My Lords, hybrid proceedings will now continue. Some Members are here in the Chamber respecting social distancing, others are participating remotely, but all Members will be treated equally. If the capacity of the Chamber is exceeded, I will immediately adjourn the House.
I will call Members to speak in the order listed. Interventions during speeches or “before the noble Lord sits down” are not permitted and uncalled speakers will not be heard. Other than the mover of the amendment or the Minister, Members may speak only once on each group. Short questions of elucidation after the Minister’s response are permitted but discouraged. A Member wishing to ask such a question, including Members in the Chamber, must email the clerk. Leave should be given to withdraw amendments. When putting the question, I will collect voices in the Chamber only. If a Member taking part remotely intends to trigger a Division, they should make this clear when speaking on the group. We will now begin. I call the noble Lord, Lord Dubs.
Clause 6: Children in care and children entitled to care leaving support: entitlement to remain
1: Clause 6, page 4, line 28, leave out “is deemed to have and” and insert “on notification by the local authority to the Home Office that they are such a child, must”
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment aims to address the Minister’s concerns at Report stage by removing the phrase “deemed to have”. It ensures that EEA and Swiss nationals who are in care, and those who are entitled to care leaving support, are granted Indefinite Leave to Remain under the EU Settlement Scheme.
My Lords, it seems a long time since we debated this Bill on Report. I am now speaking to the amendment to Clause 6 in my name. This is a technical change and need not detain us for long. The amendment is intended to achieve settled status for children in care and care leavers. It deals with the identification of such children and the problems they may have with applying for their status—indeed, dispensing with pre-settled status and moving on to settled status.
On Report, the Minister raised concerns about the original wording of the amendment, particularly the phrase “is deemed”, suggesting that this would mean that children and young people would have no secure evidence of their immigration status. The amendment before us today removes the phrase “is deemed to have”, with which the Minister specifically stated that she was unhappy, and replaces it with
“on notification by the local authority to the Home Office that they are such a child, must”.
I hope that by setting out the process of identifying and supporting these children through the EU settlement process, this amendment would remove the Minister’s concern over automatic entitlements and the problem that these children would not be able to prove their immigration status in the future. In the first instance, we would expect that local authorities would be required to identify these young people, after which they would be granted settled status through the EU settlement scheme. This would allow these young people access to the evidence that they need to prove their rights and entitlements in the long term. This House has always championed the rights of the most vulnerable children, especially those in the care system. I hope that the Minister will accept this amendment. I beg to move.
My Lords, I should have said when I called the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, that we were talking about Amendment 1, to Clause 6. I now call the Minister.
My Lords, I was about to clarify that we are talking about Amendment 1, but the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, and indeed the Deputy Speaker, have now clarified that.
The noble Lord’s amendment seeks to remove the declaratory status aspect of Clause 6 so that it would provide for children in care and care leavers who have their right of free movement removed by the Bill to obtain indefinite leave to remain—or settled status—under the EU settlement scheme, where they applied to the scheme or a local authority did so on their behalf. It would do this regardless of how long the child or young person had been continuously resident in the UK. There is absolutely no difference of view on the importance of protecting the rights of children in care and care leavers as we end free movement—just as we are seeking to do where all vulnerable groups are concerned.
I set out in earlier debates on this provision the extensive support that the Home Office is providing to local authorities to ensure that those children and young people, as well as any other vulnerable groups, get UK immigration status under the EU settlement scheme, and the secure evidence of that status which the scheme provides. This includes grant funding to organisations across the UK of up to £17 million over the period 2019-20, to support this and other vulnerable and at-risk groups in applying to the scheme. I am pleased to say that the Home Office announced last week that the number of organisations funded for this work would increase from 57 to 72. That includes local authorities and local government associations as well as charities.
I made it crystal clear in the earlier debates that, in line with the withdrawal agreement, where a person eligible for settled status under the EU settlement scheme has reasonable grounds for missing the 30 June 2021 deadline, they will be given a further opportunity to apply. I have also made it clear that those reasonable grounds will include where a parent, guardian or local authority does not apply on behalf of a child. Therefore, if a child in care or care leaver does miss the deadline, they can still obtain lawful status in the UK.
In light of views expressed in this House in our earlier debates on this issue, the Government do not object to Amendment 1. We will see how the other place regards Clause 6 as so amended.
I have received no requests to speak after the Minister so I call the noble Lord, Lord Dubs.
Amendment 1 agreed.
My Lords, I give my thanks to the noble Lords, Lord Rosser, Lord Kennedy and Lord Paddick, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, for what has been a difficult but nevertheless constructive Bill all round. The Bill gives effect to the ending of free movement as per the referendum and allows for the EU settlement scheme, which has been extremely successful in processing nearly 4 million applicants to date.
