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Benefits (Immigration)

Volume 563: debated on Monday 20 May 2013

8. What steps he plans to take to restrict access to benefits for new migrants from other EU member states. (155866)

14. What steps he is taking to reduce the eligibility to UK benefits of nationals of other EU member states. (155872)

We are taking steps to tighten further the rules relating to all migrants, not just new migrants. We are strengthening the habitual residence test; the Home Office is creating a statutory presumption that European economic area jobseekers and workers who are involuntarily unemployed will not have a right to reside here after six months unless they can demonstrate they are actively seeking work and have a genuine chance of finding a job; and we will prevent those with no entitlement to work in the UK from claiming contributory benefits.

Does my hon. Friend agree that it may be a good idea in the longer term to consider a more contributions-based system of benefits for all? One of the biggest problems for many people is although they may have worked and paid into the system for many years, if they are out of work for a period they receive little more than someone who turned up only last week.

My hon. Friend raises an interesting point, but she might be aware that in a contributory benefits system those benefits can be exported to other EU member states, and she may think that is a disadvantage of the contributory system.

Why do the Government not insist that out-of-work benefits paid to non-United Kingdom citizens should be paid at the rate of benefit prevailing in the claimant’s home country? Should we not insist on that being a red line in the welcome forthcoming renegotiation?

My hon. Friend is aware that we are, in part, operating within a framework determined by the European Union. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State met his German counterpart last week, and further meetings are planned for next month with European employment Ministers to discuss these very issues.