Miliband targets migrant benefits

Labour could bar migrants from claiming out-of-work benefits for more than six months, Ed Miliband suggested as he insisted immigration to the UK could be brought down without leaving the EU.

Ed Miliband holds a Q&A session with staff at the Airbus factory in Broughton, North Wales, during a day of campaigning for next week's local and European elections
Ed Miliband holds a Q&A session with staff at the Airbus factory in Broughton, North Wales, during a day of campaigning for next week's local and European elections

Mr Miliband indicated that he was considering extending his existing pledge to double the wait from three months as he campaigned ahead of next week's European elections.

With Ukip on course according to some polls to win the election, the Labour leader again sought to distance himself from the party's past approach on immigration, saying it would "never again turn our backs on people" who were concerned about the issue.

He used a campaign speech in North Wales to take on the eurosceptic party, which has put immigration at the heart of its campaign to withdraw Britain from the EU.

"Now some people might be asking: can we really deal with these concerns and stay within the European Union? My answer is yes," he told workers at the Airbus factory in Broughton.

"But the EU needs to change."

Mr Miliband said in March that he wanted a six-month limit as well as an end to child benefit and child tax credit claims for children not living in the UK.

Asked about his plans on BBC Radio 4's The World At One, he said: "We should make the amount of time before people can claim jobseeker's allowance longer, at least to six months, possibly longer."

Mr Miliband said that fears about immigration were a factor in the "deep discontent" among voters but said Britain needed skilled foreign workers.

"We will never again turn our backs on people who are worried about immigration," he said in his speech.

"But neither will we turn our back on the rest of the world.

"Our openness can help us build a more prosperous country. But we will do it in a way that advances, and doesn't hold back, people's ability to build a better life for themselves and their families."

He told the BBC he was not to be drawn however into setting targets for the numbers allowed into the UK - which would be an "unrealistic" promise.

Politicians had to "honestly face up to what we can and can't do", he said.

Labour was determined to find ways to "reduce the pull of low-wage migration" - such as better e nforcing the minimum wage, stopping agencies recruiting only foreigners and forcing firms to take on apprentices if they hired overseas workers.

It would also, he said, introduce stronger border controls and insist new arrivals learned to speak English.