HC Deb 27 June 1985 vol 81 cc1098-132


Mr. Field

I make no excuse for the poor attendance of Labour Members. Even if they are in Committees, it does not excuse their constant poor attendance on social security issues which are of such vital importance. The more we say that, the more chance there is that the powers that be will take note and persuade Labour Members to attend debates, even though they do not wish to speak.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

Will my hon. Friend accept that he is being a little unfair? My hon. Friend knows that there are Committees meeting in the House today and, indeed, every day, which hon. Members must attend. It is not that these debates are any less or more important than those in Committee. Hon. Members cannot be in two places at once. My hon. Friend only aggravates the problem further.

Mr. Field

Not even Labour Members can be in two places at once.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Ernest Armstrong)

Order. This is a short debate. The hon. Gentleman must not get carried away with sedentary interventions, which delay the debate.

Mr. Robert Hughes

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It ill becomes hon. Members such as the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton), who has just returned from a swanning trip to South Africa, to complain about the absence of Labour Members from the House.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

The hon. Gentleman knows that that is not a matter for me. I must say that running commentaries from a sedentary position do not help the debate.

Mr. Frank Field

You were right to reprimand me, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I hope that the point will have been taken by Labour Members.

When the Government set up their reviews of the social security system they were going to invite me to give evidence. But when the Minister of State realised that not much attention would be paid to the evidence, that invitation never materialised. Had I given evidence to the committee, I would have put forward the option of taxing child benefit. Although I wish to see a massive increase in child benefit, as my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) wishes, taxation on child benefit is an option that we should consider without such an increase. Although there are difficulties with such a policy, it would fulfil many of the Government's objectives vis-à-vis family policy. The Government say that they wish to target benefit on the poorest. If we tax child benefit, we shall have an effective targeting policy without any of the take-up problems. Most families with children have a tax threshold above the supplementary benefit level, so we would not be clawing back off the poorest in work. We would be taking from those paying the higher rate of tax. Those on the standard rate of tax would not be worse off, and the gain from that policy would be concentrated on the poorest. That would be an effective targeting policy.

Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough and Horncastle)

There is a further option upon which the hon. Gentleman might want to comment—converting child benefit to a tax allowance.

Mr. Field

I shall not follow up that remark because this is a short debate and I should like to see a complete change of tax allowance policy. I believe that we should be moving towards phasing out tax allowances so as to reduce tax rates, but this is not the time to develop that argument.

There are two difficulties with the policy that I have suggested. One is that we should be transferring income within the household. The increased tax would be paid largely by males in work and the money would go to women. Some would see that as a disadvantage and if one were in government one might say that it is a disadvantage. Those of us who wish to see the position of women in our society strengthened would no doubt see it as an advantage.

Another disadvantage is that under the rules for taxing income, that change would mean that the child benefit of those on supplementary benefit would be liable to tax. I suggest that if the Government made such a proposal, they should exempt from tax the child benefit of those on supplementary benefit. At one stroke that would give the Government one of their other objectives—the creation of a family premium within the supplementary benefit system—without creating new administration.

Mr. Favell

I am most interested in what the hon. Gentleman is saying. He has gone a long way towards dealing with the point that I raised with him earlier. The only problem with his suggestion is that taxing child benefit would lead to people being taxed twice. They would be taxed once to provide the money and then taxed on the benefit in the hands of the wife. Could he deal with that problem?

Mr. Field

I cannot deal with it, because I do not fully understand the hon. Gentleman's point, and if I give way again it will delay the debate.

The Secretary of State raised a further objection to that proposal—that the policy would lead to a lowering of the tax threshold. It would be useful if we could make some changes in the language that we use in approaching these debates. While the policy would lead to a change in the tax threshold, it would not lead to a change in the effective tax-free income. Both sides of the House must stop playing the game that when they are in opposition they score points by saying that tax thresholds have been lowered when the tax-free income has been increased and, vice versa, when they are in office. Equally, we need new ways of approaching our categories of public expenditure. If we pay the money as child benefit it appears as public expenditure, but if it is paid as a child tax allowance it does not. The same resources are being used, yet the amount appears differently in the public expenditure accounts. It is marked as a plus or a minus depending upon where one

This is an important debate. Its importance is not completely matched by the number of hon. Members present, but it is matched by the interests of those hon. Members who are in the Chamber. We have reached a watershed in the child benefit debate especially in view of the reaction from the Conservative Benches. That must be taken on board. If there is so little support for increasing the universal benefit in line with tax allowances those whose interests have been to see the furtherance of the benefits must regroup and rethink their position. I am suggesting one avenue of advance which would lead to a considerable increase in the cash payment going to women. It would achieve some of the Government's other objectives on targeting and a family premium within the supplementary benefit system and, above all, it would concentrate resources on the poorest — those in our society who earn poverty wages.

