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 983.

    @940. Phil Moisey
    887. Peter
    "If we go abroad we don't get any benefits"

    Totally untrue!

    Yes complete lies. I've lived and worked in France for 9 years and benefited from exemplary health care from the start.
    Yes it is complete lies. I was entitled to healthcare in Holland, Sweden & Finland on arrival. I was also entitled to full benefits in Holland, after 3 months I believe.

  • rate this

    Comment number 982.

    At last a prime minister who is not afraid to mention immigration! It needs to be addressed. The country is already unable to cope ie our health service, housing etc etc. Perhaps if there was not so many people here, then maybe british people could retire earlier! How much longer can we all keep working to accommodate people who are not working or contributing to our system?

  • rate this

    Comment number 981.

    nilbymouth you seriously need to stop spouting left wing rubbish that is the reason why this country is in a mess due to the leaders being so much like you a totally soft wash out

  • rate this

    Comment number 980.

    Canny wait for independance then England and Wales can fight it out amongst themselves. No time for this carry on!

  • rate this

    Comment number 979.

    If the governments own stats shows that 94% of benefit claimants are UK nationals, then the systems obviously working.

    It's such a shame that so much Daily Mail hysteria/rhetoric has made its way into the immigration debate. Without it Nigel Farrage would be out of a job, and that can't come a day too soon.

    UKIP won't be getting my vote at the local elections.

  • rate this

    Comment number 978.


    Believe me, my English is absolutely fine!

    I guess that you are one of these ANTI WHITE protesters, right???
    well, you can find plenty of them in LONDON!

    walk through areas of London and you think that you are in Asia or Africa.
    London is not British anymore :-))) very sad

  • rate this

    Comment number 977.

    yeah them foreigners coming here since the 1960's working, paying tax, contributing to the British economy.. who needs them shirkers..

  • rate this

    Comment number 976.

    960 Rik. Unfortunately that's where the problem begins....politicians and getting a grip.

  • rate this

    Comment number 975.

    I just wish that all those who are firing off like a box of crackers would look at the ONS reports for the time period 2004- 2007, before the financial crash, caused by non immigrants in the City. They will find that immigrants contributed MORE to the U.K. economy than they TOOK out. Also immigrants on benefit represent only 6% of the Immigrant total.

    But never mind The Mail /Express know best

  • rate this

    Comment number 974.

    Nice one Cameron-Milliband-Clegg. Over 5 years of stagnant failing economy, no answers but to make it worse. What can be done? Blame the immigrants of course. Tell the public as often as possible that immigrants and unemployed are to blame for all the economic woes of the UK, then drink your champagne, and laugh as you watch the rednecks rant and rave, and SHOUT IN CAPITAL LETTERS.

  • rate this

    Comment number 973.

    What is Cameron going to nothing he has done nothing since coming into power and will leave having done nothing. No I am not labour and certainly not libdem or UKIP I have been conservative all my life (72) but this man has killed off completely what I believed in. Its about time he looked into a mirror and said to himself what the hell am I doing to this country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 972.

    Sick of this paying lip service. Its a tactic for votes. Problem, reaction and soon the solution. When will you lot realise that None, not one of the parties offer solutions to the real thieves who rob us blind and then turn us on each other. Inflation, debt based monetary systems we have are basically robbing us. What about those banks, energy companies and utilities? Im sick of all these fools

  • rate this

    Comment number 971.

    As with everything else this lamentable Government has done, this is just fiddling around at the edges for hoped-for political gain (which won't happen). The answer is simple: let in only those who we want, and then treat them like everyone else subject only to any appropriate probationary arrangements.

  • rate this

    Comment number 970.

    There is poverty including child poverty in the UK suffered by UK nationals.

    It's simply wrong to allow migrants to apply for state aid (funded by hard working UK nationals) whilst our own people are suffering.

    When we're back in the black and our own people are prospering once again, then we can be generous. Charity starts at home.

  • rate this

    Comment number 969.

    What a load of codswallop, the only cure is no benefits until they have worked for six months, and then only for a further 3 months. The east Europeans are not the biggest problem, they in the main are doing the jobs our own benefit scroungers think is below their dignity, fish, chicken factories,field and hotel work. Save even more by stopping benefits for those who refuse to take these jobs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 968.

    Overseas students who come here get free health care and free education in our schools for their children, then people wonder why our resources are overstretched

  • rate this

    Comment number 967.

    Are we in the EU or not?
    If people have come to the UK to work and fall on hard times through no fault of their own then they should be entitled to social support as anyone else in the EU does.

    So David are we in the EU or out!

  • rate this

    Comment number 966.

    I just wonder where the Cameron fortune was made.

  • rate this

    Comment number 965.

    The benefits system which was brought into being to protect those in need of support has turned into a monolith that supports employers, landlords, politicians, by moving the unemployable between incapacity and job seeking allowances and those who decide to come to our country if times in theirs are hard. On top of this we have an open door NHS and bail out banks. We are tired.of being a panacea.

  • rate this

    Comment number 964.

    I do not like the suggestion that entry into this country is a question of money.
    If we must have immigrants, let them be worthy not wealthy!
    Otherwise we are insulting generations of worthy but unwealthy countrymen.


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