Cameron rushes in migrant benefit curbs to meet 1 January deadline

Concern about influx of migrants from Romania and Bulgaria forces PM's hand on new measures

David Cameron's speech
(Image credit: 2013 Getty Images)

DAVID CAMERON is “rushing in” restrictions on the rights of migrants to claim benefits in the UK. The measures, which will be in place on 1 January when people from Romania and Bulgaria gain the right to work in Britain, are designed to head off a “growing rebellion” by Eurosceptic MPs in his own party, The Independent says.

The regulations to be rushed through parliament will force EU migrants to wait three months before claiming state benefits. Previously, European migrants have been able to start claiming jobseeker’s allowance and other benefits within weeks of arriving – prompting concern that some people are arriving, signing on and only then looking for work, the Daily Mail explains.

Cameron announced the measures last month, but said they would be introduced at an unspecified date next year.

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The PM has already announced other measures that will take effect on 1 January. They include stopping benefits after six months for EU jobseekers with no job prospects, halting housing benefit claims and imposing a 12-month re-entry ban for people who have been removed. It has also been suggested that migrants whose English is so poor they will struggle to find employment in the UK may be denied hand-outs.

Cameron’s hand has been forced, the Independent says, by a rebellious group of more than 70 Tory MPs. They want the PM to go even further than the measures he has already announced by delaying the lifting of transitional controls that will allow Romanians and Bulgarians to work in the UK. Such a move would almost certainly put Britain on a collision course with the EU.

Cameron told MPs that the Coalition was “accelerating” the start of the new restrictions in a bid to “make the UK a less attractive place for EU migrants”. He added: “The hard-working British public are rightly concerned that migrants do not come here to exploit our public services and our benefits system.”

The Daily Telegraph agrees that the decision to expedite the provisions will be interpreted as a bid to “look tough on immigration”.

Disquiet in Tory ranks has been driven by the rise of UKIP, which is firmly opposed to unfettered migration from Europe.

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