20 February 2004
The government is expected to introduce severe measures to limit 'benefit tourists' if the number of migrants from eastern Europe exceeds its expectations.
In an emergency summit at Number 10 this week, Prime Minister Tony Blair and senior Cabinet members agreed on a number of safeguards to defuse fears of an 'influx' of migrants from the ten European Union accession states.
The measures will be announced next week when Parliament resumes. They are expected to include restrictions on benefit claims, forcing migrants to work for longer before they are eligible for benefits.
It was also indicated that ministers would extend these measures if the number of immigrants from eastern Europe exceeded the 13,000 expected annually.
The Conservatives said the emergency summit highlighted the 'mess' the government was in only nine weeks from the EU accession date. 'These crisis talks should also consider the impact on public services and whether local authorities will end up footing the bill,' said shadow home secretary David Davis.