5 Baroness Williams of Trafford debates involving the Northern Ireland Office

Mon 20th Jan 2020
European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill
Lords Chamber

Report stage & Report stage:Report: 1st sitting & Report stage (Hansard): House of Lords & Report: 1st sitting: House of Lords & Report: 1st sitting & Report: 1st sitting: House of Lords
Tue 27th Jun 2017

Northern Ireland Executive Formation

Baroness Williams of Trafford Excerpts
Thursday 1st February 2024

(4 months, 3 weeks ago)

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, I am mindful that we are almost half way through the Back-Bench speaking time, so if noble Lords could keep their questions crisp—and I know my noble friend the Minister will keep his answers crisp—we might get through everyone who wants to speak.

Lord Rogan Portrait Lord Rogan (UUP)
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My Lords, in a Parliamentary Written Answer on 6 December 2023, the noble Baroness, Lady Penn, advised me:

“£30 million has been reserved for Northern Ireland from Levelling Up Fund round 3”.


Can I have an assurance from the Minister that this ring-fenced money is in addition to the £3.3 billion package to fill the hole in Northern Ireland’s finances? Further, can he tell me when the levelling up fund money promised to Northern Ireland will finally be released?

Windsor Framework

Baroness Williams of Trafford Excerpts
Tuesday 7th March 2023

(1 year, 3 months ago)

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, shall we hear from the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie, and then from my noble friend Lord Hailsham?

Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Bill

Baroness Williams of Trafford Excerpts
Lord Caine Portrait Lord Caine
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That the Bill be now read a third time.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, I have it in command from His Majesty the King to acquaint the House that His Majesty, having been informed of the purport of the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Bill, has consented to place his prerogative, so far as it is affected by the Bill, at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the Bill.

Lord Caine Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Northern Ireland Office (Lord Caine) (Con)
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My Lords, I will make a very brief statement on legislative consent. Clearly, the reason we are here is because there is neither a functioning Executive nor a functioning Assembly in Northern Ireland, so it has not therefore been possible to seek a legislative consent Motion. I beg to move that the Bill be now read a third time.

European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill

Baroness Williams of Trafford Excerpts
Report stage & Report stage (Hansard): House of Lords & Report: 1st sitting: House of Lords & Report: 1st sitting
Monday 20th January 2020

(4 years, 5 months ago)

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Lord McNicol of West Kilbride Portrait Lord McNicol of West Kilbride (Lab)
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords for their comments in the debate.

The amendment to Clause 7, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Oates, and supported by myself and other noble Lords, is a variant of that tabled in Committee. As the noble Lord, Lord Oates, previously outlined, we are far from convinced by the responses we have heard from government—I think the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, said that the Government were “unconvincing”.

Indeed, there have even been a number of contradictory statements from No. 10 in response to Friday’s comments by the European Parliament’s Brexit lead, Guy Verhofstadt. He claimed that the Secretary of State had provided assurances over the provision of physical documentation, as well as confirming a policy of no forced deportations if individuals fail to apply for settled status by the June 2021 deadline. However, the newspapers carried a contradictory quote from a government official, who said of the meeting:

“They discussed their respective position on physical documents. There weren’t any offers or changes from yesterday’s meeting.”


A statement from the Home Office later added:

“There is no change to our digital approach. It has always been the case that people could print a copy of their confirmation letter, but this can’t be used as evidence of status.”


The noble Viscount, Lord Ridley, said that this could lead to ID cards. The response to that is that people will be asked for physical documentation that proves their status now—as I will come on to, people are already being asked for it. If the Government could make this small change, we would be able to move on.

We should look at the last statement from the Home Office. When we travel abroad and hire a car on the continent, before we go we can print out a document from the DVLA which is proof that we are legally able to hire a vehicle and that the driving licence is covered. While the DVLA holds that documentation on computer, we can get physical documentation that proves the position. Again, it would be fantastic if we could see a little movement by the Government on this.

Under the evidence, we are not satisfied that the Government will provide assurances on physical documents, although I hope they will, or that they will verify the policy of no forced deportations for those who do not apply for settled status by the deadline. As the noble Lord, Lord Oates, touched on, a new poll of EU citizens living in the UK found that an overwhelming majority of 70% would favour physical documentation. These are people who have chosen to make the UK their home and to live, work and play in and thus be part of our countries and our society. On this evidence, the Government are going against good practice and the wishes of EU citizens currently living in the UK.