5.54 pm
Mr. Charles Morrison (Devizes)

Like the hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field), I acknowledge and welcome the uprating of benefits announced by my right hon. Friend last week. I do not claim even a fraction of the hon. Member's knowledge of social security, but I share his anxiety about child benefit. I hope that my right hon. Friend will forgive me if I say that I am a little perplexed. He reiterated several times this afternoon that child benefit is important, but it seems to me that we are working ourselves into a position in which we believe and say one thing and do another.

We have already been reminded this afternoon of how my right hon. Friend's predecessor said that the Government were committed to the child benefit system and that, subject to economic and other circumstances, child benefit would be uprated each year to maintain its value. The Government constantly remind us of the improvements in our economic circumstances, yet they are now cutting child benefit.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has more than once emphasised the value and importance of child benefit. Many times before today, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has done likewise, yet the Government are increasing child benefit by only 2 per cent., in the face of an inflation rate of 7 per cent. Furthermore, they are doing that not just in the face of their former statements but in the face of a great deal of support from elsewhere for the maintenance of the level of child benefit.

The Child Poverty Action Group brief has been referred to. I find it extremely helpful. Among other things, it referred to the view of the Policy Studies Institute which, I think, is accepted to be a reasonably objective organisation. The institute has concluded that the most efficient mechanism for directing more help to poorer families is an increase in child benefit.

Again, we have been told that apparently no fewer than 38 voluntary organisations have written to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister complaining about a cut in child benefit. We have also been told about the recent MORI poll which showed that 75 per cent. of mothers said that child benefit was "essential" or "important" for providing for the needs of their children, and that 77 per cent. of mothers said that it was "essential" or "important" as a regular payment paid directly to them.

I received a letter today from the chairman of a committee in my constituency which represents numerous organisations. The lady wrote: The Committee are shocked at the proposed minimal rise in Child Benefit when compared with the rate of inflation and the increases to other similar benefits. The lady expressed disgust in support of those whose families are struggling to survive on low incomes or unemployment benefit.

The views of the Conservative women's national committee have already been described, but it is important that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State should remember them. That committee stated: We recommend that, as economic circumstances permit, child benefit is increased in line with increases in tax allowances or at least protected against rising prices. The Government are doing neither. I know that my right hon. Friend has said that one-parent benefit will be increased by the full 7 per cent., that family income supplement will be increased by more than 7 per cent. to provide extra help—that is welcome—and that some other family benefits will be similarly improved. However, we have been informed that only 16 per cent. of the £175 million saved by not adjusting child benefit fully in line with inflation is being used to improve benefits for low-income families.

Thus, I hope that my right hon. Friend will forgive me for saying that I am a little perplexed. The Government position seems perverse in the face of their earlier commitments and in the face of public opinion. Their position even seems perverse in the face of the Government amendment which praises child benefit. Indeed, after my right hon. Friend's speech today the Government's position appears perverse in the light of his own remarks.

The amendment seems to suggest that the cause of the Government's proposals for uprating child benefit so inadequately is the Government's recent review of social security. That review has a great deal to commend it and it has a commitment to the continuation of child benefit, but it is only at the Green Paper stage. The Government should not anticipate the ultimate results of that until a new system is agreed by the House. The Government should maintain the best of what exists in our present social security system, and that includes a properly uprated child benefit.

6.2 pm

Mr. Archy Kirkwood (Roxburgh and Berwickshire)

Like the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Morrison), I am perplexed, and I think that the Government have taken a slightly perverse step in making this cut in the increase in child benefit.

I listened carefully to the Secretary of State. I agree with the hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field) that the £2 billion increase in the budget, which is not an inconsiderable sum, was virtually a statutory duty, so the Secretary does not get many brownie points from me for making great play of that. The more I listened to the Secretary of State, the more I concluded that the reason why the child benefit increase was being cut was that the uprating forced upon the Government actually cost more than they had budgeted for.

There is a world of difference between saying that the cut was a policy change due to retargeting and redirection, and saying that the budget increase of £500 million—I believe that that was the Secretary of State's figure—had not been expected. I suspect that the real cause is the unexpected increase in the uprating figure over the budgeted figure.

Hon. Members should know what really happened. It is a curious coincidence that yesterday, a short time after the cuts in the increase in child benefit were announced, the Chancellor of the Exchequer reaffirmed his determination to get extra room for tax cuts. I do not follow the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) any further down that road, but there is enough evidence to make me suspicious of the Government's motives in failing fully to index the child benefit increase. I hope that right hon. and hon. Members will follow my lead when we vote tonight.

