No comprehensive sickness insurance requirement

Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:45 pm on 5th March 2019.

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“Rules in Appendix EU of the Immigration Rules, or any replacement scheme, may not include a requirement for an applicant for leave to remain (whether settled or pre-settled status) to show that they have or have ever had comprehensive sickness insurance.”—

The withdrawal agreement allows for certain EU nationals to be required to show they have comprehensive sickness insurance. This new clause would mean that no such requirement would be implemented.

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of Stuart McDonald Stuart McDonald Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Immigration, Asylum and Border Control)

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Members will be aware that there were some concerns about the terms of the withdrawal agreement in relation to citizens’ rights, including about the apparent requirement for comprehensive sickness insurance. I very much welcome what the Government have said about being more generous in that respect and not requiring evidence of comprehensive sickness insurance. The new clause would simply put that commitment in the Bill.

This ground was largely covered in our debate on new clause 17, including by the hon. Member for Sheffield Central, so I do not need to say much more. We simply seek reassurance from the Minister that that remains the Government’s position and that they have no plans to change it, and ask whether she will consider putting that in the Bill.

Photo of Paul Blomfield Paul Blomfield Shadow Minister (Exiting the European Union)

We support the new clause. The Minister wrote to me and my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton to say that the Government have no intention of requiring comprehensive sickness insurance, so I assume they would have no issue with putting it in legislation. If they agreed to do so, they would send a very strong signal of their intentions.

Photo of Caroline Nokes Caroline Nokes The Minister for Immigration

I thank the hon. Members for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East and for Paisley and Renfrewshire North for their new clause 44, which seeks to ensure that the EU settlement scheme does not place a requirement on applicants to hold, or to have held, comprehensive sickness insurance. I welcome the intention of the new clause, but it is not necessary. The Government have been clear from the beginning that we would not be testing for comprehensive sickness insurance. We made that clear as early as June 2017, when we published our public document on safeguarding the position of EU citizens, and the Prime Minister reiterated it in October 2017 in her open letter to EU citizens.

Appendix EU to the immigration rules does not contain a requirement to have held comprehensive sickness insurance, and that will not change. Eligibility for the scheme will continue to be based on residence and not permitted activity. I therefore ask the hon. Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East to withdraw the clause.

Photo of Stuart McDonald Stuart McDonald Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Immigration, Asylum and Border Control) 4:00 pm, 5th March 2019

I regret that the Minister is not willing to put the policy into the Bill. It is important for the 3 million that these policies are not just left to the immigration rules, which, as we have stated, are all too often changed in the blink of an eye, with little or no scrutiny. There would be a benefit to having some of these policies, which are very welcome, written into the statute, but I will not put the new clause to the vote today. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the clause.

Clause, by leave, withdrawn.