme associated with the licensing, which is rigorous and requires inspections by vets and inspectors at least four times a year. The welfare standards of these animals—six reindeer, three camels, three zebras, one fox, a macaw, a racoon and a zebu—are high. On ethical grounds, this situation should be prohibited.
I am afraid my noble friend is a bit too fast for me there. The truth is that this is important legislation that we wish to put forward, but I am confident that the welfare elements, which are so important, are well-provided for in the licensing scheme.
My Lords, there is of course legislation, and under the requirements of the Dangerous Wild Animals Act the primary focus is public safety, but clearly, the Animal Welfare Act 2006 absolutely applies. We are absolutely clear that it is not appropriate at all for primates to be kept as pets.
My Lords, I was going to ask about primates myself. Both the BVA and well-respected animal welfare organisations such as the RSPCA all agree that primates are totally unsuitable to be kept as pets; they are highly social, highly intelligent animals and many welfare problems arise when they are kept in captivity as pets. Will the Government consider taking stronger action to remedy this serious welfare issue?
My Lords, I will certainly take back what your Lordships have said, but it is absolutely clear that the Animal Welfare Act 2006 makes it an offence to cause unnecessary suffering to an animal. This is backed up by a code of practice, and no one should keep a primate in solitary conditions, as the noble Lord has said, keep it in a small cage or feed it with an inappropriate diet. In other words, I repeat: primates should not be kept as pets.
My Lords, perhaps I may push the Minister further on the real reason for the delay in introducing the Bill. According to the latest Defra consultation, 95% of the population support a ban and the issue has cross-party support, so it cannot be because the Government fear a backlash. We are prepared to work with the Government to introduce what ought to be fairly simple legislation, and I really do not understand why there is continuing delay.
My Lords, I obviously understand what the noble Baroness is saying, and I too would like to make progress. However, I repeat that 16 wild animals are currently under a very rigorous licensing scheme. I deliberately mentioned their species so that your Lordships could understand which animals were involved. I emphasise that there are very regular inspections, and one reason why primary legislation is necessary is that there is a view that a legal challenge would be made because there would be insufficient grounds to secure a ban on a welfare basis.
My Lords, even if enforcement is rigorous in relation to animals in circuses, what about the position of the other animals that have been referred to—the primates which are inappropriately kept in people’s homes? Who is enforcing the laws relating to that?
My Lords, these are all matters that local authorities are required to ensure are enforced under the Dangerous Wild Animals Act. Clearly, if there were any issues, Defra would want to work with local authorities because it is absolutely essential that suitable animal welfare provisions are in place. I will take back what has been said about primates—I am very conscious of that—and if I have anything further to add, I will report back to your Lordships.
My Lords, a lot of the wild creatures kept in people’s homes as pets, whether birds or any other creature, have been smuggled into this country. Is the Minister confident that the National Wildlife Crime Unit has sufficient capacity to deal with the level of smuggling?
The noble Baroness raises a very important issue. The answer is that we believe that there are sufficient resources at the border, but clearly we need to be ever more rigorous. There are all sorts of schemes under many directives. From an animal welfare point of view, it is hugely inappropriate to smuggle in animals, whether they are domesticated or wild, and this is one area I will very much look at addressing.
My Lords, as the Minister is aware, there are very strict conditions on keeping animals in zoos. Has he seen the report in this morning’s papers about the zoo in the Furness district of Cumbria, where there has been an appalling number of deaths of wild animals—over 500, I think—in recent years?
My Lords, I have indeed. Of course, a zoo-keeper also died in that case. It is inappropriate for me to reply in detail because this matter is subject to the consideration of an application renewal by Barrow-in-Furness Borough Council, which will be happening very shortly. However, I am very conscious of what I think are far too many deaths among animals in that zoo.
Personal Injury Claims: Motor Vehicle Incidents
My Lords, reforms to address road traffic accident-related soft tissue or whiplash personal injury claims have been taken forward through the Prisons and Courts Bill, introduced on 23 February. These include a fixed tariff of compensation for whiplash claims and a prohibition on offers to settle such claims without medical evidence. A number of changes to the small claims limit for personal injury will also be made.
My noble friend will be aware that a year ago to the day I asked a Question in relation to John Elvin, who reported to his insurer, Sheilas’ Wheels, an accident that he was convinced would be the subject of a false whiplash claim. It was settled and we now have the figures. Sheilas’ Wheels paid £1,500 for damage to a car that was not inspected and the people concerned were given over £6,000 for personal injury, despite the fact that they were able to leap out of the car and protest about a non-existent injury. Is it not the case that the industry has enough to do in putting its position right, as well as dealing with other issues that apply in these cases?
My Lords, I quite understand the point that has been made. That is why we have included in the proposed legislation a ban on insurers making offers to settle such claims without medical evidence. We have of course addressed the issue of medical reports through the MedCo scheme.
My Lords, I refer to my interest as an unpaid consultant in the firm of solicitors in which I was senior partner. The increase in the small claims limit for whiplash cases is likely to lead to greater activity by claims management companies, which will take a substantial cut from any damages. Will the Government take steps to control this parasitic industry? This week, the Lord Chancellor announced changes to the way in which damages for personal injuries are calculated. Such damages are estimated to cost the National Health Service, which recovers the costs of treatment for motor accident claims, an estimated £1 billion a year, and they increase insurance premiums. Is this not a classic example of a ministerial car crash?
No, my Lords, this is not a ministerial car crash. I remind the noble Lord that the increase to which he refers arises as a result of the application of the discount rate introduced by the Damages Act 1996, which was last reviewed in 2001. The object of the change in the discount rate is to ensure that those who suffer catastrophic and life-changing injuries are fully and properly compensated for those injuries by reference to the damages calculation for their future care and support.
I have a copy of the report. Will the Minister comment on the following two simple statements? The report says that, once this is implemented, savings of £1 billion will be made and the average motor policy will come down by £40. Huw Evans, director-general of the Association of British Insurers, says that a 21 year-old’s policy will rise by £1,000 and 30 million other comprehensive policies will rise by £40 to £75 a year. Which is accurate, which is correct and which, in the long run, will prove to be right?
My Lords, there are two distinct issues to be addressed in this context. The reforms with regard to whiplash will, on the basis of completed impact assessments, result in very considerable savings in motor insurance premiums of the order of £1 billion. It is estimated by the industry that this will result in an average reduction in motor insurance premiums of about £40. The major operators within the motor insurance industry have undertaken to pass those savings on to the motorist, the consumer. However, the changes in the discount rate will inevitably impact on the cost of insurance, including motor insurance, and that will give rise to certain increases. One may offset the other, but I add that the Lord Chancellor indicated when announcing the change to the discount rate that this will be the subject of consideration and indeed a consultation, which is due to commence no later than Easter.
My Lords, I begin with a declaration of interest: I do not now practise as a personal injury lawyer but I have done in the past. Does my noble and learned friend recognise that the reduction in the Ogden tables to a discount rate of minus 0.75 will inflate the damages that are recoverable in personal injury cases to an extravagant and unconscionable extent, which is bound to inflate the numbers of fraudulent or unjustified personal injury cases in motor claims to the prejudice of all drivers? That being so, may I welcome the fact that these proposals are going to be looked at again, I hope constructively?
My Lords, the way in which the discount rate is calculated will be examined with some degree of urgency. However, I do not accept that the discount rate will result in the inflation of the value of damages claims. It was designed originally to ensure that those claims would be properly calculated so that those who suffer life-changing injuries are properly compensated for the future.
The discount rate is related to the rate of return on government bonds, because there is an underlying assumption that those who receive large damages awards for future care will invest them in a very conservative manner, in bonds. Therefore, as the interest rate drops, so the discount rate will also drop.
My Lords, I should declare an interest in that I practise in this area. May I suggest to my noble and learned friend that one way to get round this difficulty would be for the Government to legislate to reverse the effect of Wells v Wells, which was decided on the basis that a notional investor would invest in gilts? That is not realistic and has resulted in this extraordinary change to the discount rate.
My Lords, I agree with the observation that the level of the discount rate reflects a very conservative assumption about how a person would deal with a large lump-sum payment of damages in order to protect their future position. That has to be the subject of review, because it is clearly outdated.
My Lords, surely the review and the consultation should have come before the change in the discount rate, which is, as the Minister has heard from around the House, absolutely preposterous. As he knows, it is a fixed number based on three-year index-linked government securities, a commodity in which nobody who is investing funds for an injured claimant will put their money—it is less than you would earn by putting it into a local bank account. The fact that the number is preposterous means a big increase in premiums for motorists and a billion pound additional burden for the NHS, as well as an unnamed additional burden for the Ministry of Defence.
My Lords, I am glad that the noble Baroness acknowledges that the basis of the calculation of the discount rate clearly requires review. However, the Lord Chancellor was under a legal obligation to deal with the discount rate and we are now concerned to ensure that we consult fully and address the question of how it should be calculated in future.
Business Rates: Revaluation
My Lords, a significant majority of businesses will end up paying less as a result of the business rates revaluation and changes to relief. The generous reliefs we are introducing mean that 600,000 small businesses are set to pay no business rates at all. We have also confirmed £3.6 billion of transitional relief to help those companies facing increased bills. We are looking at the hardest-hit businesses ahead of the Budget.
Mary Portas has described the valuation as madness. The chief executive of Sainsbury’s, Mike Coupe, has called for the revaluation to be abandoned. The Federation of Small Businesses is against it. In Southwark, the borough I grew up in, one business in the north of the borough is facing a 50% increase in its business rates—which equates to £66,000 per annum or, to put it another way, three jobs at risk. Will the noble Lord agree to speak to his colleagues in the Treasury to impress upon them the concerns expressed and to make it clear that real substantive action needs to be taken in the Budget to deal with this problem and protect the high streets? Tinkering around the edges will not do.
Yes, my Lords. I should say, however, that the revaluation system has been a constant of life since the 1988 legislation, and three revaluations were held under the Labour Government on exactly the same basis as this one, at arm’s length. But the noble Lord is right: some businesses, particularly larger businesses in London, have been hard hit. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government is speaking with the Chancellor and looking at possible options, and we can expect an announcement in the Budget.
My Lords, does the Minister agree that sometimes we can actually learn from our European neighbours? France exempts 500 bookshops from business taxes, recognising them as cultural assets in their local communities. But our Government want to clobber our bookshops with rates rises that are, on average, 100% in London and up to 50% for a small independent bookshop in Lincolnshire. Meanwhile, large retailers’ distribution centres get massive cuts. I declare an interest as a publisher. Can the Minister confirm that he will look at the impact of this regressive tax on the one in four of our bookshops now threatened with closure?
The noble Baroness makes a powerful case. As I have already indicated, small businesses are set to pay no business rates at all, and we have increased the number of small businesses by moving the threshold to a rateable value of £51,000. Therefore, any business under that will not be paying business rates at all. However, the point is well made and, as I say, there will be action in the Budget for businesses that got steep rises.
My Lords, I do not recognise the Minister’s description of the high streets. Our high streets are in crisis. How can they compete with the likes of Amazon, with their low-rateable land away from the high street? During the coalition, a Liberal Democrat Minister commissioned a review of business rates which was scrapped by the Conservative Government. Can the Minister say whether they now regret scrapping that review, bearing in mind the mess they are in? Can he also comment on the fact that business rates are dealt with by the DCLG—which obviously considers it a good earner—whereas it should really be dealt with by the Business Secretary?
My Lords, there are quite a few questions there. The point that the noble Lord made about the high street and other forms of business activity has some merit, but it is quite separate from the issue of revaluation, which is done at arm’s length. We are open to looking at options, but obviously it will take time and we could not expect to do anything on this before the Budget. As the noble Lord will be aware, the Treasury did look at this in 2015 and, having consulted widely, concluded that the present system was best. However, I appreciate that globalisation, the internet and the vitality of the high street are factors that have to be weighed in the balance, so we are happy to look at this. The noble Lord asked a few other questions. If I may, I will respond to him in writing on those and put a copy in the Library.
My Lords, will the Minister inform the House whether Her Majesty’s Government would look at the feasibility of setting the threshold of business rate relief at a local level, thereby protecting small independent businesses, many of which are now at risk, especially in high-value areas?
My Lords, the right reverend Prelate makes an important point. In a sense, of course, localism is already fed in because the valuation is done locally and should reflect local conditions. As I have indicated, small businesses, with up to £51,000 in rateable value, get the small-business rate; and many small businesses—600,000 in the current rollout from April this year—will be exempt. But the local factor is taken account of by the fact that there is a local valuation that reflects local rental values.
My Lords, not just businesses but council-run schools, among others, have expressed concern about these increases, which will put yet another unacceptable pressure on our education system. Can his department and the DfE perhaps get together to address what are very real concerns?
My Lords, I would be interested in hearing more from the noble Earl on that particular issue. Clearly, as we have found out and as has been true of any revaluation, you always hear from the losers, for understandable reasons, and I am not objecting to that. But once again I remind the House that there are significant numbers of people in large parts of the country, particularly in the north and the Midlands, who benefit from this revaluation, and understandably, they are not the people rushing to the press and saying how wonderful the Government are. It is always going to be those who lose out. But many people have gained from this process.
European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill
Committee (2nd Day)
Relevant document: 8th Report from the Constitution Committee
Clause 1: Power to notify withdrawal from the EU
Amendment 9A had been retabled as Amendment 16A.
9B: Clause 1, page 1, line 3, at end insert—
“( ) Within three months of exercising the power under section 1(1), Ministers of the Crown must bring forward proposals to ensure that citizens of another European Union or European Economic Area country and their family members, who are legally resident in the United Kingdom on the day on which this Act is passed, continue to be treated in the same way with regards to their EU derived-rights and, in the case of residency, their potential to acquire such rights in the future.”
My Lords, it is a particular pleasure for me on St David’s Day to be opening this session on the Bill. I move Amendment 9B on behalf of the noble Lords, Lord Hannay and Lord Bowness, and the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, but also on behalf of perhaps 3 million people, who quite literally feel that they are being used as mere bargaining chips in order to secure the rights of another 2 million or so UK nationals who live, study or work elsewhere in the EU. It is legitimate for them to think that they are being used as negotiating capital because that is exactly what the Home Office told them. All of these 3 million, and indeed the four of us whose names are on this amendment, also share a real concern for those UK expats who, thanks to our EU membership, have settled in one of the other 27 countries. We have all heard of the serious worries of Britons living abroad with their homes, children, jobs and lives settled there. [Interruption.] We are in Committee, so I am sure the noble Lord will have plenty of time to come in.
As I was saying, we have all heard representations of the serious worries of Britons who have settled abroad. They have homes, children, lives and jobs there and now fear for their rights, and their access to medical treatment and other services and wonder what the future holds for them. It is not acceptable to place such people under that pressure. But these two groups of people should not be traded against each other. There are twin objectives, both to look after the EU and the UK nationals who live in each other’s countries.
