It is still the Home Office’s position that we regard that as an arbitrary figure. We believe that a deadline that is set as a date is much more easily understood by individuals.
We are running an extensive communications campaign to ensure that people are aware of the need to apply. We are using all available channels to reach our audience, and last year targeted online advertising alone reached more than 2 million people. Our communications activity will be even more visible in the coming months, and we will shortly launch a wide-ranging marketing campaign that will encourage EU citizens to apply when the scheme is fully open. Nobody will be left behind, however, and we are working in partnership with vulnerable group representatives to ensure that we reach everyone. We expect the large majority of EEA nationals to have been granted status by the deadline, but if a person has good reasons for missing the deadline, we will be able to protect their status and enable them to apply afterwards.
Secondly, by requiring 3 million EU citizens to be granted settled status before the Bill can come into force and lay the ground for the future immigration system, we are presupposing that all resident EU citizens will receive indefinite leave to remain, which is what settled status refers to. That does not take into account the fact that some resident EU citizens may not need to apply for settled status. Some may want to leave the UK before the deadline; some will have arrived pre-1973 and already have indefinite leave to remain; and some may want to apply for British citizenship instead.
A significant proportion of EEA nationals who are eligible to apply under the settlement scheme will not have been continuously resident in the UK for five years, so they will not be entitled to settled status. They will be issued with pre-settled status, which gives them limited leave to remain, rather than indefinite leave. Some may then leave the UK without staying to complete the five years continuous residence required for a grant of settled status.
The date on which free movement could be repealed, or retained social security co-ordination legislation amended, would therefore be highly uncertain and operationally unworkable as a result of the amendment. The decision about whether free movement ended would be left solely in the hands of those EEA nationals. To prevent free movement from coming to an end through the Bill, they could simply refuse to apply under the EU settlement scheme, knowing that, as a consequence, free movement would not end.
That would be the antithesis of taking back control. It would put the future immigration system in the hands not of the Government or the British people, but of EU nationals who had already exercised their free movement rights and whose rights were protected, but who could prevent us from ending free movement and delivering on the outcome of the referendum.
Finally, it makes no sense to restrict the commencement of the social security co-ordination provisions in clause 5 based on the number of people who are granted settled status. Rights under the social security co-ordination regulations—for example, the right to aggregate to meet domestic entitlement for specific benefits—are not connected to the grant of leave under the EU settlement scheme. I therefore ask the hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton to withdraw his amendment.