I shall go back to the point made by the noble Viscount, Lord Ridley. As many as 11% say that they have already been asked for proof of their status, and there have been warnings from private landlords that the new system could introduce the risk of discrimination.

Why would the Government implement a system that puts people who contribute greatly to our society at the risk of facing discrimination? Are they saying that the current proposal for a digital-only system is risk free? The arguments on documentation and deportation at the end of non-registration or non-agreement to pre-settled or settled status were well rehearsed in Committee and we have heard a number of contributions to that effect today, so I will leave it there. We recognise that the Government have provided some comfort as regards the appeals procedure, but there is too much uncertainty about other aspects of EU citizens’ rights. A representative of the3million campaign group has rightly pointed out that far from providing certainty, the current system is best described as giving an “unsettled status”.

We continue to believe that the declaratory system is the best way forward and that EU citizens should enjoy the same rights as many UK citizens living on the continent. Negotiations have already started and hopefully further talks will secure the position as we go forward. If the Minister is unable to promise to table a suitable government amendment at Third Reading and if the noble Lord, Lord Oates, chooses to push his amendment to a vote, we will support stronger protections for the millions of EU citizens who have made this country their home.

I shall touch briefly on the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Kerslake. He said that the Government should take every reasonable step to ensure that EU citizens who choose to make the UK their home are treated fairly, and the simple safeguards set out in the amendment would achieve that.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
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My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Oates, for his explanation of the amendment, but he will not be surprised to learn that we reject it. The amendment would require the Government to establish a declaratory system for those eligible for residence rights under the withdrawal agreement, the EEA EFTA separation agreement or the Swiss citizens’ rights agreement, which for the sake of brevity I shall call from here on in the agreements. References to EU citizens should likewise be taken to include EEA, EFTA and Swiss nationals and their family members.

The noble Lord has continued to press for this change in the belief that it will reassure EU citizens already resident here. The Government have already provided this certainty through the EU settlement scheme—not as a proposal, as the noble Lord, Lord McNicol, has suggested, but as something that is up and running and which the noble Lord, Lord Kerslake, acknowledges is working well.

Fundamentally changing a system that is working well would have the opposite effect to that which I believe the noble Lord is trying to achieve. Amendment 1 would create a declaratory system under EU law, whereby EU citizens may apply for a document confirming their residence status if they wish but do not have to do so. The Government do not agree that this is the right way to secure the status of EU citizens resident in the UK at the end of the implementation period.

After the implementation period, free movement will end and those who are not British or Irish citizens will require a UK immigration status to enter and reside in the UK. The EU settlement scheme is a vital part of transitioning the UK from free movement to a new, points-based immigration system that starts in 2021.

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Viscount Ridley Portrait Viscount Ridley
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I apologise for interrupting. On that very point, I was not reassured by what the noble Lord, Lord McNicol, said. It seems to me that if landlords or other authorities are already beginning to ask for proof of settled status, this would get worse if there were known to be a system where they could produce a card. It would then de facto become a card that they had to produce.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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I totally agree with my noble friend Lord Ridley. His point about ID card creep is also part of this point. It is exactly what happened to the Windrush generation. The Government are adamant that we must avoid a situation in which, years down the line, EU citizens who have built their lives here find themselves struggling to prove their rights and entitlements in the UK.

The approach suggested in the amendment is also unnecessary. Managing the end of free movement in the UK and providing certainty for resident EU citizens during that transition has been an absolute priority. We firmly believe that the current, constitutive approach under the EU settlement scheme is the right one. According to the latest internal figures, more than 2.8 million applications have been received and 2.5 million grants of status have already been made. The Home Office, as I said the other day, is processing up to 20,000 applications a day.

We are working with communities up and down the country to raise awareness of the scheme and keep up this momentum. It already allows EU citizens who would be protected by the agreements and other people the Government have chosen to protect, such as many non-working spouses and primary carers not covered by the agreements, to obtain a UK immigration status, enabling them to remain here permanently after the end of the implementation period. This status will mean that their rights and entitlements under the agreements are guaranteed. However, the new clause would interrupt the flow of a system that is well under way, already working well and achieving precisely what it was designed and implemented to do: providing certainty to those who have made their lives here.