I reckon that the Minister knows a thing or two about twins because his own, being a boy and a girl, are not identical. But neither are these two groups of people identical. Indeed, the big difference is that for EU nationals here, it is in the gift of our Government—the UK Government, answerable to this Parliament—to decide how to treat people resident in our country. So, contrary to the letter that was sent yesterday by Amber Rudd, we do not accept that this is a matter for our negotiations with the EU. This is a matter for the UK.
Amendment 9B would ensure that the rights that EU citizens here would have if we remained in the EU should stay the same on exit day. These people need to know now, not in two years’ time or even 12 months’ time. They simply cannot put their lives on hold. Some are planning schools for their children or moving jobs, renting or buying homes or acting as carers. Some are receiving healthcare. Many more are working in our health service. All should have their uncertainty removed, particularly as the reality is that many would have other rights to remain under the European Convention on Human Rights. Do we really want to clog up our courts and cause these people dismay by forcing them to court in order to assert those rights?
We should be clear that this view, decoupling their future from that of UK residents abroad, is supported by organisations representing British citizens in the EU which support the guarantee of such rights before the start of Brexit negotiations. Their statement on 20 February called on the Prime Minister unilaterally to guarantee rights of EU nationals in Britain. They say that it is,
“damaging to the UK’s reputation for UK citizens living in Europe and EU citizens in the UK to be treated as negotiating currency”.
They go on:
“Like UK citizens living in Europe, EU citizens in the UK have come and settled in another EU country in good faith on the basis of their EU citizenship rights … rights that cannot be withdrawn retrospectively and the guarantee of their rights should be given before the Brexit negotiations”.
The main, short-term request from UK nationals abroad that I know of, as Fiona Benson in Italy wrote to me, is that they want a helpline through our consulates for getting their documents sorted out.
In addition to the moral obligation that we have to all these workers, students and families established here and who want some certainty, we also need to think of the industries that depend on them—science and academia, large parts of the public sector, especially the NHS and social care, as my noble friend Lord Clark will outline. There is little wonder that the Conservative chair of the Commons Health Committee has called on the Government to guarantee the rights of EU nationals to stay, without delay. Consumers will suffer if the food and drink industry suddenly loses its workforce, which includes over 100,000 EU nationals at all skill levels. Unsurprisingly, the Food and Drink Federation survey indicated that 10% of them were already thinking of leaving Britain. And this in a sector already facing a large skills gap, due to demographic change. Indeed, the FDF estimates that it will need 130,000 new skilled workers by 2024. The Food and Drink Federation joins the 3 million-plus group and the British Chambers of Commerce in seeking urgent reassurance from the Government on the status of those already here and employed in the UK. I do not think that the Home Secretary’s letter is going to satisfy them—nor, indeed, the public. A post-referendum poll found that the vast majority wanted EU migrants living here and working in the UK to be allowed to stay. Just 5% demurred.
On Sunday, I was sorry to hear Amber Rudd say that it would be meaningless for your Lordships’ House to pass amendments, since the Government would use its majority in the Commons to dismiss them. What sort of response is that, before she has even heard the arguments, before she has thought of the people affected? And this from the Home Secretary who wrote that the status of EU citizens here can only be changed after Parliament has approved a new system. First, we are the Parliament and we can do that. Secondly, she can now, without waiting for the EU 27, extend to those already here what were their reasonable expectations as EU citizens when they arrived.
In 1985, my noble friend Lord Kinnock had to say to his own party:
“You can’t play politics with people’s jobs”.
I now want to say to the Government: you cannot do negotiations with people’s futures. They are too precious to be used as bargaining chips. I beg to move.
My Lords, in supporting this group of new clauses and amendments, I shall vote for any one of them that is most likely to commend itself to your Lordships’ House.
Perhaps I may begin by acknowledging that the Government have indeed shown sensitivity about this issue. Their position is essentially pragmatic. Their case is that unilateral action will not address the needs of UK citizens now resident in Europe. In essence, the Government’s position is that in order to increase the leverage that they have with the EU as regards UK citizens residing in Europe, they wish to keep on the table, as a bargaining chip, the right of EU citizens resident in the United Kingdom.
While I understand that argument, I remain extremely uncomfortable with it. I cannot accept the assumptions and implications inherent in that policy. We need to remind ourselves of the central facts, which are these: there are millions of EU citizens—maybe over 3 million—who have come to this country in the legitimate expectation that they will be able to live and work here for as long as they choose. For many of them, that has been a career-changing, maybe even a life-changing, decision, which may be irrevocable.
Their decision was entirely reasonable and proper, based on their assumptions. It accorded with the law that then existed. It accords with the law that exists today. For the United Kingdom now to disturb that expectation would involve an act of retrospective legislation and policy that would offend natural justice and, I suspect, the principles of human rights legislation. Indeed, it is probable that if we seek to deny European Union citizens now resident in the UK the right to continue to stay here, we would be challenged in the courts, and that challenge might well succeed.
Moreover, as a matter of general principle, legislation and policies that are retrospective in their operation should be avoided. Individuals are entitled to regulate their affairs in accordance with the law that exists at the time they make their decisions. To depart from that principle exposes all of us to risk to our freedoms and our ability to make safe choices.
I suggest that we test this this way. Many of us have relatives who were born outside the United Kingdom. My paternal grandmother was born in Tennessee. She came here to marry her first husband, who alas died, then she married my grandfather while she was living here. Both my maternal grandparents were brought up in County Galway. They came here after the First World War to settle permanently. Had my grandparents’ right to reside in those circumstances been challenged, and had I been aware of it as an individual, I would have said that that was a profoundly unconscionable prospect and I could not have supported it.
I cite a more recent consideration. On Monday I was lunching in the Members’ Dining Room of the House of Commons, where I was meeting staff whom I have known for many years. One of the waitresses there whom I have known for years came up to me and said, “What is going to happen to me when Brexit takes place?” She was born in France, but she has worked in the United Kingdom and been in the House of Commons for many years. I gave her my personal opinion, which was that there would be no problem, but I was not able to give her the guarantee she was entitled to deserve.
In the end, this is a matter of principle. This House can make a unilateral decision and give a unilateral guarantee. That is what we should do. Let us all remember how shocked we were when Idi Amin expelled the Asians from Uganda—so shocked that we offered them refuge in this country. Indeed, for those who are historians, keep in mind how shocked Europe was when Louis XIV revoked the edict of Nantes, causing thousands of Huguenots to flee France—often to this country—to its great impoverishment.
I do not say that we are going to do this. I do not think it likely that we will. But we have not put it outside our power for it to happen. That is wrong. I ask your Lordships to take the moral high ground and give reassurance to the millions who have made their home here in the expectation that they can continue to live and work here. To the pragmatic among my noble friends who sit on the Front Bench, such as the noble Lord, Lord Bridges, I say this: the moral high ground is very often the best ground on which to fight a campaign.
My Lords, in supporting Amendment 9B I shall speak also to Amendments 25 and 41. It is a pleasure to follow the powerful speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, and to agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter. I assure the House that the colour co-ordination between us is a complete coincidence.
The Government’s case is that these matters will be dealt with in negotiations. They claim that, but for the obduracy of our EU partners, they would have had a negotiation before the notification of Article 50. It was never realistic to expect ad hoc negotiations on one particular very important issue in advance of notification. There has to be an expectation of structured negotiations.
If the UK Government give a unilateral guarantee now to the millions of EU citizens who are contributing in this country, not only will they be doing the right thing morally and economically but they will be supplying a crucial catalyst for a quick reciprocal deal. It was reported in the newspapers on Monday that the Prime Minister expected to reach a quick deal on the issue, so that it could be removed from the rest of the Brexit negotiations as soon as possible—an expectation which I think would generally be supported—but the truth is that the Government are holding EU citizens here not as hostages and bargaining chips for British citizens in the EU but for other goals. It is disingenuous to inflame the fears of British people settled elsewhere in Europe that their case would be undermined by a unilateral move by the British Government. I think that those groups have appreciated that their case would not be so undermined.
The noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, mentioned some of the figures about the contribution of EU nationals to our economy. It is worth remembering that 10% of doctors here are from other EU countries. Sadly, there are reports of many of them wishing to leave or of others being deterred from coming here because of the uncertain environment that they face. Nine per cent of the workforce in construction are continental Europeans —my noble friend Lord Stunell emphasised that—with all the infrastructure ambitions that we have in this country. Similar figures, of 10% and 14%, can be cited for other sectors.
There were rather conflicting press reports earlier in the week about the Government’s intentions regarding a cut-off date. On Monday, it was reported that it was intended to set a cut-off date of 15 March—one’s instant reaction was, “beware the ides of March”—because it was said that government lawyers had advised that using the date of the referendum would be illegal. There was considerable comment that using any date short of our departure from the EU could also be illegal, because while we are in the EU free movement rights continue. There was then a rowing-back from No.10.
The Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, has stated that after Britain leaves the EU,
“we will be ending free movement as we know it”.
Not only must that apply to arrangements for the future but it must have some significance for people already here. While we are in the EU surely EU law on free movement, as on other matters, applies. Indeed, the letter from the Home Secretary states that,
“nothing will change for any EU citizen, whether already resident in the UK or moving from the EU, without Parliament’s approval”.
If that can be said, I think the Government can be in a position to make the unilateral guarantee that I hope this Committee will back today.
I want briefly to mention the problems that EU citizens, and particularly their families, are having in applying for permanent residence at the moment. Last July, the then Immigration Minister, James Brokenshire, gave assurances that nobody needed any documentation to demonstrate that they had a right permanently to reside if they had acquired five years’ permanent residence. I bobbed up and down occasionally to say, “But surely they will need some of kind documentation”. That has proved to be true. It has proved to be an 85-page document. One witness to the Brexit Select Committee in the other place displayed 34 kilograms of documentation, and she was only halfway through the collection. She had been here for 30 years, but she had to show the Home Office evidence of every time that she had entered and left the UK. Has anyone kept documentation for 30 years?
The goalposts have been moved retrospectively. People are being asked to document every move in their lives and they are being required to prove that they have private medical insurance. Although they were previously entitled and allowed to use the NHS, they are now told—having never been warned throughout possibly decades of residence—that they are not entitled to use the NHS. This is a matter of legal dispute, and I believe that the European Commission is making a statement on that subject to the European Parliament this afternoon. We might be enlightened about possible future infringement proceedings.
The upshot is that people are living in a state of anxiety, uncertainty, real dismay and turbulence. This is surely not a state of affairs that a Government whose Prime Minister has talked about the need for a kind and fair society can tolerate. The Government ought to accept that the weight of opinion is in favour of that unilateral guarantee, which will then trigger similar rights for Britons abroad.
My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, but I do not know what evidence she has for her assertion that the Government intend to use this issue as a negotiating encounter for wider issues once the negotiations start. On the contrary, at the end of last year the Prime Minister made an attempt to resolve this issue in advance of the negotiations on a reciprocal basis, but that was rejected out of hand by Chancellor Merkel and President Tusk on the grounds that no discussion of this issue could take place until Article 50 was invoked.
My noble friend Lord Hailsham, in his extremely eloquent speech, launched a great deal of obloquy on the legislation that would be necessary to deprive EU nationals of their rights. I agree with him, but that legislation is not before your Lordships’ House this afternoon. The question that your Lordships have to decide this afternoon is what action to take in the light of the truth—perhaps unpalatable to many of your Lordships, and unpalatable to me, because I have made it clear on numerous occasions that I actually favour a unilateral guarantee and think that that is what the Government should give—that the Government are not going to change their mind and that the other place, where this issue was raised, considered, voted upon and resolved by a majority of 42, is not going to change its mind either.
There are murmurs from the Benches opposite, but there are no new facts in this debate. This is an issue that is essentially simple. The arguments have been gone through in the other place; there are no new facts. The noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, criticised the Home Secretary for saying what she said in advance of the arguments, but we know what the arguments are. There are no new arguments on this issue.
There are many occasions when this House can bring forward new arguments and a fresh perspective on a situation, and genuinely make the other place think again. I do not believe that this is one of them. The question we must ask ourselves today is: how can we best help the EU nationals resident in this country? The best way is to bring the uncertainty of their position to an end as quickly as possible and the best way to do that is to pass the Bill and activate Article 50 as quickly as possible.
My Lords, on the issue of new facts, does the noble Lord agree that one new fact is the communication from all the expatriate groups across the European Union that they wish the House to pass this amendment because they believe it is the best way to secure their position?
My Lords, during this debate, which may be lengthy, it would be helpful for those of us sitting listening if speakers from the Conservative group of Peers did not refer to the Opposition raising objections when objections are being raised all around the Committee. That will not do any good to the image of the House.
I entirely endorse what my noble friend said when he replied to the last interjection. However, he told the House a few moments ago that he was a unilateralist on this issue. The whole theme of the remain campaign, of which he was a distinguished leader, was taking back control. Why can we not have a unilateral gesture before the negotiations begin, seize what my noble friend Lord Hailsham called the moral high ground and make a declaration?
The noble Lord, Lord Howard, has made one major assertion repeatedly: he kept saying that there are no new facts. There are new facts and they are really important to the British economy. The Government made it clear that science and technology is one way in which we will lead. Yet we are bleeding the best academics from this country at present. They are leaving one by one, or thinking about leaving, because they do not see themselves having a future in this country. That is urgent. It needs to be dealt with now.
My Lords, the debate in the other place was very recent. That fact, along with the others, was well known to those in the other place. With great respect, it is not a new fact. Clearly, many will disagree with me most profoundly but I believe that these amendments will work against the best interests of those they are designed to help. The best way to help them is to pass this legislation as quickly as possible, activate Article 50 and then negotiate to give these people the rights they deserve to stay in our country.
My Lords, 3 million foreign nationals in a population of about 65 million represents a minority. This country has benefited greatly from minorities for centuries. Sometimes they are minorities of a people fleeing tyranny; most markedly in the middle of the last century, the Jews came to this country and enriched it immeasurably. Sometimes they are minorities who fight for the rights of their religion, such as the Roman Catholics and Unitarians over the past couple of centuries; or for their own rights, such as votes for women; or for the rights of others, such as the magnificent vote in the other place a couple of centuries ago that abolished the slave trade. Again and again, minorities have helped us become the best of what we are, as do the minorities here today in the 3 million we are treating so shamefully. From my own experience and that of others in your Lordships’ House, I can point to the dazzling contribution of minorities across the arts, the sciences and the widest spectrum of our cultural and intellectual life.
