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 Eleanor Smith Eleanor Smith Labour, Wolverhampton South West 3:15 pm, 28th February 2019

I wish to speak to new clause 12, which states:

“Any EEA or Swiss national, or family member of an EEA or Swiss national, resident in the United Kingdom shall be deemed ordinarily resident for the purposes of section 175 of the National Health Service Act 2006.”

When charging for non-residents was first introduced under section 175, it was not meant to add excess costs for that group of people accessing our healthcare. In 2015, costs were introduced that started at £200 for most applicants and £150 for certain groups—for example, students. The fee has now doubled. That means that a family of four would have to pay about £1,000 each in IHS costs in addition to their visa costs.

I am pleased that the Minister confirmed in November that EU citizens who are resident in the UK before it leaves the European Union in March 2019 will not pay the charge, and that the Government have come to an agreement with Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein that during the transition period their citizens’ rights will be protected. However, it is still unclear what will happen after the transition period has come to an end in 2021 or, in the case of a no-deal scenario, December 2020. A new visa system will be in place that could mean that EEA citizens and Swiss nationals have to pay the immigration health charge.

It seems to be forgotten that most of the EEA citizens and Swiss nationals in the UK are currently employed and are already paying for the NHS through their taxes. Extending the immigration health surcharge to them would mean that they were being charged double for NHS care, which would seem to me an unfair contribution.

That leads me to the issue of the NHS. More than 60,000 NHS workers are EU nationals and, without settled status, they could face the possibility of paying the increased surcharge as well as for their tier 2 work visa. The new system could add further pressures for the NHS, which is currently struggling to recruit the number of healthcare professionals needed to meet the country’s demand.

Labour’s intention is to level rights up, not down. We hope that, after a new immigration system applying to nationals from across the world is introduced, none will be required to pay these charges.