David Cameron defends plans to charge migrants to use NHS accident and emergency services

Prime Minster will press ahead with more stringent rules for foreign visitors

David Cameron has defended government plans to begin charging migrants treated in accident and emergency departments, insisting the proposals were enforceable.

The Prime Minister said it was right to charge foreign visitors for using the NHS, as he insisted that future migrants to Britain would face more stringent rules before being able to move here.

He said of the proposals: “We should do it.”

Speaking to the BBC's Andrew Marr Show, he said the plans were workable: “Yes we can, we can.

“Our NHS is a national treasure and we can all be incredibly proud of it, and it is right that we all pay into it and everyone here has access to it for free.

“But people who come to our country, who don't have the right to use it, should be charged for it and we're putting that in place.”

Mr Cameron would not be drawn on how many people he expected to come to Britain after immigration restrictions were lifted for Romanians and Bulgarians on January 1, saying he wanted to avoid repeating the “ludicrous” mistakes made by the previous Labour government.

He said: “We're not making a forecast because I think it's unlikely we'll get that forecast right.

“The last forecast that was made by the last Labour government, at the time of Poland's accession to the EU, where they put in no transitional controls, was a ludicrous forecast of 14,000 and it turned out that over a million people came.”

Mr Cameron said that by ensuring the minimum wage was being paid to all employees and clamping down on illegal immigrants, the Government was getting a grip on immigration.

He added that his administration would “make sure that people who can't sustain themselves are removed from our country”.

The Prime Minister said of reports that some UK-based migrants are claiming child benefit for the children they have left behind in their home country: “Well, I don't think that is right and that is something I want to change.

“It's a situation that I inherited. I think you can change it, I think it will take time because we either have to change it by getting agreement with other European countries, and there are European countries who, like me, think it's wrong that someone from Poland who comes here and works hard - and I'm absolutely all in favour of that - but I don't think we should be paying child benefit to their family back at home.”

He said one way of changing that was “the treaty change that I'll be putting in place before the referendum that we'll hold on Britain's membership of the EU by the end of 2017”.

Asked if immigration had been positive or negative for Britain, he replied: “Well, it's been too high. I'm in favour of managed migration.”

Mr Cameron insisted that Britain would be able to dictate the terms of any future agreements with Brussels.

He said “that is absolutely achievable”.

“So Britain will be able to insist, for future countries joining, we'll be able to insist on a tougher, more robust regime.”

But he admitted that he had not yet been able to deliver his 2010 pledge to reduce net migration down to the tens of thousands.

“Well, it's down almost a third since I became Prime Minister, so I said we wanted to get net migration down, I said we wanted to get it to the tens of thousands, we are not there yet, but it has come down by just less than a third.”

Mr Salmond described Mr Cameron's position on a TV debate as "increasingly ridiculous", and insisted that the Prime Minister will be "dragged into the television studio" eventually.

"David Cameron's attitude is the same mix of arrogance and fear that saw the Tories seek invisible cuts to Scotland's budget in the 1980s and plan £4 billion of cuts for the future," he said.

"Arrogance because his government wants to dictate the terms of the debate but refuses to take part in a public debate and fear because he knows, as people across Scotland do, that he represents a government Scotland did not elect.

"The Prime Minister's position is increasingly ridiculous. He cannot on the one hand tell the BBC that the referendum debate will take place in the media and then simply refuse to debate.

"A majority of people, not just in Scotland but in the rest of the UK, think it is right that the Prime Minister takes part in a debate and I would suggest David Cameron listens to them.

"He can only hide from this for so long. Eventually he is going to be dragged into the television studio and have the democratic responsibility of an open, free debate."

A Better Together spokesman said: "You've got to hand it to Alex Salmond.

"On one hand, he and his ministers are desperately trying to shut down any debate in Scotland, while at the same time they are crying foul because they aren't getting to choose who speaks for their opposition.

"David Cameron doesn't have a vote. Alistair Darling does. If Salmond wants a debate, we are ready to have one."

PA

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Teeth should be brushed twice a day to prevent tooth decay
education
News
Bryan Cranston as Walter White, in the acclaimed series 'Breaking Bad'
news
Sport
footballChelsea 6 Maribor 0: Blues warm up for Premier League showdown with stroll in Champions League - but Mourinho is short of strikers
News
Those who were encouraged to walk in a happy manner remembered less negative words
science
Arts and Entertainment
Princess Olga in 'You Can't Get the Staff'
tvReview: The anachronistic aristocrats, it seemed, were just happy to have some attention
News
Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones
i100
Life and Style
tech

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

News
There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law
news

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Sport
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London