UK Prime Minister says he will limit immigrants' right to social benefits

The Prime Minister of the UK, David Cameron, has told the House of Commons that he wants to limit the right of immigrants to claim benefits in the UK. This, he says, will show that the UK is not a 'soft touch' for those who come to the UK intending to take advantage of the UK social security system.

Speaking during the weekly Prime Minister's Questions session on Wednesday 13th February 2013, Mr Cameron said that his government intended to re-examine the systems for housing, health, benefits and justice to see whether it would be possible to limit access to them.

Mr Cameron was answering a question from Mark Spencer, the Conservative MP for Sherwood. Mr Spencer said that the UK's welfare system and health service had been established to help UK citizens. He asked the Prime Minister to reassure the House that the system would not abused by illegal immigrants and 'benefit tourists'.

A 'welcoming economy'

Mr Cameron said that Britain had always been a 'welcoming economy' but said that Britain should not be a 'soft touch for those who want to come here'. He said that he had chaired a meeting in Whitehall on Tuesday 12th February which looked at limiting the access of new arrivals in the UK to various public services. Mr Cameron said that 'it is absolutely vital that we get this right. There are many parts of our current arrangements which don't pass a common sense test in terms of access to housing, access to the health service and access to justice and other things which should be a right for British citizens but they're not the right of anyone who just comes here'

The Prime Minister has spoken before about his desire to discourage people from Romania and Bulgaria from coming to the UK in January 2014 when the EU transitional controls preventing workers from those countries from travelling to work in the UK expire. A report by a leading anti-immigration think tank has suggested that some 250,000 people will come from the two new EU member states in the first five years after transitional controls are removed. These figures have been contested by the Romanian and Bulgarian governments which say that they expect their citizens who intend to emigrate to travel to Germany and southern Europe.

Immigration is the main issue

The Prime Minister is under pressure from the right wing, anti-EU party UKIP which is taking votes from Mr Cameron's Conservative Party. The leader of UKIP, Nigel Farage, a member of the European Parliament, has said that the main European issue for most UK citizens now is immigration.

Mr Cameron did not give any further details of his proposed reforms save to say that the immigration minister Mark Harper was in charge of the review.

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