Cameron responds to Ukip support rise by pledging immigrant housing restrictions
Prime minister says migrants must pay tax for two years to be eligible for council housing, while Ukip leader Nigel Farage proposes range of restrictions for new immigrants
Ukip leader Nigel Farage told the party’s spring conference new immigrants in the UK should have no access to council housing for five years. Photograph: Getty Images.
Immigrants to Britain, including those from other European Union states, will be denied places on council housing lists unless they have worked and paid taxes for two years, under plans due to be announced today.
The commitment from prime minister David Cameron is being made in response to growing disquiet over immigration — which partly explains the rise in support for the UK Independence Party.
As many as one in 10 council houses currently go to immigrants, particularly in the east of England, where voters are more likely to vote Ukip.
Ukip leader Nigel Farage said on Saturday immigrants should have no access to council housing or the National Health Service for five years, and then “only if they have paid their taxes and obeyed the law”.
“It can’t make sense to have open labour markets when we have one million young people unemployed,” Mr Farage told the Ukip spring conference in Exeter.
“In the early days you could tell it was a Ukip meeting by the number of Bomber Command ties in the room, but that was 20 years ago,” he told The Irish Times later.
Support for the party is now coming from people who had previously voted Conservative or Labour because they see that the British government “is no longer in control” of major questions, he said.
“You are as likely to find Ukip voters in a working men’s club in Leeds or Hull, in a hard Labour trade-unionised area, as you are in a genteel ladies’ tea room in Cheltenham or in a Lib Dem voting village on the Cornish coast: that’s our strength,” he said.
In the 1970s and 1980s, British elections were dominated by the measures needed to tackle overly powerful trades unions who frequently brought factories and the country to a halt.
“We don’t even discuss this any more, because there is nothing that we can do about it. We have degenerated over the last four elections into the whole thing being a beauty contest where we talk about schools and hospitals – because we are still in control of those – and everybody tries to brush the really big issues under the carpet,” he said.
Denying accusations of prejudice against foreigners, Mr Farage said Ukip’s platform was seen as “flag-waving [and] jingoistic, and if you appear on the scene with that pitch people assume that underlying that there is another agenda”.
However, he said Ukip is now the only party that bars from membership individuals who previously had been in the British National Party or other such organisations.
“Even the Conservatives and Labour don’t do that,” he said.
Forty years ago, UK supporters of EU membership were seen as progressive, while opponents were seen as wanting to hitch themselves to an outdated commonwealth, he said.
Mr Farage argues that today, in contrast, the EU is seen as “the old status quo, desperately attempting to defend itself, saying that if you were to leave, the sky would fall in and things would be awful”.