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Right to Reside Test

Volume 534: debated on Monday 24 October 2011

12. What assessment he has made of the potential effects on the payment of benefits of the reasoned opinion from the European Commission on the UK’s right to reside test. (75995)

19. What assessment he has made of the potential effects on the payment of benefits of the reasoned opinion from the European Commission on the UK’s right to reside test. (76002)

We accept our responsibility in supporting EU citizens who work here and pay their tax and national insurance, but it is clearly completely unacceptable that we should be asked to open our welfare system to people who have never worked in or contributed to the United Kingdom and who have no intention of doing so. We are considering all the details of the Commission’s reasoned opinion, but we are absolutely committed to ensuring that the UK retains control of its welfare policies.

I thank my right hon. Friend for his robust remarks. What steps is he taking to ensure that the UK is not burdened further by benefit tourism?

The best way for us to get the message across to the Commission about the need for change is to demonstrate that this is not a matter for the UK alone. I am therefore forging partnerships with my counterparts in other member states, most of whom have the same concerns. We have to make the Commission recognise that this kind of land grab of an area that should be a national competence is unacceptable. It has all kinds of political connotations, and the Commission must change its view.

I thank my right hon. Friend for his previous answer. Can he tell us what steps his Department will be taking to monitor foreign nationals who are receiving UK benefits?

I can indeed. One of the things that surprised me most on taking office was the fact that the previous Administration had made no attempt whatever to identify how many people from overseas were receiving benefits. We are now doing that work. We aim to publish the results in the next few weeks, and we will aim to learn lessons from what we find.