How does the Minister intend to redeploy the resources saved? Is the figure provided by the Child Poverty Action Group correct, as quoted by the hon. Member for Oldham, West, that only 16 per cent. of the £175 million saving from child benefit is to be used to improve benefits for low-income families?

I welcome these changes. They are a step in the right direction. The Secretary of State will know that in the last Budget we took the very hard decision that where there were scarce resources there might be a case for increasing family income supplement so long as one could ensure that the take-up rate was increased. However, with reference to the figures provided by the CPAG, will only £17 million go to family income supplement and £12 million to housing benefit? What is the Government's reaction to that?

This move was not presaged in the newspapers. On the Sunday before the uprating some newspapers stated categorically that child benefit was safe. Something happened between Sunday and Tuesday, and I should very much like to know what that was. I agree with the hon. Member for Birkenhead that the significance of this debate is that it marks the divide in the House on the issue of child benefit, and I join him in deeply regretting that. The commitment that the Government are now giving is only to the universality of the benefit. Before this announcement everyone had assumed that the benefit would be price protected. If the Government's commitment is only to universality, that is a new situation which we shall all have to face.

The decision taken in 1980 by the then Secretary of State to reduce the real value of child benefit, which was put right just before the 1983 general election, enabled the Government to say that they were in favour of price protection and were committed to protect child benefit. That has now changed. There are forces within the Conservative party—not just the Conservative women's national committee — which have expressed strong opinions in the House on this issue.

We have not changed our view about the argument of child benefit versus tax allowances. The hon. Member for Devizes mentioned the Policy Studies Institute opinion. We believe that child benefit, as opposed to tax allowances, is a more discriminating and cost-effective way of helping families and a more effective way of concentrating on low-paid families in need. I do not want to consider tax allowances as an alternative to child benefit. Tax allowances give money to the higher paid as well as to the low-paid. We must remember that half a million working families with children will gain nothing from any increase in tax allowance because their income is below the tax threshold. DHSS figures show that 82 per cent. of those living below supplementary benefit level where the family has a full-time worker are families with children. There is also the important fact that child benefit is paid to the mother.

In my arguments about child benefit versus means-tested benefit I must agree with the hon. Member for Oldham, West that the child benefit system is simple and relatively popular, which is in contrast to family income supplement. It is the budgeted take-up that is the problem. Some of the people who qualify for family income supplement qualify for levels of only 18p to 20p. That is also a real problem. Family income supplement has many problems which affect those earning just above supplementary benefit levels. Mothers are hardest hit because they do not get the money that they require to look after their children.

If family credit is paid through the pay packet, it will result in take-up problems and affect children. We need to be told whether the cut in the child benefit increase is to happen only once. The Secretary of State for Social Services said in answer to my intervention during his ststement on the uprating that judgments would have to be made in the light of circumstances. I understand that circumstances can change, but there is a world of difference between that and saying that child benefit will be the target of social security savings in future upratings.

6.10 pm
Mr. John Butterfill (Bournemouth, West)

Like the hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field), I am concerned that many benefits are not well targeted. Although unprecedented levels of taxation are being levied, those who are poor and in need are not being reached. However, I am not convinced that child benefit is the best way to redress the balance. It is a universal benefit. We have a gigantic merry-go-round, with money being collected by the Inland Revenue and transferred via the Treasury to the Department of Health and Social Security. The Department forwards the money to the Post Office, which distributes it, and about 70 per cent. of it goes back to the people from whom it was collected in the first place. The result is that insufficient money reaches those who are most in need. The administrative cost of this merry-go-round is £102 million a year. If one thinks of the total that is collected, that may not seem to be a large amount, but it is substantial. The blind would be glad to receive £102 million in the form of a blindness allowance.

Mr. Frank Field

Does the hon. Gentleman realise where this argument may lead him? Would he care to apply it to mortgage interest relief, where one finds the same recycling? Is there not a case for saying that that benefit ought to be phased out so that the rates of tax can be lowered and people may choose how to spend their money?

Mr. Butterfill

We cannot debate that subject tonight, but I take the hon. Gentleman's point. Those who are most in need, people on supplementary benefits, are unaffected by what is called a cut in child benefit, and those who qualify for family income supplement will do very well out of the new proposals.

If we strip away the rhetoric of the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) we find that he is concerned not about the poor but about the pin money of middle-class housewives. It would be better to abolish child benefit, except for those who qualify for supplementary benefit or family income supplement. There should be tapered, child tax allowances for those who do not receive supplementary benefit or family income supplement. The level of benefit paid to the poor would be improved and the administrative savings would be substantial. That money could be used to greater affect elswhere. I urge my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services to consider that alternative.