There has been a reason why Members of your Lordships’ House have found it difficult—views around leaving the European Union—but the constructive way in which we have approached it, even if we have disagreed, does your Lordships’ House great credit. I have to say that I admire the skill in moving some amendments that had nothing to do with the Bill, but we have had some very good debates despite that and I think it right that these issues be aired.
I thank all noble Lords involved and am very happy that the Bill do now pass.
Along with my noble friend Lord Kennedy of Southwark, I thank the Minister and congratulate her on her stamina and patience throughout consideration of the Bill, if not, perhaps, on the number of government concessions. We also thank her for her typical willingness to meet and discuss matters relating to the Bill; that is much appreciated. We appreciate, as well, the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay, and the work of the Bill team. In addition, perhaps I may be permitted to thank Grace Wright in our office for all her work and invaluable advice on the Bill.
This Bill has of course had its own unique incidents, not least the temporary hiccup over the voting arrangements. Let us hope that that remains unique to it.
As the Minister said, the Bill now goes back to the Commons—in my view, certainly a better Bill than when it left the other place. All that we can now do is wait to see what the Commons make of the amendments passed by your Lordships’ House.
I reiterate on behalf of my noble friend Lord Kennedy of Southwark and myself our thanks to the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Parkinson, and the Bill team, and indeed to all noble Lords who have participated in the lengthy and interesting debates during the passage of the Bill.
My Lords, as the Minister said, the Bill is about ending free movement. From these Benches, we are no more enthusiastic about that than when the Bill started; if anything, perhaps less so, particularly because the debates have vividly demonstrated the impact on UK citizens resident in the EU and EU citizens living in the UK.
In our view, it is not surprising that the opportunity has been taken to pursue issues relating to the ending of free movement that have a wider context—a rather softer way of describing the various amendments that all sailed through the Public Bill Office, which is particularly careful in that regard. All the amendments have been very people-focused, which shows that there is a view of a fair and firm asylum system that is very different from the Government’s.
This is not the moment for long speeches, nor to rehearse the arguments on the amendments that were agreed by our House with such notable support. The noble Baroness, Lady Williams, and the noble Lord, Lord Parkinson, bore with good humour all that was thrown at them, although I do not know whether they took it out on the cat when they got home.
I express my thanks to our colleagues on the Liberal Democrat Benches and elsewhere in the House; to the Bill team for all their work; and, since the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, has paved the way, to Elizabeth Plummer in our whips’ office, whose assistance on the Bill has been magnificent.
We would like to think that we will not be discussing the various amendments again but I realise that we may well do so. In the meantime, with the obvious caveats, we support the Motion that the Bill do now pass.
My Lords, it is a privilege to have been asked to make the concluding Cross-Bench speech at the end of our consideration of the immigration Bill. I thank not only the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, and the noble Lord, Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay, for their unfailing courtesy and diligence but also the unsung heroes, the Bill team.
During one of my interventions I drew the attention of the House to the tragic story of a Ugandan refugee, Mercy Baguma, who in August was found dead in a Glasgow flat while her one year-old son was found crying beside his mother’s body, weakened from several days of starvation. Stories such as hers and of those caught up in the underlying themes of this Bill—from the vast displacement arising from movement of refugees, to the criminal gangs who profiteer from this tide of human misery and the consequences of the so-called hostile environment—have provided the backdrop to our proceedings.
Last week, by a majority of 101, the House supported the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord McColl, on human trafficking. The Commons will now have the opportunity to reconsider that issue and other changes, such as the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Oates, on physical documentation, which we have incorporated into the Bill. Although the primary purpose, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, has said, is to end the exercise of EU rights of free movement in this country, noble Lords have focused again and again on the position of children and young people of European parentage who were born here or who have grown up here.
In conclusion, I remember what the noble Lord, Lord Naseby, said from the government Benches: that it would be deeply upsetting for any of us to find our children or grandchildren experiencing this exclusion from their rights to British citizenship. Thanks to the amendments we are sending back down the Corridor, the House of Commons now has the opportunity to correct this profound and damaging injustice, but also to improve the legislation. I hope it will seize the opportunity to do so.
As the Member who was lucky enough to speak first on this Bill, both in Committee and on Report, I thank those involved with its passage through our House. Indeed, I have spoken on nearly all the Bills that have followed from our exit from the EU, in my position as a former Minister and as a current member of the European Union Committee.
I particularly congratulate my noble friend Lady Williams on her handling of the Bill. It is possibly the most challenging of the EU exit Bills, involving very divided opinions across the House; yet, thanks to her good humour and diplomacy, shown again on Amendment 1 today, it has been progressed in a timely and very courteous manner. Thanks are also due to another Minister, my noble friend Lady Stedman-Scott, our social security Minister on this Bill; to our Whip, my noble friend Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay; to all those on these Benches who have spoken and to others across the House; and of course to the excellent Bill team.
I call the Minister.
Bill passed and returned to the Commons with amendments.