No more crook’s tours to pick up UK benefits, Lilley pledges

Peter Lilley’s speech to the Conservative Party Conference as reported by the Guardian 7th October 1993

ACTION to crack down on foreigners’ ability to claim social security benefits were announced by Peter Lil­ley, the Social Security Sec­retary, in his speech to the conference.

Mr Lilley said that claim­ants from abroad would be prevented from obtaining benefits and there would be a requirement that foreigners would have to have lived in the United Kingdom for a period before being eligible for assistance.

He told the conference: “In many European countries you would not be entitled to their benefits until you had lived there for some time. That’s pretty sensible. I want to see a similar requirement here to stop benefit tourism in its tracks.”

The minister claimed there were people touring Europe pretending to look for work while they were really seek­ing the best benefits: “Not so much a Cook’s tour as a crook’s tour. “Why do they come to scrounge off us? They certainly don’t come here for the climate,” he said.

“Just imagine the advice you might find in a European phrase book for benefit tourists:

“Wo ist das hotel? — where is the housing department?

“Ou est le Bureau de Change? — where do I cash my benefit cheque.

“Mio Bambino e in Italia — send child benefit to my fam­ily in Italy.

“Je suis un citoyen de L’Europe — give me benefits or I’ll take you to the Euro­pean Court”.

“But next year’s edition will have just one phrase — ‘Ou est la societee de some­thing for nothing?

“Sorry Jacques, Britain’s branch is closed.”

Mr Lilley announced that he would introduce a register of housing benefits claimants and extend the scheme using bar codes and lasers to detect stolen benefits books. “I am planning a central computer register to stop people claim­ing from several different councils,” he told the conference.

The minister also pledged to plug loopholes allowing claimants to have large mort­gages paid through the in­come support scheme.

“People who live in vast houses should pay their own loans,” he said.