No original ideas have been advanced from the Opposition Front Bench. I was disappointed that the hon. Member for Oldham, West did little more than quote verbatim from the compassionate but muddled brief that was circulated to hon. Members by the Child Poverty Action Group. His speech contrasted starkly with the thoughtful contribution of the hon. Member for Birkenhead and with the creative and compassionate approach of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, both in the Green Paper and in his speech.

6.15 pm
Mrs. Virginia Bottomley (Surrey, South West)

I wonder whether the arguments of my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, West (Mr. Butterfill) also apply to the old age pension. Does he think that old age pensions should be provided only for those with below-average incomes? Individuals should be looked at in terms of their life cycle. Before reaching working age we are provided for and cared for, at least in part, by the State, whether through the taxation system or the welfare system. After retirement, once again we receive the benefit of State support and encouragement. I remind hon. Members that, under the child tax allowance system, the more children people had the better off they were. As a Conservative, I do not support a system of that kind; nor do I support the undermining of child benefit.

Mr. Butterfill

I would remind my hon. Friend that I said that child tax allowances ought to be tapered.

Mrs. Bottomley

I take my hon. Friend's point.

Mr. Field

But they are tapered the wrong way.

Mrs. Bottomley

The uprated allowance for an adult dependant is between £18 and £23 a week. The costs of a child, particularly a teenager, can be argued to be well above the costs of an adult dependant. Their nutritional needs, clothing needs and frequently their social needs are greater. Those needs must be fully recognised. I welcome the fact that family credit will take into account the age of children.

The key point about child benefit is its simplicity, reliability and regularity. When we look at the Green Paper and the uprating figures we see that endless categories of people are considered to be static groups: the disabled, the one-parent families, the unemployed. But the reality is that the lives of people are constantly changing. There are more one-parent families, but more people are getting remarried. Seven million people change their jobs every year, but 4 million people go from the unemployment register into work every year. The joy of child benefit is that a reliable, regular income is paid through thick and thin.

Hon. Members have no excuse for not appreciating the complexity of people's lives and the difficulties they get into over form filling, because our constituents attend our surgeries and ask us to try to make sense of the complexity of welfare benefits. As we have the greatest difficulty in understanding the benefits, it is hardly surprising that the most vulnerable members of our society do not understand what they are entitled to and how the system works. The joy of child benefit is that everybody, from the richest to the poorest in the land, knows that it is available and knows how to get it. Women frequently say that child benefit has helped them to keep going. It would be very sad if we ended the United Nations decade for women by undermining what has become their right and their expectation.

The debate on child benefit took place in International Women's Year. My right hon. Friend asked then whether the amount paid in child benefit could be entered on a man's pay slip. That does not happen, although my right hon. Friend is now the Secretary of State, so there may be greater difficulties about my suggestion than I appreciate. I recognise the difficulty created if a woman is obtaining a substantial amount of benefit but her husband feels that he is being heavily taxed — not realising where the money is going.

Another key advantage of child benefit is the maintenance of unit labour costs. We were reminded this week by the Chancellor of the Exchequer of the importance of maintaining competitive labour costs. The sting comes from the man with several children who is probably better off out of work. The maintenance of child benefit is one way in which to help those people.

I am pleased that so many references have been made to the longstanding work of the Conservative women's national committee. I wish to refer to a different part of its proposals: We argue strongly that Child Benefit should have a high priority in our welfare system. Of all our social provisions it is remarkable, in that it has an almost universal take-up, is comparatively easy and cheap to administer and is paid directly in response to the need of children. Like other hon. Members, I have received letters from constituents. One movingly states: It has been believed in good faith that this benefit would keep pace with inflation, but sadly this does not seem to be so any more. I realise that there are moves afoot to try to ease the plight of the low paid and unemployed, but there are those of us, who are just out of the supplementary benefit bracket, who find it very hard to make ends meet". There are many other such women across the country.

I shall be supporting the Government tonight, but the child benefit lobby may have been lulled by the fact that child benefits were at record levels at the last general election. It may have been lulled in the short term, but when we look to the future I hope that the Government will realise that many of us are alive to and aware of child benefits and that we shall continue to fight for them.

6.20 pm
Mr. Gordon Brown (Dunfermline, East)

Child benefit is a right. We were reminded today of when the Prime Minister said that it was evidence of the Government's commitment to the family. The Foreign Secretary has said that child benefit offers the greatest help to many of our poorest families. The Secretary of State for Social Services is on record as saying that child benefit was one of the most cost-effective ways of helping families with children and easing family poverty. Two years ago, just before the election, the Prime Minister said that there were no plans to change the basis on which child benefit is calculated. Indeed, before the 1979 election the then Conservative social services spokesman was prepared to say that he wanted child benefit to rise in line with tax allowances. That would have put child benefit up to £8 at this uprating. Before the last election, social services Ministers were prepared to say that they wanted to see child benefit consistently rise in line with inflation.

