Nick Clegg backs 'eminently sensible' EU benefit changes

Nick Clegg Nick Clegg cautioned that any changes must be made in conjunction with other European states

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It is "sensible" to consider further curbs to the benefits EU migrants can claim, the deputy prime minister says.

It comes after Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said he was talking to other EU governments about trying to restrict access to welfare.

Nick Clegg told BBC Radio 5 live it was right to insist migrants "jump through hoops" before claiming benefits.

A three-month ban on EU migrants claiming UK out-of-work benefits came into force earlier this month.

The ban came after restrictions on Bulgarians and Romanians working in the UK were eased at the beginning of the year, prompting the debate surrounding so-called benefit tourism to resurface.

'Committed to country'

Mr Duncan Smith said the UK, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands and Finland wanted to change EU law.

He told the Sunday Times there was "a growing groundswell of concern about the [immigration] issue" and Britain was "right in the middle of a large group of nations saying enough is enough".

He said he had been working with the other countries to bring pressure on Brussels to allow individual EU member countries to make their own rules stricter.

Mr Duncan Smith said the UK should require migrants to demonstrate they were "committed to the country" and they were "contributing".

"It could be a year, it could be two years, after that, then we will consider you a resident of the UK and be happy to pay you benefits," he said.

Sources close to Mr Duncan Smith stressed he was expressing an aspiration for the future rather than spelling out a policy.

Latest quarterly migration figures from the Office for National Statistics

Mr Clegg told Pienaar's Politics on BBC Radio 5 live: "That is eminently sensible to say that if we can come to an agreement that says you have to jump through certain hoops before you can claim benefits, having moved to a different European Union country, fine."

But he cautioned changes must be made in conjunction with other European states or there would be a "danger" of tit-for-tat changes made by other governments.

"The idea that somehow we can apply new criteria to Germans, Fins, Dutch, Austrians you name it, but somehow no new conditions would apply to Brits living in other European Union countries is fanciful," he said.

But he said he was not in favour of "pulling up the drawbridge, making us poorer, increasing joblessness and making us less relevant in the world by yanking us out of the European Union".

Labour is "in favour" of government efforts to work with other countries to curb benefits for EU migrants, said shadow work and pensions secretary Rachel Reeves.

"If they come up with concrete proposals that are workable, that are practical, that protects our social security system, that protects that principle that you have to pay something in before you get something out, we would support that," she told the Murnaghan programme on Sky News.

'Take back'

UKIP leader Nigel Farage has called for migrants to be barred from receiving benefits until they have been living in the UK for five years, while London Mayor Boris Johnson and Justice Secretary Chris Grayling suggested it should be two.

Start Quote

It goes against people's sense of fairness that the EU want an EU migrant to be treated in exactly the same way as a Brit when it comes to out-of-work benefits”

End Quote Matthew Pollard Executive director, Migration Watch

"There should be an assumption in the way our migration system works that before you move from one country to another, before you can start to take back from that country's social security system, you should have made a significant contribution," Mr Grayling told the BBC's Sunday Politics.

European commissioner Laszlo Andor insisted migrant workers were "net contributors" to the UK economy.

"They take out much less in the form of benefits or welfare services than what they contribute in the form of taxes or contributions to the system," the employment and social affairs commissioner told BBC Radio 4's The World this Weekend programme.

Economics professor Christian Dustmann said there was clear evidence about who was claiming more benefits.

"We have looked at the overall receipt of transfers and benefits, which of course include child benefit, housing benefit and other forms of benefits, and what we find is that migrants from EU countries are 33% less likely than UK natives to claim any form of benefits," he told BBC Radio 5 live.

Prof Dustmann said there was "very little concern that immigrants from EU countries are free-riding on the UK's welfare system".

Matthew Pollard, executive director of Migration Watch UK, a think tank that supports tighter immigration controls, accepted EU migrants claimed less than UK nationals in out-of-work benefits but said it was "still right for the government to restrict access".

"It goes against people's sense of fairness that the EU want an EU migrant to be treated in exactly the same way as a Brit when it comes to out-of-work benefits. This undermines confidence in the welfare system as well as the EU in general," he told 5 live.

Meanwhile, more than 90 Conservative MPs have written to David Cameron urging him to give Parliament a national veto over current and future EU laws.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 211.

    @160. I am amazed. Clegg is actually supporting a sensible policy.

    Every so often politicians will support sensible policies.

    Usually when these policies align with their own political ends.

  • rate this

    Comment number 210.

    Its good to know that the Government considered this before signing up to EU enlargement. Thanks Tony.

  • rate this

    Comment number 209.