I speak strongly for minorities because I am a member of one—a bullied and beleaguered minority whose views have been dismissed and effectively gagged. I, like the Prime Minister, voted to remain. We have become a minority. I am rather surprised that with her pride in her sovereign intransigence, she did not stay on to lead the 48%—
I thank the noble Countess. I have a short speech—about as third as long as the previous speech—and I have nearly finished it. I was wondering why the Prime Minister did not lead the remain campaign after we had become a minority. Why did she not fight on, as so many other minorities have successfully done, to achieve what they honourably and passionately think is best, as we all do, for this country? It is outside the democratic development of our history that a single-issue vote should be allowed to change the course of that history for ever so dramatically and, in my view, so potentially disastrously.
Finally, one major aspect of the disaster is to turn our backs on those who have come here and given their talents and skills to the United Kingdom, settling here and transforming us in so many ways for the better. They are now reduced to pawns in a government strategy which, to many observers here and abroad, seems largely clueless and without any response, save bluster, to any critical questions. The answer to the question of foreign nationals, for our own national pride in who we are, is to tell those who are here now that we want them to stay here and be welcome.
My Lords, Uganda was referred to by the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham. It was regrettable that Idi Amin kicked out two types of Asians—British citizens and Ugandan citizens. My opposition to him was over the Ugandan citizens, who were the largest number. He kicked them out and my coming here in 1974 was as a result of my opposition to such behaviour. So I know how minorities can feel in a place. I know that we need to reassure our European friends who are resident here and want to remain here.
However, I have one great difficulty. Your Lordships’ House can scrutinise and revise legislation, but this simple Bill is simply to confer power on the Prime Minister to notify under Article 50 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union that there is an intention to withdraw. It is giving her the power which I believe only Parliament—not the royal prerogative —can give her. At the meeting of the Lords Spiritual before all this came about, I questioned her right to simply use prerogative power because of what had gone on way back in 1215 in Magna Carta. Clause 39 says:
“No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgment of his equals or by the law of the land”—
and by “man” of course we now mean “woman” as well. Clause 40 says:
“To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice”.
I think that is still enshrined in the rule of law in this country.
As far as I am concerned, until we have done the negotiation two years down the road, European citizens who are living here now will have every right to be here, like anyone else. People want to give assurance, but I think the assurance will be when the big Bill comes and we begin the debate. Remember, the European Union has free movement of people, free movement of goods and free movement of services. All that this little Bill is doing is starting a race: on your marks, get set, bang—and then they take off.
It will take two years to run this race. During the running of the race, we want to be sure that the concerns that are raised in this debate will come back. If, as I do, we want to see the Government take this decision on behalf of all of us—that EU citizens should be given a guarantee to remain—the best way to do it is to call the bluff of Angela Merkel by saying that we have now triggered Article 50, we will talk about it and unilaterally give the guarantee. It will be much quicker than the three months proposed in this amendment. I want it to be quicker than three months.
4 15 pm
The other thing is that if the Government are about to start negotiation, we do not want to legislate piecemeal. Those rights can only be guaranteed not by the Government but by Parliament. We will have to go through another Bill in the middle of other matters. So as far as I am concerned, we need to scrutinise and revise the legislation. I do not want this little enabling Bill, which gives the Prime Minister power to say that we intend to get out, to grow into a very big Christmas tree with many baubles put on it. This House is aware of the concerns of EU citizens. I want to say, “Trigger it”, and then for the Prime Minister to return to the EU and say, “We want to guarantee as of today”, without waiting three months for more legislation, more proposals and more ideas. I do not want to do that.
I voted remain. I wrote in the Telegraph:
“It is sad that one issue has not emerged in the referendum debate: the keeping of promises. The campaign’s two sides seem to agree that the world began yesterday and we are faced with a clean slate and may position ourselves to greatest advantage. But the world, our European neighbours and we ourselves all have a recent history”.
I argued about the need to keep promises about the things we have entered into. Well, that fell on deaf ears and 52% decided to vote to leave, in spite of all the promises we had made and the things we had entered into.
I want to suggest that we leave the Bill as it is. Pass it as quickly as possible and, after all the speeches about guaranteeing European citizens their right to remain, let us do it as quickly as possible—but do not attach it to this Bill. As far as I am concerned, that is not revising or scrutinising the Bill. It is simply adding material which I do not think is very helpful.
Does the most reverend Primate not understand the moral obligation on this Government? These people are not bargaining chips. If we say quite freely that they are free to stay, that gives the moral high ground to the Government in their negotiations. I would argue that all noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Howard, should vote with their conscience and not with their party.
I never want to see any human person used as a bargaining chip. They are made in God’s likeness and as far as I am concerned, they are people and must be treated according to the rule of law in this country. The Prime Minister tried to give a guarantee. Angela Merkel did not want it before Article 50 was triggered. My suggestion is to trigger it and go back to what you promised.
I may be a Primate, but thank God I am not in captivity. The other Primate is definitely in captivity, because he is unwell and his legs have just had an operation—but I am not. I suggest that the sooner this becomes law, the greater the challenge we can give the Prime Minister on what she attempted to do but was prevented from doing because Article 50 had not been triggered. As soon as it is triggered and the power is given, we shall shout as loudly as we can and campaign as much as we can for her to go back to what she originally suggested.
People such as me were shocked, after being here and having to travel round on a travel document and pay huge sums for visas to visit the rest of Europe, to suddenly discover that when naturalised—that is the word that is used—as a British citizen we could suddenly visit the whole of Europe without a visa. That was great stuff, and I applaud it—but, please, this is a very limited Bill and we should pass it as it is.
I have one more suggestion for our Minister: to set up a truth and listening commission in every one of our four nations, so that the divisions which we are seeing at the moment can be healed and to listen to the truth and to what the people of Britain and Northern Ireland are looking for, rather than simply locking it in the Government. For those reasons I will vote against any of the amendments, as I do not think they are revising or improving the legislation. They are simply adding on and adding on.
My Lords, I support Amendment 9B, which is in my name as well as those of the other three noble Lords. It is about the rights of EU citizens in this member state, of course, not those in other member states. I support the amendment without hesitation because I believe we have a commitment to honour here, to recognise not just the rights of these citizens—although that is important enough—but the contribution they have made, are still making and will, I hope, continue to make to our economy and our society. The amendment does not seek to dictate to the Government the details of how these rights should be secured. That will be for the Government to sort out in the proposals that are called for in the amendment, and for Parliament then to decide. I would say here to the most reverend Primate that nor does it entail any delay in the triggering of Article 50 beyond the Government’s deadline at the end of this month.
So far as I can see, there is in fact only one faintly respectable argument against the amendment, which is that to speak unilaterally now about how we will treat European citizens here is not the right way for the UK to help the position of its own citizens who are living in other European countries. But that argument simply does not hold water. Otherwise, why on earth would British citizens right across the European Union have today issued a statement making it quite clear that they support our taking the decision in the amendment and believe that it is the best way to secure their rights?
I do not think I could be accused of supporting the cause of those fellow citizens right across Europe in a half-hearted way. I moved an amendment in the House which would have given them the right to vote in the referendum—which, quite shockingly, they were deprived of by the majority who voted against that. My own view is that for us to move unilaterally to protect the rights of EU citizens here is in fact the best possible step towards safeguarding the rights of our own citizens elsewhere in the EU.
I say that as someone with a little experience of EU negotiation. I negotiated our accession to the treaty, in a very modest way, as well as the budget rebate, the establishment of the single market and the opt-out on the euro. Of course, I cannot be sure that I am right, but I do think that there is a reasonable chance that I am right—and I do not believe that the transactional approach, which is the way that the Government wish to go, is the right way to proceed or is likely to produce good results—or will produce them quickly. So I hope that your Lordships’ House will approve this amendment when we come to vote on it.
My Lords, I support Amendment 9B, which overlaps with other amendments, including Amendment 37 in my name. There is a moral case—a human rights case—which has already been very well made and which I therefore will not repeat. I want to pinpoint four different categories of employment in which this issue is particularly acute. I do so from my own experience in Wales, but it is equally relevant throughout the United Kingdom.
The first group that I highlight are workers in the tourism sector, particularly those in the hotels and catering trades. In Wales, we benefit from having hundreds of workers from EU member states, such as the Baltic states, Slovakia and Hungary. It can be argued that most of these jobs could be done by residents in Wales—they could, of course, but the reality is that the work in this sector is not particularly popular, partly because some jobs are highly seasonal and partly because the wage levels are sometimes low. In Wales we now have a low unemployment rate of 4.4%, which is below the UK average. It is no exaggeration to say that if these employees were to depart overnight, the sector in Wales would be in crisis. Employers need to know now that their current staff will be able to remain and, indeed, to have some indication of the circumstances after Brexit or during any prolonged Brexit negotiations under which they will be entitled to employ staff from other EU countries.
Secondly, there is the food processing industry. Many of the same arguments apply—in some cases, to an even greater extent, because firms often overdepend on EU workers. Thirdly, in a different category, is our university sector in Wales and throughout the UK. In Wales, we have 1,355 EU nationals employed at present, often in key jobs where they cannot be easily replaced. Fourth is the NHS in Wales where, as in England, there is a high level of dependency on staff who have come here from other EU countries. I believe that more than 1,100 such EU employees work for the NHS in Wales at present. Without these, the service would be in real danger of collapse. More than 6% of our doctors are from EU countries, and we already have a critical shortage of GPs. Regarding this fourth group, I have been told of key jobholders, fearful of what may happen to them after Brexit, who are already actively seeking jobs in their home countries in case at some later stage there is a stampede of their fellow EU nationals seeking to return home, and getting a job there consequently becomes that much more challenging.
The Government have been taking the line that they will give priority to the position of EU workers in the UK when the negotiations start, but it is not at that point that the necessary assurances can be given to these workers. If the issue is subsumed as part of the overall negotiation package, the outcome will not be known until the negotiations are nearly complete. That would be totally unacceptable not only to thousands of such workers living in Britain but, I believe, to this House and the other place. That is why this amendment must be written into the Bill and why MPs must be asked to think again on this critical matter. If they do not, I believe that we should have the courage of our convictions next week, or whenever, to insist that this provision be enacted. Thousands of people are looking today to this House to give a lead, and I earnestly hope that we do not let them down.
My Lords, what faces us today is an extremely serious issue, and I want to put before your Lordships the way I happen to look at it. Throughout the European Union there are a large number of people who were born in one European country—by that I mean a country that is a member of the European Union—and now reside in another, under the protection of the laws prevalent in these countries in consequence of the treaty that puts the EU together. Many people in our country and in other countries are in this situation.
I believe that the moral high ground is to treat all these people equally. They are absolutely equal people—and they are people. I completely repudiate the idea that I should treat any fellow human being as a bargaining counter or anything of the kind. I thoroughly reject that and have no truck with it whatever. I believe it is essential that all these people be treated properly and equally. The problem is that their rights of residence in the countries in which they live are now threatened by the vote that this country has taken—against the views of a number of people here, including my own—to leave the European Union.
The European Union, in its wisdom, has formulated a way in which such matters should be settled—by the terms of a negotiation under Article 50. Some members of the European Union have refused to get into any kind of negotiation until that mechanism, set up under the treaty, is triggered, and this Bill is intended to enable our country and our Government to trigger that mechanism. The Bill is necessary because it is appreciated, and was appreciated in the courts at both levels where the cases were heard, that this would affect people’s rights, secured by Act of Parliament, in this country. Of course, that applies to the same extent in the other countries of the European Union, because the law of the Union, by virtue of the treaty, has to be accepted as the law in those countries as well. So those people’s rights are all rights in terms according to the Treaty on European Union.
The European Union has stipulated a way in which, if any country wishes to leave, it should do so—and Article 50 is that way. I think that all these people have to be treated fairly. They are all in the same boat, and they are all people whose security in the country in which they are residing is threatened until that matter is settled under the European Union negotiation structure. I believe it is right that that should be done in a way that is fair to them all.
I am the first to acknowledge that we owe a tremendous amount to people from other European countries who are resident here—in the National Health Service and a whole lot of other places. I myself have often seen extremely good work done by people who have come from, for example, Poland, to work here. The work they do and the benefits they give to us are very great. However, that is not a reason to give those people preference over the other people who are affected in exactly the same way.
As the most reverend Primate has said, the right thing is for Article 50 to be triggered and for the Prime Minister to immediately ask—as she has said she will—for this to be settled, in a way which would cover the whole of the European Union. The only excuse that has been offered so far in Europe for not agreeing to this is that Article 50 negotiations, which are the way out of the European Union, have not been triggered. I would confidently expect—I have the greatest possible respect for the noble Lord, Lord Hannay of Chiswick—
A unilateral declaration of that kind is not treating fairly all the people who are affected by this problem. The moral high ground is fairness and that is the only ground we can take in a negotiation of this kind. I thoroughly believe that the chances of a complete settlement of this matter are greatly increased if the negotiations are triggered and the Prime Minister makes this the very first requirement, as she has said she will. Nobody in the European Union has so far given any reason for not agreeing with it for all European nationals who are in other countries of residence.
I respectfully point out to the noble and learned Lord and to the noble Lord, Lord Howard, that Liam Fox said at the Conservative Party conference that the uncertain status of EU nationals living in the UK is one of the “main cards” in the Brexit negotiations. For that reason, I do not trust the Government on this issue.
My Lords, I do not regard myself as bound by remarks made by Dr Liam Fox anywhere. I have been given the responsibility, so far, of being a Member of this House and of attempting to explain to your Lordships, as fully and briefly as I can, what I believe to be the moral high ground: to treat all people from the European Union who are in countries other than their countries of origin according to the rights secured by the European Union treaty. The time for a fair negotiation of the whole matter is when that treaty is departed from, in accordance with the rules set out in Article 50. That would come very quickly because, as I have already said—I am repeating myself now but I will not do it again—I have heard no argument from Europe against this, except that the negotiations have not been triggered in accordance with the provisions of the treaty itself.
My Lords, I will speak to Amendments 16A and 38 and I also support Amendment 9B. Whether or not one favours a unilateral guarantee to EU citizens in this country, as I do, there are key questions about the Government’s approach which can and need to be answered now. Amendment 16A is a probing amendment which seeks to draw out the answers to these questions. I hope that the Minister will respond to them fully when he winds up. First, what rights do the Government intend to provide for EU citizens and their families in the UK and to seek for British citizens and their families in the EU? The Government should tell us now. If they did so, they would provide much-needed clarity for EU citizens here and British citizens in the EU. Those citizens need to know that they and their families will not just have a right to residence and to work, but also have access to public services—in particular, health—without which, for many, the right to residency is meaningless.
Thirdly, what procedure do the Government envisage by which EU citizens in the UK will gain rights of residency under British law? As the report of the EU Justice Sub-Committee on acquired rights makes clear, the current indefinite leave to remain procedure would not be suitable. It would not be able to cope with the applications which would have to be processed and it requires documentation which, in many cases, EU citizens simply will not have because they have never needed it, or had any expectation of needing it.