Given all that, it should be of serious concern to the House that the majority of Conservative Members—who have been prepared to lead a rebellion over student grants and to threaten a revolt over the situation affecting commercial ratepayers—are, with only a few notable exceptions, virtually silent over the Government's proposed cut in the value of child benefit, which comes on top of ending the automatic right to maternity benefit, a reduction in the value of widows' allowances and an end to the right to free school meals for a substantial section of the population.

What is worse, 500,000 children are living below the supplementary benefit payments level, and 3.75 million children are living on the fringes of poverty. Poverty among children, even on the Government's official figures, has doubled since 1979. Either one child in every four goes to school ill-clad and hungry, or parents must choose between heating and eating. It is therefore remarkable that the majority of Conservative Members have been silent as the Government have moved not from a period of consultation without information — the situation two weeks ago—but to implementation of the review proposals without consultation or information.

Conservative Members remain silent as 2 million people stand to lose housing benefit from November as a result of changes in the rates tapers. They are silent despite the fact that 500,000 people will lose housing benefit altogether, most of them pensioners. Although £29 million will go towards higher child additions for people on family income supplement and housing benefits, £175 million has been taken out of the child benefit budget without any assurance that child benefit will rise in line with inflation, or even at all, next year, the year after or in any year to come.

As a new Member of Parliament, I have come to suspect three things. The first is a debtor who tells me that a cheque is in the post. The second is a Conservative who invites me to a debate on philosophy. The third is a Conservative Back Bencher who tells me that he is about to lead a revolt or rebellion. Whether it be the Tory wets, those who support the concept of one nation, or the Centre Forward group, which seems to have disappeared as the football season ended, Conservative Members by their silence are saying that they are prepared to tolerate a divided nation in preference to living with a divided Conservative party over the social security review proposals.

They are prepared to support a reduction in taxation in preference to a reduction in deprivation. The Chancellor yesterday made a commitment that he would reduce taxes no matter what happens. A 1p in the pound reduction in taxation will cost around £1 billion. Before Conservative Members support that commitment, they should remember that it will mean that 7 million households, most of them pensioner households, will lose some housing benefit; 7 million mothers and 12 million children will lose the increase in child benefit that they should receive; and the 7 million people who depend on supplementary benefit will cumulatively get less money as a result of the social security changes.

To save £1 billion to secure a 1p in the pound reduction in income tax, the Secretary of State for Social Services has had to abandon any claim that this is a nil-cost review. It is a cost-cutting review in housing and child benefits, and it will be a cost-cutting review in terms of supplementary benefit.

We know that the cost of raising a child is far greater than the child benefit payment and the supplementary benefit addition for children. All the recent evidence in the paper produced by the Child Poverty Action Group—other organisations have drawn attention to it as well—shows that at present child benefit can cover barely one fifth of the cost of bringing up a teenage child.

On this and previous occasions Conservative Members have asked, "Why should rich mothers get child benefit?" They ignore the fact that child benefit was originally designed as a benefit to be paid to the mother rather than the husband. If we move from the universal concept of child benefit by reducing its value and introduce further means tests, the big money savings will come not from debarring the claims of the rich but from deterring the claims of the poor. Conservative Members are saying that they are prepared to allow child benefit to be frozen, as the Government probably intend to do from next year. They are really saying—

Mr. Douglas Hogg (Grantham)


Mr. Brown

I am not giving way.

Conservative Members are saying that it is too expensive to run a welfare state, particularly a family policy for children, without the stigma and shame attached to claiming means-tested benefits. They also tell us that family credit will do more for low-income families than child benefit. But how can we accept vague assurances about uncosted proposals for family credit, undisclosed benefit rates, an unknown number of beneficiaries and an unknowable impact on poverty when in their uprating statement last week the Government took away £175 million from child benefit and are to return only about £30 million to low-paid families? How can we accept any vague assurances from the Government about family credit when during the reviews they betrayed their promises on the state earnings-related pension scheme and widows' allowances? They have certainly betrayed the promise made by the Secretary of State at the outset, that these would be nil-cost reviews and that there would be no savings as a result.

Thirdly, Conservative Members tell us that they are prepared to support child benefit because it is simple, popular and easy to understand. They seem to forget that the main reason that we support rises in child benefit is that it is the most cost-effective, efficient and economical way of easing family poverty.

