Duncan Lewis

Legal Aid

Lawyers London

Restrictions on health and welfare benefits in case of EU immigrants to apply to UK citizens as well

Date: (5 March 2013)    |    

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Downing Street has drawn up plans to restrict health and welfare benefits for immigrants from European Union states which would be applicable equally to UK citizens under EU law.
The proposed changes are expected to be rushed in before Bulgarian and Romanian citizens could gain full rights to move into the UK at the end of the year amid growing concern by the public about the so-called ‘welfare tourism’
The new proposals would require immigrants to wait for up to a year after settling in the UK before being able to seek hospital care including operations, barring emergency services and ante-natal treatment. This is being seen as a drive to restrict immigrants from accessing benefits, council homes and public services.
But the EU laws which have to be complied with, makes residency rather than nationality the parameter to restrict any such benefits meaning British nationals might also be required to prove their entitlement.
Following the poor show in the Eastleigh elections David Cameron had assured that the party was not going to “lurch to the right”. But it was swiftly undermined by the cabinet colleagues projecting hard-line attitude on UK immigration, Europe and human rights.
Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling and Theresa May, the home secretary, are thought to be taking measures to ensure a future Tory government would follow a tougher line on human rights. Mr Grayling has even said the UK should scrap the Human Rights Act.
Defence Secretary Philip Hammond had in fact called for welfare to bear the greater share in austerity measures but the prime minister’s spokesman said that the government would need to operate within the law and there cannot be any discrimination between the EU nationals within that law.
But the suggestion whether an ‘entitlement card’ to prove their right to treatment or benefits was being planned the spokesman said the Prime Minister was still opposed to such ID cards.
The spokesman said that a cabinet sub-committee, chaired by the prime minister, was in discussion on the issue of migrants’ access to benefits and that the ongoing process includes range of options but they were not at the announcement stage as yet.
When questioned whether the government had evidence that welfare tourism was a problem he answered that there was a general public concern around the pressures around some services such as housing, local authority services or the NHS.