28 JAN 2014

Christopher Pincher quizzes Foreign Secretary on free movement within the European Union and Benefit Tourism

Tamworth's Member of Parliament, Christopher Pincher, last week asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affaires, William Hague, what discussions he has recently had on reforming the principle free movement within the EU and cutting down on potential benefit tourism from other European states.

Mr Pincher said:

"What recent discussions he has had with his EU counterparts on reforming the principle of free movement within the EU"

In response the Secretary of State said:

"I discussed free movement with my Hungarian and Bulgarian counterparts last week....and the Prime Minister was clear at the December European Council that free movement cannot remain completely unqualified."

In a follow up question Mr Pincher asked:

"When my right hon. Friend discusses these issues with his counterparts in Europe, will he remind them that because British immigration was previously out of control, if there is to be confidence here in the single market, and if we are to welcome talented and skilled migrants to work in our country, a broken system that allows mass population movements from other European Sates —because migrants think that if they cannot get jobs, they can certainly get generous benefits—must be fixed?

Mr Hague responded with:

"Certainly I make the point to colleagues across the European Union that the long-term sustainability of the free movement of workers requires the sort of reforms that my colleagues in the Government have announced in recent weeks, particularly on rules that govern our social welfare system. Other member states share our concerns on abuse of free movement, particularly Germany, Austria and the Netherlands, so we will continue to make these points."

Speaking later, Mr Pincher commented:

"This year the Immigration Bill will be debated in Parliament which will significantly reform immigration, protect public services and limit EU immigrants' access to benefits. I think we need to be very clear about what we want from our immigration policy – that those people who do not want to contribute to our society and back Britain should understand that there is no place for them here. We welcome talented and skilled people who come to Britain to work and become part of our society. But we cannot afford to encourage hundreds of thousands of low skilled migrants or people who simply want to use our generous benefits system, as the last Labour government did."

Since 2010 the Conservative led Government has made many reforms to the immigration system including capping economic migration, reforming the student visa system and changing the family Visa rules. This has resulted in immigration falling to its lowest level for a decade and ne migration down by a third since the general election.

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