In addition to asking the Minister, as did the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire (Mr. Kirkwood), whether he can give an assurance that child benefit will not be frozen this year, may I ask him to confirm that, if one were to put the £1.5 billion which would ease the burden of family poverty into reducing taxation, that would help very few families substantially and none who are below the income tax level? It would help only those on one third average earnings by 60p a week, whereas child benefit could be doubled or at least raised by £6 which would help those on between half and one and a half times average earnings to the extent of £1.88 per week. An increase in child benefit of £6 per week would be a much more cost-effective way of expending the same amount of money to ease family poverty.

If the Government were serious about using the tax and benefits system to reduce family poverty and were not merely intending to cut taxes for the sake of it, without any consideration of the impact on poverty, they would propose to the House that, in preference to reducing the standard rate of income tax or raising tax thresholds the rate of child benefit should rise substantially.

I am not particularly concerned that the facts and figures which we have been expecting got lost on the way to the Cabinet or the printers. What worries me most is that the vision that inspired the Beveridge report and the commitment that has inspired previous Governments to act on family poverty is totally missing from any of the proposals and rhetoric contained in the reviews.

I urge Conservative Members to reconsider their decision on child benefit as well as on other benefits which have been attacked by the reviews. I urge the Government to use the period of consultation to listen not only to the Conservative women's national committee but to a whole series of non-political representative organisations. Not only are these organisations asking that child benefit be raised; they are pressing the Government with the claim that that is the most effective way of reducing family poverty.

6.32 pm
Mrs. Edwina Currie (Derbyshire, South)

Like my hon. Friend the Member for Surrey, South-West (Mrs. Bottomley), I am one of the few Members who actually claim child benefit; I have my book in my handbag and am grateful for the £54.80 which we receive every month. It is a very valuable and useful addition to the Currie family budget. As in most of the other 7 million families in the country with their 12 million children, it is spent mostly on the children.

All the advantages of the child benefit system have been rehearsed tonight. It is payable to everyone, it is cheap to administer, and it costs 25p per payment, which is one tenth what a supplementary benefit payment costs to administer. There is a feeling of equity, that we are all the same and that we are all in the same boat.

But I think that those of us in the position of my hon. Friend and myself should have an uneasy feeling about it. If we are to criticise, as Opposition Members have, tax cuts to families which do not need them, we ought equally to criticise benefit payments to families which do not need them. I do not need the money. Seventy-five per cent. of all families are over the supplementary benefit line before they receive child benefit. Those families which are in need and in receipt of family income supplement and supplementary benefit do not get any benefit from the child benefit payment; it is simply taken into account when their needs are calculated, so they do not see it.

We should also be aware of how much money we are talking about. If we were to abolish child benefit—we are talking about £4.4 billion this year—we would need about £800 million to make up to the families receiving family income supplement and supplementary benefit the element accounted for by child benefit. That would leave about £3,500 million to play with for all the other families of the nation. What we could do with that is raise all tax thresholds by 18 per cent. or reduce the standard rate of income tax to 27 per cent., and that would benefit all those families as well.

Mr. Frank Field

It would do the exact opposite. What the hon. Lady proposes is to take money away from families and spread it throughout the nation, including that half of the nation which do not have children.

Mrs. Currie

There are all sorts of ways of doing this. I merely quote the figures to show hon. Members exactly how much money we are talking about, and what a big dent in the tax system child benefit makes.

The Government have decided to raise child benefit for lone parents by the rate of inflation, child benefit for family income supplement receivers by more than inflation and my child benefit by less. I happen to think that that is right. Seven pounds per week per child will still be very nice. I do not feel the agony of the Labour motion at not getting an additional 33p per week on top of my £7.

Quite honestly, I would rather see inflation fall, because a drop in inflation would be of more value not only to the receivers of child benefit but to everyone else in the nation; more than almost anything else that we could propose.

The Labour motion talks about breach of promise. I always thought that breach of promise was one of those very difficult things to prove in court and that the evidence that would be produced by the defendant would often point to the rather sleazy background of the plaintiff. If I may have the permission of the House, that is exactly what I propose to do.

I asked the Library to produce for us the figures on the real value of the combined child benefit and child tax relief that we used to have before 1978, and it produced figures that go back to 1946. The support for a one-child family in August 1946 amounted, in November 1984 prices, to £5.28. In April 1951, the figure, as the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) quoted it, was £6.56. In 1956, it was £6.46, and so on. Then we get to the last Labour Government. In 1976, it was £4.72, quite a drop. Now we come to our Government. Last year, it was £6.82 and this year it is £6.85. The only years—and I am quoting—in which the child support in real terms was higher than November 1984 were in April 1952 under a Tory Government and in April 1955 under a Tory Government.

If it comes to having a go at a particular Government's policy on child benefit, the Labour party does not have a leg to stand on. If it comes to breach of promise, the Labour party bride is rolling up to the altar in the emperor's clothes, and it is a rather embarrassing sight.