Fourthly, what do the Government intend to be the qualifying date for the rights that they grant to EU citizens? Will it be the date of withdrawal—as it was in the case of Greenland’s exit from the European Union, which is the only precedent we have—or do the Government intend some other date? Again, people need to know the Government’s intentions so that they can get on with planning their lives.
Next, there is the question of comprehensive sickness insurance cover, or CSIC. As my noble friend Lady Ludford said—many noble Lords will be aware of this—there is a dispute between the UK and the EU on whether the National Health Service qualifies as comprehensive sickness cover. The EU maintains it does, but the UK maintains it does not. Whatever the merits of the dispute between the EU Commission and the UK Government on this matter, three facts are clear. First, many EU citizens had no idea this requirement existed. Secondly, those who did thought they were covered by their right to use the NHS—a reasonable assumption, given that that is the position of the EU Commission. The third and final stark fact is this: if the Government adhere to their current position on CSIC, thousands of people, many of whom have been resident in this country for decades, will find themselves without the right to remain in the country that they have made their home—that cannot be right. This issue is causing huge anxiety to millions of people and it is in the power of the Government to resolve it by stating that evidence of CSIC will not be a requirement for EU citizens to gain permanent residence. They should do so now.
Amendment 38 simply makes explicit the unilateral guarantee to EU citizens resident in the UK and provides that no agreement under Article 50 can be entered into which does not protect the rights of UK citizens and their families in other EU countries.
It is not my intention to put either amendment to a vote this afternoon, but I hope that the Minister will address the questions raised by both of them. I will support the cross-party amendment because it offers the best opportunity to send a clear signal to the elected House. But I will want to come back to the issue of British citizens in the EU, addressed in Amendment 38, because their rights are also of crucial concern to my noble friends, myself and many noble Lords across all parties in the House.
Many British citizens living in the EU have contacted me and many other noble Lords to say how abandoned they felt by the elected House and how heartened they were that this House was addressing their concerns. We must not abandon them again. Through no fault of their own, as the result of a referendum from which the majority of them were excluded, millions of British and other EU citizens suddenly find their future at the mercy of the whims of politicians. They fear that they may be excluded from the countries that they have made their home. In some cases, they fear being split up from their husbands or wives or partners. These are not spurious fears; they are not the result of scaremongering; they are the result of the Government’s failure to provide either moral leadership or administrative clarity. Take the example of an elderly couple—
My Lords, even if you are a Liberal Democrat you cannot have it both ways. You either give priority to people living here—those you think should have priority—or you do not. This amendment, which the noble Lord has spoken in favour of, does precisely that—it gives priority to EU citizens living here, rather than British citizens living elsewhere. He cannot have it both ways.
Perhaps the noble Lord will forgive me but if he listens to my argument he will understand the answer to his question. Let us take, for example, an elderly couple, resident in Germany, who wrote to me recently—one a British citizen, the other a German citizen. They wrote to say that they are terrified that, if the final agreement does not provide for continuing access to healthcare, they will not be able to continue to live in the same country, and the same fears have been expressed by EU citizens in the UK. These are not abstract issues; this is about the lives of millions of people, it is about the anxiety and fear that has been inflicted on them since Brexit, and it is about the uncertainty that means that their lives have been put on hold. The Home Secretary claims in her letter to us that—
My Lords, no, I do not agree with the noble Viscount for one moment. These are fears expressed to me and to noble Lords across the whole House. They are not manufactured; they are real and present, and the Government need to address them.
The Home Secretary claims in her letter to us that a unilateral guarantee to EU citizens resident in the UK would cause uncertainty for British citizens in the EU. As the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, pointed out, that is not the view of the many groups representing British citizens in the EU that have written to me and have published a statement today. Not only do they accept the need for a unilateral guarantee but they have strongly urged it on me and, I am sure, on other noble Lords. Far from causing uncertainty, they believe that it would provide them with reassurance.
During the debate on this Bill, there has been a lot of discussion about who said what in the referendum campaign, but no one disputes that the leave campaign claimed that the rights of EU and British citizens resident in other countries would not be affected. That is what they said; they also said that to state anything else would be scaremongering.
Since the vote to leave, politicians from across the political spectrum have been clear that we should unilaterally state that we will protect the rights of EU citizens here. A prominent leave campaigner, the noble Lord, Lord Howard, spoke earlier. In evidence to the Justice Sub-Committee, he made it clear that that should be the case, at least as far as residence and rights to work and study were concerned. He said that he did not think we should,
“wait for any question of reciprocity”.
The noble Lord, Lord Cormack, rightly advised the Government—some months ago, I think—that they should lead by example. He has taken a clear, principled stance on this issue throughout, as have many noble Lords in this House, including the noble Lords, Lord Bowness and Lord Hannay, my noble friend Lady Ludford and the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, who moved the amendment—noble Lords of all parties and none, remainers and leavers alike, because this is not a partisan issue; it is a question of principle.
Doubtless the Minister will tell us that this Bill is not the place to concern ourselves with such principles, but it is the only place. It is our one opportunity to send a clear signal back to the elected House that we regard the principle of protecting the rights of EU citizens resident here and British citizens resident in the EU as a matter of honour for our country, and, in doing so, to show that we have heard the distress and anxiety of millions of British and other EU citizens, and that we have been prepared not just to offer warm words but to act.
My Lords, in a manner which has not been followed by anybody else in the House today, I should declare my interest in this matter. I have a nephew who has lived and worked in Germany for 20 years and I have a Danish son-in-law who has lived in this country for over 30 years.
Being here today has been an extraordinary experience. First, we have been unfortunately and unusually denied the presence of my noble friend Lord Heseltine, who is not in his usual place.
He is there.
Then perhaps he will do us the kindness of addressing us, because it is an almost unique experience.
The other reason that this is a remarkable day for me is that, at a time when we so often hear slave traders criticised, my noble friend Lord Hailsham has made the most splendid defence of them. He said that a man who decides to do anything is entitled to do so in accordance with the laws as they were when he took the decision. I hope that we will hear a little less about students tearing down portraits of slave traders now that my noble friend has dealt with that so effectively.
It seems to me that the first duty of this Parliament of the United Kingdom is to care for the interests of the citizens of this kingdom. If we are to be concerned about anybody’s rights after Brexit to live anywhere on this continent of Europe, we should be concerned for the rights of British people to live freely and peacefully in other parts of Europe. Somehow or another, today we seem to be thinking of nothing but the rights of foreigners.
Will the noble Lord develop the argument about protecting the rights of UK citizens a little further? What would he say to a UK citizen married, perhaps, to a German or Dutch national and now worried about their right to remain, to work and to live in this country?
That is exactly what the Prime Minister has said: we will look for an equitable solution. That means, in my view, that the rights of those who are currently resident here who, although they are not British subjects, are citizens of the EU, should be kept. But, of course, so should the rights of British citizens living within the EU. That is not a difficult matter. Why is everybody here today so excited about an amendment that looks after foreigners and not the British?
My Lords, I point out to the noble Lord that the amendment is structured as it is because we are conscious of the powers of the British Government, who are able to determine the lives of the EU citizens resident in this country but not able to determine the lives of our own citizens abroad. That does not mean to say that we think any less of them; we are fighting for them.
Of course we do not have the power to look after our citizens overseas—not in these days when we do not have many gunboats—but we have an obligation to look after the rights of those people and to look after those rights first. The best way we can preserve the rights of all those concerned—EU citizens here and our citizens on the continent—is to allow Article 50 to be proceeded with as expeditiously as possible, to get the worries over, and for a decent and proper arrangement to be made. I only wish that European statesmen such as Mrs Merkel would come forward, perhaps arm in arm with Herr Juncker, and say that that is exactly what they want, too. We do not need this amendment; it would make it much more difficult to get to that solution.
My Lords, I support this amendment. I also have my name on Amendment 16A with the noble Lord, Lord Oates, and on Amendment 38. I want to reiterate the point about the position at the time of the referendum. During the campaign, reassurance was given to EU nationals living here, and to our citizens living abroad in the European Union, that their rights would be protected. They were told this would happen under the international law of acquired rights.
As chair of the European Union Justice Sub-Committee, along with my colleagues on the committee, I heard evidence on the international law of acquired rights. It became very clear to us—and this is the basis of the report which is available to all noble Lords—that international law does not provide the kind of protections that were being given as a reassurance to those many people. Our committee embarked on an evidence-taking session which showed us that, with regard to the position of European Union nationals living here as well as our citizens living around Europe, they would be in extremis if we did not take steps very quickly to secure their rights.
As we have heard, more than 3 million European Union nationals live in this country. But they are not the only ones experiencing anguish; it is also their family members, their employers and their neighbours. This will affect a whole cadre of people beyond the people themselves. I suspect that our committee is at the receiving end of the greatest number of communications from those people about their distress, their anxiety, the fears of their children and their fears about their future. So we should not think that this is about only 3.5 million people and that we are preoccupied—as the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, seems to think we are—with the rights only of people living here. We have received a huge mailbag from people around Europe who are fearful of what their pension positions are. They are fearful because they retired to places such as Spain and now wonder what their prospects are: they worry about their healthcare situation and so on.
When we say our position should be that we leave it to the great negotiation and that it should be number one on the list, I want to remind, for example, the most reverend Primate that our Prime Minister did not go to Europe and say that we would give a unilateral declaration. She said that she wanted a negotiation before the triggering of Article 50. It was not on the table because, as we know, negotiation begins only after that. What she should have done—and what we urge her to do—is say that we will take the principled position of honouring our responsibilities to people who live and work with us, because of the impact on their lives, the lives of their families and the lives of all the people around them.
I would like to explain something. We discovered while taking evidence something that was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Oates—that the law around permanent residence is incredibly complex and byzantine. In fact, Lord Justice Jackson described it as being such that its complexity would even have made Byzantine emperors envious. We have taken evidence about the impact of this on people making applications. The new piece of evidence that I offer to the noble Lord, Lord Howard, is this: we now know that in the period since the referendum, 30% of the applications made for permanent residence have been rejected. The refusals have been on the grounds of incomplete documentation or—and this is one of the most painful things to hear—that women who took time off from employment to have children did not pursue the private sickness insurance that the Government say was required. They are supposed to provide documentation to show that they had sickness insurance. If they are not able to provide it, they are told that they are not entitled to permanent residence. Many have received a refusal on that ground. These are the mothers of children, married to men here in Britain, living their lives here and having sent their children to school here. Many of them have been here for more than 20 years. We should understand the scandal that that creates.
I want to say to people who have been involved in any kind of business negotiation or legal negotiation that when you take a principled position at the beginning of a negotiation, it wins you so much good will. In communications we have received only today and yesterday, and from all those people in the European Union who are in contact with me as the chair of the sub-committee, people are saying to us, “Please pass the unilateral declaration amendment in the House of Lords”, because it is giving reassurance not just to those nationals there but to all of us in Europe who are fearful about the future and who feel that it will give strength to our arguments in relation to Governments such as the Spanish Government, the Portuguese Government and so on.
I urge your Lordships to accept that this is a matter of principle. This is about the honour of this House. This is about us speaking to what people need to put their fears and their anguish at bay. We have a real responsibility to those people, and in taking the responsibility for the ones whom we can make decisions about, we therefore take responsibility for our citizens living in other parts of the European Union.
My Lords, I did not participate at Second Reading because I could not be present for the closing speeches, but I have sat through, watched or read all the proceedings. Had I been present, I would have spoken in support of the Government taking the action urged in this amendment, to which I have added my name—something for which I have no regret, despite this afternoon.
Our attitude to this amendment will help define the kind of country that we want to be. I have read very carefully the letter to your Lordships from my right honourable friend the Home Secretary urging rejection of the amendment. I do not disregard it lightly, but I do not find acceptable the argument that we should be prepared to confirm the rights of EU nationals living here only as part of the negotiation about our own citizens. I think it is a misjudged position to adopt, and wrong both politically and in terms of justice and fairness. I find it neither justifiable nor, with respect, credible to prolong the uncertainty of EU nationals in this country. I wish that we could remove the uncertainty for our nationals in other EU countries, but that is not in our gift.
Our stance on this matter implies that, without a satisfactory outcome to the linked issues of UK citizens, the rights of EU citizens here might not be safeguarded. If we may use the rights of EU citizens here as a bargaining tool in connection with UK citizens’ rights, why not, some people think, for other important issues? But I do not believe it to be a credible argument. Does anyone believe that we in the United Kingdom would actually deprive EU citizens of their rights? For that matter, do we believe that our current partners in the European Union would want to make our nationals’ continued residence in their country impossible, impractical or intolerable? If we do indeed believe that, it says much about our attitude towards our partners. I suggest that in negotiations we need to demonstrate some greater trust. Before we start negotiations, we should reject outright the idea of some kind of diplomatic tit for tat.
Let us remember that we are not dealing with enemy aliens in times of war but with people who came to this country with our consent under the treaties of accession. In 2003, the United Kingdom, together with Sweden, Greece, Ireland, Denmark and the Netherlands, agreed not to impose transitional arrangements limiting free movement. That was a brave decision at the time, which recognised that the countries of eastern Europe had waited a long time for freedom and membership.
That European Union (Accessions) Act was passed in the other place with no votes against. There were some discussions about transitional arrangements, and likewise, in this House, some discussions but no votes. Although any transitional arrangements would by now have long expired, there is no doubt that the United Kingdom and this Parliament offered an unconditional welcome, which was an attraction to many. We felt what has been described this afternoon: that we had the moral high ground. I suggest to my noble friend on the Front Bench that now is the time to take that high ground again and give certainty where there is now uncertainty and clearly state that we in the United Kingdom do not bargain with people.
We have chosen to leave the European Union. That is our choice and our right, but we should also recognise that as a nation we made it possible for people from other countries to come here and build a new life. Let us give reassurance and show that we are indeed the generous, outward-looking, internationalist country that we are stated to be heading for in these Brexit negotiations. Let us also not play a blame game with other leaders in Europe. I say with great respect to noble Lords who spoke earlier: do not read the Prime Minister’s Lancaster House speech as an unconditional offer to settle the issue of EU nationals in this country. Within the words of that speech, the “deal”, which I think was the word used, was inextricably linked to a deal on UK citizens in Europe.
I am very aware of the injunction that we should pass this Bill without amendment—indeed, I have been made very aware of it just in case I had not received the message. If we accept that we will not deprive EU citizens of their rights, what possible motive can we have for being so reluctant on this issue? I hope that it is not because we think it would be seen as a sign of weakness on migration issues. It remains my preference to hear the Minister say that the Government will make a statement that will meet the concerns of those who have put forward this amendment and other amendments in this group. But if he cannot do that now or later, then the matter has to be settled by a Division. For the Minister to take such a step would be preferable, because there are many issues that have been raised by me and other noble Lords that need clarification.
