David Cameron talks tough over European migrants' benefits


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

Related Stories

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.


More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 223.

    A Polish worker from my work told me she has worked hear for 5 years and had 2 kids just before she upped sticks back to Poland. Her words were " I get child benefit from your country until my kid leave education and that could be until they are 25 LOL"

    Says it all really EH!

  • rate this

    Comment number 222.

    Those statistics make us look like a bunch of lazy grasping homeless folk, maybe we could send all the native spongers to Eastern Europe and keep the workers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 221.

    Wonder why there seems to be one rule for European migrants and another for the rest of the world. Says on my non euro partners visa 'no recourse to public funds'. Should be the same for everyone for at least two years wherever they come from. Sounds more like more of David's soundbites than new policy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 220.

    UK 1 Scroungers 0

  • rate this

    Comment number 219.

    If you go to work in a middle-eastern country, you have to pay for everything (health, education, etc) and if you are not employed, you have to leave. It should be no different here.

  • rate this

    Comment number 218.

    DC , its advisable to have a refendum now , or the Tory party with not be a Tory party any longer .
    UKIP is the party for me after 40 years.

  • rate this

    Comment number 217.

    It's a start but still has a long way to go, nobody should be allowed to come into UK unless they can confirm 3 things, they speak English, they have somewhere to live and have a secure job, they would then not be entitled to any benefits of any kind unless they have been in full time employment for a minimum of 5 years, if things turn bad for them before this time then they must return home.

  • rate this

    Comment number 216.

    When will any of these governments act on their words ?
    After watching Nigel Farage, hearing his life story, what the goals of UKIP are, I truly believe they will act on their words...

    Why let 100s of thousands of people in, when we have millions of unemployed UK nationals.

  • rate this

    Comment number 215.

    @ Unemployable30YearOld
    'The U.K. needs to open up more to immigration. I want Polish, Bulgarian, Pakistani and Latvian neighbors.
    We should also give them all the benefits that they need: housing, jobseekers, child benefits, the whole lot.
    If you disagree with me you are racists ladies and gentlemen.'


  • rate this

    Comment number 214.

    MilesTegg!! You can't teat immigration like a suicide mission on Rakis, or like a hysterical xenophobe who probably has plenty of disposable income and a nice house despite poor immigrants arriving.....this country can afford to put up a few more people...if not, then we are worse off for it. Also, Bulgaria has some nice cuisine, let's hope they bring some with them, but keep the Slivovic!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 213.

    I’d trust Farage about as far as I could spit a dead elephant.

    Look at his past, he’s a right wing ex-tory, ex-banker, who couldn’t win a seat in the UK parliament, but manages to get elected to the very institutions that he wants to bring down and take us out of.

  • rate this

    Comment number 212.

    These measure are toothless its a Cameron verbal photo shoot like when he goes to an NHS shirt sleeves rolled up its only for a photo shoot his wife his children and the rest of his Toff Friends will don't do NHS, same with Council controlled schools you see him there its a photo opportunity, would his children go there no! this is a very evil government !!

  • rate this

    Comment number 211.

    Britain's war on immigrants is cruel and self-defeating. Immigrants do all the jobs that workshy Brits can't or won't.

  • rate this

    Comment number 210.

    This will make ZERO difference.

    After 2 years unless...

    There are so many holes in this that it will have no impact and DC's fat-cat friends don't need to worry that their supply of cheap, wage lowering labour will be cut-off.

    It si just post-Eastleigh depseration from a party that is trying to catch up with UKIP.

  • rate this

    Comment number 209.

    When will this PM target the benefits of the Rich. That is just as immoral as immigrants benefits.

    While agreeing with him on this issue he is twisting the welfare system to suit his unjust and unsustainable pledge to guarantee universal benefits to millionaires.

    As they rest of us are squeezed and millions cannot get a house.

  • Comment number 208.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 207.

    Should be a blanket ban on all benefits for non nationals. We welcome those who want to come and add to our society, we don't want those who see our country as an easy way out.

    The EU should have a cross nation policy that every country pays for its own citizens. If non nationals are looking for work in the UK, it should be their own country that pays for their upkeep in the UK.

  • rate this

    Comment number 206.

    Nearly Dave. Make it easier still. Stop further immigration altogether for five years,sort out who should be here and who shouldnt,clear the back logs and use the cash saved to help the people who were born and bred here instead of imposing stupid rules upon them like the bedroom tax and not only might you get somewhere you might even win the next election.

  • rate this

    Comment number 205.

    @159 'anti-migrants' Problem is I can't always find equally motivated, skilled and qualified staff from this country?
    The problem is not immigration itself its our open system,. If you are an economic migrant then you should not get benefits for 2 years. If your here because you fear death / persecution in your own country then of course we should help. I hope this distinction is made in policy

  • rate this

    Comment number 204.

    Great news and about time.


Page 40 of 51


More Politics stories



Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.