As for Labour's own policy, that has already been dealt with to some extent very ably by my right hon. and hon. Friends. I think that it is worth pointing out two small points in the time available to me. The hon. Member for Oldham, West for about three days in April, managed to propose, before his other right hon. and hon. Friends got to him, that Labour should double the child benefit for most of us and treble the child benefit to children of single-parent families. To pay for all this, the married man's tax allowance would be abolished and the additional single person's tax allowance would disappear. On top of that, fewer people would be eligible for family income supplement, fewer people would be eligible for free prescriptions and fewer children would get free school meals. That was in all those proposals. That is quite an exciting suggestion—it is a good job that it was thrown out.

On top of that, the hon. Gentleman clearly said—I quote from his document on page 17—that he would have an amalgamated National Insurance and Incomes Acts levied on a progressive basis on all personal income at rates of 15 per cent., 30 per cent., 45 per cent. and 60 per cent. As I understand it, that would be a tax on child benefit, and it also means that he would tax the lower income groups at 15 per cent. In the Standing Committee on the Social Security Bill, on which I served, we cut the rate of national insurance contribution for the lowest-paid workers to 5 per cent., so the Labour party proposals would tax the lowest paid workers three times as much as we would in order to do that.

The hon. Member for Oldham, West is quoted in The Guardian of 16 April this year as saying that his main aim was to abolish the degrading supplementary benefit system which he described as 'a fraud'. Up in Derbyshire, we say that it takes one to know one, but it would be both unparliamentary and very unkind of me to direct a remark of that nature to the hon. Gentleman, who is not even listening.

My other main criticism of the motion refers to the question of mothers being the recipients. I have no desire to change the system, because I think that changing at would simply be change for change's sake, but I should like to challenge some of the underlying attitudes and at the same time to say that I find these attitudes on both sides of the House.

Sixty per cent. of all women of working age work. We make up to 41 per cent. of the workforce, and the percentage is growing. The household with the man as the sole earner and the woman at home with two children is very rare. Such households make up only 5 per cent. of all households. Most mothers now work. Many mothers are now taxpayers. It is patronising, wrong and out of date to suggest that we are not interested in tax cuts. Of course we are interested in them. Many working mothers will benefit more than their husbands from raising tax thresholds, because it is a common practice for many mothers to work up to the rate at which they start paying tax, and no further. If we raise that rate, they will be able to earn more money. That point should be put across firmly.

As to the notion that the cash handout should go to the mother because she looks after the children, I have to say that I think that parents look after the children. We should not perpetuate the idea that children need only their mother and that only the mother is capable of taking that responsibility. That is nonsense. That sort of philosophy, borne of feminism, has created far too many single-parent families and deprived far too many men of their children.

The child benefit system has none of the special qualities attributed to it by hon. Members. It is merely the redistribution of £4.4 billion a year. It comes from taxpaying pensioners. It comes from my constituents who pay VAT on their fish and chips or on the porch to go on their houses. The child benefit system competes with the other services that we would like—for example, the National Health Service, pensions, good roads and education. Child benefit goes to the mother of every child—not where there is a need but where there is a child, whether living in a castle or a hovel. We keep it because the British people want it. The Government's sensitive and generous approach deserves our support.

6.41 pm
Mr. Timothy Wood (Stevenage)

In this debate we must first re-emphasise that child benefit must be considered not in isolation but in conjunction with family income supplement and benefits paid to the poorer families in general. It is appropriate and sensible that we are going forward in the proposed upratings with a system that substantially increases family income supplement and thus directs more money to those in need.

I accept the worries that have been expressed about the poor take-up of family income supplement. Because of this poor take-up, I supported the changes in the Green Paper with respect to family credit. This is a much better approach towards providing special assistance for the poor and general support for children.

I very much respect the remarks made on many occasions in debates such as this by the hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field), but I was slightly surprised today by some of his comments. If I understood him correctly, he said that it would be possible to tax child benefit and that this would have a significant impact on families with a number of children which were caught in the poverty trap. I do not believe that that is true. Having looked at the figures in detail, I believe that the introduction of a tax on child benefit would effectively reduce the level of pay at which low-wage families would be subjected to tax. That would have an adverse effect.

The only way to cope satisfactorily with the problem would be to introduce a child allowance system or low tax threshold system for families with children. If that were done, one might be able to pursue the type of idea that is put forward by the hon. Member for Birkenhead and a number of my colleagues. If that were not done, the measure would have a damaging effect on low-income families with several children in terms of the poverty trap and the level of their take-home pay after wage increases. I have great reservations about that change.

It is important that we do not consider any one benefit in isolation and that we welcome the substantial increase in family income supplement and the help that it will give to those most in need.

