Photo of Edward Balls

Edward Balls (Economic Secretary, HM Treasury; Normanton, Labour)

Robust counter-terrorist finance measures help to save lives and hold terrorists to account for their actions, and the Government constantly review the operation of their financial sanctions against terrorist suspects.

In accordance with UN Security Council Resolutions, countries are required to freeze the assets of individuals who are involved with terrorism and stop them receiving payments. For example UNSCR 1390 (2002) calls upon states to "Freeze without delay the funds and other financial assets or economic resources of these (listed) individuals, groups, undertakings and entities, including funds derived from property owned or controlled, directly or indirectly, by them or by persons acting on their behalf or at their direction, and ensure that neither these nor any other funds, financial assets or economic resources are made available, directly or indirectly, for such persons' benefit." This is implemented in the UK through EC Regulation 881(2002) and the Al-Qaeda and Taliban (United Nations Measures) Order 2002.

To ensure that these sanctions do not contravene basic human rights, UN Security Council Resolution 1452 states that payments that are "necessary for basic expenses including payments for foodstuffs, rent or mortgage, medicines and medical treatment, taxes, insurance premiums and public utility charges" should be paid under a licence approved by a competent authority. Licences are considered and approved by HM Treasury under the relevant EC Regulation and Order.

In the UK, it is a requirement that when an individual is listed for involvement in terrorism, including an association with Al-Qaeda, state benefits paid direct to them are immediately suspended. Payments are approved under licence by the Treasury generally only where benefits are necessary to meet basic needs.

The Government have decided that, given the fact that household income is generally pooled, state benefits paid to individuals sharing the same household with a listed person would be, directly or indirectly, for the listed person's benefit and should therefore be subject to appropriate restrictions and conditions.

The following procedures will apply to all state benefits paid to a household which includes a listed person, or to which a listed person is attached:

State benefit payments will be suspended pending the granting of a licence by the Treasury.

Licences will be issued by the treasury in accordance with our legal obligations. Where licensed payments are approved, the Treasury will apply appropriate detailed safeguards to ensure that surplus funds are not made available to the listed person. This will be assessed on a case-by-case basis on the basis of risk.

This procedure is currently being applied in respect of the households of five listed individuals. In each of these cases, the Government have suspended payments of child benefit and in two of these cases also tax credits pending the granting of licences. In four cases, because of the absence of other income, the Government are paying interim support to the households concerned. Once licences are obtained, these interim payments will stop and payments will restart under the appropriate licence conditions.

In four of these cases, applications for the approval of licences are being considered by the United Nations Sanctions Committee. Subject to UN approval, the Treasury will issue licences for the payment of relevant benefits and tax credits to the households concerned. In the fifth case, an application has been submitted to the UN today.

Strict licence conditions will apply to payments in each of these cases. As part of these conditions and on the basis of a risk assessment, in three of these cases, the Treasury will require the appointment of a third party, who will control the onward disbursement and use of benefit funds to protect against the risk that these funds are diverted to terrorism and ensure that all licensing conditions are enforced and monitored.

It is the Government's intention that following UN approval, licences will be granted as soon as possible subject to the appropriate licence conditions to guard against funds being diverted.

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