EU citizens resident in the UK before the end of the implementation period will have different, enhanced rights compared with those who arrive afterwards. It is therefore essential that these citizens have the evidence they need to demonstrate their rights in the UK. This is also why we are seeing many other EU member states planning to take exactly the same approach and establish a constitutive system for UK nationals living there.

The EU settlement scheme means that those who have built their lives here will not find themselves struggling to evidence their rights in the UK, or have to carry around multiple bits of paper to evidence their previous UK residence. We are legally required to issue all successful applicants under the EU settlement scheme with a written notification of their UK immigration status, and all successful applicants are given a letter confirming their status. The status can be viewed online and shared securely with others, but as noble Lords have said it is not proof but confirmation.

Access to the online status service is via secure two-factor authentication using the document, such as a passport or national ID card, which the individual used to prove their identity and their date of birth. The user is then required to input a one-time use code, sent to their mobile number or email address. This ensures that no one else can access the individual’s information without their permission. Once in the service, users can view their information and update their details, and can choose to share their status information with third parties. This might be with employers, to prove their right to work, or with other service providers, to prove their right to access public services, benefits or the NHS.

When an individual chooses to share their information, they share only the content that is specific and relevant to the checks in question, as I went through the other day. This will include their name, their image and any information that is relevant to that particular purpose. This supports data minimisation, ensuring that only the information required is made available, which is not possible with a single physical document.

All our digital services are designed and developed to be robust and reliable, with extensive internal and user testing before launch to ensure that they perform as expected. We will monitor services to ensure that any issues are identified and acted upon. Mechanisms are already in place for users to report any technical issues with the service. We continue to refine and improve these processes, and all data will be treated in compliance with data protection law.

We do not want to go back to issuing physical documents, which, as we know, can be lost, stolen or tampered with. Our vision for the future is a digital status and service for all migrants. The continuation of a declaratory system would force employers, banks and other service providers to wade through various documents to establish for themselves whether the person is indeed protected by the agreements. Such an approach would be burdensome, for the citizens and others, and for the very systems we have committed to protect.

I will pick up a number of questions which noble Lords asked. Several noble Lords talked about airports. The noble Lord, Lord Oates, gave the example of a friend who was questioned at the airport, and the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, talked about the border, too. What happens at the border is proof of identity to cross the border, as opposed to proof of status to be in the UK.

The noble Lord, Lord McNicol, talked about hiring a car abroad. In doing so, he inadvertently proved the point that, with the dispensing of the paper part of the licence, all one needs when abroad is a code to prove that you can hire a car. You do not need the physical document, you need only the code—as I learned to my peril when I did not realise that that was what you had to do.

Baroness Kramer Portrait Baroness Kramer (LD)
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I must correct the Minister. Having had great faith and gone abroad with my code, on attempting to rent a car in the United States and Spain, I found on both occasions that the process failed miserably. Only the fact that I had a piece of paper with me enabled me to rent the car. I hope the Minister will reply to the noble Baroness, Lady Altmann, who asked what the back-up is when it goes wrong or there is a cyberattack.

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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I will of course respond to my noble friend, and to other noble Lords who raised that point, but the point I was trying to make is that we have not had a paper part of the licence for some years. Whether it worked for the noble Baroness or not, to hire a car one gets a code from the DVLA. We do not have a paper part of the licence.

Lord Cromwell Portrait Lord Cromwell
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There appears to be a certain amount of confusion and a lot of people are gesturing to show that they have a plastic card in their hand. I think we have plastic driving licences; we have not done away with them.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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That is not the point that I was making. We used to have paper accompaniments to the licence and we no longer have them. We used to have a paper part of the licence and it was phased out, but to hire a car you need a code.

Lord McNicol of West Kilbride Portrait Lord McNicol of West Kilbride
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The noble Baroness is correct that the paper part of the licence has been phased out, but when you go abroad you need proof for the insurance to hire a car. The noble Baroness might well be correct that you can just use a code but, as we have heard, if you go with just a code there is no proof with it. I, many other noble Lords and many other people would print out proper documentation and proof that you have that code with the DVLA’s name at the top of it. That is what we are saying: it does not just show it when you hire a car, but proves it.

