October 8, 2012 Monday 1:27 PM GMT
‘Treasure Island’ of free healthcare and benefits for foreigners must end, says senior Tory
BYLINE: MATT CHORLEY, MAILONLINE POLITICAL EDITOR
LENGTH: 436 words
. Former Cabinet minister John Redwood uses behind-closed-doors policy session to demand an end to handouts for foreign visitors
. Calls for curbs on health and benefit tourism and cuts to legal aid cited
. Says the government needs to find ‘popular cuts’
The government will today face calls from senior Tories to end the ‘Treasure Island’ culture of benefits claimed by foreign visitors to Britain.
Party policy chief Oliver Letwin will be told health tourism, legal aid bills and foreign lorries are costing the UK taxpayer millions of pounds.
Former cabinet minister John Redwood will tell the Tory party conference that George Osborne must go in search of ‘popular cuts’ in order to tackle the deficit.
Two panel debates today will examine ways to cut the deficit and ‘challenge the something for nothing culture’.
The sessions will be held behind closed doors for party members, but Mr Redwood said ministers had to do more to recoup costs from foreign visitors using public services.
Mr Osborne will today set out plans for £10billion to be cut from the welfare budget, targeting British citizens living on benefits.
But Mr Redwood, a former economic and tax adviser to David Cameron, said it would be more popular to reduce the state handouts claimed by people coming to Britain.
He told MailOnline: ‘They need more cuts and they need popular cuts. They need to tackle the Treasure Island syndrome.
‘As a start, anyone who comes here for health tourism should pay for it. They should require hospitals to levy the invoices they should be levying.’
Every year the NHS writes off more than £6million in bad debts and claims against overseas patients which are never paid.
Mr Redwood said the ability to claim benefits should be linked to the right to work.
‘We need to be a lot firmer on benefit entitlement. You can come here to work but we need to pursue those cases and say to Europe you cannot come here on benefits.’
He said the legal aid bill also had to be reduced, including reducing the number of appeals on tourist and immigration cases.
And foreign lorries should face higher charges for using British roads, otherwise road tax risks ‘clobbering our haulage firms’ while rivals from overseas operate free of charge.
Last month Patrick McLoughlin, the Transport Secretary, announced foreign lorries will be charged up to £1,000 a year to use British roads.
UK lorries will also have to pay the levy, but it will be offset by a £1,000 reduction in road tax.
‘We need popular cuts to get the deficit down. We are giving out too many freebies to foreign visitors in a way that we don’t get in other countries,’ Mr Redwood added.
Re-published with the permission of the Daily Mail. Copyright of this article belongs to the paper and the author, Matt Chorley.