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 923.

    If it's this easy to manipulate the general public then no wonder the UK economy is in dire straits.

  • rate this

    Comment number 922.

    When the lowest common denominator is akin to the final solution, then it won't be in my back garden. Just getting on record.

  • rate this

    Comment number 921.

    887. Peter
    "If we go abroad we don't get any benefits"

    Totally untrue! I know quite a few Brits living on, or have received at some point, social benefits in other EU countries. I've personally had no problem accessing healthcare services when needed. So lets stop this nonsense about it being only the UK that allows foreigners access to benefits. It's just more of the same UKIP lies!

  • rate this

    Comment number 920.


    We do not want all these, how can it be put "Wandering Peoples". from Roumania Bulgaria & Hungary. They can be "Travellers" in their own country, but not become European wide. Stay in East Europe. The French will just put them on the Euro Train one way to the UK.
    MR TRUCULENT, who regularly proclaims his Christianity on HYS, is just another hypocrite.

  • rate this

    Comment number 919.

    Yes I believe to be illegal foreign marriage?.

  • rate this

    Comment number 918.

    Re 899.Raining
    Thats correct and it's mandatory that you do it online too! So you have to pay for internet access out of your £71 pw JSA, have you tried to find a library that's still open these days

  • rate this

    Comment number 917.

    380.Paul "scaremongering over immigration is racism"

    Imagine Susan. Her son's maths teacher spends lessons coaching pupils who can't speak English. She's waited six years for a council flat, and sees them given to foreigners who arrived yesterday. Susan lost her job to a girl who works for less than the pittance she earned.
    Susan dislikes mass immigration and will vote UKIP. Is Susan racist?

  • rate this

    Comment number 916.

    Of course migrants coming to the UK from poorer countries can get work and not claim benefits, but the issue is DISPLACEMENT.
    Oversimplifying to illustrate-
    Imagine a hypothetical country with 100% employment , no spare jobs but no claimants. 100 migrants arrive, delighted to work for 60% wages. There'll soon be 100 Brits claiming benefit, so how haven't these claims been caused by immigration.

  • rate this

    Comment number 915.

    Surely it would make sense to only allow highly skilled migrants who have a guaranteed job to enter the UK in the first place. What do we gain by letting in people who either have no job, or will take very low skilled work for next to no money? It's crazy economics, and I wonder how on earth we've ended up in this mess. It's time for border control, EU be damned.

  • rate this

    Comment number 914.

    I have never seen Cameron deliver a speech with less enthusiasm. His body language and tone of his voice betrayed his lack of conviction. He is no more interested in immigration control than the Labour party. He's been forced into this stance because of his fear of UKIP. Too little too late from the brylcream boy. Trouble is, the alternative is meltdown under MiliBalls. Suddenly Cyprus looks good

  • rate this

    Comment number 913.

    LOL I see the London bloggers do not like the truth from my last comment EH!

    YOU and the Tories are about to go away for a long time me thinks LOL!

  • Comment number 912.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 911.

    Tories are jumping on UKIP coatails, but it is not just EU migrants that is the issue, as mentioned earlier Pakistan, Somalia and Bangladesh are the highest numbers entering the UK.
    Why can't we be more like Australia, and adopt their rules for entry here, and make the rules the same for every nationality?

    P.S Cameron, everyday you look and sound more and more pathetic.

  • rate this

    Comment number 910.

    We must return to the contributary only system for everyone Brits foreigners everybody for unemployment benefit. Frank Field & John Cruddas had ideas on this but Milliband has said nothing. He needs to spout up because as a labour voter in a working class town i can say you are heamorrhageing votes to UKIP Farage is running rings round you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 909.

    Tough talking again? Everything is already on the books via EU or needs EU sanction(child benefit) or has been available to UK had the gov. wanted to use it. However, what is the standard for speaking English? All of it is a step in the right direction its just not new except to UK gov.

  • rate this

    Comment number 908.

    To be fair to the Consevative Party...Enoch Powell did try to tell them years ago...
    Sadly..they thought it prudent..to disown him...
    For goodness sake...we are a small island....we cannot house our existing population...
    not because of lack of space....but a severe lack of any spare cash.

  • rate this

    Comment number 907.

    My family tree goes back here to the 1600's. We had to sell my Grandmothers house to pay for her care. I was a 40% Tax payer for two decades and when I was made redundant, received no help from the Government, yet immigrants can get handouts having made little or no contribution whatsoever. Disgusting.
    Unless you have paid into the system for decades, then you should get nothing back. i didn't.

  • rate this

    Comment number 906.

    Allowing 6 months gives them time to disappear, unless they can pay there own way and have something to offer then send them straight back.
    We've been an easy target which successive governments have not got a grip on, the rules need tightening to the point where if they are of use and can speak English keep them on a short term visa otherwise send them straight back, no messing.

  • Comment number 905.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 904.

    Such utter tosh to say that only people from over seas have the requisit talents this country needs is an insult to millions of unemployed


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