Our amendment refers to EU citizens “legally resident”. That should cover people resident here under their treaty rights. The noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of The Shaws, referred to that at some length. I ask the Minister to confirm that the Government recognise the rights of those EU citizens who may just be family members living with an EU citizen who has a permanent residence certificate.
To vote for this amendment is not to delay the Bill, to thwart the outcome of the referendum or to deny the will of the other place. It is a simple request to look at a very serious issue. Indeed, were we to do so, it would be in line with the recommendations of your Lordships’ European Union Committee report on this issue. There is plenty of time for it to go back to the other place and come back here. I hope that my noble friend on the Front Bench will understand that I, for one, do not want to be associated with a position which, whatever the motive for adopting it, appears mean-spirited and does us no credit.
With this amendment or a government commitment to EU citizens, we could commence negotiations—I hope that the future of UK nationals will be top of the list—by saying to our EU partners that we have already done the proper thing by their nationals. That could even assist in creating a good climate in which to start our talks. We want a new relationship with Europe. Let us make no mistake: there are many things that we shall need from our partners in the future. To open the talks with a generous gesture, freely given, would not be a bad start.
My Lords, emotions understandably run high on this issue, both here and on the continent. As a long-term resident on the continent, and after a lot of soul-searching over the weekend, including consultation with multiple UK residents’ organisations that are consistent in the messages they project, I see, however, that the only course of action is to allow the Government a clear run on these negotiations.
A mixture of issues are at play this afternoon, some of which belong elsewhere. Matters such as meeting the dire needs of our health service should be parked as a subject for another day, as should other regrettable circumstances, including those of families, many with children, facing the stark reality of enforced separation or, worse, having to split up because of the quirks of being a non-EU spouse and not meeting immigration criteria set for residence in the UK. Let those needs indeed be recognised but tagged for resolution in legislative debate and amendments to an immigration or any other appropriate Act.
There is no guarantee that, should EU citizens be offered the right to remain in the UK in advance of negotiations, UK citizens’ rights to remain on the continent will be secure. It could be argued by Brussels, for example, that the UK’s need to propose this is more pressing than that of the 27 remaining members. This is where there is a coup de grâce, of which the Minister will be aware. It addresses the point wished for by the noble Lord, Lord Howard, about the need for a new fact or perspective.
Eight member states have thus far failed to notify the Commission of complete transposition into their national legislation of a citizens’ rights directive, thereby enabling working by citizens in another member state. Failure to react to the formal notice and the recent reasoned opinion necessitating compliance will be referred to the ECJ within two months. This does not help the cause behind these amendments. “Beware the small print” is an adage.
After the trigger, however, the Government could, with Brussels, agree to an across-the-EU process of removing a first stage of uncertainty by announcing that those compliant with national residency rules are good to remain. A limited grace period for compliance by others could then be agreed by mutual consent. The only practical way forward is to establish red lines on the criteria on rights to remain. Two sets of issues would then determine where the line in the sand could be drawn. First, two dates are relevant: the date of the referendum and the date of leaving the EU. Secondly, two sets of persons are relevant: those compliant with individual national residency criteria, who should be correctly registered with the national authorities of the country concerned; and those compliant with bilateral tax-treaty terms and correct reporting on the 183-day rule, taking into account primary residence status and centre of economic interests, paying national social security and municipal taxes as required, including conversion of driving licences and so on. In other words, there should be visible and verifiable commitment of intent. By complying with those conditions, one should be afforded the right to equal treatment as nationals in the country in which one is living, including the right to healthcare. The road map I propose would remove a first stage of uncertainty, from which could follow an incremental, reciprocal and mutual consent approach with Brussels that would be considered throughout the Article 50 process.
I will therefore not be supporting these amendments. They would complicate the process of exiting the EU, probably fail to deliver on a reasonable, timely and negotiated settlement, and lead to a hard Brexit.
My Lords, I have tabled Amendment 25 on behalf of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, of which I am a member. It is also supported by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, and the noble Baroness, Lady Lawrence, who are also members, and the noble Lord, Lord Kerslake. Inevitably, I will speak a little to the other amendments in the group, but I assure noble Lords that I have crossed out quite a lot of the speech I arrived with.
Of course, I am aware of the statements made by Ministers, most recently the Home Secretary’s letter to noble Lords, but none of these amounts to an acknowledgement of rights—I stress rights. That is almost where we started, with the second speech from the noble Viscount, who referred to natural justice. The JCHR has reported largely on the basis of the European Convention on Human Rights. In the spirit of the committee’s very moderate amendment, I assure noble Lords that our amendment, unlike others in this group, does not amount to an attempt to delay or frustrate leaving the EU.
I am puzzled by the logic of the Government being committed to assurances, while at the same time saying that nothing can be settled now. The latter must call the former into question. Noble Lords have talked about how offensive it is to treat people as commodities, but even if it were appropriate, how useful would it be as a bargaining chip? Ministers are saying that we have their assurances that this issue is a priority. Does not that give us the worst of all worlds—a bargaining chip without any negotiating advantage—because we have acknowledged its priority? Have we downgraded other issues? I leave these questions hanging.
It is said that a unilateral arrangement makes no sense, but I put a different view to your Lordships. Even at the cold, unemotional level of negotiating tactics, I believe it does. As the noble Lord, Lord Anderson of Swansea, said, a good will gesture or a moral gesture can be a very effective negotiating tool in itself. I do not have other noble Lords’ impressive record of high-level negotiation, but I have done my share of all-night stints constructing some agreements. I have found that it can be effective.
We are putting the responsibility on other states by saying that they insist on no negotiation before notification, but there is no technical reason why there cannot be a unilateral position. Of course, UK citizens in other European states have the same rights—or, if you like, a mirror image of them—so the scope for negotiation may be a little limited. Given the age of the many UK citizens abroad, particularly those living in Spain, I cannot help thinking that if they return at the same time as we lose or send away so many people working in our health service, we will be shooting ourselves in both feet.
It is not the best reason, but there are also practical reasons for the JCHR’s amendment and others. If some such provisions are not embedded, the burden on the Home Office of dealing with large numbers of applicants seeking to establish their position, and on the courts called on to apply Article 8 of the convention, would be enormous. I do not want to start considering what would then be the logical step of deportation.
We have referred to morality as well as rights. A guarantee is simply the right thing to do. Although I am disciplining myself from repeating what other noble Lords have said about representations that have been made to us, I take this opportunity to thank the enormous numbers of people who have emailed us, very personally, individually and in a very heartfelt way. The noble Lord, Lord Howard, said that there are no new facts. I do not think he could argue that there is not an increasing weight of evidence.
There is one cohort I want to mention: people who are vulnerable to exploitation. They are perhaps not hugely competent, and are often in the agriculture, construction and care industries. There is evidence now, which the JCHR has heard, that unscrupulous employers are taking advantage of their readiness to believe it when they are told, “You are illegal”, when no such thing is true.
We have heard many times, “Don’t tell the other side your bottom line. Don’t put your cards on the table”. I think this card is on the table, so that argument falls away. This Chamber should demonstrate that it is with those who want their nation to be one which understands common humanity and, dare I say it, human rights.
My Lords, I rise to speak in support of Amendment 25, to which I have added my name, and in general support of the amendments in this group. Like the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, I declare my interests: as chair of King’s College Hospital, chair of Peabody and president of the Local Government Association—this may be the only point of similarity in our speeches. My views are of course my own and not those of the individual organisations.
I should start by saying that this is a difficult judgment for us to make and it will be one of many that we face over the coming years. Like other noble Lords, I have read very carefully the Home Secretary’s letter, much of which I sympathise with, and reflected on the issues overnight. Having reflected, I still come firmly down on the side of supporting an amendment to protect the rights of EU citizens in this country.
The arguments for this are both principled and deeply practical. The principled arguments have already been well made today, so I will not repeat them all. More than 3 million EU citizens have come to this country in good faith. Many have made it their home and, in doing so, contributed enormously to the good of this country. I doubt if there are very many Peers in this House or indeed many people in the country who would actively want them to leave. The only argument we have heard for not confirming their position now, put forward by the Home Secretary in her letter, is that it would weaken our hand in the negotiations on UK citizens in Europe. Whichever way you dress up that argument, whichever way you think about it, it is using the rights of EU citizens as a bargaining chip.
In my view, it is not even a very good bargaining chip, because it is perfectly clear to the Commission negotiators that we need them to stay as much as they wish to do so—if not more so. So our negotiating position amounts to saying, “Do as we wish or we will shoot our own foot off”. I think the EU negotiators will see through that.
My practical reason for supporting the amendment is that, for our own sakes, we need to end the uncertainty for EU citizens now. The Government have said that we can debate this issue at a later stage. They have said that they will seek to reach an early agreement on the matter with the EU. I have no doubt about their sincerity on this point, but the hard truth is that early resolution is not in their gift. In the meantime, the uncertainty creates risks for desperately needed skilled staff, with devastating consequences—let me give just three.
For the building of new homes, which I am passionate about, we know that something like a quarter of construction workers in London come from the EU. In respect of the effective operation of our hospitals, I know that King’s would simply not be able to function without the European doctors and nurses who work for us. For the delivery of social care, EU workers form a vital part of the residential and home care provider workforce. Without those skilled workers, it would simply be impossible to run these functions properly and it is not possible to replace such workers in the short term. It may be that they will continue to stay here, but the survey that we saw in the Guardian today on European doctors immediately puts that in doubt. It may be that early resolution with the EU is possible: I have to say, from my own conversations with those closer to the process, that I am doubtful of this.
In the end, the key question for me is this: given the potentially devastating consequences for all the things I hold dear—new homes, a functioning NHS and delivery of good quality care—do I think that this is a risk worth taking? I do not. Sometimes in life—in fact, very often in life—the right thing to do is to do the right thing. I hope that today we do the right thing.
My Lords, I assure your Lordships that I will be very brief indeed. I shall start by declaring an interest, an even more personal interest than that declared by my noble friend Lord Tebbit. My home is in France, yet despite that, I have gone on record—in this House on a number of occasions and elsewhere—as saying that I would have liked to see the Government give an unconditional assurance that EU citizens in this country, legally here with a right to remain, should continue to remain. There should be no question of that right being taken away. I believe that the idea of somehow linking it with the position of British citizens resident in the European Union was well intentioned—in order to reassure those people—but mistaken. I cannot agree with this amendment, partly and fundamentally for the reasons so well set out by the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York. This amendment has no place whatever in this Bill.
Secondly, the Home Secretary’s letter has been referred to. One of the things that she said—in fact, the most important one—was that,
“nothing will change for any EU citizen, whether already resident in the UK or moving from the EU, without Parliament’s approval”.
It is quite clear to everyone in this House that there is no chance that Parliament would approve the expulsion of EU citizens legally resident here. This is understood by the Government and there is no way that they would propose this, so there is no danger whatever to EU citizens resident in the UK.
Apart from a certain amount—too much, in my opinion—of virtue signalling, what is the purpose of this amendment and what is its likely consequence? The only consequence of this amendment would be to stir up fear and concern among the EU residents in this country that they might not be able to stay, when there is no question that they will be able to. That is something that I find wholly deplorable.
My Lords, I have put on one side the remarks that I was going to make because I want to concentrate on the remarks made by the right reverend Prelate—I am sorry, the most reverend Primate—and I do so declaring my interest as a member of the Church of England and a regular churchgoer.
The most reverend Primate seemed to base his argument on two points. The first was that the EU would agree to prioritise this issue above all things and not make it dependent on other parts of the negotiations. That is certainly the Prime Minister’s view but I do not know whether that prioritisation will be recognised by the EU. As for not making it dependent on other negotiations, I have negotiated as part of the EU and negotiations are never concluded until everything is concluded. The square brackets stay around everything until you can finally decide what you are prepared to bargain with, what you will give away and what you want to keep. That is the reality of negotiations and I am afraid that to say otherwise is misleading.
The other point is that somehow there would be a recognition that reciprocity will be guaranteed on this issue. Again, reciprocity will not necessarily be guaranteed at all. This brings us to the point of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, that there should be equality of treatment on all sides. Just suppose that the EU negotiators say something different. All our debate has been based on the premise that somehow we will get what we want in the end because there will be reciprocity but suppose that there is not. Will we really at that point turn round to EU nationals in this country and say, “On your way”? Will we say, “Take your children out of school”? Will we say to the elderly, “Please leave our care homes”? This idea of it as a negotiating point—I agree it is being used as one—is totally unrealistic and unacceptable.
The Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, said in her letter to your Lordships that this,
“is less a matter of principle than one of timing”.
I rather like and respect the Home Secretary but on this I disagree with her wholeheartedly. This is a simple matter of principle, of being prepared to do the right thing because it is the right thing, and being prepared to say so. That is what I hope these Benches and Members on all sides of the House, if not all Members, and including the Bishops’ Bench, will be prepared to do when it comes to taking the vote.
My Lords, I have the misfortune to disagree with the conclusions reached by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, although I agree with him about the disregard we should have for anything said by Dr Liam Fox. I take some consolation from the fact that I wholly agree with the compelling speech made at the outset of this debate by the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham.
I do not need to trouble the House for long because at Second Reading I addressed this issue to a large extent but nothing I have heard today persuades me of anything other than the catastrophic consequences for the economy and so many of the services in the United Kingdom as a result of those non-British EU nationals who work in these industries and services no longer being available. I also recoil from the notion that we should say to husbands, wives, mothers or fathers of UK citizens, “You must leave the United Kingdom”. I recoil even more at the notion that were we to be in the position of expelling people, we would knock at doors—as I said at Second Reading—either at midnight or midday, saying, “You must leave the United Kingdom”.
Let us look at this from the point of view of families. What sort of stress and strain would it put upon a family? Indeed, what sort of apprehension has this already caused in many families? It is said that there are no new facts. The mounting volume of anecdotal evidence of anxiety on the part of those who may be struck at as a result of there not being an amendment of the kind we seek to pass today is exemplified day after day. The Guardian was mentioned a little while ago. There is a compelling article in that about a family who has already decided to go because the lack of a satisfactory understanding has become too much.
There is a further new fact in the utterances of Mr David Davis. He said earlier that it will be years and years before United Kingdom citizens would be able to take over those jobs fulfilled by non-British EU citizens. What is to happen in the interim? If you are a non-British EU citizen working in a hospital but you know that the long term depends upon whether enough British citizens can be found to take over the job you are doing, what kind of compulsion does that create in wanting to stay? Ultimately, the services you provide will be disregarded.
I go back to the question of the assurance of the Home Secretary. I tried to put myself in the position of those about whom we have been concerned in the course of this debate. I do not doubt that the assurance of the Home Secretary is given in good faith but I believe in belt and braces. I would rather have that assurance on the statute than depend upon the decision of a Home Secretary who in five years may no longer be in office.
