Clause 51 — Period of entitlement to contributory allowance

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Prime Minister – in the House of Commons at 12:45 pm on 1st February 2012.

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Photo of Chris Grayling Chris Grayling The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions 12:45 pm, 1st February 2012

I cannot give an undertaking in all circumstances, because every circumstance will be different. But 90% of those who presently receive ESA on youth grounds will be eligible for income-related ESA. It will depend on the circumstances of each individual case.

We have already mentioned the fact that the Government amendments allow claimants to re-qualify for a further award of contributory ESA after their ESA has ceased as a result of time limiting, and they are later placed in the support group because of a deterioration in their health. That applies equally to ESA youth claimants.

There is, however, another factor to take into account—and this, again, is an example of why this is about more than just money. We must also consider the impact of the Stewart judgment given in the European Court on 21 July 2011, as a result of which someone living abroad can qualify for benefit without having to satisfy the past presence test, if they can demonstrate a genuine and sufficient link to the United Kingdom. The Court determined that Ms Stewart arguably could demonstrate a link with the UK because she was in receipt of another UK benefit, was dependent on her parents, who were UK pensioners, and had spent a significant part of her life in the UK.

We want people to qualify only if they have lived in the UK recently prior to the claim, but we are also obliged to take account of the Court’s case-law view of what constitutes a sufficient link. We strongly disagree with the Court’s ruling. The effect of that EU judgment is that we can no longer have a blanket past presence test of this kind for benefit claimants. As a result, the

ESA youth provision is potentially more widely available than intended, and given that we are bound by EU law, there is nothing, short of abolition, that we can do by way of domestic legislation—even primary legislation—to change its effect. As a consequence, we could end up paying this benefit, on a long-term unconditional basis, to more people who have never lived in the United Kingdom but who can simply demonstrate a link to it.