HL Deb 14 March 1978 vol 389 cc1175-7

2.47 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will consider the suggestion by Dr. Nirangan Singh Mangat, Leader of the Granth Sikhs in Britain, that no immigrant should be eligible for social security help until he or she has been in the United Kingdom for 12 months.


My Lords, the qualifying conditions attached to most of the benefits provided under the Social Security Act effectively impose waiting periods before those benefits can become payable. People coming from EEC countries or from countries with which the United Kingdom has reciprocal agreements may qualify for some benefits without waiting. So far as supplementary benefit is concerned, this is a means-tested benefit, based on need and not involving residence or contribution conditions. The Government have no plans for any revision of these arrangements along the lines suggested by Dr. Mangat.


My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. Would he not agree that if this advice were taken it would tend perhaps to get the better class of immigrant to this country? Surely, such a rule would serve to eliminate the type of immigrants who may come here primarily to take advantage of our social services. Is the noble Lord aware that one often reads accounts in the Press—of course they may be exaggerated—saying how families have arrived here and have gone straight into a council house, and that sort of thing?


My Lords, I take the noble Viscount's point. I read the article. I cannot agree with it. This suggestion that a woman may be encouraged at the age of 55 to put her age at 60 in order that when she comes to this country she can automatically qualify for a pension is just not true. If she comes to join her husband, she has been accepted by the Government to come to this country. If she joins him and he has a proper contribution record, then as his wife she is entitled to certain benefits. But to suggest that benefit is automatic is quite untrue.


My Lords, is it not the case that this proposal would be to the disadvantage of many white immigrants other than those covered by the EEC and countries with mutual arrangements, and do not white immigrants now number 30 per cent. of all immigrants coming to this country?


My Lords, I know my noble friend will not misunderstand when I say that I am not concerned about where the immigrants come from; they must observe the regulations in existence in this country. So far as contributory benefits are concerned, there is, as I say, a requirement that a certain amount in insurance contributions must be paid before they can enjoy these benefits. Supplementary benefit, however, is non-contributory and based on need, and once we have accepted an immigrant, regardless of where he or she comes from, if there is a real need then that need is met.


My Lords, who are the Granth Sikhs, and how far are they representative of the Sikh population and community in this country?


I cannot give the House information about that, my Lords; I can only think they are a group within the Sikh community.

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