Iain Duncan Smith highlights the need to remove immediate access to social security benefits for people coming from the EU

19th December 2018

Following the Home Secretary’s statement on the UK’s future border and immigration system after we leave the EU, Iain Duncan Smith highlights the problem of immediate access to social security benefits for people from the EU which has led to businesses abusing the process as a means to bring in cheap labour.

I welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement. Obviously, I have not had a chance to read the White Paper, but much of what he said today is moving in the right direction. I hope he agrees with me that one of the problems with discussing migration over the past two decades has been that any time it is mentioned, people immediately accuse those who ask about reducing it of being racist. We have to bring an end to that level of debate, which has led to much of the frustration to which the right hon. Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) referred earlier, about the way the debate has been conducted. As one of those who voted leave, it was clear to me throughout that people did not want an end to migration; what they wanted was controlled migration. That is what I hope my right hon. Friend delivers today.

As far as I can see, the core bit that has caused the greatest problem has been the immediate access to social security benefits for people coming from the European Union. That has caused a big problem. Many businesses have, I am afraid, abused the process, getting them to come in and live in often quite squalid conditions, driving wages down for those who have much higher costs. Is my right hon. Friend prepared to deal with that issue to make sure that that is not a way of bringing in cheap labour? When he gets lectured by businesses and by others who say the health service cannot cope, will he remind them that for the past two decades—[Interruption.] This is a very important point.

The right hon. Gentleman’s point may be important, but it does need to be framed in the form of a question—briefly.

Does my right hon. Friend accept that businesses have failed to invest in training and skilling the domestic population, with the result that only 15% of those who start life at entry level work will ever move beyond entry level work?

I thank my right hon. Friend for the points he raises. First, he is absolutely right to emphasise the need for control. That was clearly one of the messages of the referendum result. It is about control. Like any other major developed economy, there is no reason why Britain should not have control while also being fair in its approach to immigration. On access to benefits, the White Paper sets out—I appreciate he has not had the opportunity to look at it in any detail yet—that on the short-term workers route, for example, there will be no right to public benefits and no dependants’ rights. This is a system that many other countries have followed. It is a fair approach both to people who come to our country to work and to the domestic population.