A Conservative Lord was accused of “making a problem up” as he claimed the UK welfare system was an incentive for European migrants to come to Britain.
Earl Courtown was speaking in the Lords during a debate on the process of UK’s renegotiations with the EU ahead of an in/out referendum before the end of 2017.
The Earl, who acts as Government whip in the Lords, was twice interrupted by Labour peer Baroness Morgan of Ely after making the claims.
The Government spokesman conceded that he would take her comments to the Department of Work and Pensions to investigate the claims he had made.
Speaking from across the despatch box, Earl Courtown said that freedom of movement is one of the four key freedoms in the EU and "these negotiations do not seek to curtail these freedoms."
But he claimed that such a high level of migration “undermines economic growth in their own countries and belief in the fairness of free movement in destination countries.
He added: “That means reforming welfare to reduce the incentive to encourage such mass migration from Europe including the very generous way that you can access our welfare system and in-work benefits almost on day one of arrival in Britain.
“We must also my Lords develop other freedoms, in particular the freedom of movement of services and capital to ensure that this is not just free movement of people that contributes to convergence of living standards across Europe.”
Baroness Morgan said: “You keep repeating things that are simply not true.
“I would ask you to go back to the Department of Work and Pension and ask for the figures and make sure that there’s an understanding that this is not abuse in the way that you are making out that it is.
“Let’s not talk up this issue because it’s not a problem. You are making a problem up.”
Earl Courtown replied: “I already committed to the noble Baroness that I would actually take this back and look at this issue.”Suggest a correction