Multiple wives will mean multiple benefits

By Jonathan Wynne-Jones
 Last Updated: 2:36am GMT 03/02/2008

  Have  your say <;jsessionid=XCVYUFOIWQFPVQFIQMFCFFWAVCBQYIV0?xml=/news/2008/02/03/nbenefit103.xml&amp;site=5&amp;page=0#form>       Read  comments <;jsessionid=XCVYUFOIWQFPVQFIQMFCFFWAVCBQYIV0?xml=/news/2008/02/03/nbenefit103.xml&amp;site=5&amp;page=0#comments>;jsessionid= XCVYUFOIWQFPVQFIQMFCFFWAVCBQYIV0?xml=/news/2008/02/03/nbenefit103.xml&site=5&page=0    
  Husbands with multiple wives have been given the  go-ahead to claim extra welfare benefits following a year-long  Government review, The Sunday Telegraph can reveal.  Even though bigamy is a crime in Britain, the  decision by ministers means that polygamous marriages can now be  recognised formally by the state, so long as the weddings took place  in countries where the arrangement is legal.   
 The outcome will chiefly benefit Muslim men with  more than one wife, as is permitted under Islamic law. Ministers  estimate that up to a thousand polygamous partnerships exist in  Britain, although they admit there is no exact record. The decision has been condemned by the Tories, who  accused the Government of offering preferential treatment to a  particular group, and of setting a precedent that would lead to  demands for further changes in British law. New guidelines on income support from the Department  for Work and Pensions (DWP) state: “Where there is a valid  polygamous marriage the claimant and one spouse will be paid the  couple rate … The amount payable for each additional spouse is  presently £33.65.” Income support for all of the wives may be paid  directly into the husband’s bank account, if the family so choose.  Under the deal agreed by ministers, a husband with multiple wives  may also be eligible for additional housing benefit and council tax  benefit to reflect the larger property needed for his family. The ruling could cost taxpayers millions of pounds.  Ministers launched a review of the benefit rules for polygamous  marriages in November 2006, after it emerged that some families had  benefited financially. The review concluded in December last year with  agreement that the extra benefits should continue to be paid, the  Government admitted. The decision was not publicly announced. Four departments – the Treasury, the DWP, HM Revenue  and Customs, and the Home Office – were involved in the review,  which concluded that recognising multiple marriages conducted  overseas was “the best possible” option. In Britain, bigamy is  punishable by up to seven years in prison. Islamic law permits men to have up to four wives at  any one time – known as a harem – provided the husband spends equal  amounts of time and money on each of them. A DWP spokesman claimed that the number of people in  polygamous marriages entering Britain had fallen since the 1988  Immigration Act, which “generally prevents a man from bringing a  second or subsequent wife with him to this country if another woman  is already living as his wife in the UK”. While a married man cannot obtain a spouse visa to  bring a second wife into Britain, some multiple partners may be able  to enter the country via other legal routes such as tourist visas,  student visas or work permits.  In addition, officials have identified a potential  loophole by which a man can divorce his wife under British law while  continuing to live with her as his spouse under Islamic law, and  obtain a spouse visa for a foreign woman who he can legally  marry. “Entry clearance may not be withheld from a second  wife where the husband has divorced his previous wife and the  divorce is thought to be one of convenience,” an immigration  rulebook advises. “This is so, even if the husband is still living  with the previous wife and to issue the entry clearance would lead  to the formation of a polygamous household.” Chris Grayling, the shadow work and pensions  secretary, said that the decision was “completely unjustifiable”. “You are not allowed to have multiple marriages in  the UK, so to have a situation where the benefits system is treating  people in different ways is totally unacceptable and will serve to  undermine confidence in the system. “This sets a precedent that will lead to more  demands for the culture of other countries to be reflected in UK law  and the benefits system.” Mr Grayling also accused the Government of trying to  keep the ruling quiet because the topic is so  controversial.

 Have  your say <;jsessionid=XCVYUFOIWQFPVQFIQMFCFFWAVCBQYIV0?xml=/news/2008/02/03/nbenefit103.xml&amp;site=5&amp;page=0#form>      

Information appearing on is the copyright  of Telegraph Media Group Limited and must not be reproduced in any medium  without licence. For the full copyright statement see Copyright <;jsessionid=XCVYUFOIWQFPVQFIQMFCFFWAVCBQYIV0?view=COPYRIGHT&amp;grid=P9>   


Comments are closed.

Looking for something?

Use the form below to search the site:

Still not finding what you're looking for? Drop a comment on a post or contact us so we can take care of it!