Viscount Waverley Portrait Viscount Waverley
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My Lords, while the noble Baroness is still sitting down, would it be possible, or is it anticipated, for government agencies in the EU 27 countries concerned to have access to our official databases so that they can look up and access data to confirm all these relevant issues, whether for borders or for whatever reason?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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The point I was trying to make was that any agency that has access to information about proof of digital status has access only to the information for the purpose it is required to prove, such as right to work or right to rent. Data is given only for the purpose for which it is required.

The noble Lord, Lord Oates, talked about deportation and criminality for those failing to apply by the deadline. I explained in Committee that EU citizens who failed to apply to the scheme by the deadline will not be acting unlawfully in the same way as illegal entrants or overstayers and will not be subject to automatic deportation—they will not have knowingly entered the UK in breach of the Immigration Acts or overstayed their leave. Once free movement has ended, they will need leave to remain in the UK. That is why we set up the EU settlement scheme. As the noble Lord, Lord Kerslake, and my noble friend Lady Altmann said, we have been clear that we will take a pragmatic approach. In line with the agreements, those with reasonable grounds for missing the deadline will be given further opportunities to apply.

On the reliability of IT systems, I say to the noble Lord, Lord Cromwell, and my noble friend Lady Altmann that immigration decisions have been securely recorded and stored digitally since the turn of the century, so this is nothing new. I ask the noble Lord not to press his amendment.

Lord Oates Portrait Lord Oates
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in the debate. I thank the Minister for her response, but I must say that I am utterly bewildered by it. This really is not a complicated issue. Millions of EU, EEA and Swiss national citizens are desperately concerned and asking for physical proof.

In Committee, the Minister said that to provide them with physical proof would be confusing and create a two-tier system. We have a system of permanent residence in this country for non-EU citizens; my husband is one of them. In his passport is a Home Office sticker, a nice colourful thing with watermarks and all sorts of anti-fraud protection, which gives him permanent leave to remain. It is physical proof. Doubtless it is also recorded on some Home Office computer system—I certainly hope so. There is no complication about this; we can do it. We just need the same scheme. The complication with a system where there is no physical proof is that landlords, employers or others who may be used to having physical proof may not accept, or find it difficult to deal with, people who do not have it.

Let me pick up on a few points. The Minister talked about the driving licence issue. We have a physical driving licence. The Minister is indicating that I have missed her argument but the licence is proof of my right to drive. All these people are asking for is physical proof of their right to residence, which the Government are not providing. The Minister also said that there was a danger of ID-card creep; I do not think there is any danger of that. Again, we already have a system for permanent residence in which physical proof is provided.

The Minister said that the system is working well because a large number of applications have already been made. I will say two things about that. First, the argument that we have always made about why we need a declaratory system is to do not with the number of people who have applied by now but with the number of people who will not have applied by the cut-off date. That is what concerns us. Secondly, the Minister says that the system is working well, but I refer her to the information provided by the Public Law Project from freedom of information requests. It shows that 90% of those decisions to give people pre-settled status under the scheme—rather than settled status when they have come under administrative review, at a charge of £80 to the people applying for it—have been found to be wrong.

In summary, people having the right to physical proof is a critical issue. It is absolutely essential that the Government honour the commitments that the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary made at the time of the referendum. In view of how important this issue is, I beg leave to test the opinion of the House.

Queen’s Speech

Baroness Williams of Trafford Excerpts
Tuesday 27th June 2017

(6 years, 12 months ago)

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Lord Forsyth of Drumlean Portrait Lord Forsyth of Drumlean
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That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty as follows:

“Most Gracious Sovereign—We, Your Majesty’s most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal in Parliament assembled, beg leave to thank Your Majesty for the most gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament”.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford)
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My Lords, I am grateful for this opportunity to open this third day of debate on the gracious Speech. The focus of today’s debate is home affairs, justice, constitutional affairs, devolved affairs, communities and local government. The debate will enable us to explore some of the key themes of the gracious Speech, including seizing the opportunity to reshape our immigration system as we leave the European Union, tackling injustice, protecting our communities and strengthening the union between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

I and my noble friend Lord Bourne look forward to hearing the many contributions from noble Lords who have put their names down to speak. Given the wealth of experience represented on all sides of the House, I am sure that we will have the benefit of many thought-provoking insights into the challenges and opportunities facing our nation at the start of this new Parliament.

