• Monday, December 22, 2014

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UK to tighten migrant benefits

BBC Online
The government has been steadily tightening the rules on EU migrants' access to benefits. Photo: BBC
The government has been steadily tightening the rules on EU migrants' access to benefits. Photo: BBC

The UK is to cut the amount of time EU migrants without realistic job prospects can claim benefits for from six to three months.

David Cameron said the "magnetic pull" of UK benefits needed addressing to attract people for the right reasons.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, he said immigration should "put Britain first".

But Labour has called for more action on the issue, and criticised government efforts to tackle immigration as a "failure" so far.

Cameron will set out his plans on a visit to see immigration officers at work later on Tuesday.

In his Telegraph article he said controlling immigration was vital to the government's plans.

He said the last Labour government presided over a "no-questions-asked" welfare system that "drew migrants to the country for the wrong reasons".

'SOMETHING FOR NOTHING'

He cited other measures recently coming into force to tackle abuses - such as new powers revoking the driving licences of those not entitled to be in the country - as evidence that the government was building "an immigration system that puts Britain first".

"We are making sure that people come for the right reasons - which has meant addressing the magnetic pull of Britain's benefits system," he said.

"We change the rules so that no-one can come to this country and expect to get out-of-work benefits immediately - they must wait at least three months.

"And we are announcing today that we are cutting the time people can claim these benefits for. It used to be that European jobseekers could claim JSA or child benefit for a maximum of six months before their benefits would be cut off, unless they had very clear job prospects.

"We will be reducing that cut-off point to three months, saying very clearly you cannot expect to come to Britain and get something for nothing."

The government has been steadily tightening the criteria for which EU migrants are eligible to claim benefits after coming under political pressure.

In January, it announced that EU migrants would not be able to claim out-of-work benefits until three months after arriving in the UK and would only be eligible for jobseeker's allowance for six months unless they have genuine prospects of finding work.

Cameron will announce that this time limit - which also applies to child tax credit and child benefit - will be halved to three months from November.

He has said his party's target of reducing net migration to below 100,000 by the time of the next election, from its current level of more than 200,000, is still achievable.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said the government had failed to take "firm action" to address the issue.

'GET A GRIP'

"Behind the rhetoric the true picture of this government on immigration is one of failure, with net migration going up, despite David Cameron's promise to get it down to the tens of thousands," she said.

"The government should get a grip and finally implement Labour's proposals to stop the undercutting of wages and jobs for local workers by the exploitation of low-skilled migrant labour, including banning recruitment agencies that only hire foreign workers and pressing for stronger controls in Europe."

Latest analysis by the Migration Advisory Committee, which advises ministers, suggested the impact of low-skilled immigration on GDP, productivity and prices since 1997 has been "very modest" and there had been virtually no effect on the overall employment rate of UK-born workers.

But it concluded that low-skilled migration had had a "small" negative impact on the wages of low-paid British workers while there had been knock-on effects on the availability of housing and school places in areas of the country with disproportionately high level of incomers.

Published: 1:37 pm Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Last modified: 7:45 pm Tuesday, July 29, 2014

TAGS: UK migrant benefits

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