The government is facing a crisis in its attempts to prevent European foreign nationals coming to the UK to claim benefits, Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said yesterday.
He told MPs it was currently too easy for migrants from the European Economic Area to pass a “habitual residency” test to prove they live here, so entitling them to benefits.
Mr Duncan Smith said the government tried to make it harder, but faced tough opposition from Brussels.
Meanwhile, the government is looking at ways of forcing councils to detail to whom they are offering social housing, while GPs will be handed strict guidance so they know they can refuse to treat certain migrants who have no right to free services on the NHS, the minister said.
Responding to an urgent question from Labour MP Frank Field in the Commons, Mr Duncan Smith said: “I agree with you, there is somewhat of a crisis over this.
“For the last two years I have been fighting a rearguard action over what was left to me by the last government.
“The reality is that it is all right for [Labour] to moan, but let’s put the facts as they are – I inherited a habitual residency test which simply isn’t fit for purpose. We are trying to tighten that up dramatically and I am being infracted at the moment by the European Union for doing that.
“But you are absolutely right, and I am with you on this, to describe this as a crisis.”