ONE of the hot topics frequently in the headlines over the new year period has been the possibility that many tens of thousands of migrants could come to this country from Romania and Bulgaria.

It now seems that the floodgates have not opened quite as predicted, with some of the more outlandish claims about flights being sold out exposed as false.

Immigration once again hit the news this weekend as Iain Duncan Smith gave an interview proposing that European Union migrants should be banned from claiming welfare payments for up to two years.

The difference between benefits available across the EU does make this a very emotive issue for British citizens to accept in an era of pay freezes and constrained public expenditure.

One particularly controversial issue for which I have enormous sympathy is claiming child benefit and child tax credit in the UK for a child who resides full time in the immigrant’s country of origin. It is surely right to look at why the state is paying for 40,000 children who do not live here, at a cost of £1million every week to the taxpayer.

Clearly, it is not fair for these anomalies to continue to exist. Neither do I believe it is racist or xenophobic to want to see limited resources allocated fairly to those who make a contribution in this country.

I welcome the steps that have been taken by the Government, and look forward to the European Commission producing wider proposals for curbing so called “benefits tourism” later this year.

However, I do not think it is realistic for the British Government to unilaterally pull out of all the responsibilities we have signed up to as a kneejerk response.

Only wholesale reform and then a public referendum will allow these issues to be fully scrutinised, and a democratic decision to be taken by the people about where our future should lie.

I passionately support the efforts to pass the Conservative 2017 referendum into law, and I am pleased to see it is in the safe hands of Lord Dobbs of Wylye, who is seeking to pilot it through the House of Lords.