EU: Benefits restriction on terror suspects' wives ruled illegal
Restrictions on the payment of welfare benefits to wives of terror suspects imposed by Ed Balls when he was a Treasury minister have been ruled illegal by the European court of justice.
The decision follows a challenge to the regime brought by three women whose husbands appear on a UN list of terror suspects who have been linked to al-Qaida, the Taliban and Osama bin Laden.
The bank accounts and other assets of those who appear on the UN sanctions list have been frozen under a European Union regulation.
The initial Treasury decision in 2006, endorsed by Balls, ruled that benefit payments to cover basic expenses such as food could be made to the wives of terror suspects as long as certain conditions were met to ensure that their husbands did not benefit.
The three conditions included withdrawing only £10 in cash for each member of the household from their personal bank account; sending a detailed monthly account with receipts to the Treasury, and accepting that making cash available to their husbands would be a criminal offence.
The EU's court, based in Luxembourg, has rejected this interpretation of the rules, saying the objective of the asset freezing regime was to stop them having access to resources to support terrorist activities.
The court's ruling said it was not in dispute that the benefit payments were being used to meet the essential needs of the household: "It is hard to imagine how those funds could be turned into means that could be used to support terrorist activities, for the benefits are fixed at a level intended to meet only the strictly vital needs of the persons concerned." The judges said the Treasury was wrong to assume that there was "any danger whatsover" that the benefit payments would be used to support terrorist activities.
Source: Guardian (English)