Give health workers indefinite right to remain in the UK, urge cross-party MPs

MPs have written to Jacob Rees-Mogg urging him to allow time to debate and pass a bill allowing NHS and social care workers the automatic right to stay in the UK

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A cross-party group of MPs is calling on the government to make provisions for everyone working in the NHS or social care during the pandemic to be given the automatic right to stay in the UK.

MPs from Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the SNP, Green Party, Plaid Cymru, the DUP, SDLP and Alliance have written to Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Leader of the House with responsibility for the government’s parliamentary timetable, urging him to grant time to debate and pass a bill giving health and social care workers indefinite leave to remain in the UK.

Earlier this year, health workers were offered a free extension of their visas if it was due to expire before October 2020. Those whose visas expire after that date “are already being forced to choose between paying to renew their visas or leaving the country”, the MPs write. 

The bill, presented by Christine Jardine from the Liberal Democrats with cross-party support, was due to be debated in parliament earlier this month, but has been postponed until next year due to a government move to push back all private member’s bills. These MPs are calling on the government to allow time for the bill to be debated and passed in government time, as soon as possible.

Christine Jardine, the Liberal Democrat MP who has proposed the bill with cross-party support, said:  "So many of the people who have kept the NHS going through this crisis are now at risk of losing their jobs thanks to the Home Office's heartless refusal to extend their right to work here in the UK. The last thing we need right now is to lose yet more valuable NHS and care staff, but this is what we will see if the Home Office do not change course.

"The Conservatives must urgently rethink their priorities and ensure that every NHS and care worker is granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK. We absolutely need our dedicated NHS and care staff to stay and keep delivering the vital services we all rely on.  

"The Tories promised to do whatever it takes to support our NHS. My Bill would grant indefinite leave to remain to all health and care staff who have travelled to the UK to work. By backing this Bill, Ministers would show they are ready to live up to that promise."

The full letter is below.

Dear Jacob,

We are writing to urge you to make Government time available to pass the Immigration (Health and Social Care Staff) Bill through the House of Commons as soon as possible. Our Bill would give everyone working in the NHS and social care during this pandemic – and their families – the automatic right to stay in the UK.

Like the rest of our wonderful NHS and care staff, hundreds of thousands of people from other countries are on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic, putting themselves in harm’s way to make sure we get the care we need. We cannot thank them enough for the brave and tireless work they are doing in such difficult circumstances and under such intense pressure.

The UK should say, loudly and unequivocally, that those who have put their lives at risk for our country are welcome to live in it. The idea that anyone who has worked so hard to save lives during this emergency might one day be forced to leave should be unthinkable.

They and their families should be granted the right to settle here, without the costs or bureaucratic hurdles that usually involves. This would be a small way to recognise and celebrate the enormous contributions that people from all over the world make to our NHS – and to our society, our economy and our communities more broadly.

As you will know, the Bill – which was brought in with cross-party support on 1st September – was due to have its second reading on Friday 6th November. However, because of the Government’s decision to push back all Private Member’s Bills it is now not due to be debated until next year.

Our health and care staff cannot afford to wait that long. The Government has only granted free visa extensions to those in certain jobs whose visas were due to expire by 1st October. That means many are already being forced to choose between paying to renew their visas or leaving the country.

We therefore urge you to bring through the Bill in Government time, as soon as possible.

The Bill is already drafted. It has cross-party support. It is urgently needed to protect the rights of these coronavirus heroes, and to provide them with some certainty and security at this very difficult time. All that is needed is for the Government to put it on the agenda so

Parliament can pass it.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,

Christine Jardine MP

Rushanara Ali MP (Lab)

Hannah Bardell MP (SNP)

Paula Barker MP (Lab)

Steven Bonnar MP (SNP)

Alistair Carmichael MP

Wendy Chamberlain MP

Daisy Cooper MP

Ed Davey MP

Jeffrey Donaldson MP (DUP)

Allan Dorans MP (SNP)

Tim Farron MP

Stephen Farry MP (Alliance)

Mary Foy MP (Lab)

Andrew Gwynne MP (Lab)

Claire Hanna MP (SDLP)

Neale Hanvey MP (SNP)

Wera Hobhouse MP

George Howarth MP (Lab)

Kim Johnson MP (Lab)

Ben Lake MP (PC)

Clive Lewis MP (Lab)

Caroline Lucas MP (Green)

Stuart McDonald MP (SNP)

John McDonnell MP (Lab)

Layla Moran MP

Sarah Olney MP

Bell Ribeiro-Addy MP (Lab)

Liz Saville Roberts MP (PC)

Jim Shannon MP (DUP)

Virendra Sharma MP (Lab)

Jamie Stone MP

Claudia Webbe MP (Independent)

Philippa Whitford MP (SNP)

Mick Whitley MP (Lab)

Munira Wilson MP

Mohammad Yasin MP (Lab)

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Ailbhe Rea is political correspondent at the New Statesman

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