Extent, commencement and short title

Part of Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:15 pm on 28th February 2019.

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Photo of Stuart McDonald Stuart McDonald Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Immigration, Asylum and Border Control) 3:15 pm, 28th February 2019

The hon. Gentleman makes an absolutely valid point.

I turn to amendment 37, which would prevent the Government from bringing into force those parts of the Bill that subject EEA nationals to the domestic immigration system until EEA and Swiss nationals with immigration permission are exempted from the NHS’s overseas visitors charges. This amendment would mean that all EU migrants with a visa, including temporary workers on short-term visas, are able to receive NHS services free at the point of care. That reflects the current situation of EU nationals living and working in the UK.

The White Paper indicates that EU migrants on short-term visas of 12 months will have no right to healthcare beyond emergency care, and skilled workers and their dependents will be required to pay the immigration health surcharge when making an immigration application to enter or remain in the UK. Good preventive healthcare plays a central role in maintaining a fit and healthy workforce, and the policy to exclude people on short-term visas from all healthcare beyond emergency care establishes a worrying precedent in excluding from NHS services migrants who are legally living and working in the UK.

Those on short-term visas are likely to be in lower-paid jobs and unable to pay for healthcare out of their own pockets. Requiring EU migrants on skilled worker visas and their dependants to pay the immigration health surcharge is unfair and will be cost-prohibitive for some. Payment of the surcharge, which is currently set at £400 per person per year with a discounted rate for students of £300 per year, must be made at the same time as an immigration application, and it has to cover the total cost for the duration of the visa and for all the people named on the application. A person applying for a two-and-a-half-year visa will incur a surcharge of £1,000, on top of any other immigration fees, and a family of four would be required to pay £8,100 for a visa for the same period.

For those on low incomes, the health surcharge will be cost-prohibitive. We are particularly concerned about the impact that the surcharge will have on EU migrants living in the UK when they come to renew their visa, and about the fact that large health surcharge payments will prevent those on low incomes from being able to renew their visa, causing them to lose their lawful stay in the UK. It is also of note that EU migrants who are employed—for example, those on short-term or skilled visas—will be contributing to the NHS through tax and national insurance payments and that, by being required to pay the health surcharge, they will in effect be being charged twice for healthcare.

For those reasons, I have also tabled new clause 42, which would remove the applicability of the health surcharge. The surcharge has doubled this year to what I regard as an unacceptably high level.