Habitual Residence Rules

Oral Answers to Questions — Social Security – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 23 January 1996.

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Photo of Paul Flynn Paul Flynn , Newport West 12:00, 23 January 1996

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what assessment he has made of the effects of the habitual residence rules on British citizens who have lived abroad. [8794]

Photo of Mr Roger Evans Mr Roger Evans , Monmouth

We continue to monitor the position of British citizens who do not satisfy the habitual residence test.

Photo of Paul Flynn Paul Flynn , Newport West

Will the Minister consider the cases of three of my constituents who, for the major part of their lives, have lived in Britain, been British taxpayers and paid national insurance, and are now in real hardship? One of them is a wife, the victim of marital violence, while another is a young woman who is expecting a baby on St. David's day. Was it really the intention of the Government to cheat British citizens and recent British taxpayers of benefits to which they were recently entitled and for which they and their families have paid many times over?

Photo of Mr Roger Evans Mr Roger Evans , Monmouth

If the hon. Gentleman will send me details of the names of his constituents, I shall be happy to look into each of the cases that he has mentioned. I should stress that whether a case meets the test of habitual residence is a matter for the independent adjudicating authorities, and Ministers cannot interfere. The difficulty that he and his Front-Bench colleagues have not addressed is that the reforms, between August 1994 and November 1995, have saved £37 million. To draw up a test that satisfies European law and prevents that sort of abuse was the right way to proceed.

Photo of Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins , Blackpool South

Will my hon. Friend confirm that the need for the habitual residence test has been highlighted by magazines such as Time Out, which described London as a honeypot for young Europeans"? Does he agree that the increasing incidence of benefit tourism has shown that the habitual residence test was vitally necessary and is welcome to British taxpayers, and that our system, when compared with restrictive social security systems on the continent, has been described by Time Out as "generous"?

Photo of Mr Roger Evans Mr Roger Evans , Monmouth

My hon. Friend is right on every point.