26 February 2013

David Cameron talks tough on UK immigration

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In a wide ranging interview with the Daily Express, Prime Minister David Cameron has said his Government is already forming solutions to the UK immigration issues which have been propelled to the front of national politics in recent weeks.

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David Cameron promised a tough but fair stance on EU immigration.

Upon assuming Government, the Conservative Party pledged to reduce UK immigration levels to the 'tens of thousands' from then-levels of approximately 250,000. After several controversial UK visa and immigration policy changes, levels eventually began to drop, standing at approximately 185,000 at the last count.

However, Bulgaria and Romania are due to accede to the European Union at the end of this year and therefore gain access to the free movement of the union, leading to the potential of ruining the Government's efforts to reduce net migration.

The Government have so far remained coy on how they intend to minimise the risk of thousands more migrants placing additional strain on already struggling public services; Communities Secretary Eric Pickles refused to release official figures earlier this year.

Yet Mr Cameron outlined some of his proposals in his interview with the Express, claiming that the UK will not be a 'soft-touch' on EU immigration while still holding to its responsibilities.

"I think the most important thing is to make sure that while you have free movement you are not a soft touch," said the prime minister.

"That is why we are going through, in fine detail, our benefits system, our tax system, our health system, our housing system, every aspect of our welfare system."

Mr Cameron said he had instructed his ministers to 'think like Conservatives' to make sure the difficult questions are asked.

"Make sure that we're a fair country and a welcoming country but not a soft touch."

The prime minister said he had already instructed Justice Secretary Chris Grayling to develop a residency test to ensure that migrants are not automatically entitled to legal aid in civil court cases. He also added there would be other measures to control benefits better.

"I think there is more we can do. One of the aspects that we are reaching fairly early conclusion on is that we can no longer grant legal aid to non-UK nationals or for civil cases, people who are facing house cases or benefit cases.

"We need a proper residency test for those cases and we’re going to consult on introducing one.

"That is just one element of a huge range of measures to make sure that people who do come here are coming here because there is a particular job of work they want to do – rather than coming here because they want to use the health service or get a council house.

"Let’s make sure that ours is the toughest country instead of the softest."

In response to the prime minister's strong statements, Labour's shadow immigration minister, Chris Bryant, accused Mr Cameron of being 'completely out of touch with reality'.

"Yet again the Prime Minister's windy rhetoric on immigration is completely out of touch with reality. His Government is deporting fewer foreign criminals and fewer illegal immigrants are being stopped at the border," said Mr Bryant.

"David Cameron and Theresa May should be getting to grip with their already big list of failures."


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