Clause 17

Part of UK Borders Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 6:00 pm on 13th March 2007.

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Photo of Joan Ryan Joan Ryan Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department 6:00 pm, 13th March 2007

We will work with the NHS to ensure that the implementation of the new rules flowing from the review is accompanied by a programme of communication and good practice for those who apply the rules, including practice staff, general practitioners and trusts. Clearly, working closely with primary care and hospital trusts will be important. However, despite difficulties, it is important that we tackle that issue.  

Given the review, I say to the hon. Member for Rochdale that it would be inappropriate to make changes at the moment. The basic humanitarian needs of failed asylum seekers for health care are met already. They receive free treatment in accident and emergency departments and for many infectious diseases such as tuberculosis. For other life-threatening conditions, and in order to prevent any conditions from becoming life-threatening, they will receive appropriate treatment regardless of their ability to pay. Treatment will not be withheld or delayed. Charging issues will be sorted out subsequently, and trusts have the discretion to write off debts if it would not be reasonable or cost-effective to pursue them.

In conclusion, although I understand the motivation behind the hon. Gentleman’s new clause, we cannot agree to the measure for supporting failed asylum seekers. It would be a dangerous measure that would drive a coach and horses through our policy and desire to deal with the issue using other means that are showing results and must be pursued. As I said, I think that we should await the outcome of the review.