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 963.

    Generally speaking Polish cleaners are no more qualified than British ones. The difference is that they are prepared to work for less.
    Pathetic. Generally people are just angry about increased house prices and lack of jobs they have caused, not some irrational hatred based on religion, and no-one plans to gas anyone.
    Brits won't do them because they don't get offered them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 962.

    @Soothseeker 917

    Imagine Susan, wants to take a safe home from family that have fled persecution from a warzone that we have created so Susan's son can have a free education and easy life that he is deciding not to utilise. Asked by her boss to take a slight pay cut to keep her job due to tough times, sticks her nose in air and says no, even though over min wage.

    Two sides to every story?

  • rate this

    Comment number 961.

    933 I've never more tosh than that from the pro-immigration lobby.

    Immigration is never the answer. If it is then there is absolutely no use for national parliaments. We might as well disband the country open the border and have a free for all.

    After all is that's what the 3 main parties have been advocating by the back door, except that they need us for a political platform in the meantime

  • rate this

    Comment number 960.

    Scorny1@947.ABSOLUTELY SPOT ON, Now can we put it across in a way that even Politicos will grasp in understanding?????.

  • rate this

    Comment number 959.

    dose anybody know if we can get jobseekers allowance and benifits in spain or any other country

  • rate this

    Comment number 958.

    I'm always a little confused when we talk about immigration, since (like many countries) we are a nation of immigrants.The successive waves of immigrants (some invited, some not) over the centuries have given us such a diverse and varied culture and language. The depressing thing of course is that our own 'native' population are far more likely to be work-shy layabouts than the 'immigrants'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 957.

    Why can't we be like Australia .

    No job and you're out.

    Simple !

  • rate this

    Comment number 956.

    Jesus our PM does talk a lot of crap doesn't he? I mean for goodness sake, he is STILL blaming Labour. And who migrates to a new country with the thought "they want to contribute to our country" as opposed to what the plus sides of moving would be

  • rate this

    Comment number 955.

    Just watching the BBC (EBC) reporting about the people of Aron and how their problems with no power for ages is so bad!

    All the people in the news were English and it makes me wonder if the BBC Scotland (EBC) really care a dam about the Scots EH!

    Maybe they do not want Scots English speaking people to speak as (they down south won't understand) EH!

    Cant wait to be rid!

  • rate this

    Comment number 954.

    I thought Cameron was not going to move to the right in the light of UKIP's strong showing in the Eastleigh by-election. Shows what Tory promises are worth.

  • rate this

    Comment number 953.

    The immigration issue is a strange one. Those against it are mostly those who live in areas with few immigrants. Those who live in areas with many immigrants just see them as people like anyone else. Cameron is just playing to the right wing gallery and trying to win votes. The policies he speaks of are already in place and have been for many years.

  • rate this

    Comment number 952.


  • rate this

    Comment number 951.

    most of the forein nationals wont mix with us brits they stick with there own that says a lot to me looking down there noses at us. the only common denominater is THE STERLING

  • rate this

    Comment number 950.

    I despair of the "dole/benefits" saga. Let's please go back to Unemployment Insurance when you had to have made contributions through NI before you could qualify. On top of the 12 month max dole period unemployed got a 6 month only top up, on a sliding scale based on previous earnings. This was much more of an incentive to get back to work, both for nationals and migrants.PAY IN OR NOTHING FOR ALL

  • rate this

    Comment number 949.

    @935. keehotee

    I feel for you.

    Im presuming you have savings, otherwise you would be switched to income based JSA rather than contribution based.

    The welfare system really is a crappy system. I should know as I am ashamed to say I once worked for them

  • rate this

    Comment number 948.

    Immigrants shouldn't be able to claim anything until they've paid NI and tax for a number of years. As others have spotted it's the other benefits; tax credits, council tax etc. that add up to £000s a year. And all forms should be in English ONLY, can you imagine the French offering translations for how to claim benefits? They even create special French-only qualifications to keep us out!

  • rate this

    Comment number 947.

    I really need somebody to explain something to me.....When I was brought up I was told you get as much as you put in. Why would he agree to 6 months, shouldn't immigrants come to the UK with guaranteed employment and pay into the system (as I have all my life) and then expect any benefits they are due should they be unfortunate to need them?

  • rate this

    Comment number 946.

    immigraition is a fair ploy for the eastern europeans would we get the same treatment in there countrys they say it has a positive effect.would a romainion class himself or herself employed by selling the big issue who is the minority in this country our own countrymen cannot find work because employers would rather pay the minumun wage to forein nationals

  • rate this

    Comment number 945.

    UK nationals will always have the advantage over immigrant when looking for work.
    They just don't look for it. And if they do, they try to find something where they don't need to work and be well paid.
    Benefits are too generous for everyone.
    Cut the benefits, force to work :)

  • rate this

    Comment number 944.

    Yet more irrelevant nonsense from a man who is becoming more and more irrelevant

    How this is the top storey on the six o’clock news is beyond me


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