Blunkett bullish over work benefits of EU enlargement

European
union enlargement has not led to a dramatic increase in the number of people
coming to work in the UK, according to home secretary David Blunkett.

He
said there was no evidence that workers from the 10 countries that joined the
EU on 1 May were exploiting the UK’s benefit system.

Under
the worker registration scheme, most nationals of the new EU member states need
to register if they plan to work in the UK. Figures on the scheme show that:

Around
24,000 people applied to register in May and June

Just
over 8,000 applicants to the scheme have arrived in the UK since 1 May and at
least 14,400 were here before then.

Registered
workers are now estimated to be contributing more than £4m a week to UK GDP and
paying more than £0.5m a week in tax and National Insurance.

"Today’s
figures prove that fears that the scheme would not pick up the full range of
workers from accession countries were unfounded; as was most of the media
speculation about the numbers of new arrivals," said Blunkett.

He
said that nearly all applicants to the worker registration scheme were in
full-time employment and were meeting recruitment difficulties in agriculture,
hospitality and catering as well as providing a range of much needed skills.
Those registered so far include accountants, nurses and teachers as well as
waiters, agricultural workers and hotel porters.

"By
contributing to our economy and paying into the system these accession state
workers are supporting our public services, not being a drain upon them,"
he said.

By Quentin Reade

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