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Settled status

Part of Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:30 pm on 5th March 2019.

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Photo of Caroline Nokes Caroline Nokes The Minister for Immigration 2:30 pm, 5th March 2019

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that it is the Government’s intention for there not to be hundreds of thousands of people without status and to ensure that people are assisted through the scheme where necessary. I was alarmed earlier today to hear information about a councillor from the hon. Gentleman’s own party who was encouraging others not to apply. I am sure we would all agree that that is the worst piece of advice that any elected representative could give.

I have taken incredibly seriously the lessons learned from Windrush, where individuals became entangled in measures intended to tackle illegal migration precisely because they did not hold the documentation that they needed. It is absolutely crucial that people understand their immigration status and the basis on which they have a right to remain in the UK. We have been developing plans for the EU settlement scheme. As we have been developing those plans, we have received queries about various groups of EU citizens who believe that they were here lawfully, but who are not meeting the requirements of the free movement directive.

Last week, I used the oft-quoted example of the househusband who did not have comprehensive sickness insurance, or carers who could not demonstrate the role that they were undertaking. We are catering for cases such as those through the scheme, but it illustrates the peril of declaratory systems, which lull people into a false sense of security. The EU agreed that a constitutive system was a sensible option for the UK to take and other member states are following this option for UK nationals. The Government’s approach already achieves the purpose of the amendments. I ask hon. Members to withdraw new clause 15 and not to move the others, for the reasons outlined.

I turn to the other new clauses, which relate to the EU settlement scheme. I thank hon. Members for new clause 33, which seeks to remove any deadline for applications under that scheme. However, removing the deadline is not appropriate for a number of reasons. EEA nationals will benefit from applying to the scheme before the deadline, so that they can prove their rights in the UK. After the deadline, the future immigration system will be in place; future arrivals will have different rights from those of the resident population. Without a deadline, there would be little incentive for the resident population to apply. Reducing the incentive to apply might lead to an increased number of EEA nationals failing to apply for and receive a grant of status. Those individuals would consequently face difficulty in proving their right to benefits and services to which they are entitled.