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 883.

    If he is not careful he will come up with ideas that he will force into law which will further damage our once great nation.
    He has this knack of alienating our allies with his attitude, he is unable to see others point of view cost he knows he is always right.
    Shame he is not applying his talents to curbing the waste and corruption in the finance and tax system which cost each of millions

  • rate this

    Comment number 882.

    The immigration issue covers so many levels, and is sharpened by the lack of planning by the Labour Government in terms of the 2004 EC expansion and the UKBA's troubles. This needs discussing holistically, without the need to be labelled xenophobic.

    One point re the stats table - are child benefits counted? That would put a lot of perspective into particularly the women stats. Anyone agree.

  • Comment number 881.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 880.

    UK since the 1950's had a more or less open door on immigration under both Labour and Tories. People are quite rightly concerned at the impact its had on our society You can argue the benefits and problems its created but its too late to change it back, but enough is enough. Its time to close the doors and erect the Full Up Sign!!!. We have all the human resources we need or can cope with.

  • rate this

    Comment number 879.

    Actually, Cameron talks lies over migrants' benefits.

    He's using it as a smokescreen for the immigration deal he's recently signed with India. Total hypocrisy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 878.

    Just realised this after three years in power?Couldn't be responding to the popularity of UKIP, could he?Anyway, he si flying a kite: there will be no crackdown.

  • rate this

    Comment number 877.


    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
    Are you really so stupid that you don't understand that we are already Europeans living in Europe?

  • rate this

    Comment number 876.

    Less and less taxpayers are bailing out more and more people the pips are starting to squeak.

  • Comment number 875.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 874.

    More tough talk followed by absolutely no action.

    We've heard it all before Dave, we don't believe you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 873.

    ".. 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 ?"
    If you get a 100% bonus you may find the living wage a bit tedious to understand.
    But you can easily be obsessed by benefits!

  • rate this

    Comment number 872.

    I really hope that UKIP give the Tories a right good stuffing and we will see the U turn OF all U turns me thinks EH!

    UKIP by the way are not a good thing but I see the reasoning in their argument!

    Well I'm voting YES for Scotland next year and hopefully leaving this dung heap I HOPE!

  • rate this

    Comment number 871.


    You dont get it do you.

    While some are worried about immigration because of xenophobic tendencies, the majority are worried because welfare, social housing, NHS etc are already at breaking point

    They cannot cope with the number of people in this country. Its time to close the borders and be selfish at take care of the people already here. Until then, the sign says "No vacancies"

  • rate this

    Comment number 870.

    #181 Keith Jenkins

    Not just Portugal, it's the same in Greece. They have always operated a "don't pay, don't get" policy and before being entitled to limited unemployment benefits (max.1 year) it is necessary to contribute to the system for two years. The same goes for medical care, contributions must be made for at least 100 working days before cover commences. Why can't UK implement this?

  • rate this

    Comment number 869.

    Free housing, free benefits, free NHS, this all has to be paid for by the tax payer. Would do you not get about governments stance on immigration, do you want this country on its knees broke? do you want to loose your standard of living because cannot stop people entering the UK for the wrong reasons. the EU call the shots on immigration so these measures are our best options, wake up voters

  • rate this

    Comment number 868.

    I knew I could smell something strange..........

    .. it's the smell of "Human Rights" lawyers rubbing their hands with glee because they know that such discrimination will be deemed illegal by the good old EU.

  • rate this

    Comment number 867.

    A rare reprieve for the unemployed.

    But sadly I think it will back to the same "how dare they have a TV, that's why the country is ruined" business as usual soon enough.

    I wonder if we will ever get around to going after the real culprits?

  • rate this

    Comment number 866.

    Talk tough but nothing will change for the better as usual with politicos of all hues. Unprescidented population growth over the last 10 years in the main due to immigration and now we are faced with a shortage of places at primary schools. Did politicos really think that humans beings would not want to settle and breed! A 12 year old could forsee we need more schools, housing etc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 865.

    Migrants may not be claiming job seekers allowances but they do claim tax credits. I help people on a weekly basis check they are getting everything they are entitled to and a large percentage of them are Eastern European. Tax credits are the problem as far as I can see as it fuels the low wages that they seem to be able to to live on as it is far more than they can get at home.

  • rate this

    Comment number 864.

    Re 853.Gasguzzler

    Some doing one, some doing the other and some doing both?


Page 7 of 51


More Politics stories



Try our new site and tell us what you think. Learn more
Take me there

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.