I want to begin by addressing the tragic Grenfell Tower fire. I know that the whole House shares my heartfelt sympathy for those who have lost loved ones and those who have had their lives devastated. We owe it to all those who have suffered to establish exactly what happened and to learn the lessons of this appalling tragedy. To that end, we will establish a full public inquiry. As the Prime Minister said in her Statement in the House of Commons last week, it will be chaired by a judge to get to the truth about what happened and who was responsible, and to provide justice for the victims and their families, who suffered so terribly. The families of victims will be consulted on the terms of reference under which the inquiry proceeds. The Prime Minister has also set out her expectation that the inquiry will produce an interim report as quickly as possible.

We are committed to providing funding for residents and victims’ families so that they can be legally represented at the inquiry. We must ensure that victims’ voices are properly heard. That is why there will also now be an independent public advocate to help bereaved families after major disasters.

The Grenfell Tower fire is not the only tragedy that we have faced in recent months which has affected the whole nation. Communities in Manchester and London have had to endure unimaginable horrors. What ought to be everyday activities—be it visiting tourist attractions, attending a concert, enjoying a night out, or simply chatting with friends at the end of prayers at the local mosque—have been perverted by both Islamist and far-right extremists alike. In the face of such horrors, time and again we have seen our communities come together, demonstrating unwavering acts of kindness and generosity in support of their neighbours. We will not let such provocations change the true character of Britain as a wonderfully diverse, open and inclusive country.

The Government have long had a role in protecting the public from terrorism. In the previous Parliament, we announced a 30% increase over five years in cross-government spending on counterterrorism and enacted new legislation to ensure that the police and intelligence agencies have the powers that they need to keep the public safe. But we cannot stop there. As the terrorist threat evolves, we must continue to learn lessons and further improve our response. The gracious Speech therefore included a commitment to review our counterterrorism strategy. The review will not only look at the existing legislative framework, including the sentencing powers of the courts, but seek to apply the lessons we have learnt from our response to the events leading up to, during, and in the aftermath of the recent attacks. This review will inform a strengthened approach to counterterrorism. Should the review find that further legislation is necessary, your Lordships’ House can be assured that we will put this before Parliament.

We also have a responsibility to protect the public from the harms which extremists pose to our society. This is why the Government are establishing a powerful new Commission for Countering Extremism. The commission will play a key role in supporting communities and the public sector to identify and confront extremism. It will promote our fundamental values and support integration, and it will advise the Government on the policies needed to tackle the evolving threat from extremism.

Challenging extremism is not a new government objective. The new commission will build on the comprehensive programme of work set out in the counter-extremism strategy. This strategy is all about working with communities, standing up for our fundamental values, supporting integration and striving to defeat extremism. However, there is more that we can and must do. The Commission for Countering Extremism will play a crucial part in supporting future efforts to stamp out extremism in this country. This Government will stand with our communities. Together, we will defeat terrorism and extremism, and ensure that our pluralistic British values are given the opportunity to flourish.

The gracious Speech also set out our plans to bring forward a landmark Bill to tackle domestic abuse. This Government are determined to build a society that does not tolerate domestic abuse, in which victims and their families feel safe and supported in seeking help, and where perpetrators are dealt with effectively. However, legislation can only ever be one part of the solution so the provisions in the Bill will be accompanied by a full programme of non-legislative measures backed by the £20 million of funding announced in the last Budget. Fundamental to the Bill will be the introduction of a statutory definition of domestic abuse. We want to dispel the myth that domestic abuse is solely about violence and to provide absolute clarity and certainty to both the public and professionals that at the root of much domestic abuse is a pattern of control which can take many forms, including financial control, verbal abuse and emotional harm. Without domestic abuse being properly understood and recognised, we will not be able to provide victims with the support that they are entitled to receive.

