UK & World News

  • 13 December 2013, 19:13

Migrants Told 'Speak English Or No Benefits'

Migrants who cannot speak English well enough to get a job face being denied benefits under a new tougher test, the Work and Pensions Secretary has said.

The upgraded test for migrants who want to claim income-related benefits will be rolled out across Jobcentres this week.

Those applying will have to answer more individually tailored questions, provide more detailed answers and submit more evidence before they can claim.

For the first time migrants will be quizzed about whether their English language skills will be a barrier to them finding employment and about what efforts they had made to find work before coming to the UK.

Officials will have 200 questions to choose from when assessing claimants - 100 more than previously.

Iain Duncan Smith said: "It is vitally important that we have strict rules in place to protect the integrity of our benefits system.

"The British public are rightly concerned that migrants should contribute to this country and not be drawn here by the attractiveness of our benefits system.

"And we are taking action to ensure that that is the case.

"The roll-out of the new habitual residence test is the first in a series of measures to ensure that we have a fair system: one which provides support for genuine workers and jobseekers, but does not allow people to come to our country and take advantage.

"It is a crucial part of our long-term plan to secure Britain's economy."

Britain is already in a legal battle with the European Commission which says that it unlawful to test immigrants before they can claim benefits.

It comes amid concerns over an influx of Romanians and Bulgarians next month when they will be entitled to come to the UK for work and will be able to claim benefits like other EU citizens.

The Prime Minister was accused of "hysteria" and turning Britain into the "nasty country" last month when he announced new measures that would bar EU migrants from claiming out-of-work benefits, such as jobseeker's allowance, for their first three months in the UK.

Labour's shadow welfare minister Chris Bryant said: "For generations, people have come to this country and worked hard to contribute to Britain, but the principle of contribution is an important one, and the controls on immigration must be fair to those who live here.

"That is why Labour called for stronger restrictions on benefits for new arrivals from the EU, including proposals eight months ago to strengthen the habitual residence test to make it clear that people should not be able to claim benefits when they first arrive.

"At the time, the Government dismissed those proposals, but eight months later they have changed their minds and keep re-announcing their proposals.

"Yet the Government are still doing nothing to tackle the serious problem of low-skilled migrant workers being exploited, undercutting local workers and responsible businesses too.

"That is bad for everyone, yet they are doing nothing about it."

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