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 383.

    307. Fairplay100

    "we have a great education system and far more resources available to aid learning than when I was growing up."

    That may be the case, but as far as international league tables are concerned the UK lags behind badly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 382.

    Hooray, the Nasty Party's back! I suppose we have to thank UKIP and especially Nick Farrago for providing the impetus for the Tories to shed their sheep's disguise and show themselves for what they really are.

  • rate this

    Comment number 381.

    The issue is the benefit system itself - if a lazy person gets housing and paid weekly for doing nothing, why wouldn't the person do that? In most countries you would be on the street if you don't have a job. That makes them work.
    If benefits are not paid, they may steal or resort to other ways. Police costs will increase. Also no government would do that because they will lose votes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 380.

    Immigration has an overwhelmingly positive effect on the UK, for thousands of years we've been an island of immigrants and all the better for it.

    Purely fiscally, immigrants contribute far more in tax than they receive in terms benefits. They also provide our society with diversity and richness of culture.

    The rhetoric and scaremongering over immigration is xenophobia and racism pure and simple.

  • rate this

    Comment number 379.

    Good stuff Dave, but you should of said it all before UKIP did.

    The most staggering stat is that 1 in 10 council houses go to immigrants!! I had to cross ref to check. This whilst born and bred British people, who's grandfathers fought and died in wars to defend us, are literally worried sick about spare rooms. Disgusting.

    I await Labours Mother of all U Turns reaction. UKIP are coming Ed...

  • rate this

    Comment number 378.

    Why give them six months worth of benefits to begin with? I paid tax and national insurance for over 30 years and my job seekers stopped after 6 months and that was it. I got absolutely nothing after that. So without paying any tax or NI a immigrant will get the exact same as someone paying in 30 years worth. Utter joke.

  • rate this

    Comment number 377.

    As I was told the chances of me getting a council house a couple years ago after me and my ex split (she kept the house) were zero and have also had to wait on numerous occassions to see doctors, I really can't see what the problem is!

    So if I can't get anything in MY time of need after 24 years of paying taxes from leaving school, then why should someone who's contributed zero?

    Enough already..

  • rate this

    Comment number 376.

    Not before time Mr. Cameron! It's a start but you need to go a lot further and a lot faster.

  • rate this

    Comment number 375.

    What this country needs is tougher laws/filters regarding benefits access. In Germany you have to work and pay taxes for three years before you have the right to claim anything except emergency care. Oh..but wait, what will my British neighbours who never worked a day in their lives do if such a law is passed?

    A self-employed Romanian who never claimed anything.

  • rate this

    Comment number 374.

    Re 281.Londoner13
    No it's not bigoted to be concerned about the affects of immigration' Those low paid 'immigrants who would be serving your table at the restaurant' are in fact driving wages down, often living in squallid conditions above shop!

  • rate this

    Comment number 373.

    Most European Migrants i know work hard and take jobs are youth don't want at a minimum wage. Its not the Europeans we need to worry about but the Non-European immigrants that is the major problem.

  • rate this

    Comment number 372.

    It looks like UKIP have got them all running around in circles trying to fix something the three major parties should have fixed years ago!

  • rate this

    Comment number 371.

    309.Trout Mask Replica
    "So, your solution to immigration into this country is to advocate that people become immigrants themselves to other countries... you might like to explain that one more time."
    By citing "net" migration figures the government is deliberately encouraging this.
    Isn't "gross" immigration a staggering 580,000?
    Its Genocide by 580,000 cuts.

  • rate this

    Comment number 370.

    If my garage employed English people we would be always shut , the ones we have employed don't turn up day after day , no phone calls etc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 369.

    @350 In what inverted world do you think native people in the UK spend their money in the UK, we are sitting using computers manufactured overseas, imported by overseas multi-national chains. We live in a global economy money flies all over the world immigrants help to enrich and change our culture, we are a country of immigrants

  • rate this

    Comment number 368.

    Eh Eh David had to play the race card early, worried about UKIP are we.

  • rate this

    Comment number 367.

    The EU and its new EURO masters are down a different path we have never had a vote on"

    You don't like the right to bring whatever you like back from other EU countries with full consumer protection too or do you yearn back to the days of bringing just 1.5lts of spirits back? It was the EU and its single market that gave you those rights, not the EEC.

  • rate this

    Comment number 366.

    these proposals he is making are already law he is just saying what is and nothing new ... the man is a charlatan ... and what is this right wing bias on the bbc

  • Comment number 365.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 364.

    Welcome: entrepreneurs with money, talent, skills and jobs to create.
    Welcome: skilled professionals with a job in hand, ready to add value to Britain.

    Everyone else: SORRY - HOUSE FULL !


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