David Evennett, MP for Bexleyheath and Crayford, has backed new proposals announced by the Prime Minister, Rt Hon David Cameron MP, to reduce access to benefits and public services for immigrants.
In a speech yesterday, the Prime Minister said that the welfare system must support those who want to work hard and get on, whilst ensuring that everyone who comes into the UK pays their way and gives something back. Mr Cameron has proposed:
– Cutting access to benefits for non-UK nationals after 6 months
– Require stronger local connections for those seeking council housing
– Stopping health tourism being a drain on NHS resources
– A new crackdown on illegal immigration
– Tougher penalties for those employing people illegally
– A new legal requirement for landlords to check the migration status of new tenants, so they are not renting to an illegal immigrant
Mr Evennett said “After thirteen years of Labour’s open-door immigration policy, people are justifiably concerned about the impact on housing, the NHS and our welfare system. Net immigration is already down by one third under the current Government and tens of thousands of illegal immigrants are being deported every year, but there is still much more to do.
“Making entitlement to public services something migrants earn and not an automatic right will stop the ‘something for nothing’ culture which developed under Labour. These are common sense reforms and I hope that they will make a real difference.”
New measures set out by the Prime Minister include:
• Cutting access to benefits for non-UK nationals after 6 months
The current Home Office Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations state that someone who enters the UK in order to seek employment means they have a ‘right to reside’ as a job seeker. This means they can claim Job Seekers Allowance and other benefits. To ensure people cannot claim benefits indefinitely, in early 2014 we will create a statutory presumption that after 6 months an EEA national can no longer retain their status as a job seeker or retained worker and continue to claim benefits, unless they can demonstrate they have actively sought work throughout that period and have a genuine chance of finding work.
Currently some immigrants are exploiting a loophole which allows them to claim contributory benefits based on their National Insurance contributions despite not having the right to work in the UK. This can happen when someone has worked in the UK and paid NI but then overstayed their visa. Closing this loophole will prevent payment of contributory benefits to those with no right to work in the UK at the point of their claim.
We will strengthen the test people have to pass to see if they are eligible to claim income related benefits – the Habitual Residence Test. There will be an increase in the number and stronger range and depth of questions asked.
• Stopping ‘something for nothing’ public services
The Government will introduce an expectation on councils to introduce a local residency test in determining who should qualify for social housing. This would mean someone would have to live in an area for say 2 or 5 years before they could even go on the waiting list. Bexley Council is introducing a new housing policy with such a requirement.
This will stop someone from turning up and immediately gaining access to social housing. To ensure UK nationals are protected when they are moving for genuine reasons – for example for work or because of family breakdown – local authorities will have the ability to set exceptions (e.g. in relation to work mobility, armed services personnel, for people escaping domestic violence etc).
• Stopping health tourism
Government wants to stop the expectation that our health service is free to the entire world and we will take new steps to ensure the NHS can claim back money that is owed for NHS treatment provided to those not entitled to it. We will look to introduce stricter charging or a requirement for non-EEA temporary migrants to have private health insurance in order to access NHS care. Countries like the US and Australia already expect people to have insurance – we want to do the same. This will ensure we can reclaim costs when people are treated by the NHS.
• Crack down on illegal immigration
Key enforcement organisations will be brought together to form more local and national taskforces to target hotspots of high employment and housing abuse and there will be tougher action on rogue businesses who employ illegal workers by doubling maximum penalties to £20,000. Biometric residence permits will make it easier to identify illegal immigrants.
• Rogue landlords
Government will introduce a new legal requirement for landlords to check the migration status of new tenants, so they are not renting to an illegal immigrant. Landlords/letting agents will be expected to demand suitable evidence from tenants (passport/valid visa/Biometric Residence Permit) and to keep a record. For UK nationals proving their status will be straightforward – simply showing a passport, driving licence or birth certificate in most cases. Rogue landlords who flout the rules and fail to take sufficient checks will face tough consequences, which could include a fine.