A prominent pro-European business leader group has issued a response last week following the huge rise in support in the council elections for anti-immigration UKIP by proposing to restrict access to benefits for EU migrants, by imposing a three-month qualification period for jobseeker’s allowance and stopping of child benefit claims for children living abroad.
Business for New Europe (BNE) said there was “a massive credibility gap” with the public over politicians’ assurances that EU immigrants could not access benefits and public services too readily – in English this means the public don’t believe the politicians. Home Office ministers are expected to propose tightening of eligibility for housing, welfare and health benefits in the Queen’s speech, but everyone knows that EU regulations will make it impossible for the UK Government to discriminate against one or two countries, e.g. Bulgarian and Romania.
The BNE shift coincides with a Labour member of the Treasury select committee calling for Labour to respond to the rise in support for UKIP by calling for an end to the free movement of workers in the EU – someone forgot to tell him that the free movement ‘horse’ bolted in 2004 when Labour left that ‘barn door’ wide open.
MP for Bassetlaw in Nottinghamshire, John Mann, who is known for his straight speaking as well as his knowledge of how his constituents are thinking, said:
“How is it fair that a youth can be born in a council house, live in it for 18 years and then lose out in allocation to a Polish family who have been in the country for a few months. How is this social justice?
“Why is it fair that a 58-year-old man, disabled from coalmining loses his incapacity benefit, but a family new to the country gets full housing benefit?
“Why should an employer be able to employ from a Polish agency and refuse to interview a local person seeking work?”
He told Labour: “It is time to stop meddling with vague concepts. Let us have clear social justice priorities.”
He adds: “The top priority in housing for those who have lived in social housing as children; no benefits for anyone until they have paid national insurance for two years; no free flow of capital to avoid taxes; no zero hours agency contracts with no employment rights; no open market in labour in the United Kingdom, rather a system of work permits, including for all Europeans.”
BNE’S chairman, Roland Rudd, acknowledged the need to respond to the public mood.
He said: “We need to be clear that migrants are less likely to be on benefits than native-born British citizens. People are concerned about immigration, and while mainstream politicians have been more willing to speak up about it of late, there is unfortunately still a massive credibility gap.
“With immigration consistently coming up as one of the public’s top three concerns in opinion polls, many people are concerned that the system is unfair.
“We need to fight the myths while at the same time reassuring people that we are making sure the system is fair, defendable and one that the public can trust.”
BNE’s proposals include a three-month qualification period for jobseeker’s allowance and reform of EU rules on child benefit which allow individuals to claim Benefit for children out of the country.
Rudd said: “The fact that jobseekers can in principle claim benefits as soon as they arrive is one of the things that make people think it’s just not fair.
“There’s nothing unreasonable about asking new entrants to wait for three months; other EU countries have firmer rules, so there is no reason for the UK not to.”
The group added that migrants from the eight members who joined in 2004 paid 37% more in taxes than they received in services in the UK between 2004 and 2009. Source: The Guardian.
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