European Union migrants will lose their entitlement to benefits after just three months’ claims, David Cameron announced today in fresh measures to toughen the Coalition’s stance on immigration.
The Prime Minister said the moves were designed to hammer home the message to new arrivals that they could not expect to get “something for nothing”.
But he was accused of taking “distraction activity” in response to a limited problem, while Labour claimed the initiative was designed to disguise attention from the Government’s failure on immigration.
A series of measures to tighten rules on migrants’ entitlement to NHS treatment, welfare and housing have already been announced in response to the lifting of transitional controls in January on Romanians and Bulgarians working in Britain.
They included new rules forcing EU migrants to wait three months before they could claim out-of-work benefits. They are then only entitled to receive benefits for a maximum of six months unless they had clear job prospects.
Mr Cameron today announced the claim period would soon be halved to three months.
“[We are] saying very clearly: you cannot expect to come to Britain and get something for nothing,” he said.
The new rules, which apply to jobseekers’ allowance, child tax credit and child benefit, will come into force in November and Government sources said they were compatible with EU law.
“This is about building a different kind of Britain - a country that is not a soft touch, but a place to play your part; a nation where those who work hard can get on,” Mr Cameron wrote in the Daily Telegraph.
“Carefully and painstakingly we are building an economy that has real opportunities for our young people; an education system that encourages them to do their best; a welfare system that encourages work; and an immigration system that puts Britain first.”
But Yvette Cooper, the shadow Home Secretary, said: “We need less talk from the Prime Minister on immigration and more action.
“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.
Jonathan Portes, director of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, said: “This is essentially a distraction exercise. Once again the Prime Minister is announcing measures to deal with something that isn’t very much of a problem. It’s interesting to note the Government hasn’t published any statistics on how many EU nationals claiming benefits this will actually affect – everything we’ve seen so far suggests the number is very small.”