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

First day of the Report Stage of the Immigration and Social Security (EU Withdrawal) Bill…

My Lords, I confess to being slightly surprised by some of the comments in favour of Amendment 1; I am speaking against Amendment 1 and very strongly in support of Amendment 2 in the name of my noble friend Lady Bennett.

This is no time to be xenophobic and exclusionary. To suggest that the majority of migrants come over here on the basis of greed is to ignore the fact that the vast majority come over here to find a place of safety, not just for themselves but for their children. They come over here because they are absolutely desperate. Who would face that sort of crossing in a rickety boat if they did not have to? It is worth reminding your Lordships’ House that some of the forebears of your Lordships benefited, as refugees, from the welcome that Britain extended to them.

When we look at these migrants, we have to accept that we bear some of the blame for their situation. It is not as simple as saying that it all happens abroad and we bear no responsibility. We sell arms to repressive regimes and we have to understand that that has consequences. We also use far more of our share of the earth’s resources, which means that other places have less than their share, which creates environmental refugees. We also meddle in other people’s wars. We do not have to go to war in far-flung places—we should be making sure that the world is a more secure place.

I benefited hugely from freedom of movement when I was young, and I would like my children to do the same, as well as the thousands of other young people who are reaching the age when they want to travel, visit other places and learn about other cultures. It is unfair that we ban this opportunity for young people, when we had it ourselves.

Finally on Amendment 1, as I have said and will never tire of repeating in your Lordships’ House, ending freedom of movement is not the will of the people. You cannot assume that, because people voted for Brexit, they voted to end the freedom of movement. I and many others from the left voted for Brexit, but we did not vote to finish off freedom of movement. So, please, no more stuff about it being the will of the people; it absolutely is not.

On Amendment 2, we should see this as an opportunity to show the Government and the people of Britain that ending freedom of movement is not desirable but something extremely undesirable. I, for one, will be voting for the amendment.

My Lords, my Amendment 30 is along the lines of Amendment 3, but tougher and more radical. I would love to know that there is some support for it, but I think Amendment 3 will edge it. However, this amendment has huge support, and I thank the people from the Scottish National Party, who on a point of principle do not take their seats in the House of Lords—or what seats they might be offered. They have done all the work in getting together a huge variety of people, including RNIB Scotland, UNISON, Macmillan Cancer Support, Disability Wales, the Church of Scotland and the Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action. I could go on: more than 40 organisations and NGOs support this amendment.

An absolutely crucial point, which the Minister did not tackle when I presented this amendment in Committee, was that this proposal draws in all four nations. That is something that Amendment 3, I am afraid, does not mention. My amendment would probably enable the Government to have much more support for their work; it would strengthen buy-in from stakeholders across the four nations and increase the status and profile of the evaluation.​

Many of the points I wanted to make have already been made by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, very eloquently, but many bear repeating. The Government are closing their eyes to a potential problem. My key concern is about the health and social care workforce. The organisations that have contributed to this amendment are aware that some health and social care organisations rely heavily on workers from other parts of the EU and cannot continue in their present form without support. If they are allowed to fail, other parts of the health and social care system will be needed to fill those gaps.

On efficiency and effectiveness, research carried out by the Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland in communities across Scotland highlighted that people who use support and services have concerns about their future availability. That means that with the health and social care system already creaking, combined with an elderly workforce, some people will have to try to find their own ways to minimise any negative repercussions as a result of changes accruing from leaving the EU. Then there is the adequacy of public funding for the health and social care sectors. The alliance’s report raised major concerns about the impact of Brexit and the potential loss of EU funding in health and social care in Scotland, particularly to third-sector organisations, which have a key role in the provision of health and social care services. Any loss of funding will place a further strain on that whole sector, and it seems that the Government are not acknowledging that it will be a problem.

I would therefore like the Minister to answer my point that my amendment would create buy-in from the four nations, which the Government seem to be ignoring at the moment. Also, it is quite possible that without the extra workforce that we currently get through people coming from other countries, the whole system could start to fail. Are the Government prepared to put enough money into it to make sure that it does not fail and let down all the people who care about this service?

My Lords, I agree with every word that the noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Newnham, has said, and she is much more polite than I feel able to be. This amendment is nasty and it is pointless. It is nasty because it panders to a right-wing obsession with immigration caps that ​are utterly arbitrary—on an arbitrary group of people or a number—and it is pointless because the Bill already removes freedom of movement. Can we please not bother debating this any more? It is not worth it.

Read the whole debate on Hansard