Extent, commencement and short title

Part of Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:30 pm on 28th February 2019.

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Photo of Caroline Nokes Caroline Nokes The Minister for Immigration 3:30 pm, 28th February 2019

I emphasise the points that I made following the publication of the net migration statistic. A significant proportion of the increase that we have seen is made up of students coming from outside the EU, including significant increases in the numbers of Indian and Chinese students coming to our world-class universities. The hon. Gentleman will know that there is no limit to the number of tier 4 visas that we are happy to issue to genuine students and, in the case of universities, there has been a 10% increase in the past year. That puts the figure in the region of 26% higher than in 2010-11.

In addition—this is very topical in the context of this amendment, since we are discussing health; I am sure this gets me back in order, Sir David—the hon. Gentleman will remember that in July of last year, we lifted the cap on doctors and nurses being able to come in under the tier 2 regulations. There has been a significant increase in the number of doctors and nurses—those working in the health sector—making applications under that system. While I acknowledge the importance of working hard to make sure that we have adequate numbers of UK-trained doctors and nurses, that was a very popular move. It was impressed on us, not only by many political parties but by those in the professions, that it was important that we lift the cap on tier 2 visas for those who work in the NHS.

EEA and Swiss nationals and their family members who are, or become, ordinarily resident in the UK are currently fully entitled to free NHS care, in the same way as a British citizen who is ordinarily resident. That position will not change, regardless of whether the UK leaves the EU with or without a deal. The Government are also currently working to reach agreement at EU level, or through agreements with relevant member states, to continue the reciprocal healthcare arrangements that are already in place and are so beneficial to UK and EU nationals alike while we negotiate our future relationship. We are making progress: we have already agreed reciprocal arrangements with Switzerland, Iceland, Lichtenstein and Norway. Those arrangements safeguard healthcare for the hundreds of thousands of UK nationals who live and work in EU countries, or who require emergency medical treatment each year while on holiday in Europe. They also ensure that EU citizens who are not ordinarily resident in the UK—primarily those on holiday—can receive reciprocal healthcare here.

It is also worth reflecting on the fact that both health and charging for health services are devolved matters. With the exception of new clause 42, these amendments seek to amend devolved health policy. However, the health Ministries in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and the Department of Health and Social Care in England are responsible for setting their own charging policy and making their own regulations.