As with so many other statements made by the Cameron government, the ’emergency brake’ has been stopped in its tracks – with facts gained from an unwilling HMRC.
It seems that, instead of affecting 148,000 people, this ’emergency brake’ would in fact affect 84,000 migrant families.
Even then, “migrant families” include families in which one parent and the children may be UK citizens, meaning many of the 84,000 who would be affected are from this country.
Perhaps most damningly, the total number of EU migrants living in the UK in the first quarter of last year was around three million. The number of migrants affected by this ’emergency brake’ isn’t 40 per cent of that total (1,200,000). It isn’t even four per cent; it’s 2.8 per cent. And many of them are UK citizens.
Any claim that this part of Cameron’s ‘deal’ will have any tangible effect on inward migration from the EU is nonsense.
Furthermore, let’s pay the attention it deserves to the fact that HMRC did not willingly honour the Guardian‘s Freedom of Information request, and only surrendered the facts under orders from the Information Commissioner (as the DWP did with my FoI request on benefit claimant deaths).
In both cases, it seems the government departments concerned were more interested in hiding the facts, for the benefit of the Conservative Government, than in freedom of information. That is not the purpose of the Freedom of Information Act.
FoI procedures are currently under review.
It is clear from the evidence we have that the rules need to be strengthened in the public’s favour, rather than that of the government.
These bureaucrats are meddling with our right to the facts.
A total of 84,000 EU migrant families on tax credits would have been affected by David Cameron’s “emergency brake” if it had been introduced four years ago, official figures reveal.
The number – released by HMRC six months after it was first requested by the Guardian – appears far smaller than had been suggested by the prime minister in previous public statements justifying the plan.
Cameron had appeared to indicate that many more families would be affected. Speaking in the Commons on Wednesday, he claimed 40% of EU migrants coming to Britain access the in-work benefits system. A briefing from Number 10 and given to the Times [paywall] in November said this amounted to 148,000 people.
At the time, the government refused to explain the way the figures – given to the Times and provided by the DWP – had been calculated or give a detailed breakdown. The UK statistics authority said the way those figures were presented by the DWP was “unsatisfactory”.
Jonathan Portes, principal research fellow at the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, said: “This new data shows that the prime minister’s claim that 40% of recently arrived European migrants were dependent on benefits was at best selective and misleading.”
A second set of figures – also obtained on Thursday four months after they were first requested – show that one in 10 “migrant couples” on tax credits actually include one UK national. HMRC considers a family to be an EU migrant family when at least one member of that family is a migrant from elsewhere in the EU.
Given this broad definition, it remains unclear how many British nationals and their children could be hit by an emergency brake targeted at “migrant families”.
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