Times of India, February 4, 2008
LONDON: The Gordon Brown government has reportedly cleared a proposal that will allow husbands with multiple wives to claim extra welfare benefits.
According to the Sunday Telegraph , bigamy is regarded as a crime in Britain and is punishable by up to seven years in prison, but this decision allows for recognition of polygamous marriages so long as such weddings take place in countries where it is legal. Ministers estimate that up to a thousand polygamous partnerships exist in Britain, although they admit there is no exact record.
Britain’s Conservative Party has condemned the proposal, accusing the government of offering preferential treatment to a particular group, and of setting a precedent that would lead to demands for further changes in British law.
New guidelines on income support from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) state: “Where there is a valid polygamous marriage the claimant and one spouse will be paid the couple rate. The amount payable for each additional spouse is presently £33.65.”
Income support for all the wives may be paid directly into the husband’s bank account, if the family so chooses. Under the deal, a husband with multiple wives may also be eligible for additional housing benefit and council tax benefit to reflect the larger property needed for his family. The ruling could cost taxpayers millions of pounds.