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Call to close sect's benefit loophole
World Tibet Network News
Sunday, July 14, 1996
1. Call to close sect's benefit loophole
The Guardian, London: Saturday 13 July, 1996 (page 10)
Madeleine Bunting - Religious Affairs Editor
Labour has urged the Government to plug a loophole
in housing benefit which Britain's richest and fastest
growing Buddhist sect has exploited to fund the purchase
of a series of substantial properties.
Chris Smith the shadow social security spokesman,
urged an immediate investigation into the New Kadampa
Tradition (NKT), a Buddhist sect set up in 1991 which has
over 20 affiliated residential centres. Former members
claim the majority of the 300 odd residential members are
on housing benefit, which is paid in rent to the centres
to fund their mortgages.
The Department of Social Security is effectively
subsidising the NKT's expansion to the tune of hundreds
of thousands of pounds.
Mr. Smith said: "There must be an immediate
investigation. If there is a loophole, the Government
should plug it as rapidly as possible. Meanwhile members
of the NKT are involved in a series of demonstrations as
the Dalai Lama arrives in Europe today ahead of his
arrival in Britain on Monday. Coach-loads are leaving
from the NKT's headquarters near Ulverston Cumbria, to
attend a demonstration organised by the Shugden
Supporters Community in Zurich.
The demonstrators - they claim that the Dalai Lama
opposes religious freedom because he has banned a
centuries-old religious practice - are also planning to
picket the Buddhist Society in London on Tuesday.
Organisers of the Dalai Lama's UK visit are
increasingly anxious about the possibility of disruption
from the activities of the Shugden Supporters Community
The Tibet government in exile has vigourously
denied the allegations against the Dalai Lama as
More details have emerged following the Guardian's
investigation published last week, of how NKT-affiliated
residential centres use the benefit system.
Early next month, the NKT headquarters at Conishead
Priory, Ulverston, is holding one of it's main fund-
raising events of the year, a two week summer festival
for more than 1,500 followers, likely to generate a
surplus of well over =A3100,000.
Former members of the NKT have come forward to claim
that nearly all the approximately 90 residents of
Conishead Priory are on income support and housing
benefit, which they pay as rent. With rents of =A3160-=A3190
a month, this amounts to the Department of Social
Security paying out more than =A313,000 a month in benefits.
Ex-NKT members claim this pattern is duplicated at many
centres affiliated to the NKT.
Conishead Priory has developed another source of
income during during the festivals, held three times a
year. Residents have to leave the rooms for which they
receive the benefit to make way for paying guests.
Chris Bussell had been a monk in the NKT at Ulverston for
two years before he left last year.
Ultimately Mr Bussell felt he was receiving money he
was not entitled to. The founder of the NKT is a semi-
reclusive Tibetan monk, called Gehe Kelsang. Mr Bussell
decided to hand back his vows and wrote a letter of
explanation to Kelsang, telling him he had a "moral
responsibility to inform people to act within the law."
He received no reply.
Articles in this Issue:
- Call to close sect's benefit loophole
- The god-king and the darling of the Nazis
- Unrest Flares Anew In China
- TiBeT nEt
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