This is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but the main purpose of child benefit is to support families resident in the UK. However, child benefit is classed as a “family benefit” under EC social security co-ordinating regulations. When an EEA national works and pays compulsory national insurance contributions in the UK, that person is entitled to UK family benefits, even if their family remains in another EEC country.
I note the Minister’s reply, although at the 2003 European meeting agreeing the eligibility for child benefits, the British Government were represented by the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, which suggests that the Department has an interest in this matter.
Would the Minister, together with colleagues, agree to set out in the Library within the next month her proposals for reforming a system under which the British taxpayer not only pays child benefit to non-UK European families who do not work and whose children live abroad, but pays up to four times as much in benefit as the children get from their own Government?
I can understand my hon. Friend’s frustration about this matter, but I reiterate that it is a policy area for the Treasury and it is also an issue that we have inherited. Many other nations are as concerned as he is about this issue and I am sure that my colleagues in the Treasury will be looking at it in detail.
Does the Minister agree that her own Department has indicated that enlargement of the European Union has benefited the economy of this country? If people who come from the EU pay their taxes, they should be entitled to get child benefit.
As my hon. Friend the Member for North East Cambridgeshire (Stephen Barclay) said, it is the inconsistency and the difference between benefits payable in this country and in the home country that rightly causes concern. It is right that the Treasury should look at this issue in detail.