Rt Hon Lord Lilley

    Mr Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden) (Con): As a former Secretary of State for Social Security, may I ask my right hon. Friend to clarify the status of the agreement on migrants’ benefits? The EU has no competence over benefits rules in member states, unless they conflict with the freedom of movement clause in the treaty. If the proposed changes do not conflict with the treaty, we could have introduced them immediately without using up our negotiating clout on this issue. If the changes do conflict with the treaty, they will be struck down by the EU Court, unless the treaty is changed first.

    The Prime Minister: The view is that this emergency brake can be brought in under the existing treaties, but only with legislation through the European Parliament. On an accelerated timetable, the leader of one of the major parties said that that could take one, two or three months. That is what makes it clear that we can act in this way legally and—crucially in my view and, I think, in that of the British public—not just legally, but quickly.