The noble Lord just made the point that he would rather have this amendment on the statute. I do not know if it has occurred to him but that is not for this House to decide but the other place, which already voted against this proposition. He is a very distinguished lawyer. This amendment refers to people who are “legally resident”. I cannot find any definition of what “legally resident” means. Which groups is he referring to?
We might have to take the expert opinion of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, but I fancy that the courts will be able to reach a conclusion on that.
I was saying that I endeavoured to put myself in the same position as those who find themselves under anxiety and apprehension. Were I in that position, I would be much more concerned to have a statutory right than a political assurance.
No doubt the noble Lord will try to intervene at another stage, given his characteristically generous attitude towards the Liberal Democrats.
The noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, referred at the outset to the legal implications of what we are discussing. He is perfectly right because there may well be convention rights, and it is also the case that Parliament and even more so the courts have often been very reluctant to pass legislation with retrospective effect. Indeed, in my recollection the only time that has been done recently was in relation to former Nazi war criminals for whom the United Kingdom was determined to exercise retrospective extraterritorial jurisdiction. However, the mere fact that these issues are live in this debate surely indicates just how complicated any kind of expulsion might be and the extent to which its effectiveness would undoubtedly be adversely affected by people going to law. I venture to guess that they would get a successful outcome from any effort at judicial review.
It has been said already that this is the right thing to do. I doubt very much whether anyone’s mind has been changed to any extent by today’s debate. At least in my mind, it is still the right thing to do and I will vote for it.
My Lords, I will speak to my Amendment 40 and comment on Amendment 9B, which is the main focus, of course, of the discussion. My own amendment has a clear and simple purpose: to place British citizens in the EEA and EEA citizens in Britain on an equal footing. I am puzzled to hear it suggested that abandoning 1 million of our British citizens in the EU is the moral high ground. I was encouraged to hear from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, who dealt rather effectively with that argument.
I put it to your Lordships that the nature of the problem we face has been widely misunderstood. In effect, what we are considering here is permanent residence for three different categories. First, those who have already been here for five years exercising their treaty rights will have acquired an automatic right to residence under EU law. It is simply not in doubt. They are sorted. The question is how to identify them. They will have to have their cases considered. It can be done no other way. They will then be granted ILR. That lot are not a problem. Secondly, there are those who will be arriving in the next two years before we leave. To grant them automatic right to permanent residence would be to risk a very large inflow of people from eastern Europe before the date of withdrawal. The third and probably trickiest category is those who have arrived to live here within the past three years. They will not have acquired the five years that they need so there will have to be a decision. I note that if that decision goes in their favour, and judging by the mood in the Committee today, it is rather likely to, some 85%—yes, 85%—of EU citizens currently in the UK will qualify for permanent residence. When we are talking about this, we should offer that reassurance to the EU citizens who are here.
There has also been some confusion over the role of EU workers. It has been suggested that we cannot build the houses we need without workers from the EU. That may well be true, certainly until we train our own, but there will be nothing to stop EU workers coming here to work on a work permit but without the automatic grant of permanent residence. We should not confuse the two issues. Certainly, we need their work and their help and they are welcome, but permanent residence will become a different matter.
Any suggestion that we should use the fate of EU citizens in the UK as some kind of bargaining chip is absolutely wrong in principle and in practice. I think everyone here agrees that its only effect would be to sour the atmosphere of a very important negotiation, but nor should we simply put aside the vital interests of 1 million of our own citizens. It has been recognised by the noble Baroness on the Front Bench that it will be a long time before the status of British citizens in the European Union is sorted by the 27 countries in which they reside. Therefore, we need a careful review, together with our former partners, to find a way forward in each of the many aspects of this problem. To take a very obvious and important issue—health—the solution may well be to extend the current EHIC system for another five or 10 years. But as of today, before the negotiations start, we have no idea whether or not that will run, so we have to be there, round the table with them, to see what is a sensible way forward.
Sadly, Amendment 9B completely disregards the position of British citizens in the EU. I suggest that in the real world, if our negotiating partners are assured in advance that the requirements of their own citizens have already been satisfied, it is inevitable that the issues relating to British citizens in their countries will slip down the agenda, which is already very long and complicated. It has been claimed that such a unilateral guarantee will set the right tone for negotiations. The Government have already offered that. It did not work, did it? It was turned down flat. That is not the way forward. There is a fine judgment there and the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, comes down on the other side of that, but we have to be aware that the judgment is a fine one and the interests of 1 million British citizens are in the balance. So there we are. I leave it there. I think the two matters should be considered together.
My Lords, I was not able to be present at Second Reading, although I have—like, I am sure, other noble Lords—read the entire Hansard record of all the speeches that were made on that occasion. But like many noble Lords, and as a remoaner or remainer or whatever you like to call me, I would probably have preferred never to have been in this situation. But as we are, I felt I must contribute at this point, as a former leader of the Conservative Members of the European Parliament and a former UK Immigration Minister, working under my noble friend Lord Howard, and support the government position on these amendments. I also agree very much with my fellow Yorkshire resident, the most reverend Primate.
I want to intervene particularly in relation to Article 50 and its relationship to these amendments and because I believe, as do the Government, that we need to have sensible arrangements in place to secure the position both of citizens from the EU in the UK and of those who have left the UK for EU destinations. In acknowledging the role of the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, who was Secretary-General of the Convention on the Future of Europe in 2002-03, and his final drafting of what later became Article 50 of the Lisbon treaty, I point out that I was a member of that convention and took a particular interest in the article, actually attempting to amend it to add some political aims relating to the future trade arrangements of any country that decided to leave the EU later. Of course, the amendment, like others, failed because the convention did not favour such amendments. As we were reminded then, and are rightly being reminded now, the article was designed to be a process, not a manifesto—a process to enable a state to legally and honourably leave the EU. As noble Lords know, before the Lisbon treaty and this article, it was against international law to leave. But Article 50 was never designed to be used as anything more than a technical process in a limited form, so pursuing the wider aims that are now being pursued in these amendments is inappropriate. We all agree that EU citizens in this country deserve to be treated fairly and respectfully. We all owe them a great debt of appreciation for what they do while in our country, just as we expect our EU friends to treat UK citizens living in other states in a similar fashion.
As the Government have said, preliminary discussions have taken place. It is not really the will of the Government that they were not able to go further. Indeed, the Government are determined to achieve their ends in relation to fairness so far as the EU citizens are concerned. Ultimately, these issues might well be reflected later in an immigration Bill that might follow the great repeal Bill, which might not be the right vehicle to deal with these matters. But in the meantime, no one’s rights are affected. No one’s rights are going to deteriorate. No threats have been made by anybody. Some noble Lords are saying that these threats are being made. Okay, some newspapers might do so but in truth there is nothing, so far as this Government are concerned, that is any way threatening the present status.
As a former Immigration Minister, I have always believed that the key to any arrangements relating to those who wish to live and work in the UK and our citizens who wish to do the same elsewhere is reciprocity. The word “reciprocity” was referred to earlier by a noble Lord and a noble Baroness. There is nothing negative about reciprocity. All the agreements that we enter into, for good, for this country and its citizens depend on reciprocity. Our European neighbours are well aware of that and are positively inclined to that approach.
As far as I can see, although there is a lot of sensitivity and a lot of passion, these amendments in this context and for this Bill are inappropriate and, in my submission, illogical.
My Lords, I support Amendment 9B and shall speak to my own Amendment 42. Amendment 42 is very limited but I move it quite deliberately because it exemplifies much more of the wider debate. There have been some very fine speeches in the course of this debate. I will be very brief and not repeat the ground that has been so clearly covered.
I believe that the least we can do is to offer the 60,000 individuals who work in our National Health Service the right to remain in this country. I do so for a number of reasons. First, I believe that our National Health Service, which is under threat at the moment, is unique in Europe and something that we need to fight for. It is under threat because of the shortage of labour. The OECD says that we need an extra 20,000 doctors and an extra 47,000 nurses, just to bring us up to the European standard. And yet we currently depend on 10% of our doctors from the European Union and 5% of our nurses.
As the noble Lord, Lord Kerslake, said, we are not in a very good negotiating position when we are negotiating for our interests. Many of these people are more use in their own countries, the European Union might say, than they are propping up—as it would see it—our National Health Service.
Before I make my two main points, I have a question for the Minister. The noble Lord, Lord Green, said, I think, that 85% of European Union citizens would have the right to permanent residency. When we had a series of questions on this issue in this House, within the last month, it was pointed out that European citizens in this country who had worked for five years had a right to permanent residency. However, the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, was not able to give us an assurance that permanent meant permanent and that, when we leave the European Union, it was indicated to us that in fact permanent would no longer be permanent. Can the Minister confirm that permanency means permanency?
May I clarify what I said? Eighty-five per cent of EU migrants in the UK will have completed five years by the time we leave the European Union and therefore, in principle, would be entitled to permanent residence. However, each case would have to be looked at. That is the point.
I am very grateful for that intervention and I am sure that the Minister will be as well.
I have two points. The advantage of this amendment is that it is a win-win situation, because it is practically right for us to do so, and it is morally right to do so.
I was struck by the argument of the most reverend Primate. I understood it but does he not understand the pain, suffering and uncertainty of individuals working in our health service who feel hurt that they put in so much effort and give their time trying to help the people of Britain? They and their families feel very hurt and I think we owe them something in that respect.
It would be quite invidious to suggest that those of us who are sticking to the rules in relation to Bills do not understand pain or suffering. As far as I am concerned, the Bill deals solely with the formal process of notifying the intention to withdraw. It does not relate to the substance of what withdrawal might look like. For the noble Lord to impute that I do not understand pain or suffering is not on. I said at the beginning that I feel the pain and anxiety, but as a legislator, my role is to look at what the Bill is about, not what the Bill ought to be about.
The point really is that we then move from the practical to the moral. Some of us take the belief that we have the high moral ground here and that is the ground which is occupied. I say this because we are in a win-win situation. As my noble friend Lady Kennedy said, we are going to have a much stronger negotiating position if we spell it out and show our European neighbours that we can be generous and that, even if we are not in the European Union, we want to remain part of the continent of Europe, working together with our neighbours. That is why I believe we are in a win-win situation with this amendment.
My Lords, I shall be brief. It has been a long debate, but this issue has exercised your Lordships since the week after the referendum, when it appeared that there was virtual unanimity across this House on how we should deal with the rights of EU citizens resident in the United Kingdom at the time of the referendum.
I will briefly give two quotations. The first came from the debate in July. I will name the noble Lord in a moment. He said:
“In common with other noble Lords, I am appalled by the unwillingness of the Government to give a clear undertaking that EU nationals resident here before 23 June will be able to remain, come what may”.—[Official Report, 5/7/16; col.1862.]
Another noble Lord, asking a question of the then Leader of the House, said:
“Could she say, on behalf of the Government, for whom she speaks in this House, that any European citizen living in Britain has a right to remain here and that right will not be in any way affected by Brexit, and that the position is not negotiable? She must be aware that many people are concerned about their position and their future and surely it is the responsibility of the leadership of this Government to make it absolutely clear that there is no question mark over that”.—[Official Report, 29/6/16; col.1576]
It would appear that there has been a mass outbreak on the Conservative Benches of believing that somehow the letter from the Home Secretary, who was with us momentarily and has now disappeared, deals with this matter and that somehow the statements that have come from the Front Bench give the guarantees that EU nationals currently resident in the United Kingdom deserve and desire.
We have all been receiving emails from people saying, “We are concerned about our future”. If the noble Lord, Lord Lawson, in his comments in July, and the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, in his question in June believed that there were concerns about EU nationals, the Government have said nothing so far to reassure those EU nationals. If the Government are not going to concede on Amendment 9B which deals with this matter—
I normally have the greatest respect for the noble Baroness’s diligence, but she is wrong to say that nothing has changed. What has changed is that the Prime Minister has said that this is her first priority. She said that the fate of those people living in this country from Europe will be determined by primary legislation and that no change will be made other than with the agreement of the other place and this House. That is good enough for me to not wish to amend a Bill that allows us to get on with the process of making that happen.
My Lords, we have heard much about the issue of EU nationals being a priority, but, as the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, pointed out, whatever the ambition of the Prime Minister and however great her negotiating skill is likely to be, the nature of EU negotiations is that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. So having this as a priority will not, in itself, give EU nationals the security that they need. If the Government do not feel able to accept the amendment—and I suspect that they will not—could the Minister give further clarification not about some distant immigration Bill that will come after the great repeal Bill but about something in line with and in the spirit of Amendment 9B that will occur in the immediate aftermath of triggering Article 50?
My Lords, I very much agree with what the noble Baroness said at the end of her speech. As the noble Baroness, Lady Symons of Vernham Dean, said, this will be a nothing-is-agreed-until-everything-is-agreed negotiation. If we do not do the decent thing now—if we do not listen to what the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, said at the start—when will we do it? This negotiation could last all of two years and could end without an agreement. It certainly will not end with dossiers agreed in this calendar year. So if we all believe that the decent thing will have to be done at some time, why not do it now? The Tory party really needs to remember that its guru is Burke, who said:
“Magnanimity in politics is not seldom the truest wisdom”.
My Lords, I, too, will be brief. When I was supporting Vote Leave, I, like many others, took the view that we should make a grand unilateral gesture to state that we would grant residence rights and other rights to all EU citizens living in the UK. I thought that for two reasons: first, because it was a nice, decent thing to do, but also because I reckoned that we would get an immediate response from our EU partners, who would reciprocate and confirm that all Brits living in the EU would get similar rights. I thought that we could get this simple issue off the table before the tough and contentious talking began. I was utterly wrong—not for the first time, of course.
The best outcome to get security and certainty for both EU and British citizens would have been a reciprocal agreement immediately after the referendum. That is exactly what my right honourable friend the Prime Minister tried to do—and I was surprised and indeed shocked that the EU rejected her approaches and has apparently refused to talk about reciprocal residency rights until we have triggered Article 50.
Would my noble friend not recognise that we are the ones walking out of the EU? We are the ones who have an obligation to those who, in all good faith, came to this country and invested their future in it. Should we not have done with sophistry and make a moral gesture?
Yes, my Lords, but we also owe an obligation to almost 1 million British citizens living in the EU who could be left in limbo for up to two years unless the EU addresses this issue urgently. It is the case that the Prime Minister raised this with some EU leaders. However, I understand that, although 20 states were happy to agree reciprocal arrangements immediately, Angela Merkel and Donald Tusk refused to do so until we had triggered Article 50. So this venerable institution, the EU, lauded by many in this House as a bastion of decency, and Angela Merkel, are the ones who have given us harsh treatment and been intransigent; they are the ones who are not on the moral high ground.
