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Benefit Entitlement (Restriction) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:09 pm on 5th February 2016.

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Photo of Christopher Chope Christopher Chope Conservative, Christchurch 2:09 pm, 5th February 2016

In responding briefly to this debate, I thank everybody who has participated, particularly my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley, who supported the Bill.

I join everybody in the House who has paid tribute to Harry Harpham, whose tenure in this place was far too short. He had a distinguished period of public service over many years and it is extraordinary to think that he was deprived of the opportunity to spend longer as the Member for Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough.

The Minister basically said that the Government are very sympathetic to what I am trying to achieve in the Bill, but at the moment their hands are tied by European Union law. That point was reinforced this morning in an interview on the “Today” programme, which you may have heard, Madam Deputy Speaker, in which a former advocate-general made it clear that the only way in which we can regain control over our own laws in this House of Commons is to leave the European Union, and that no side deal can be done that would remove the sovereignty of the European Court of Justice in deciding these issues for us.

In looking at the rights of people from the EU and the European economic area who are not UK citizens to access our benefits regime, we are completely stymied by the fact that the European Union regards everybody inside the boundaries of the European Union as effectively members of one country with a common citizenship. I believe that the citizens of this country have a distinct and, frankly, superior citizenship right to those from other European Union countries. Why should we not be able to decide, in our own sovereign Parliament and our own sovereign country, who should and who should not have access to our benefits system? That is the principle at the heart of the Bill to which my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley referred.

A couple of years ago, the then Deputy Prime Minister, whom I have quoted, expressed amazement that people from outside the United Kingdom could obtain child benefit for their children who were not even living in the United Kingdom. We have not even resolved that matter in the draft agreements that the Prime Minister has brought back from his negotiations.

What is contained in the Bill needs to be introduced and implemented by this Parliament, but that cannot be done until we leave the European Union. Recognising that sad reality, but hoping for the best in the referendum, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Motion and Bill, by leave, withdrawn.