Duty to commission an independent evaluation: health and social care sectors

Part of Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill – in the House of Commons at 5:15 pm on 30th June 2020.

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Photo of Wendy Chamberlain Wendy Chamberlain Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (International Development), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Northern Ireland), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Wales), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Scotland), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Cabinet Office) 5:15 pm, 30th June 2020

I speak in support of new clause 38, tabled by my hon. Friend Christine Jardine, and new clause 36, tabled by Stuart C. McDonald, both of which I have signed.

The largest employer in my constituency is the University of St Andrews. I visited there back in February as part of the Royal Society’s parliamentary pairing scheme. I enjoyed seeing the amazing work that is being undertaken by researchers from across the EU and beyond and supported by EU funding. Their status and the funding that supports their ground-breaking work are both at risk. As of May 2020, more than 9,000 EU nationals in Fife have applied for settled status, yet nearly 4,000 are either still waiting for a final decision or have only been granted pre-settled status. I am not convinced that the Home Office will be properly able to manage the settled status applications of my constituents and the 3 million other EU citizens living in this country. Providing no certainty is no way to treat them. A British Futures report estimates that the difficulties in navigating the application system and the lack of awareness of the process will result in 175,000 EU citizens living in the UK with an insecure immigration status or no status at all. We risk the denial of legal rights of jobs, homes and medical care to EU nationals who are entitled to them but cannot prove it, and that is not right. That is why I speak in favour of new clause 38, which would ensure that all EU citizens have settled status and require the Government to make available physical proof of that status.

A particular concern has been raised with me by constituents relating to comprehensive sickness insurance and I thank Fife4europe for its representations to me in this regard. CSI was not a requirement for settled status until Government policy appeared to change on 15 May this year. EU citizens who are students or classed as self-sufficient do now need it. That is unjust. There was no CSI requirement for a number of years, and many of my constituents who are EU citizens are understandably concerned. There are some urgent questions for the Government to answer. Why has the requirement been introduced at this time? What are the reasons for it? What steps are the Secretary of State and the Minister taking to ensure that EU nationals are aware of this new requirement? Will it be applied retrospectively? What does it mean for applications currently being considered? I ask the Minister to provide clarity on this issue.

There has been little communication, zero justification and the cloud of uncertainty over EU citizens is growing. My constituents are concerned that the retrospective application of the CSI requirement could be used to prevent people from attaining settled status and prevent those who do have settled status from gaining citizenship. The fact that EU citizens in my constituency are worried about this indicates the total lack of trust and communication between the Government and these individuals, who have been left frustrated and concerned by intolerable delays. Therefore, I urge Members to support new clause 36 in the name of the hon. Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East, which would ensure that not having CSI could not be used to disqualify an EU citizen with settled status from citizenship

Finally, I would like briefly to address the role for workers in our agricultural sector.  I welcome new clause 37, tabled by the Leader of the Opposition, which would require the Government to publish data on where skill shortages are in our economy. If we do not have the data, we will not be able properly to assess our agricultural needs. Farms in my constituency have access to the seasonal workers pilot scheme, but it is clear that we need a lot more people to be able to come here to work under the scheme. The figure of 10,000 was almost plucked from thin air. It was clearly never going to be sufficient.

Obviously there are challenges this year in relation to covid, but farmers are being told that they need almost to go back in time in how they harvest their crops, and that is simply not sustainable. I commend the local workers who are working on our farms—some during furlough—but we should note that fruit picking is no longer some part-time hobby occupation. These are operations with multiple complex supply chains that cannot operate on a hand-to-mouth basis while waiting to hear what crumbs the Government are going to provide to augment the workforce. I must also mention that many of the workers who come from abroad also train other people. The Government simply have to do more in this regard.