I very much respect the hon. Lady’s expertise in these matters; I also appreciated her important comments during the Committee’s oral evidence sessions. I echo the hon. Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East. Clearly, there is a balance to be struck between the costs to the UK taxpayer and what is right for the health and wellbeing of anyone living in this country, in whatever circumstances. Like him, I would strike the balance on the side of health, wellbeing and the protection of life when we have to make those difficult choices.
As the hon. Gentleman said, there are things that we could do. One possibility, although personally I do not favour it, would be to apply the health surcharge in some circumstances in which it might not otherwise apply. However, the evidence is that because these women are unable to pay the debts anyway, most of the money will in fact go uncollected. The NHS is not really gaining financially. All the charges seem to do is deter women from seeking the care they need for themselves and their babies, and that is a false economy down the line. If the women are legitimately in this country, as they are, the need for further emergency care and primary care will pile up if they have not had the proper antenatal and maternity care that they should have had to meet their best interests and that of their children.
I know that the Minister takes these matters seriously. Will she use her good offices to ask her colleagues in the Department of Health and Social Care to publish the Department’s 2017 review of the impact of amendments to the NHS charging regulations? I am told that it engaged with those involved in the maternity care of women, including the Royal College of Midwives, but the outcome of that review has not been published and placed in front of us. If the Minister can do anything to persuade her colleagues to make that information publicly available, it would be much appreciated.