David Cameron draws up immigration laws to foil Ukip
Prime Minister responds to local elections setback, with details expected in an immigration Bill to be announced in the Queen’s Speech
Prime Minister David Cameron
David Cameron is drawing up new immigration laws Photo: REUTERS
By Tim Ross, and Peter Dominiczak10:45PM BST 24 May 2014
David Cameron is drawing up new immigration laws in response to rising anger over the number of EU migrants moving to Britain, The Telegraph can disclose.
The first details are expected in a Bill to be announced in the Queen’s Speech next week, a senior government source said.
Even stronger measures to block Europeans from poor countries coming to Britain for work are likely to be included in the Conservative manifesto for the general election next year.
The plans represent a concerted attempt to combat the rising popularity of the UK Independence Party which threatens to derail the Tories’ hopes of winning an outright parliamentary majority.
Measures under discussion include a law to discourage British-based companies from employing cheaper foreign workers, deporting unemployed Europeans after six months and a new “wealth test” to prevent vast numbers coming to Britain from the poorest EU countries.
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News of the proposals emerged as senior Tories called for action on immigration after Ukip’s surge in last week’s local elections.
Nigel Farage’s party may also top the popular vote when the European election results are announced tonight.
George Osborne, the Chancellor, promised yesterday to “listen” and “respond” to public concern over the issue.
“We need to take the public anger about issues like immigration, jobs and welfare — and deliver answers that work,” he told a ConservativeHome conference in London.
Another senior Tory minister said that the party had to “demonstrate that we are listening”.
Labour had their own problems last night as there were signs that Ed Miliband’s allies were beginning to attack him.
A shadow cabinet minister said there were voters who named Mr Miliband as “a problem”. The MP said: “We have good policies and we are not communicating them. I don’t think we had a plan for the election.”
In other key developments yesterday:
- A poll of 26,000 people in key marginal constituencies suggested Labour was on course to win the next election. The survey by Lord Ashcroft, the former Conservative Party vice-chairman, found a 6.5 per cent swing away from the Tories in 26 battleground seats. If the result is repeated next year it would give Ed Miliband a healthy majority of up to 70 in the Commons.
- Mr Osborne called on Ukip voters to “focus” ahead of next year’s general election and said the “only choice” was between Mr Cameron and Mr Miliband.
Þ Criticism of Labour’s local election campaign grew, with Frank Field, the former Labour Cabinet minister, warning that Mr Miliband faced “big questions” over his ability to connect with voters.
Þ Ukip was embroiled in new turmoil after one of the party’s new councillors was alleged to have referred to gay people as “perverts” and African migrants as “scroungers”.
Dave Small, who was elected to Redditch borough council, is facing a party investigation.
He also attacked Clare Balding, the BBC broadcaster, and Sir Elton John, the singer, over their sexuality and referring to “our sworn enemies in the Muslim world” in comments on Facebook.
The Conservatives introduced a target to reduce net migration to the tens of thousands by May next year.
However, according to figures last week, net migration — the difference between migrants arriving and leaving — rose to 212,000 last year, fuelled by an increase of 43,000 European migrants.
The Coalition has brought in controls on the number of non-Europeans entering the country and new rules that say European migrants cannot automatically claim benefits in Britain. The Tories now want to go further.
Some of their more radical plans – especially on reforming European laws – would be unlikely to win support from Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats and are expected to form part of the Tory manifesto for next year’s general election.
“We are in government with the Lib Dems so we are not going to be able to close borders,” a senior Conservative source said.
Plans being discussed by senior Tories include a new law to stop immigrants “undercutting” British workers looking for jobs.
Employers who failed to pay the minimum wage would face heavier fines under the reforms, with maximum penalties of up to £20,000 for each individual worker they have underpaid. The current highest fine is £5,000.
A plan is also being examined to deport European migrants who have been claiming benefits for six months and have no realistic chance of finding work.
Conservatives are considering replicating a German proposal to deport unemployed Europeans, regardless of whether they claim benefits. Another proposal is to extend the length of time EU migrants must wait before they can claim benefits, from three months to six months or longer. Despite legal difficulties in European courts, Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, is said to be working on the issue.
A fourth measure under consideration is a restriction on the number of European migrants who come to Britain from new EU member states, potentially including a “wealth test” banning migrants from the poorest countries until their economies improve.
This would require agreement in Brussels.
The plans for immigration reforms were already under way before the local and European elections.
The Cabinet has been shown a draft of the Queen’s Speech, which the Queen will present to both Houses of Parliament on June 4. “None of this is in response to these elections because the Queen’s Speech has already been agreed between the Coalition partners,” the minister said.
With one council election result outstanding yesterday, there was strong support for Mr Farage’s party, although Tories said the Ukip vote was 6 per cent lower than in last year’s local elections.
Ukip won 161 council seats in England, while the Conservatives lost 231.
The projected national share of the vote, compiled by the BBC, put Ukip on 17 per cent, Labour on 31 per cent and the Conservatives on 29 per cent, with the Liberal Democrats on 13 per cent.
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