Iain Duncan Smith says he’s going to stop benefit tourism. What benefit tourism?

The Quiet Man is turning up the volume. We wish he wouldn't.

IDS has an op-ed in the Times (£) today in which he promises to take on the people who wish to come to Britain “simply because of our benefits”.

“Freedom of movement must be about work – it was never meant to assist benefit tourism,” the tough-cum-quiet man writes.

It’s fairly clear what Mr Duncan Smith and the Tories are trying to do here. In talking up the problem of benefit tourism, the Conservatives are trying to outflank UKIP from the right. Because the government is relatively restricted as to what it can do to control EU migration to Britain – freedom of movement and all that – the Tory party likes to make out that benefit tourism is a significant problem.

That way it can pretend to be doing something – anything – about immigration.

In reality, however, in singling out so-called benefit tourism IDS may as well be wasting his breath, for the number of people who travel to the UK to claim benefits is statistically insignificant.

According to a Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) report from 2011, 6.4 per cent of those claiming working aged benefits were non-uk nationals, meaning British nationals were two-and-a-half times more likely to be claiming working age benefits than non-UK nationals.

This graph from Fullfact demonstrates a similar trend right across the board.

Fullfact graph

In every category UK nationals are more likely to claim benefits than foreign migrants.

“Of the 2 million net migrants to the UK from the eight eastern European countries that joined the EU in 2004, just 13,000 people have claimed jobseeker’s allowance (JSA). This figure was not disputed by No 10.” The Guardian, March 26 2013

It just isn’t that easy to be a benefit tourist. Something called the habitual residence test, which was introduced in 1994 by John Major’s government, means that before being allowed to claim any benefits in the UK immigrants are interviewed about their reasons for entering the country, how long they have been here, as well as their work status and history.

As a rule a person would need to have been in Britain for at least one to three months before they are able to claim any kind of benefit.

There is always the possibility that someone could come to the UK, spend all their money during the first month or so before parking themselves on benefits. However considering the government’s rhetoric around welfare reform – that it is ‘getting tough’ with those whose ‘curtains are still drawn at midday’ – this seems unlikely. If British nationals can no longer ‘languish’ on benefits, where is the evidence to suggest that foreign nationals will find it any easier to do so?

In sum, today’s op-ed by IDS is pure hot air. The Quiet Man is turning up the volume. We wish he wouldn’t.

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63 Responses to “Iain Duncan Smith says he’s going to stop benefit tourism. What benefit tourism?”

  1. LB

    And they are taxed too.

    So pay tax. Get some money back, and the DWP cream off their 5.6% per annum charges. Plus leakage to other areas.

    So 29% of migrants on benefits. In other words not earning enough to make their way in the UK.

    So how are they making a “NET CONTRIBUTION” to the UK? None of this twaddle about paying 1 quid in tax and being a contributor.

  2. guest

    “In the case of the NHS workers, there are no profits.” On the contary
    the contribution of an NHS worker is measured in terms of the health of the rest of the population. A simillar arguement applies to other public servants who supply other services to the rest of the population.

  3. LB


    Like this one?

    A surgeon is under investigation after being accused of burning his initials onto a patient’s liver during a transplant operation

  4. curiouscat

    Are these the same ones that the FT reported on being asked for and not found http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/eu/10361971/Britain-admits-it-has-no-figures-on-EU-welfare-tourist-numbers.html ” – he should prove it or retract.

    “In the eight page text, which has been seen by The Telegraph, the Home Office
    concedes that it is unable to state the number of EU nationals claiming
    welfare compared to Britons on social security benefits over a “given
    period”. Nor can it give figures showing the number of EU migrants
    making fraudulent benefit claims.”

  5. Irma

    Not true. I know plenty of people who can’t fill positions because natives simply don’t want to do it. It isn’t about wages. Furthermore why incentivise someone to set up a business in another country when their small business could do wonders for Britain’s moribund industry. Immigrants aren’t the problem, the locals are.

  6. Irma

    Which they won’t.

  7. Irma

    You have to wait quite some time before you can determine their nett contribution. The current arbitrary criteria don’t provide the real go-getter migrants that Britain needs to save it.

  8. Irma

    They could start their onw businesses instead of whining about immigrants. That is exactly what is wrong with the Britain of today. No spirit. Blame it on immigrants.

  9. Irma

    Point systems don’t work.

  10. Irma

    The kind of people that would struggle to get to the UK are exactly the sort the country needs.

  11. LB


    However what do they need to contribute in the way of taxes to break even?

    722 bn for 63 million people – 11.5K in tax.

    Then a state pension costs 146K, and you get 1/30th a year. So they need to also contribute another 5K a year if they are an adult.

    Simply put, no migrant on welfare is going to make a net contribution.

  12. LB

    Been there and doing it. However, its hard. To much government screwing it up. Taxes in many cases make it uneconomical to risk money, because the after tax rewards aren’t enough to compensate you if it goes wrong.

    Now I don’t attach any blame to migrants bar a few. However, that’s different from saying they are good for the UK. Even if motivated and working, lots of them aren’t good for the UK, and that’s just on the finances.

    They need to be earning a lot of money, way more than any average Brit just to break even.

    A barista in Starbucks is on min wage, and there is no way they are breaking even. 2K a year cost of NHS insurance, 5K a year cost of their pension, ….

    They aren’t to blame, politicians are for allowing it.

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