PLANS by Prime Minister David Cameron to clamp down further on immigration and benefits system abuses have been welcomed by East Worthing and Shoreham MP Tim Loughton.
His support for the policy, which includes action to tackle a perceived “soft touch” system, comes amid a major revision of welfare payments and reform of NHS services, which has raised concerns from charities regarding the potential impact for those on low incomes.
Fears have been expressed nationally that some families could be hundreds of pounds worse off a year under the Government’s significant welfare reforms – which it claims are vital to reduce its multi-billion pound deficits.
Its welfare measures include a reduction in housing benefit for some, alongside the introduction of the so-called “bedroom tax” aimed at those on social housing with spare rooms.
Speaking after a speech from the Prime Minister which highlighted a policy to reduce immigration further by tens of thousands, Mr Loughton stressed the area’s demographic mix (containing around two per cent of the population from other ethnic backgrounds) meant it was not a major concern, but he nevertheless welcomed action on the issue.
He said: “Though immigration is not a major issue here, there is still a perception there are problems, which is why it is important we are seen to be doing something.
“Many people in my constituency are concerned about immigration and after 13 years of open borders under Labour, it is no wonder. Conservatives in Government have implemented a comprehensive policy of reform to our immigration system to make it more robust and more selective. These reforms have seen net immigration cut by a third since the General Election.”
He added that at his latest constituency meeting in Southwick, immigration had been a consistent theme raised by residents, particularly from those working within the building and construction industry, who felt they were being considerably undercut by immigrant workers.
But he conceded many concerns had arisen from “misinformed views” and stated that his own stance remained that managed levels of immigration for those who were able to contribute was in fact a positive thing.
He added: “I welcome the new steps which the Prime Minister has set out to ensure that everyone who comes here pays their way and gives something back.
“By changing the rules on benefits and NHS treatment we will stop our system from being a soft touch. Making entitlement to public services something migrants earn and not an automatic right will stop the ‘something for nothing’ culture which grew up under Labour. These are common sense reforms and they will make a difference for people in Worthing and Shoreham.”
In response to concerns over wider welfare reform, including the “bedroom tax” he said the Government had looked closely at cases in which there would be exceptions to the general rule which would ensure it would be delivered fairly.