PM ‘looking at benefit restrictions’

DOWNING STREET has confirmed it is looking at a possible extension of the length of time new arrivals from the EU have to stay in the UK before claiming benefits.

But the Prime Minister’s official spokesman poured cold water on reports that David Cameron is ready to defy EU rules in order to impose tougher conditions, telling reporters: “The Government acts within the law.”

Concerns have been raised in Westminster over the numbers of Romanians and Bulgarians who might come to the UK when movement controls imposed when they joined the European Union expire in January.

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Asked about reports that the Prime Minister is considering extending the residence period required to gain access to benefits from three months to a year, Mr Cameron’s official spokesman told a regular Westminster media briefing: “You would expect the Government to be looking at whether there is more that could be done. That process is, as you would expect, going on.”

The spokesman said he was not in a position to say when a decision might be made or what changes might be introduced, telling reporters: “I can’t speculate about possible timings or measures.”

Any extension of the bar on benefits would potentially set up a clash with Brussels and a row within the Coalition Government.

The European Commission prevents member states from discriminating between their own citizens and those from other European Union members.