Davis warns of ‘barbaric’ foreigner checks in hospital

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A YORKSHIRE MP and former Shadow Home Secretary has warned that plans to restrict immigrants’ access to the NHS could have “barbaric” implications on hospital wards.

David Davis, the MP for Haltemprice and Howden, and one of the Conservative Party’s most senior backbenchers, told the Commons the Government must take care not to appear “uncivilised” if measures are introduced to withhold care from patients on the grounds of their nationality.

The centrepiece of this week’s Queen’s Speech was a new Immigration Bill that will seek to restrict some immigrants’ access to housing, welfare benefits and, most controversially, healthcare.

Mr Davis, a former Tory party leadership contender and its Shadow Home Secretary before resigning in 2007, painted a picture of doctors and nurses attempting to verify the nationality of a patient arriving injured at A&E before deciding whether to treat them.

“The difficulty is to come up with a set of measures that is both firm and will deal with the issue without being uncivilised – without being barbarous, or perceived as barbarous, in approach,” he told MPs. “I agree with the Government that we must limit the ability of people who have made no contribution, perhaps having come here temporarily, to claim benefits and social housing in the UK.

“I am not at all sure, however, that I agree with the Government’s idea of withholding healthcare from people coming to this country, and I return to my point about acting firmly without being uncivilised – without being barbarous.”

Mr Davis said he “found it difficult to imagine” doctors in an accident and emergency department finding someone with a foreign accent on a trolley and asking: ‘“Where are you from? If you are Hungarian, you can be treated; if you are Bulgarian, you can’t.’ I do not see how that is going to work.”

He added: “Most of us get reciprocal healthcare if we go to European countries on holiday, to retire or to live, so I do not see how we are going to amend our provision.

“I am not sure, in my heart of hearts, that I want to say to someone who has been run over in the street: ‘You can’t have health care because you’re a foreigner’.”

With the debate over the Queen’s Speech well under way in the Commons, Labour launched its own attack on Government immigration policy yesterday with accusations Ministers are making “grand claims” about cutting net migration.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said the Government’s much-vaunted cut in immigration was actually down to people leaving the country.

“Two-thirds of your drop in net migration is a result of an increase in British citizens leaving the country and fewer British citizens returning home,” she told Home Secretary Theresa May.