Tories hit at EU migrants who get benefits for children abroad
Monday September 17, 2007
The Conservatives stepped up their campaign against the government's European policies yesterday by revealing that 14,000 recent EU migrants from eight new member states are claiming child benefit for children who do not live in Britain.
The move comes as the Tory leadership joins forces with anti-EU lobbies to press for a referendum on the reform treaty which succeeded the constitution rejected by French and Dutch voters.
The legal right of EU citizens living in Britain to claim the benefit – 18.10 a week for the eldest child, 12.10 for others – for such absent children is costing the taxpayers at least 250,000 a week, according to a survey by Philip Hammond, the shadow work and pensions secretary.
Earlier answers from Whitehall departments suggest that 68,000 migrants from eastern European states which joined the EU in 2005 have successfully claimed British child benefit.
But Mr Hammond asked: “Two hundred thousand more British children are living in poverty than a year ago. Child benefit is a vital weapon in the fight against child poverty. So why is Gordon Brown sending thousands of pounds of benefits every week to children who don't live here and who may never even have visited the UK?”
As he spoke, Damien Green, who handles immigration matters for David Cameron, revealed that Home Office ministers “claim not to know how many convicted murderers, rapists or child molesters have been granted British citizenship in the past 10 years”.
Faced with an answer from Liam Byrne, the immigration minister, that collecting such figures would be too expensive, Mr Green called for greater candour.
He said: “If they have to look at the files this suggests that some of the worst criminals are being given British citizenship. Even under this government surely we are not making UK citizens out of convicted murderers or child molesters?”