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Lords debates Immigration Health Charge

29 November 2018

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Members of the Lords discussed draft regulations on health charges for long term migrants on Wednesday 28 November.

Immigration (Health Charge) (Amendment) Order 2018

This statutory instrument makes provision to revise the level of the Immigration Health Charge to £400 per person per year (£300 for students) based on a revised estimate of the actual cost of treatment as an average of £470 per charge payer per year. The Order also establishes that where the charge is paid in a currency other than sterling the Home Office exchange rate will apply.

The Immigration Health Charge is a levy placed on temporary migrants from non-EEA countries (Australia and New Zealand excepted) as a contribution to the costs of the National Health Service (NHS) while the person is in the UK. 

Lord Rosser (Labour) proposed a motion to regret against the regulations, on the grounds that it provides for an unaffordable level of fee, particularly for those who came to the UK as young children; does not take into account the contribution of migrants who are taxpayers; and may have a detrimental effect on recruitment for key public services, including nursing.

Following a short debate, Lords Rosser withdrew his motion and the draft order was approved.

If agreed, this motion would not have stopped the regulations, but would have provided an opportunity for the House to put on record its regret and to note the findings of the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee report. 

How do these draft instruments become law?

These regulations are presented as a Statutory Instrument (SI). An Act of Parliament will often contain a broad framework and statutory instruments are used to provide the necessary detail that would be too complex to include in the Act itself. They are also easier to change than an Act – for example to upgrade a rate of payment each year or amend the necessary forms in the light of experience.

This instrument is subject to the affirmative procedure, which means it must be agreed by both Houses of Parliament before it can be made law. A vote can be taken on them if the House wishes but is not essential.

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