David Cameron talks tough over European migrants' benefits


David Cameron: ''It is too easy to be an illegal migrant in Britain''

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Europeans will have to prove they are "genuinely seeking employment" to claim UK jobless benefits for more than six months, David Cameron has said.

The prime minister said it was among measures to ensure people came to the UK "for the right reasons" after it became a "soft touch" under Labour.

But Bulgaria's UK ambassador said the UK's rules were already seen in his country as "very restrictive".

Labour warned against an "arms race on immigration rhetoric".

Migrants from the European Economic Area - the EU member states plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway - currently have to show they have a "reasonable chance" of finding a job to receive unemployment benefit for more than six months.

Downing Street said they would now face a more rigorous test to assess whether they had a "realistic prospect" of getting a job, with the ability to speak English one of the criteria.


In his speech in Ipswich, the prime minister said there were "concerns, deeply held, that some people might be able to come and take advantage of our generosity without making a proper contribution to our country".

Immigrants have been coming to Ipswich for centuries. But where once they came for work and trade, David Cameron thinks too many are coming now to claim benefits.

That is why he came to Suffolk today to set out his latest plans to dissuade all but what he called the "brightest and the best" migrants from coming here.

He and his fellow party leaders are now in a competition to see which of them can come up with the toughest policy on immigration.

The aim is to reassure voters and prevent too many of them backing UKIP.

The problem for Mr Cameron is that many of his proposals tackle only part of the problem.

The truth is that his room for manoeuvre is limited by EU freedom of movement rules.

There is also the risk that in this immigration arms race, the three largest parties cancel each out and the public end up more confused than reassured.

"These concerns are not just legitimate; they are right and it is a fundamental duty of every mainstream politician to address them."

No 10 was unable to give any figures on the scale, cost and numbers of so-called benefit tourists, although Department for Work and Pensions figures suggest 17% of working-age UK nationals claim a benefit, compared with 7% of working age non-UK nationals.

Transitional restrictions on Bulgarians and Romanians working in the UK are due to be relaxed next year.

Since the countries joined the European Union in 2007, their peoples have been able to come to the UK to live and have been able to take jobs either via a work permit system, or by being self-employed, or in a variety of jobs from domestic work to seasonal agriculture.

According to the Office for National Statistics, in July 2012 there were 94,000 Romanians and 47,000 Bulgarians resident in the UK.

The end of existing controls will give those who want to work in the UK the same rights for welfare and NHS care as foreign nationals from the other 24 EU nations.

Eastern European migrants and employment, 2004-09

A8 country* migrants Native population

*Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovenia, Slovakia, and Poland. Note: Employment rate refers to % of working-age population. Source: Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration





Employment rate





Claiming benefits or tax credits





In social housing





Mr Cameron said: "We can't stop these full transitional controls coming to an end. But what we can do, is make sure that those who come here from the EU - or further afield - do so for the right reasons: that they come here because they want to contribute to our country, not because they are drawn by the attractiveness of our benefits system, or by the opportunity to use our public services."

The prime minister added: "Under the last government immigration in this country was too high and out of control. Put simply, Britain was a soft touch."

He said immigrants in future would be "subject to full conditionality and work search requirements and you will have to show you are genuinely seeking employment - if you fail that test, you will lose your benefit".

He said: "And as a migrant, we're only going to give you six months to be a jobseeker. After that benefits will be cut off unless you really can prove not just that you are genuinely seeking employment but also that you have a genuine chance of getting a job.

"We're going to make that assessment a real and robust one and, yes, it's going to include whether your ability to speak English is a barrier to work."

'Very concerned'

Bulgaria's London ambassador, Konstantin Dimitrov, told the BBC that trying to put figures on the number of his compatriots who might migrate when restrictions are eased was "irrelevant", as "most of the Bulgarians who wanted to find work in the UK have already done so".

He added: "Contrary to the prevalent opinion here about the UK being seen as a soft touch, your system is seen by Bulgarians as very restrictive."

Mr Dimitrov also said: "Luckily Bulgarians don't believe in sham marriages... Nobody need worry about a possible influx of undesirable Bulgarians."

In his speech, Mr Cameron said changes to health care would be introduced, with the UK getting "better" at "reciprocal charging", charging foreign governments for treatment provided to non-working overseas nationals.

Nigel Farage, leader of UKIP: "We should not open up borders unconditionally to Romanians and Bulgarians"

He added that action was being taken to tackle illegal immigration, including making private landlords responsible for making sure their tenants were legally in the UK - and facing fines if it turned out they were not.

Immigrants would be kept off council house waiting lists in England for at least two years, under plans for councils to introduce a residency test.

Councils can already set their own criteria, but many do not.

Mr Cameron said: "We can not have a culture of something for nothing. New migrants should not expect to be given a home on arrival."