The Bill will also create a bespoke new domestic abuse prevention and protection order regime. The current protective orders landscape can be confusing. It is not always clear to victims and professionals how orders can best be used to protect victims of domestic abuse. A new order specific to domestic abuse will provide a single, clear pathway for all concerned, offer better and earlier protection for victims and do more to tackle the root causes of offending behaviour. The Bill also responds to the devastating and lifelong impact that domestic abuse has on children, who can carry the traumatic events into adulthood. We want to make sure that the criminal law and sentencing frameworks clearly and explicitly recognise the harm to children who are exposed to domestic abuse, and that sentences adequately reflect the seriousness of this offending. The Bill will also establish a domestic violence and abuse commissioner, to stand up for victims and survivors, raise public awareness, monitor the response of statutory agencies and local authorities and hold the justice system to account in tackling domestic abuse. We are committed to having a robust and thorough consultation on both the legislative proposals and the non-legislative programme. I am sure that noble Lords—I can see some of them before me—will want to engage with this process.

We need to ensure that the criminal justice system works for all victims of crime—a sentiment which I am sure my noble friend Lady Newlove would endorse. That is why the gracious Speech also included a commitment to introduce legislation to modernise the courts and tribunals system. We want a world-class courts system that provides straightforward and efficient access to justice, including through the better use of technology, and provides targeted support and care for those who need it.

As we leave the European Union, we will need to establish a new framework for regulating immigration of European Union nationals and their family members. By enabling us to set our own domestic rules, we can better balance the requirements of the UK economy with the need to reduce net migration to sustainable levels. We have made some progress in this direction, with the most recent figures showing a 25% fall in net migration in the year to December 2016 compared with the previous year, but we need to do more.

To help us deliver on this objective, the immigration Bill will enable us to end the European Union rules on free movement for EU nationals, ensuring that we have the flexibility to create a fair and controlled immigration system. As has been the case under successive Governments, the details of the new arrangements will be set out in Immigration Rules which will be subject to scrutiny by Parliament. Although I cannot pre-empt EU negotiations, I can assure noble Lords that we will maintain the common travel area, thereby safeguarding the ease of movement across the Irish land border.

In developing our future immigration system, we are clear that we need to meet the needs of businesses and communities, and we will ensure that both have an opportunity to contribute their views. Our objective is to put in place an immigration system which is right for the UK economy and for the country as a whole.

This leads me to the subject of devolved affairs. The gracious Speech was very clear in stressing the importance that the Government place on working constructively with the devolved Administrations. This will be especially vital in relation to work on our exit from the European Union. We have been clear from the start, and throughout the discussions, that the UK Government will negotiate as one United Kingdom, working closely with the devolved Administrations, to deliver an EU exit that works for the whole of the country. There is considerable common ground between the UK Government and the devolved Administrations on what we want to get out of this process.

With regards to legislation, a number of Bills in this session will require close engagement across the Administrations of the UK. The Government will engage constructively and will seek legislative consent motions where appropriate. The overriding priority for the UK Government in Northern Ireland remains the restoration of a devolved power-sharing Government in Scotland—excuse me, in Stormont.

None Portrait Noble Lords
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Oh!

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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Just checking—you know what I mean. The UK Government are working with the main Northern Ireland parties and the Irish Government to restore a fully functioning and inclusive Executive and Assembly.

Finally, the gracious Speech included a commitment to promote fairness and transparency in the housing market. Housing is increasingly unaffordable and it is therefore not surprising that home ownership among younger people has declined in recent years and the number of young people in the private rented sector is on the increase. We have made some good progress, with nearly 190,000 new homes delivered last year, but we need to sustain that momentum to meet the affordability challenge. All credible sources agree that we need between 225,000 and 275,000 new homes per annum to tackle this problem. In order to make all types of housing more affordable, the Government will implement proposals in the housing White Paper to help to ensure that more homes are built.

As well as taking action to make buying a home more affordable, the Government will also take forward measures to help people who are renting. We will bring forward a draft Bill to stop tenants being charged letting fees. This will mean that tenants can see, at a glance, exactly what a given property will cost them, ensuring they are not hit by surprise fees which they may struggle to afford.

The Government are committed to building a safer, fairer and more prosperous society. The measures set out in the gracious Speech will help us deliver just that. Over the two years of this first Session of the new Parliament, I look forward to debating with your Lordships’ House the many Home Office measures which I have outlined.