Report on the impact to EEA and Swiss nationals

Part of Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:00 am on 16 June 2020.

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Photo of Stuart McDonald Stuart McDonald Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Immigration, Asylum and Border Control), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Attorney General) 11:00, 16 June 2020

With new clause 9, which stands principally in the names of my hon. Friends in Plaid Cymru, we turn to the central matter of the Bill: what will happen to EEA and Swiss nationals who are already here? The new clause simply calls on the Government to report on what the implications for EEA and Swiss nationals will be. That includes reporting on the impact of no recourse to public funds, NHS charging, the granting of citizenship to all EEA and Swiss health and social care workers working in the UK during covid-19, and certain fees. It also includes—we will probably not discuss this in great detail—the merits of the devolution of powers over immigration from the EEA and Switzerland to different parts of the United Kingdom. Those are all perfectly reasonable requests.

I want to focus on new clauses 10 and 11, which bring us back to the settlement scheme. We touched on that on Thursday, when Opposition Members made the case for a declaratory system, meaning that people would have their rights automatically enshrined in law. It would still apply to the settlement scheme so that they could prove their status and navigate employment, social security and other rights. I regret that the Government and the Committee rejected that proposal, but I have taken that on the chin and moved on. However, that puts the Government under a greater obligation to spell out what should happen to eligible individuals who do not apply for the settlement scheme by 30 June 2021. I have tried on a huge number of occasions to get them to reveal what work they have done to estimate how many people might not apply, even in broad-brush terms, and how they would respond.

As we heard in evidence, it is blindingly obvious that, even with all the good work that is going on, the Government will struggle to get above 90% of the target population. Getting above 90% would be a great success, given the international comparison. If the Government fall just 5%, 6% or 7% short of the target, hundreds of thousands of people will suddenly be without status and will lose any right to be in this country on 1 July 2021. By all accounts, this is a huge issue and we need to push the Home Office further to set out how it will address it. So far, all we have been told is that it will take a reasonable approach. That is fine, but it is not enough. We need much more detail, and new clauses 10 and 11 are designed to push the Government on that.