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Volume 479: debated on Monday 1 September 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department which benefits the Government considers to be mainstream benefits, as referred to in her Department’s Green Paper, A Pathway to Citizenship. (190178)

In the Government response to the consultation on the Green Paper ‘the path to citizenship’, we set out that migrants in the temporary residence and probationary citizenship categories will have no access to non-contributory benefits, social assistance, local authority housing or homelessness assistance.

Limited exceptions to this will be where we are meeting our obligations under international agreements and international law. Temporary residents and probationary citizens will have access to a limited number of national insurance based benefits but only once they have paid for them.

Refugees will continue to have access to benefits at all stages of the process.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how her Department plans to verify claims of active citizenship on the part of migrants granted probationary citizenship; and what discussions officials in her Department have had with (a) representatives of the voluntary sector, (b) local authorities and (c) other bodies on their roles in the verification process. (190182)

At paragraph 178 of the Green Paper we have proposed that we will verify activities by written evidence from a referee. This would build on the current application process for citizenship, which requires applicants to submit details of two referees who have known the applicant personally for three years. Knowingly making a false declaration can lead to a penalty of up to three months’ imprisonment or a fine not exceeding £5,000.

Migrants who have contributed to their community would be required to provide a third referee to confirm personally the evidence of active citizenship provided by the applicant, with the same potential penalties applying. We consider that this represents a cost effective and ‘light touch’ regime, which nonetheless provides a clear deterrent for anyone seeking to abuse the process.

We will continue to discuss these proposals with relevant bodies including representatives from local government and the third sector to help us identify the most effective and practical way of implementing this proposal.