    We need to impose a ban on immigrants claiming any kind of benefit (including health and schooling - and certainly not provide endless translations of documents) for at least three years. The immigrant's home country should pay schooling and healthcare fees.

    The same, of course, should apply to Brits abroad.

  • rate this

    Comment number 208.

    Cameron, then Miliband and now Clegg are now all talking about immigration and benefits. But ONLY after UKIP's rise in popularity at the local elections last year. They might not like it, but the message is loud and clear. people have had more than enough. UKIP's star will continue to rise all the time there is all talk and no action.

  • rate this

    Comment number 207.

    It's not only EU migrants we should be discussing here. What about all those who have flocked here from Africa, Asia and South America. How did they get in and why should they be supported. All they seem to do is breed then claim they cannot be sent back to their countries of origin as their offspring are British.

  • rate this

    Comment number 206.

    The real problem though is our benefits system. I fully agree that we should have a benefits system, it must change now as we cannot afford it. This must apply to everyone though including us Brits. Job seekers allowance for a max of 6 months. After that, all benefits cut unless you work ie Cleaning streets, work on flood defences, railways etc. Would love EU to go back to being EEC though

  • rate this

    Comment number 205.

    We are on a collision course with the EU over this. They want federalist harmonisation and full integration of social systems. We and the other principal wealth producers within the EU wish to achieve some autonomy over who we admit to our countries and what we pay them in welfare. The only viable solution is for the key protagonists to join forces in outright revolt against the EU Commission.

  • rate this

    Comment number 204.

    19. Will. This is not a huge problem. You just think it is following the relentless, demonising media campaign. There is plenty of money for bailing our casino bankers, celebrating aristocrats, 'defence' - fighting wars in the Middle East, commemorating WW1 (£55 million) and sundry mad schemes. Our 'debts' are not 'our debts' at all. The poorest in society did not cause them.

  • Comment number 203.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 202.

    And let's make sure also that UK migrants e.g. pensioners to Spain can't benefit from their health system for free. Overall, we will have to pay more tax but that is fine because fairness is more important to British people than money...

  • rate this

    Comment number 201.

    We can't just expect to let every person who walks into our country have unlimited access to public services and benefits that they don't pay for. The amount we could save from limiting benefit tourists might even be enough to reduce some of the necessary public sector cuts.

  • rate this

    Comment number 200.

    IDS is taking the right approach here.

    Maintain free movement, but restrict access to benefits, though this has to include the NHS and State Education, for which migrants should pay.

  • rate this

    Comment number 199.

    Oh la la, people come to UK from East Europe for £71pw!
    They could go to Denmark and get 70% of the pay for their type of work.
    If I had known I was going to be unemployed this long, I would have moved to Denmark or France at 70% of my previous pay.
    con-dems/ukip want to use the cost of living differential, what was the difference when we imported en mass entire villages of the British RAJ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 198.

    Far too late Clegg you're history pretty soon fella! You should have listened to the people & complied with their wishes from the start!

  • rate this

    Comment number 197.

    I'm not 100% convinced politicians are taking the right approach on this one, IMHO more people would be interested in them saying that any migrant who gets convicted of any crime gets deported immeditely after conviction with no right of appeal on any grounds (ECHR included). Not sure how they'd tackle the increasing numbers of 'crime day-trippers' though, that'd be trickier.

  • rate this

    Comment number 196.

    #115 For a start, you can't get benefits unless you have been in the country for three months, and employed, anyway. Same applies to all EU countries. Beyond that point,tax/benefit rules of individual countries apply,not EU rules (sovereignty protected!).Strangely, some aspects of this can be regarded as a constraint on trade. But generally, if you've worked, you should be entitled to benefits.

  • rate this

    Comment number 195.

    The E. European governments must love the EU. Get rid of your citizens to somewhere else. Therefore NO benefits to pay and reduce pressure on services, health, education etc literally over night. Reduce expenditure = more money to spend on self.
    That's right the idiot British tax payer will pay for it all and suffer the consequences...NOT ANY MORE, mate. Sling your hook!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 194.

    99. The big flaw in the welfare system is that is not based upon human needs but is a political football when it should be about morality and justice. Also we have failed to introduce both a health and welfare insurance policy for all adults at 18 lasting for life. We expect people to be able to afford massive hikes in the cost of living from privatisation however.
    We have got it wrong here.

  • rate this

    Comment number 193.

    I would not trust Clegg or any of his cronies.But it would appear hes taken on board the threat of the majority in this DEMOCRATIC country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 192.

    You cant blame people from choosing to take an opportunity given to them. Hopefully in the long term the EU will improve living standards amongst all member states - not just provide cheap labour for the richer member states, I doubt many people will choose to leave their home and families just for job seekers allowance - would you?


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