Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:39 pm on 26th June 2019.

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Photo of Caroline Nokes Caroline Nokes The Minister for Immigration 1:39 pm, 26th June 2019

Yes, certainly. I have mentioned the engagement with employers, and over the last few months we have also been meeting non-governmental organisations and academia. Indeed, in the hon. Lady’s own city of Bristol, we held a roundtable that was well attended by representatives of Bristol University, which is very keen that the voice of the student should be heard, as well as the voice of the institution. It is important that we continue to engage and listen to voices from across the entire country.

We are marshalling our reforms under three key themes: improving our customer service and responding more effectively to the individual needs of people who interact with the system; making sure that we respond better to vulnerable individuals who interact with our system, including by ensuring that our processes are accessible; and ensuring we are an open organisation that listens and responds when our customers and staff identify problems, using feedback to design our policies and procedures and to understand their impact.

The EU settlement scheme embodies those principles. We have listened and responded, building on the feedback that we received through the extensive stakeholder engagement and the two public beta phases before its launch in March. The customer experience is where we want the future system to be. The scheme is fully digital and genuinely world leading because applicants can validate their identity using their mobile device—including Apple customers later this year—and are provided with a secure digital status that, unlike a physical document, cannot be lost, stolen or tampered with.

Jamie Stone, who is no longer in his place, made the point about those who have only Apple, not Android, phones, and about how the broadband coverage in his constituency makes uploading documents difficult. I would say to him that his constituents do not have to travel on a 500 mile round trip to Edinburgh, because the postal route opened on 30 March in time to coincide with the original planned date of leaving the European Union.

The motion talks about rejecting the requirement for EU citizens to apply for settled and pre-settled status, but a declaratory system, under which they automatically acquired an immigration status, would significantly reduce any incentive to obtain evidence of that status. It would risk creating confusion among employers and service providers, and would have the effect of impeding EU citizens’ access to benefits and services to which they were entitled.