But the Local Government Association said it was "very concerned", and councils should decide how to meet housing need.

Jonathan Portes, director of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, told the BBC that people "coming from outside the UK, and especially people coming from outside the European Union, are significantly less likely than British nationals, and people born here, to claim benefits".

For Labour, shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: "It's right to have conditions on benefits and public services for immigration. Most people who come to this country work and contribute, but there are restrictions because the system needs to be fair and seen to be fair.

"However, the government's proposals announced today seem to be very confused and are unravelling. And at the same time there was no significant action to tackle illegal immigration or labour market exploitation which we know have been getting worse.

"We won't support an arms race on immigration rhetoric, we want practical and sensible measures that make the system work."

On Friday Lib Dem leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg gave a speech on immigration in which he called for £1,000 deposits to be demanded for visa applicants from "high-risk" countries, with the money repaid when they leave the UK.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    Can we all just not evolve? We all need housing, food, water, education. Why are we letting them turn the tap on or off. Nothing against Dc and chums, but how about them lowering their wages til country sorted? Labour and ukip should work for free. Nasa don't pay 3 companies to make 1 rocket, why pay these wanna be's.

  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

    No he is not! Nice PR though!

  • rate this

    Comment number 61.

    NEW!? Anyone that knows UKBA regulations will know that this so-called new regulations are only new to EU immigrants. Non-EU, legal immigrants already need employment signed & agreed before given permission to enter the UK, DO NOT have any legal recourse to any of the UK benefits, whilst still paying the same taxes & NI as any UK citizen, with the exception of NHS(you need to prove employment).

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    With 2.5 million unemployed in this country (and rising) i still can't see any valid argument at all for allowing net migration to continue to rise.

    Whether it consists of 'qualified and productive' people or not.

    Targeting the small % of actual 'scroungers' whether immigrants (legal or illegal) or indigenous is just pandering to the rabid right.

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    I think you'll find that this all of this already applies.

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    Interesting to see the table comparing native and A8 immigrants.

    All that tells me is that we have quite a significant problem with the native problem, that public budgets are already stretched thin. We don't need further people adding fuel to this fire!

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    Please stop screaming "RACIST" whenever immigration is mentioned. It is not constructive. It waters down the debate.
    Perleman - If you are so keen to have Bulgarian neighbours then why do you not excercise your "right" to travel to Bulgaria and set up home there.

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    Nothing but posturing and not remotely tough enough.
    'Genuinely', 'reasonable chance' blah blah blah.......waffle, nothing will change.

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    Too little and TOO LATE Cameron.Not nearly tough enough,It was Labour who opened the floodgates for their own means,but the Tories have been as bad by not removing the thousands who are here illegally.Get rid of them now!UKIP for me,Nigel Farage speaks more sense than the other parties put together,who always say jam tomorrow,do not believe them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    7. chiptheduck

    Not permitted by our masters in Brussels Dave, so stop feeding us bovine excrement.

    I think you'll find equine is the flavour of the day.

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.


    Congratulations...pro troll.

    Made me laugh.

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    Talk is cheap. After all their urgent "PRIORITY" plans about changing constituency boundaries etc to get themselves re-elected they start to listen a little to the electorates actual concerns like this and the economy

    I hope they have more success than with the UKBA which apparently today I saw on the TV will take 24 years to clear the current backlog of illegal immigrants at their current rate!

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    Trying to win back the UKIP votes Dave. Good luck with that, most of the country recognises you for the incompetent jester that you are.

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    More of hotair than any substance. Scared of UKIP than anything else!

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    This is just typical of the politicians we have today they don't have the bottle to do the right thing and really tighten up on the immigration rules. In france if you haven't paid into the system you can't have anything out and the maximum you can claim benefits for is six months in any 12 month period but only after working for 6 months, Surely this would be a fairer system for the UK

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    the drain isnt JSA, it more things like children with noo english. my wife was attending a primary school recently in glasgow out of the 28 children, 6 were white /british. the class had 2 teachers teaching the same subject in 2 languages. no wonder our systems cant cope.

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    Its about time people in the UK can voice concerns about immigration without being hounded as RACISTS by the bleeding heart brigade.

    If there was not an open door policy and soft touch benefits and people frightened to discuss this issue then we would not have this problem now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    We take plenty of skilled labour from the rest of the world. Nurses trained in the third world come here and fill our nursing homes and hospitals, rich millionaires hide their ill-gotten gains here in our low tax for rich people economy. What's Cameron's beef?

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    Tell it like it is; Its a nice distraction from the real issues.
    This government are show room dummies at a closing down sale.
    The economy is the problem, stop shifting the blame.

    l never thought they would be so scared of UkIP.

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    How Labour dares to comment at all is staggering - their record of neglect was like a John Cleese 'how to ruin a country' comedy training video.


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