Benefit Scam and Obama poking his nose in our business
This latest benefits scam sparked outrage last night.
Loopholes in the system mean cheats are free to return to their homeland while being paid £87.55 a week. Workers from the EU see our 28-week statutory sick pay as easy pocket money.
Some even claim the payments while holding down second jobs back home. The deception was rumbled by company managers across Britain who say they are powerless to act.
The scandal confirms Britain has “lost the plot on immigration,” said a Ukip MEP last night.
It comes days after the Government conceded it was helpless to stop £30million a year in child benefit payments flowing out of Britain for the off-spring of EU migrants working here.
The Department for Work and Pensions said the system is not abused but admitted it does not keep records on sick pay for migrant workers. But it is worried enough to urge companies to report staff suspected of lying.
Last night a payroll manager at a firm in the South-west employing Polish drivers said one took 16 weeks sick leave last year and has racked up 12 weeks this year.
This scandal once again demonstrates the Government has lost the plot on controlling immigration
Tim Aker, Ukip MEP
The company says the man has a second job abroad but as they receive certificates from his Polish doctor the absence goes unchallenged.
Two other drivers have also travelled home while claiming sick pay for long stretches.
The manager said: “Days before the employee is due to return we receive a doctor’s note and just before that expires, we will receive another one, and so it continues.
“How is it right an individual is paid benefits when they are not even in the country? It is happening and there is nothing we can do about it.”
The scam is a particular burden for smaller companies as employers are responsible for sick pay and cannot get a refund. Before rules changed in April this year, firms could claim back the money.
By law, employees can self-certify sickness for seven days. After that, companies can seek a doctor’s note.
Official guidance says notes from GPs are “strong evidence” of legitimate absence – £50million was paid out in the last tax year.
Doctors are told they should not issue sick notes longer than 13 weeks in the first six months of an illness.
Ukip MEP Tim Aker said: “This scandal once again demonstrates the Government has lost the plot on controlling immigration. Britain needs to get a grip and stop those seeking to milk the system. We can only realistically do it by getting out of the EU.”
A DWP spokesman said: “There are already strict rules in place to stop people abusing sick pay.”
Yesterday, when asked about “benefits tourism,” Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said: “A good example of that is The Big Issue, a magazine which is a brilliant idea by a brilliant individual who himself was homeless.
“It is wonderful. But actually what is happening more and more, is people mostly from southern and eastern Europe have ended up being Big Issue sellers and they claim, as self-employed, immediately, tax credits.”
Barack Obama last night made a plea for Scotland to remain in the UK.
In his first intervention in the independence debate, Mr Obama said the US wanted Britain to remain ‘strong, robust, united and effective’.
His comments delighted Downing Street insiders, who dubbed the US president ‘Nobama’.
Barack Obama jumped into British politics today by calling for a 'No' vote in the independence referendum. He also called for Britain to stay in the EU
While Mr Cameron will openly welcome the President's intervention in the Scottish and EU debates, there is likely to be concern in Downing Street that it will reinforce the impression that the political class are out of touch with ordinary Brits
The pair held bilateral security talks on the fringes of the G7 meeting of world leaders in Brussels today. But in a press conference afterwards, Mr Obama upsetting Scottish nationalists and Tory eurosceptics with his praise for the UK and EU
The PM said his renegotiation of Britain's relationship with Brussels was designed to keep the country in the EU
Mr Obama's - speaking at a joint press conference during the G7 Summit at the European Council in Brussels today - risked diplomatic anger over his insistence that Britain should stay in the EU
The US President also admitted that he was likely to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin at tomorrow's D-Day ceremonies
Standing with David Cameron at a G7 press conference in Brussels, President Obama made it clear that Washington would prefer to see Scots vote No in September, rather than face the uncertainty involved in the break-up of one of its closest allies.
He said the UK’s future was ‘up to the people of Great Britain’ but added: ‘From the outside, at least, it looks like things have worked pretty well.
‘And, you know, we obviously have a deep interest in making sure that one of the closest allies that we will ever have remains a strong, robust, united and effective partner. But ultimately these are decisions that are going to be made by the folks there.’
Mr Cameron nodded but made no comment as Mr Obama spoke. But a Downing Street source welcomed the American leader’s remarks, adding: ‘We certainly agree the UK has been strong, robust, united and effective.’
President Obama and Mr Cameron held a bilateral meeting during the G7 Summit at the European Council today. They were joined by US National Security Adviser Susan Rice (front left) and the UK's Kim Darroch (front right)
Mr Cameron met Russian President Vladimir Putin at Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris before they travelled to France ahead of the 70th anniversary D-Day commemorations
The Prime Minister's meeting with Mr Putin came after the G7 leaders met in Brussels after refusing to attend a planned conference in Russia
Russia's leader did not appear concerned that he had been rebuked by Mr Cameron and US President Barack Obama for his annexation of Crimea
The intervention from the US president electrified the No campaign in Scotland. Cross-party group Better Together mocked up a famous poster of Mr Obama with the word ‘Hope’ replaced by ‘Nope’.
Shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander said: ‘As a global statesman, President Obama understands that interdependence is a defining feature of our modern world and that building bridges, not putting up new barriers, is the challenge of our generation.’
Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson described the president’s intervention as the ‘most internationally significant to date’.
‘He clearly recognises the strong and effective partnership his country has with the UK and our many shared achievements through the years,’ she said. ‘Scotland walks taller, shouts louder and stands stronger on the world stage because we are part of the United Kingdom.’
Willie Rennie, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, said the US president had made a ‘significant contribution to our discussion about our future’.
Mr Cameron held private talks after a G7 session dedicated to the global economy and the Ukraine crisis in Brussels today
President Obama’s words angered some nationalists, but Scottish National Party leader Alex Salmond, who has never met Mr Obama, last night tried to play down their significance.
Recycling the US leader’s election campaign slogan, Mr Salmond told BBC Radio Scotland: ‘So, in summary, I suppose my message to President Obama is “yes we can” … An independent Scotland will mean that America has two great friends and allies here rather than one.’
The strength of President Obama’s comments took Downing Street by surprise as it is highly unusual for the US leader to intervene in the domestic affairs of a close ally. Former Labour Foreign Office minister Lord Malloch-Brown said: ‘Foreign, unsolicited advice is only going to anger Scots. I’m surprised that he has stepped in.’
■ Barack Obama said yesterday he ‘makes no apologies’ for the controversial release of US Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl in a Taliban prisoner swap.
He said the soldier’s health was deteriorating and added: ‘We were deeply concerned about it. We saw an opportunity and we seized it.’