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. Dave Roberts

    I think Julian has hit the nail on the head. What is important is not the percentage but the actual numbers. On the other hand the problem is the EU. I use Spanish medical facilities because of the reciprocal arrangements and like the vast majority of Spanish people I have paid into the common fund all my working life.

    What we are faced with are asylum seekers and the influx from Romania and Bulgaria. I heard from a friend that Newham General Hospital is now the TB capital of the UK because of Somali and sub Saharan African asylum seekers and that there is a strain of the disease coming from the Congo for which there is treatment at the moment and that smallpox which we thought was eradicated has broken out again in Africa.

  2. frank100

    Oh, the irony of the Right claiming that they will control immigration, more has taken place under the Tory bosses ( under a Tory Government) of the cotton and woollen mills of Lancashire and Yorkshire than ever took place under Labour but of course you only have a very short term memory

  3. TM

    Basically, it needs sorting out, but I don’t think IDS is capable of that tbh nor the Tory Party. But as Sparky says Labour used immigration for cheap labour, and I might add as a natural form of wage control. Immigration is only about cheap labour, little else, and so should be capped. It is beyond partisan politics now and is a major concern for all of us. Who wants to lose their job to anyone wherever they come from who will work for £1.50 an hour less than you??? Nobody. It is not an issue of racism, it is largely an issue of economics and livelihoods, as most things usually are.

  4. frank100

    Well, control the employers who want the pay such low wages.

  5. Timmy2much

    Backwards logic frank. The natural ‘supply and demand’ of the market would have regulated wages better than any piece of legislation. Only mass immigration has short circuited that system which then created the problem of .wages being below the cost of living especially at the lower end of the market.
    We need to remove recent immigrants with criminal records. We then need to incentivise others to leave with grants and assistance to set up businesses in other countries Basically lower the size of the population. Once that happens employers will be forced to increase wages to attract the best applicants.

    You should also relook at your statement – what you are talking about is a very authoritarian way of operating. The next thing that will be legislated is where you can work, what job you will have, who can start a business.
    Governments should be like children – seen and not heard! The only way to achieve that is to have a very simple set of regulations and laws – and tax while we are on it – that protects everyone from uncontrolled laziness & uncontrolled greed (to name two).

    The more legislation you get, the more complex it gets, the bigger governments will get and the more influence they will have over our lives – and the less things will work properly.

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