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Benefits: Polygamy

Volume 686: debated on Tuesday 7 November 2006

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether welfare benefits are paid in respect of more than one wife in a polygamous marriage in the case of (a) wives in this country; and (b) wives abroad; and, if so, how many recipients there are in each category.[HL6862]

Regulations to address claimants who are in a polygamous marriage have been in force for some time. For instance, in relation to income support, current regulations were introduced in 1987.

For contributory benefits, no dependants’ increases are payable for any wives where a polygamous household exists, and British law recognisesthose marriages. Where we recognise one of the marriages, any dependants’ increases in contributory benefits would be paid only in respect of that one marriage.

Income-related benefits can be paid for more than one wife in a polygamous marriage where British law recognises the marriage and where the general conditions of entitlement for those benefits are met. This would apply where the marriages were conducted in a country that recognises polygamy and in which the parties to each marriage were domiciled at the time of their marriage. The amount of benefit payable includes personal allowances for the male spouse and one partner at the appropriate couple rate. For each other partner, benefit is payable at the difference between the couple rate and the higher rate for a single person. In general, therefore, there is no financial advantage to claiming for those in polygamous marriages.

Increases in income-related benefits are not payable for wives who do not reside in Great Britain.

Any member of a polygamous marriage can claim a contributory or non-contributory social security benefit in his or her own right where he or she satisfies the relevant conditions of entitlement.

No figures are available for the number of claimants in polygamous marriages where income-related benefits are in payment.