Immigrants with multiple wives could claim higher benefit payments thanks to a loophole in the Govern-ment's welfare shake-up, it emerged yesterday.

Under current rules, husbands in polygamous marriages are able to apply for income support and other handouts for their extra spouses. Ministers decided to scrap the rules when the new Universal Benefit system comes in next year to end the "absurd" situation where the state effectively recognises polygamy.

But now officials are concerned that multiple wives will claim full single person's benefits instead, rather than lower-rate payments designed for "couples".

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