New Clause 14 - Immigration health surcharge: exemption for international volunteers

Part of Nationality and Borders Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 2:15 pm ar 4 Tachwedd 2021.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office) 2:15, 4 Tachwedd 2021

In relation to the approach taken for health and social workers, the view widely felt across the House, which was subsequently reflected in policy, was that, given the enormous contribution made by those working directly in this sector during the pandemic, it was appropriate to try and put in place a form of recognition of that work, as well as other measures we have talked about, for example the pay rises that have quite rightly been afforded to NHS workers. It was seen as one means of recognising the enormous contribution that some of those who had come from overseas to work in our health and social care settings had made and rewarding them for that. There were particular circumstances that meant that it was felt that that was appropriate.

Charge payers pay only those charges a UK resident would pay, such as prescription charges in England. They may, however, be charged for assisted conception services in England, should they wish to use them. We welcome talented individuals to the UK and are immensely grateful to them for the important contributions they make, but if a person chooses to come to the UK as a worker, student, family member or volunteer, it is fair and reasonable to expect them to contribute to the high-quality NHS services available to them.

It is vital, particularly given the challenges posed by the pandemic, for the NHS to continue to be properly funded. The immigration health charge directly benefits the NHS and plays an important role in supporting its long-term sustainability. The Government are confident that the charity worker visa provides an attractive offer to voluntary workers. Individuals on some other routes can also volunteer their time to help others, and, depending on the route, they either pay the immigration health charge or may be charged by the NHS for their healthcare.

The youth mobility scheme, for example, is subject to the charge. Those on this route are free to take up work in any sector, paid or unpaid. The standard visitor visa allows people to volunteer for up to 30 days with a registered charity. The visit rules allow visitors to stay for a maximum of six months, which means that they are not subject to the immigration health charge but may instead be charged for NHS care, in line with the rules set by the relevant, devolved health administration.

The Government believe that it is right for the health charge to apply to the charity worker visa. Many nations expect newly arrived individuals to contribute, in some form, to the cost of healthcare. It is right we do the same. For the reasons I have set out, I ask the hon. Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East to withdraw the new clause, but I take on board the passion with which he made his case in relation to this issue and the various representations he referred to that have been made to me as Minister with responsibility for this Bill. I will certainly ensure that they are shared with the Minister with responsibility for this area of policy in the Department as part of their consideration of these matters.