The other worry is this. When we see the EU and Mr Barnier stating that nothing else will be discussed until we have agreed a divorce settlement of £50 billion, it seems that we are likely to spend all of this year, or at least until the German elections are over, arguing about that money while everything else, including all our citizens in Europe, will be left in the lurch. Indeed, if we have given away citizenship to Europeans in the UK, why on earth should the EU bother dealing with our citizens in Europe as a priority? This would be a very bad position to be in. We would have betrayed our own citizens and thrown them under the equivalent of a European bus.
This is not using people as bargaining chips; that is a silly description. Using people as bargaining chips would be saying something like, “If you give us access to the single market, we will let your people stay”, or, “If you put tariffs on our cars, we will not grant your people citizenship”. That would be grubby and unethical, but it is a million miles away from saying, “Can we agree, as a priority, reciprocal arrangements?”. It is our duty to look after our people in Europe just as much, if not more, than European citizens here.
My Lords, I will be extremely brief. After such an extensive debate, there is just one aspect that I would like to draw attention to. We are dealing here with residents in this jurisdiction who at present have the right to go to the European Court of Human Rights. We are also dealing with residents in the rest of the European Community who also have that right. The present situation in this country is a matter to be dealt with by Parliament and not by the courts. I strongly urge us not to force people to seek to go to the courts, as they could in this situation in this jurisdiction. It is a matter which should be decided by both Houses of Parliament. As far as I am concerned, I shall vote for the amendment, for the very clear reasons given by the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham. This is a matter of moral principle as well as one which could be a legal principle—and, so far as the moral situation is concerned, there is only one answer.
My Lords, much has been said this afternoon surrounding the whole issue of uncertainty. But the reason I cannot support these amendments is the fundamental flaw that lies at their heart: they will create more uncertainty, in particular for the 1 million British citizens living abroad. Noble Lords opposite have made two defences of that. The first is that they have received some letters from expat groups. Dare we believe that they may be wrong in asserting that giving unilateral rights now to EU citizens living in the United Kingdom will convince overseas Governments to give them the same rights? Secondly, they have said to trust the other EU Governments. But we do not know which Governments they will be dealing with in the EU. There are elections in a few weeks in France and Holland and, in a few months, in Germany.
I am one of those who lives in France, and I must therefore declare an interest. Perhaps the noble Lord did not hear the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, when he made the point that all the ex-pat UK groups living in the EU have come together to make the case that they support this amendment.
I heard the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, loud and clear. What I suggest is: can we believe that these groups might be wrong and that, therefore, this House is putting at risk the future of a million British citizens living in the EU? That is why we should not support these amendments.
Noble Lords have said that they do not know what the policy of the British Government is. All they have to do is read the White Paper; it is there very clearly:
“We want to secure the status of EU citizens who are already living in the UK”.
We all agree with that. The bit that noble Lords opposite do not agree with says,
“and that of UK nationals in other Member States”.
I thank the noble Lord for giving way. He said that we should trust the British Government; the Home Secretary has written a letter to all of us in which she says:
“I … reassure colleagues that Parliament will have a clear”,
say. This is the same Home Secretary who wanted companies to list every foreign worker, from a Home Office with a Minister who wanted companies to pay £1,000 per EU worker. How can we trust the Home Secretary?
My Lords, we have had a very good debate here tonight—
My Lords, the status of EU nationals living here and UK nationals living in the EU is, as this debate has so very clearly shown, one of the most emotive issues—if not the most emotive—created by our country’s decision to leave the EU. Whereas so many other matters that we debate focus on dry economics, this touches on the most basic and immediate of issues: the lives of over 4 million people who have chosen to make a foreign country their home—Europeans who are our neighbours and our friends, many of whom work in our public services, such as the NHS; and British citizens, who may live hundreds of miles away, but whose interests this Government and this Parliament have a duty to represent and protect.
We all agree that we have a duty and responsibility to British citizens in Europe. We also all agree that European nationals make a very valuable contribution to our nation, especially in organisations such as the NHS. We all know the uncertainty that Brexit has brought to these people’s lives, and we all want to do what we think is ethically and morally right. So we all wish to sort this issue out as quickly as possible, to bring certainty to the lives of these millions of people. The very simple question before us today is: how? I know this question has created a dilemma for many of your Lordships, on all sides of the House. The amendments before us make various points but, as we have debated, they coalesce around one point: they wish the Government to make a unilateral declaration to guarantee EU nationals’ rights. I could labour the point that such amendments have no place in this Bill, and that is true—others have said that this is a very simple Bill—but shall not dwell on this, because when one is discussing the issues of more than 4 million people, such arguments may seem somewhat overly legalistic. Instead, I shall make just two core points.
First, let me set out the position of EU nationals living here in the UK and the protection afforded to them. Between now and the date of exit, nothing will change for EU nationals living here in the UK. We are still bound by the EU treaties and the free movement directive. Under that directive, any EU citizen who is exercising treaty rights, or has acquired a permanent right of residence, continues to have a right to reside in the UK while we remain a member of the EU. There is no need to apply for a document to prove this, although I obviously understand that some will prefer to do so. We are doing all we can to make this process as simple and pain-free as possible, for example by introducing a European passport checking service to reduce the burden of providing original documents and by moving the application form online. It is worth mentioning that no applicant is required to complete every page of the application. To those who have raised the need for people to show that they hold private medical insurance, I stress that this is an EU requirement, not a British Government one. Again, I emphasise that an EU national who has been continuously and lawfully residing in the UK for five years does not, under current rules, need to apply for a document to prove their right to be here permanently.
As to the future, the Government remain bound by the European Convention on Human Rights and, in particular, the obligation to protect the right to a private and family life. We will continue to remain bound by the ECHR after we leave the EU. I assure noble Lords that all decisions that the Government take, all policies that they formulate and all positions that they adopt in the negotiations will comply with our obligations under Article 8 of the ECHR on the right to respect for private and family life. The questions raised by the noble Lord, Lord Oates, are all perfectly valid, but I would argue—and the Government believe—that they are the subject of further legislation that we in this House will debate.
Let me now turn to the Bill to repeal the European Communities Act—the great repeal Bill. It will not be used to change our immigration system; this will be done through a separate immigration Bill, subsequent secondary legislation and immigration rules. To address the very valid point made by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, nothing will change for any EU citizen—including their residency rights—without Parliament’s approval. To summarise: any EU citizen who has been lawfully and continuously residing in the UK for five years or more automatically acquires permanent residence, under EU law.
After we have left the EU, the UK will continue to be bound by and observe the ECHR which, in accordance with Article 8 and appropriate case law, will protect EU nationals’ right to respect for their private and family life, as it does for others. Perhaps most crucially of all, nothing will change for any EU citizen without Parliament’s approval. This is the protection afforded to EU nationals here at the moment.
However, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, said, we do not want EU nationals to have to rely on the ECHR for the right to remain once the UK leaves the EU. So my second point is about the future. It can be summarised in one word—a word we have heard so often this afternoon. That word is fairness. From the outset we have said that we want to secure the status of EU nationals living here, but in doing so we also need to secure the status of UK nationals living elsewhere in the EU. The Government believe that this approach is fair and respects our duty of care to UK nationals in the EU.
As has been said, we were keen to come to an agreement before the negotiations begin. The Prime Minister raised this issue last autumn and made it clear subsequently to a number of her counterparts across Europe that she was prepared to start discussions on the issue before we triggered Article 50, so that we could try to reach an agreement quickly on what we have always recognised as one of the most important issues of the negotiation. However, as your Lordships will know, a small number of our European counterparts insisted that the phrase “no negotiation without notification” was itself non-negotiable. So it was not possible to act on our intention to press ahead with negotiations leading to an early agreement.
Consequently, as has also been mentioned, the Government have said that this issue will be an early priority for the negotiations. The encouraging messages from European leaders, most recently heard during the Secretary of State’s visit to the Baltics, makes the Government confident that we will indeed be able to reach a quick and timely agreement with the European Union. This all means that for anyone in this House who wishes there to be certainty both for EU nationals in the UK and for UK nationals across Europe, it is imperative that we pass this Bill as quickly as possible, so that the negotiations can begin.
The basis of Amendment 9B appears to be that this issue can be agreed only once Article 50 has been triggered, and the negotiations have begun. On that, given what I have said, the Government agree. Furthermore, as I have said, the Government see it as an early priority for the negotiations, as do other EU states—which, again, the amendment reflects. On that we also agree.
The point of difference is therefore very simple, but fundamental. It is the word “fairness”. If we had failed to come to an agreement on this issue after three months of negotiation, and we were forced into this course of action, where would that leave those 900,000 UK citizens in Europe? Would this bring certainty to those people, to whom we have a duty of care? Would the European Union, and all the 27 member states, see it as a negotiating priority to give them clarity as to their status? And when would they get that clarity?
These are questions that each of us should bear in mind as we decide how to vote on the amendment—an amendment that would touch the lives of over 3 million Europeans here and 900,000 of our own citizens across Europe. The sooner we pass this simple Bill, the more quickly we can seek that agreement: a fair agreement—fair to EU citizens and fair to UK nationals. So, while I would not for a moment question the motives of those who have tabled the amendments, I would ask every one of your Lordships to think of the consequences if this course of action were to be followed, and I ask the noble Baroness to withdraw her amendment.
My Lords, it has been one of the highlights of one’s life in the House to hear this debate. I always like debates in which the words “moral” and “principle” are at the top of our agenda. I shall be brief, because I only want to say three things. First, the idea that, because we are asking for action on EU citizens here, we do not have equal concern for the others is completely wrong. Apart from anything else, my great-niece and my great-nephew live in Belgium and France respectively, so I am frequently reminded of this situation.
The morals, the principles and the decency of the case have been stressed, and I think this is the issue. There are insecurity and uncertainty now, and we have already heard that some people are leaving. It is all going to take time. We are all getting lots of messages, even while we are here: they are coming hot every moment to me. Nicholas Tilson from France says:
“You are quite right when you say that we … are not bargaining chips … The best way to protect us is to take a firm moral position and protect those EU nationals living in the UK”.
That is only one: there are another million, and I appreciate that. Do not think that we have done this without thinking and talking to people who live abroad.
The problem with using this issue in the negotiations is, first, that that would be wrong. Secondly, there are countries—such as Slovenia, Estonia and Croatia—that have only about 500 UK nationals in them. Unlike my noble friend Lady Symons, I have not negotiated. But I do know, from stories that I have heard, that sometimes one country holds up something irrelevant to them because they are trying to get something else. I understand that is why the European Parliament still meets in Strasbourg. When John Major was in Edinburgh, France wanted something, we wanted something else—maybe it was JET at the time; I do not know—and we ended up with the Parliament staying in Strasbourg. That is what happens with negotiations. At the point of negotiation there could be one country, with a very small number of UK citizens living there, which for some unrelated reason held up the agreement. We will finally have an agreement, but the uncertainty would be too long, and we should not make people wait.
It has been said that an assurance is enough. But your Lordships will understand—I do not think that my noble friend Lord Dubs is here.
Yes he is.
I think my noble friend would probably testify that assurances are not enough. We want this on the face of the Bill. It would not delay the Bill or the negotiations; it simply asks the Government within three months to come up with proposals about what they are going to do with EU nationals. I would like to hear what the Committee has to say about that.
Amendment 10 not moved.
11: Clause 1, page 1, line 5, at end insert—
“( ) Section 3(2) of the European Union (Amendment) Act 2008 does not apply to subsection (1), and in subsection (1) the term “EU” does not include the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom).”
My Lords, I will reduce the temperature of the House a little during this debate, but perhaps I will wait an atomic second, or minute, until one or two Members have disappeared.
As I said, we are moving on to what I hope will be a rather less contentious area to debate in Committee. I thank the Government and in particular the noble Lord, Lord Prior, for having had extended discussions with me around this amendment on the subject of Euratom.
I do not stand here as a remainer or a Brexiter. This is an issue that I believe is important for our country. The amendment does not challenge the result of the referendum in any way but, if it were accepted, it would make the job of government easier over the next two years. I put forward the proposition of this amendment on that basis.
I would like the Minister to answer one question, as it seems to me that this amendment may not be necessary at all. On Euratom, the Explanatory Notes to the Bill say:
“The power that is provided by clause 1(1) applies to withdrawal from the EU. This includes the European Atomic Energy Community (‘Euratom’), as the European Union (Amendment) Act 2008 sets out that the term ‘EU’ includes (as the context permits or requires) Euratom (section 3(2))”.
Yet Clause 1(2) of this 137-word Bill says:
“This section has effect despite any provision made by or under the European Communities Act 1972 or any other enactment”.
That seems automatically to disapply the European Union (Amendment) Act 2008. The Explanatory Notes therefore seem to contradict the Bill, but they are not the opinion of Parliament and cannot be taken as part of the authority of any Act that comes into force.
My main point is that legally—this is a certainty—Euratom is not part of the European Union; it is a legally separate entity. As I am sure all noble Lords will remember, the referendum question was whether the United Kingdom should remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union. It did not in any way mention Euratom and nor was Euratom part of the parliamentary debate that took place during the passage of the referendum Bill. They are separate legal entities. Indeed, when I have been in discussion with some government Ministers, one of their concerns has been that giving notice on Euratom will in some way leave the Article 50 notification open to challenge.
Legal advice that I have taken has made it clear that the Government have no mandate to give notice under the Euratom treaty, nor have they entered into any consultation. Therefore, given that there has been no consultation on leaving the treaty—despite the fact that a number of rights would inevitably be lost through doing so—by giving notice on Euratom they open themselves up to judicial review. Therefore, the Government have an interest in not triggering withdrawal from Euratom, although there is currently a process for doing so.
The processes are very different. Admittedly, Article 106a of the Euratom treaty refers to the Treaty on European Union, but it is a Euratom treaty clause and method. Article 50 mentions only the Treaty on European Union and nothing else. Therefore, there have to be two notification processes, for only one of which is there a clear legal mandate, which is Article 50 to give notice on the European Union.
Why is this important? It is important not because of all those legal issues but for two reasons. One is what Euratom does and the benefit that it brings for this country. The other—in some ways, this is the more important and more political argument—is that over the next two years the Government have a huge amount to do to achieve a successful exit from the European Union and clearly it would be in the national interest for that to be successful rather than the possibility of having no deal on the cliff edge. So why do we risk going down the more perilous route of giving notice on Euratom at the same time? It will mean that we have to undertake another whole area of negotiation on which this country could, if the negotiations under Article 50 are not very successful, be held to ransom.
Euratom is important because of its functions. It effectively operates under the International Atomic Energy Agency; it is the body regulated and approved by the IAEA for nuclear safety and, even more important, nuclear safeguarding. That includes all the areas of non-proliferation treaties and would encompass areas such as Sellafield. It is also concerned with nuclear fuel supply security—clearly, we still have an important nuclear fleet that keeps our lights on. We also have nuclear research coming out of Euratom with a five-year budget of £1.6 billion. The UK is involved in 12 of those projects, the best-known of which are the JET project at Culham in Oxfordshire and the ITER project. I am aware that one of the few industries given a strong mention in the Government’s industrial strategy is the nuclear industry and nuclear research.
