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 863.

    More divide and conquer government. First they blamed Gordon Brown, even though the financial crisis affected USA, Greece, Spain, Ireland....etc and now Cyprus. Then they and their tory press focussed on skivers. Then the EU. Now its immigration. When will we address the real issues screwing much of the western world economies -globalisation over influential corporate fascists and BANKERS?????

  • rate this

    Comment number 862.

    How can Labour spout anything on this subject??

    They used to proudly proclaim "they are doing the jobs the UK workers don't want to do"

    Yeh right, while you paid them for their votes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 861.

    Much of what the prime minister says, sounds right and just, I know of no country within or without the EU, that will pay me for simply turning up at the border as a EU citizen. But, the bleeding heart, Oh my goodness, PC brigade are armed and already on manouvres. Do you know that job centres are sending applicants to jobs where the mimimum wage law is being flouted, and they know of it, trouble.

  • rate this

    Comment number 860.

    Nice try Dave but there is nothing substantially new here, for instance if you want to claim JSA currently you are supposed to be realistically seeking work. This will be seen for what it is, a cynical Political stunt to try & head UKIP off. It won't work, no one trusts you or the rest of the Lib-Lab-Con anymore. You are washed up, yesterday's news - finished.

  • rate this

    Comment number 859.

    It is irrelevant whether migrants contribute to taxes or benefit from welfare, the point is that land is a finite resource and excessive demand has caused house prices to rise, and there are no longer enough jobs for British people. We would not suffer a bigger deficit if they all left, since those jobs vacated would be filled again by many of the unemployed, who would also stop claiming benefits.

  • rate this

    Comment number 858.

    HoldtheFort: Global corporations insist on free movement of labour

    Many also are against individuality, nationality and independence

    EU allowing free movement across borders could lead to all of European nationalities melding into one and in the future there being no such thing as British or no country called Great Britain

    You would all just be Europeans living in Europe

  • rate this

    Comment number 857.

    841. kieth8 "Oh dear Labour are getting upset I wonder why ?"

    Because they’d struggle you steal any UKIP manifesto points? Whoops, did I just hear referendum again?

  • rate this

    Comment number 856.

    BBC, Why is the clip of Farage not working?

    Yet the Cameron does?

    This isn't the first time is it? Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 855.

    As long as this doesn't rank alongside the earlier promise "Failed asylum seekers will be removed without delay". They may not get job seekers' allowance, but what's the chances of an immigrant with no job and no money not receiving a whole raft of payments, just as long as they don't call it job seekers' allowance.

  • rate this

    Comment number 854.

    Another 'benefit' for lawyers it seems

  • rate this

    Comment number 853.

    Hang on, I thought all these immigrants were taking jobs from british workers and keeping wages down !
    Now I find out they are signing on the dole.
    Which is it ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 852.

    The "... immigrants contribute far more in tax than they receive in terms benefits" is a classic case of looking at only part of the picture.
    The tax they pay is at best the same tax that a native British person would pay doing the same job, but the fact they are here means there's one less job for a Brit.

  • rate this

    Comment number 851.

    I've always voted Conservative. Over the last few days I have decided to switch to UKIP. You have secured my vote Mr Farage!

  • rate this

    Comment number 850.

    I'm a Brit who's spent most of my professional career, working outside the UK. And there are a significant number like me, 2-3 million abroad in the EU alone. It has been a fantastic experience, from which I've gained immeasurably. There are quite a few posting here, who maybe should "get on their bikes" and try it... The experience might do you the "world" of good!

  • rate this

    Comment number 849.

    380. Paul
    Agree. I posted the following and am -15!

    Judging by the posts that are marked up against those that are marked down, I conclude that there are a number of loonies, lefties, lazies, racists, and bigots lurking here today. I suggest to them that it might be a good idea to go and get a job before the hard-working Romanians arrive.

    Oh sorry! you prefer support - no self respect then?

  • rate this

    Comment number 848.

    Surely the reason most people claim jobseekers allowance is that they don't stand a "reasonable chance of getting a job" immigrants or not they need social support otherwise we will have destitute people dying on our streets or mugging us!

    This Banksters son has no concept of social need!

  • rate this

    Comment number 847.

    Can you believe Labour complaining about how the changes will work ?? my lord its they who opened the whole pandoras box by leaving the door wide open , these guys are really something else for heavens sake please do not vote the idiots back in , its beyond belief what they come up with .

  • rate this

    Comment number 846.

    overwhelmingly positive effect???
    one thing you got right is that the UK is an island , and it is full.
    since when has pointing out the obvious become racism? it is this attitude that has caused the huge immigartion time bomb. we should be able to call attention to this issue without being called racist. we are broke yet still expected to pay billions in benefits to illegal immigrants.

  • rate this

    Comment number 845.

    Oh yes I do recall another show on another channel showing gangs Romanians stealing cabling from the motorway afew days ago, I am sure there not paying VAT when the sell it, or income tax on the gang members.

  • rate this

    Comment number 844.

    Unlike we manage ourselves out of the EU regulations and treaties then we are bound by them. The last thing we need is to waste millions of pounds and hours (!) on appeal after appeal for EU folks taking us (yes us, the taxpayer) to EU court! If you truly believe we need to shut the door(s) then frankly we will also be slamming the doors on business opportunities!


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