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 am not going to criticise the founder of the national health service, who made a huge contribution to our national life in so doing, but it is important to reflect on the fact that in successive general elections people have supported the principle that those who are here on temporary visas should contribute. As I was saying, the devolved authorities do of course have the ability to set their own charging policies and make their own regulations.

Amendment 37 and new clause 12 do not reflect the devolved nature of health legislation. Amendment 37 would amend the National Health Service (Charges To Overseas Visitors) Regulations 2015, which apply only to England—the NHS in the devolved health administrations would be unaffected. Similarly, new clause 12 would amend the National Health Service Act 2006, which applies only in England and Wales.

The immigration health surcharge ensures that temporary migrants who come to the UK for more than six months make a fair contribution to the comprehensive range of national health services available to them during their stay. EEA and Swiss nationals do not pay the charge and the Government are clear that any EEA national who is resident in the UK before we leave the European Union will not pay it.

We have also made it clear that in the event of the UK leaving the EU without a deal, applicants for European temporary leave to remain will also not be subject to the charge. Whether EEA nationals will pay the charge following the introduction of the future immigration system may, however, depend on the outcome of our negotiations with the EU regarding our future relationship. Negotiations include a range of matters, such as social security co-ordination and reciprocal healthcare agreements, including the European health insurance scheme. It would not therefore be appropriate to preclude or negate the outcome of those negotiations through the Bill.

We are taking clear steps to protect the position of the EEA and Swiss nationals in the UK. We must also act in line with the devolved nature of health policy and ensure that we have the flexibility to respect the outcome of ongoing negotiations with the EU. That is the correct approach, and I invite the hon. Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East to withdraw the amendment.