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The hon. Gentleman says that it is “simply” a matter of getting the evidence to prove status, but as we saw—I am loth to go there—with the Windrush crisis, there were people who had absolutely every right to be in this country but could not evidence it. We are determined not to repeat that with this scheme: the incentive is to encourage people to apply, to provide them with a deadline, and to make sure that as many as possible can evidence their status so that they are not doing so in an emergency situation. As I have said several times, we will take a pragmatic approach to those who have a good reason for missing the deadline by allowing them to apply late. That is a requirement of the withdrawal agreement, and we will follow the same approach in a no-deal scenario.
New clause 35 would require the Home Office to provide EEA nationals with a physical document evidencing their status under the EU settlement scheme. The digital status given to EEA nationals will be a secure and permanent record held by the Home Office that is accessible to the holder at any time, but which cannot be lost or stolen. Users will be able to choose to allow third parties, such as employers, to have time-limited access to relevant information to demonstrate their status. By giving individuals direct access to their own data and the ability to share this at their discretion with service providers, we are giving them greater transparency and control over which data is shared. People will be able to better understand their rights and keep information updated.
We have already trialled this service with non-EU-national migrants to view and share their right-to-work information with employers, and the service has been well received by those involved. With an online service, we can also ensure that employers and others required to check a person’s status see only the information relevant to their need. Using a physical document as evidence of status—as has been the practice to date—does none of this. It can also cause significant problems when documents are lost, stolen, damaged, expired or in the process of being renewed. Physical documents are also more open to forgery and fraud: something we must seek to avoid.
Additionally, there are individuals whose documents are controlled by others, such as in cases of domestic violence, modern slavery and human trafficking. Moving to an online status is a step forward in tackling those who seek to control others. A digital status is also much easier to use for the visually impaired and dyslexic users who may have difficulty reading a physical document.