Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Benefit Entitlement (Restriction) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:31 pm on 5th February 2016.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Christopher Chope Christopher Chope Conservative, Christchurch 1:31 pm, 5th February 2016

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his intervention, but I am not going to go down that route, because my view is that, even if the high watermark of what the Prime Minister said in his recent statement, which is reflected in the documents produced by the European Commission, is maintained, it still falls significantly short of what we promised in our manifesto, and we will still be a million miles away from being able to remove access to benefits, which is what this Bill aspires to achieve and what the British people overwhelmingly support.

The Prime Minister answered questions after his statement to the House on renegotiation on Wednesday.

He said:

“40% of EU migrants coming to Britain access the in-work benefits system, and the average payment per family is £6,000…I think that more than 10,000 people are getting over £10,000 a year, and because people get instant access to our benefits system, it is an unnatural pull and draw to our country.”—[Hansard, 3 February 2016; Vol. 605, c. 939.]

There is a dispute about the extent to which such access brings large numbers of people in, but in any event the British people find it an affront that the money of those who have paid their taxes and into our insurance system for years is being used to fund people from another country who have not made such contributions.

There is a big issue here. Like my hon. Friend Scott Mann, I am not convinced that the Government have achieved enough, even at the high watermark, to satisfy myself and others. The only solution is to leave. [Interruption.] Debbie Abrahams is laughing, but she will see that clauses 2, 3 and 4 of the Bill have to include the words

“Notwithstanding the provisions of the European Communities Act 1972”.

In other words, in each of those clauses I acknowledge that, under current European Union law, we cannot change our own law as we would wish.

In answering the debate that we had two years ago about this issue, the Minister, my right hon. Friend Mike Penning, said that, although he might be tempted, he could not support the Bill because he would be in breach of the ministerial code in supporting a policy that could give rise to infraction proceedings. I fear that the Under-Secretary of State for Disabled People, my hon. Friend Justin Tomlinson, whom I am delighted to see on the Front Bench today, is in exactly the same position: despite the temptation, he could not support the Bill because in so doing he would be in breach of the ministerial code for raising the prospect of infraction proceedings.