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 1:46 pm on 5th February 2016.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Debbie Abrahams Debbie Abrahams Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions) 1:46 pm, 5th February 2016

I think the hon. Gentleman is waving a red herring, to be fair.

Let me move on to the specifics of the Bill. I regret that the same effort that is rightly being put into ensuring that our social security system remains contribution-based is not being put into preventing the exploitation of workers and stopping UK-based employment agencies recruiting solely from abroad, undercutting wages for British workers. Why is that not a focus of the Government and of the hon. Gentleman’s Bill? Although there are many benefits associated with migration and migrants, not least the net positive contribution to the Exchequer—as shown in recognised evidence—we must also recognise that there are associated costs for areas with higher levels of migration, which puts pressure on local services and local communities. That has to be recognised and addressed, and local authorities must be provided with financial support to enable effective migration management and to maintain social cohesion. That was a focus of our manifesto offer at the last election. Again, could it not have been a focus of the hon. Gentleman’s Bill?

I object to the tenet underpinning this Bill, which is a failure to consider the evidence that the number of migrants who have been claiming tax credits while working is small. The hon. Gentleman mentioned the data. He will be aware that because of a freedom of information request, HMRC has had to publish the number of migrants who are in receipt of tax credits. It has been shown that in the past year only 84,000 have been involved—just over 16%, not the 40% claimed by the Prime Minister on Wednesday. I look forward to him correcting the record, although I think I could be waiting some time. That does not even take into account the fact that one in 10 couples defined as “migrant couples” include a UK national. The UK Statistics Authority has said that the DWP data the Prime Minister used were “unsatisfactory”, and the National Institute of Economic and Social Research has called the figures “selective and misleading”.

The evidence is that social security is not a pull factor—jobs are. We need to protect and secure our contribution-based social security system. I agree with the hon. Gentleman about that. It is there to provide basic support if someone is living in and contributing to this country’s endeavours.

The Bill has little evidence base—that is being kind—and represents a bad case of scaremongering. The Conservative party must be more responsible in its approach to maximising our association with Europe and the economic benefits it brings. It should not deploy the negative divide and rule narrative that is unfortunately prevalent at present. That should not be the language of or the tenet underpinning the Bill. We must respect migrants and social security claimants, so I urge the hon. Gentleman to withdraw the Bill.