10/01/2014 10:38 GMT | Updated 25/01/2014 16:01 GMT

Labour MP Slams Chuka Umunna's 'Superfluous' EU Migration Message

Shadow Business Secretary Chuka Umunna addresses the Institute of Directors (IoD) annual conference at the Royal Albert Hall in London.
Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
Shadow Business Secretary Chuka Umunna addresses the Institute of Directors (IoD) annual conference at the Royal Albert Hall in London.

Chuka Umunna's suggestion that a future Labour government could curb the number of EU migrants coming to Britain without a firm job offer has been dismissed as "superfluous" by a senior Labour MP.

Mark Hendrick, member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, warned that the shadow business secretary would fail to change the European Union's principle of free movement and praised the government for already acting to deal with migrant jobseekers claiming benefits.

He told the Huffington Post UK: "The European Union is founded on the basis of the free movement of goods, people and services.

"That principle will remain in perpetuity and neither the current government nor any future Labour government would be allowed by the vast number of other member states of the European Union to deviate from this principle.

"The use of the word jobseekers implies benefit claimants and the government has already changed the law to deal with this problem. The message from Chuka was superfluous."

Hendrick's attack comes after Umunna said on Question Time on Thursday that he had already been in dialogue with "a number" of other EU member states.

He added: "The founders of the European Union had in mind free movement of workers, not free movement of jobseekers. And undoubtedly we do have to work with our European partners to deal with that."

The mounting debate about EU migration controls comes after the expiration of restrictions on Bulgarians and Romanians working in the UK on 1 January, giving them the same right to work in the UK as other EU citizens.

The government introduced new rules that came into force from 1 January which mean that all EU migrants will have to wait three months before they can claim jobseeker's allowance and other out-of-work benefits.

Recently a top EU official accused ministers of fuelling fears about European migrants to distract voters from the country's economic problems.

Viviane Reding fired the broadside from Brussels on Thursday, complaining that government innuendo about an impending “invasion of foreigners”, coming to the UK to steal jobs and benefits, was “simply not true”.

Speaking in a web chat, she said: "Coming back to the subjects which the government of the UK has pushed to the agenda probably in order not to make people speak about the real subjects on the UK, is this supposed invasion of foreigners coming to the UK and stealing the jobs and stealing the social security and health money. The facts and figures - and we all know this - show that it is simply not true."

"Those who take out of the social security are more the nationals - much more the nationals - than the European citizens who take advantage of the free movement."

"So it is just a myth to speak about an invasion."

A UK government spokesman said: "Hard-working people expect and deserve a benefits system that is fair to British citizens and migrants who come here to work but is robust and tough on those who abuse the system and flout the law."