Trade in parts and nuclear fuel and the movement of key people all rely on our being a signatory to the Euratom treaty. That will be a problem if we exit from Euratom. The UK does not have a safeguarding authority, as it is known in these agreements. Internationally, at the moment Euratom has some 11 core agreements. There are 50 altogether, including with the United States, Canada and Australia. Without those, because we do not have a safeguarding authority that has been approved by the International Atomic Energy Agency, all that trading will stop. We are reliant on nuclear fuel from Australia and we have a number of important domestic nuclear issues with the United States and with France in relation to Hinkley Point C, as well as various other generating stations. We do not have a sufficient amount of those fuels in this country. It is not just a question of nuclear fuel; we need isotopes for radiology in hospitals as well.
It is not just a case of saying that we will get around this somehow. I remind noble Lords that Section 123 of the United States Atomic Energy Act 1954 makes any movement of such materials illegal under US domestic law if we do not have an approved safeguarding authority. I am aware that we can probably put all this in place at some point, although it might be more difficult with the remaining members of the European Union if the negotiations do not go well. We are dependent on French nuclear technology at the moment. Indeed, will we be able to have an agreement with Euratom? I hope that we will, but let us not forget that countries such as Austria try to block most things that go on in Euratom because they are anti-nuclear. We do not know what will happen in the German elections this year. Germany has got rid of its nuclear fleet operationally and is also anti-nuclear. Perhaps with a change of Government it will be difficult to negotiate with Euratom about continuing those relationships.
To sum up, I am not trying in any way to constrain Article 50 or the referendum result, but there is no need to leave Euratom at this stage. If we do not, we can ensure that the lights do not go out some time around September 2019, we can avoid the political risk of Austria and Germany vetoing future relationships with Euratom and we can take our time to make sure that the UK has a fully-fledged and effective safeguarding authority that will be recognised by other realms, including, in particular, Australia, Canada and the United States. But, most of all, I ask again: why go down the route of giving notice on Euratom now when as a country, as a Government and as a Parliament we have a huge amount to negotiate over the next two years? Let us give ourselves a break, think about it longer and do this properly—not threaten our energy industry, our radiology and all the other research that we undertake at the moment. I beg to move.
My Lords, I support this amendment and I support the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, who is an expert on Euro law. Euratom has shown considerable importance for past and future research, and in the practical use of atomic energy. The UK’s research and economy will benefit by continuing membership of and participation in Euratom. As an example, one of the profound scientific issues which will last long after even the EU, perhaps, is what to do with nuclear waste. This was not mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Teverson. There was an interesting PQ about 10 years ago from the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, on the question of transmutation. The question was about how we should deal with waste that could last 10,000 or even 100,000 years. Putting it in the ground is one possibility, which is favoured. But Euratom is considering transforming the waste material so that it will have a much shorter life of only around 100 years.
This is the kind of thing we can do with the other countries of Europe, in Euratom—it might be easier and more effective for us to remain. Another issue raised by the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, was the ITER fusion programme. This is a very considerable investment involving many other countries, and Euratom is playing an important role in it. The UK is a part of this. The ITER programme will need to evolve, but it is more likely to do so if we remain part of it. I support this amendment and I hope it will go through.
My Lords, I am a supporter of nuclear power and I would like to facilitate nuclear energy in any way I can. However, I am not sure whether the legal forest through which the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, tried to take us can be dealt with as simplistically as he suggests. In the first instance, we signed up to a separate treaty when we joined the Common Market in 1973, but by 2008 circumstances had changed. Euratom was by that time integrated into the EU in a way that I do not think renders it the separate entity that the noble Lord has suggested. It is worrying that the Government clearly had not given any serious attention or thought to this. In the course of the last two or three weeks, there has been quite a major change in the climate, in so far as a number of people, myself included, have raised this issue at different times. But we have to recognise that, when we talk about the nuclear industry, we are not talking only about power generation. At the same time, it has to be said that EDF—the agent of the French Government, which I imagine will remain in Euratom—will be running 20 power stations for some years to come. Therefore, in that respect at least, it may be somewhat premature to get too worried about this.
The fact is that the nuclear industry is not just about generation. It is concerned with the fuel cycle, decommissioning procedures, regulatory arrangements for safety and general UK regulatory competence. In all these areas, we enjoy a position of world leadership. The industry gets castigated because we do not build our own reactors any more—we build them for our nuclear submarines, but not for civil generation—but there is an incredible amount of science and manufacturing expertise at stake here. Frankly, I am not too concerned at this stage about whether we are in Euratom, we are going to leave or we have to leave. I am concerned that this industry should demand the proper attention it requires. It has already been suggested that in the Government’s industrial strategy, such as it is, nuclear is going to play an important part. If so, we need to give proper recognition to the international character of the industry and to the fact that a considerable number of British businesses, and considerable British academic and industrial expertise, are still invested in this industry. In many respects, we will be pretty well the only country in the developed world with a nuclear new-build programme. We will see programmes in China and India, and there is one in America, but we do not see the kind of nuclear power development that we might have wished for.
If Britain is to carry on with and take advantage of this industry, the Government will have to give a lot more attention to it. I would like us to get beyond the platitudinous responses which have characterised the Government’s answers in debates and discussions so far. It would be helpful if the Minister gave us a little detail this evening on what is going to be done. How will we address this worrying conundrum of whether we will have a nuclear industry capable of operating on an international basis, and how can we take advantage of the very strong cards we still have to play?
My Lords, I refer to a report of the Science and Technology Select Committee from a few years ago, when I was its chair, on the subject of nuclear R&D in this country. In doing so, I support this group of amendments. In the report, we asked: given that the UK is committed to a civil nuclear programme and a refreshing of nuclear energy generation capability, do we have the skills in this country to deliver—not just in overseeing the build by foreign companies, but in the regulation? When we heard evidence from the witnesses, we realised that such capability in the United Kingdom has been seriously eroded. Here are some numbers: the workforce in nuclear energy and nuclear science decreased from 8,000 in the 1980s to under 2,000 by the early part of this century. Our investment in nuclear R&D is half that of the Netherlands and Norway, one hundredth that of France, and less than that of Australia, which does not have a nuclear energy programme at all.
Traditionally, we have not been investing enough in nuclear R&D capability. Therefore, the research capability sponsored through Euratom is, I believe, crucial to the future of our civil nuclear programme. In our report, we said:
“The nuclear industry and the regulator rely on the research base to train the next generation of experts. Once lost, these capabilities will not easily be replaced”.
It is important that the Government reassure us that, if we are to withdraw from Euratom, which I do not think we should, we have a mechanism in place to ensure that that nuclear capability is being developed. The Select Committee report made 14 recommendations, the vast majority of which the Government accepted. One was that the Government should set up a nuclear R&D strategy board. Has the nuclear R&D strategy board been consulted on this issue, and what is its view?
My Lords, I was lucky enough to serve on the Select Committee under the chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, and I now chair the Science and Technology Committee. We are revisiting this issue at present, looking at developments since the 2011 report. One of the recommendations, which was not fully implemented by the Government, but on which, nevertheless, there was a bit of progress, was that a strategy board be set up to advise government in the long term—and nothing could be more long term than a nuclear energy strategy. An organisation was set up called the Nuclear Innovation and Research Advisory Board. NIRAB was set up on a limited term of three years and produced its final report in February—last week, in fact—which is a survey of civil nuclear research in this country. I echo the question of the noble Lord, Lord Krebs: what will follow NIRAB? While in principle it is often a good idea for advisory boards and strategy boards to have a built-in termination—otherwise, they go on for ever—in practice we do need continuity of thought. That has clearly been lacking. Indeed, there has been no thought; that has been part of the problem. Successive Governments kicked this into touch. Nuclear research was an issue that, until recently, simply was not addressed adequately.
In its February report, NIRAB pointed out something totally obvious that nevertheless needs saying: that international collaboration is the main route for developing nuclear technologies. Of course, there are a number of ways of undertaking international collaboration, but we are quite a small player, however much we manage to build up our dismally low nuclear capability compared, say, with the 1960s, when we were indeed a large world player. We have been overtaken by a number of countries. If the industrial strategy, which has nuclear as one of its 10 pillars, is to be implemented, we have clearly got an awful lot of catching up to do.
I agree with the noble Lord, Lord O’Neill, that the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, slightly failed to note that, although we joined Euratom before the European Union evolved from the EEC, the European Union (Amendment) Act 2008—which I must admit had escaped my notice—joined Euratom and the European Union at the hip in some way. A lawyer can explain to me the implications of that but paragraph 18 of the Explanatory Notes explains that we have to withdraw from the European Atomic Agency Community, Euratom, because it is now part of the EU in legal terms. Be that as it may, it is absolutely clear that we have to have a relationship with Euratom and with other organisations around the world which are collaborating.
One such collaboration, again thinking long term, is the Generation IV International Forum. This is looking very long term, leapfrogging through to new technologies which have still to be developed—we are thinking about the year 2030 and beyond. At the moment, the NIRAB report describes us as only participating as an inactive member—that was the case in 2011—through the subscription to Euratom. When the Government responded to the Select Committee report, they said, “We don’t have to worry about joining the Generation IV Forum if we want to remain connected to the emerging technologies, because we are members of Euratom”. Clearly, that answer does not work anymore if Brexit is going to happen and we are going to leave Euratom. We clearly need quite quick answers.
I agree entirely that this is not controversial. The Government are the first to say that we simply have to develop a nuclear strategy and a nuclear capability, and we have to collaborate. If, for legal reasons—and I do believe they are only legal reasons—we have to withdraw from formal membership, surely when the Minister responds he can tell us, without prejudicing any negotiating position in this case, exactly what ideal situation we would like to achieve.
My Lords, I shall say a few brief words in support of the amendment that the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, has moved this evening. Before I say anything further, I should bring the attention of your Lordships’ House to the interests I have declared in the register. I am the chairman of the Nuclear Industry Association here in the United Kingdom.
I do not think there is any doubt at all that membership of the Euratom treaty has brought very significant benefits to the UK nuclear industry and, in doing so, has served some vital strategic interests of our country. Unlike membership of the European Union itself, which remains a polarising and deeply divisive issue in our country, I have not heard anyone mount any argument at all—ever, at any point in this process—in favour of leaving the Euratom treaty. I get the very strong sense that the position of Her Majesty’s Government has come very late in this process. Having looked at how these two treaties have become intertwined in recent decades, the Attorney-General, giving advice to the Cabinet, has clearly favoured separation entirely, so that as we leave the European Union we face this rather grim and desperate situation where we might find ourselves without any internationally recognised nuclear safeguards operating in the UK.
As the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, has rightly said, if we were to find ourselves in that position, it would not be comparable, for example, to other aspects of the UK economy. If we leave on only WTO terms, clearly trade would continue. In the international nature of the nuclear industry, that would not be so. If we were to leave without having these alternative arrangements in place, it would not be possible for companies in the United States, Canada, Japan, India, South Korea or many of our nuclear allies, not least our European friends and partners, to continue to trade with us in nuclear goods and services. We tend to exaggerate for a living in this House—we cannot help ourselves, bless us; many of us are former politicians—but this would be a catastrophe for the industry and we should be under no illusion about that.
My understanding is that the Government have come to the view that we need to disentangle ourselves from Euratom as well as the institutions of the European Union for the very simple reason that they have, over time, become inextricably linked. Given that the Government’s two objectives in this process of leaving the European Union seem to be absolutely to end the jurisdiction of the European Court and to end the free movement of labour, I perfectly understand the Government’s position. However, in the strict context of the Euratom treaty and its relationship to the European Union treaty, we need to be clear about two things. This would give only a very limited jurisdiction. If we were to stay in Euratom for some indeterminate period until we can negotiate these alternative arrangements, the ECJ would have only a very limited jurisdiction, specifically on the issue of nuclear goods and services. If we think, as we should, that the nuclear industry is an international trade by its very nature and definition and is absolutely pieced together and hung together by international agreements, it is no great breach of principle or faith to accept that the ECJ should, for a period of time, have a continuing jurisdiction in these matters. I do not think that that would bring the house down.
Some in this House and outside are worried about the free movement of labour. Again, we should remind ourselves, in the context of the Euratom treaty, that free movement of labour applies only to nuclear specialists working in nuclear installations. We do not need to fear, in my view, some back-door invasion of mass migration because we remain for some longer period of time a member of the Euratom treaty. I am clearly arguing that we should take our time before we leave the Euratom treaty. I do not believe that there is any legal case, and certainly no economic or political case, for linking the process of leaving the European Union with the process of leaving the Euratom treaty. I simply do not accept that.
I would like some clarification from the Minister today, if it is possible, about what conversations Her Majesty’s Government have already had with the European Atomic Energy Community to explore what a transitional arrangement might look like, because a lot does depend on getting this right. Is it the Government’s case that they intend to serve notice to leave the Euratom treaty at the same time as leaving the European Union? I do not believe, and the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, made this point, that there is any compelling legal case or reason why these two processes have to be conducted simultaneously. I believe that he was absolutely right to say to this House that we are going to make the job of leaving the European Union 10 times more difficult if we compress into that two-year period not just the enormous complexity of dealing with the European Union disengagement process and all that that means but the task of having to negotiate simultaneously maybe 20 international nuclear co-operation agreements, replicate and devise in the UK a new system of nuclear installation inspection and safeguarding and secure the nuclear fuels that our current and future fleet will need to rely on in the future. Those matters are all covered today by the Euratom treaty, perfectly sensibly.
I do not believe that the Government are doing this because they want to leave the Euratom treaty. I believe that they are doing it because they believe that they have no other choice. I think they have a choice, which is to take their time on this and make sure that there is no cliff edge when we leave, because the consequences of leaving without these alternative arrangements in place would really be so serious for the nuclear industry as to raise a genuine question mark about its future in this country.
My Lords, I rise to add a few words to what has already been said about the Euratom treaty and its relationship to the UK nuclear industry. I declare an interest as a Cumbrian and as chairman of Gen2, which is one of the main suppliers of apprentices for Sellafield and some of the other west Cumbrian nuclear businesses. There is considerable concern because people just do not really know what the Government have in mind. As my noble friend the Minister knows, I have been interested in this topic over the past few months, and when I read the Lancaster House speech, I did not see any reference worthy of the name to the nuclear industry and the Euratom aspects, which have been vividly described by a number of speakers. What do the Government have in mind and how do they think they are actually going to bring about the changes they appear to want, in a manner which will enable the nuclear industry to continue in a way which contributes to the well-being of the country as a whole?