Iain Duncan Smith questions the Home Secretary on social security co-operation in the political declaration

5th December 2018

Iain Duncan Smith questions the Home Secretary about social security co-operation mentioned in the political declaration and whether the Government will rule out giving access to benefits for people who come from the EU so that businesses cannot bring people over on very low wages expecting them to claim benefits and live in squalid conditions.

The Home Secretary and I both served in the Cabinet of the previous Prime Minister, and he will recall that the previous Prime Minister tried, without success, to get from the European Union a limitation on access to welfare payments for those who have just arrived here. Now we are leaving, and we say we want to take back control. The political declaration is very vague; it talks about social security co-operation. Is it our ambition to ensure that businesses cannot bring people over, pay them very cheap wages and expect them to claim benefits and live in squalid conditions? Will we now rule out access to many of those benefits, which cost a lot of money, for people who come over from the EU?

I agree very much with the sentiment of what my right hon. Friend said. I think it is fair to say that once we have left the EU, we will have a lot more flexibility in that area. To return to the previous question, the rules that we apply will be non-discriminatory. The broad intention is to apply the same rules to anyone, regardless of their nationality. It will be focused on an individual’s skills—what they have to offer and the contribution they have to make—and we will not want welfare or any other type of social security payment to be part of someone’s decision to come and work in this country. The White Paper will set out more detail on that.