6.45 pm
The Minister for Social Security (Mr. Tony Newton)

The debate has revealed a wide range of views, but it has singularly failed to throw the slightest additional light of any kind on the policies that the Labour party is urging on the House. One aspect about the Labour party that has become clearer during the debate is—

Mr. Roland Boyes (Houghton and Washington)

The Minister is already accepting that we will form the next Government. He has put up the white flag.

Mr. Newton

I should like to say to the hon. Gentleman—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. Give the Minister a chance; he has only been up one minute.

Mr. Boyes

That is too long.

Mr. Newton

It is all right. The hon. Member for Houghton and Washington (Mr. Boyes) is not a bad bloke. I do not mind dealing with him. I am treating the Labour party with at least the respect that one would give those who presumably wish to become the Government. The only way in which the Labour party will have the slightest chance of becoming the Government—it is a very slight chance—is for it to have some type of policy. I want to know when we will be given the slightest sign of that policy. We learnt just one thing during the past two and a half hours about the Labour party—the Labour party's interest in child benefit is three deep. That is the number of Labour Members who were here to hear the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) when he started his speech. Three Labour party Members were here to hear this great assault on the Government's social security policy, and one them left during the first paragraph! Frankly, he did not miss a thing.

I shall deal with some of the criticisms of the proposals in last week's uprating statement by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. It is right that I should repeat what he said. These proposals are in the context of an uprating which spent an additional £2 billion on social security benefits, taking it to a total of £42 billion, which represents one pound in every three of the money that is raised from taxpayers and contributors in taxation and contributions. It is worth my saying again that the uprating included an increase of £4 a week for married pensioner couples. This means that the pension of a married couple and, indeed, of all retirement pensioners will have risen by 96 per cent. between the time when the Conservative party took office and November 1985, compared with a rise of 86 per cent — 10 per cent. more than the expected increase — in prices during the same period. Last week's uprating statement included a range of measures to help less well-off families, especially those with children in work.

The hon. Member for Oldham, West make some play of the figures relating to the complicated inter-relationship between family income supplement, supplementary benefit and child's needs allowances in housing benefit. I have no hesitation in accepting, first, that that relationship is complicated and, secondly, that it makes it difficult for Governments—whatever their colour—to achieve rational results with their policies. In the social security review we have put forward the first coherent structure in 50 years for income-related benefits to enable us to target resources more effectively.

Even with those problems and the kinks that inevitably occur within the present complicated and incoherent system, a married couple with two children aged 4 and 6, and whose gross earnings are £60 will get an increase in the family income supplement of £1, an increase in housing benefit of 53p and, even allowing for the fact that they will not be receiving the 70p of child benefit represented by the 35p — the difference between its uprating and the full prices figure—they will be better off by 83p net a week. The same would be true for the same family on £80 a week, and it would be 1p less for that family on £100 a week. For a married couple, with two children aged 12 and 14, on exactly the same basis, allowing for the fact that child benefit has gone up by 15p, and not 50p, there will still be, for the £60 a week couple, a net increase of £1.50 over and above what they would otherwise have received; for those on £80 a week an increase of £1.50; and for those on £100 a week an increase of £1.40.

Of course I accept that this is subject to problems of take-up, just as it is subject to problems of complication, but that is why the Government are seeking in the social security review to achieve a simpler, fairer, more understandable and more readily receivable social security system. The fact that we have problems at the moment which the Government are trying to tackle strategically does not give cause for accusation, because we are trying at least to do what we can to help less well-off families within the existing benefits structure.

I make no apologies whatever for that or for the fact that only a few months ago, in my right hon. and learned Friend's Budget, changes in national insurance contributions were announced which will benefit most of those self-same families by a significant additional £1 or £2 a week. In the last three months we have probably seen the announcement of the most significant extra package of help to low-paid families with children that any Government have introduced for several years.

Mr. Frank Field

The Minister has talked about the Government making strategic decisions. Until the announcement last week, the Government had increased child benefit in line with rising prices. They did not do so this year. Is that the policy from now on, or was this a one-off decision just for this year?

Mr. Newton

The hon. Gentleman asked that question in the course of his speech, and I would have answered it later. The Government's position on the uprating of child benefit is, as it has always been, and as it was stated by my right hon. Friend some time ago, that inescapably this is a matter, like many others in social security, on which we have to make judgments when the decisions are taken in the light of all the circumstances prevailing and of particular social priorities—in this case our desire to steer additional help to less well-off families with children.

Mr. Kirkwood

Will the Minister give the Government's strategic response to the universality of child benefit? Can he go as far as to say that he would interfere with that, if he cannot give the assurance for which the hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field) is asking?

Mr. Newton

The Green Paper makes it clear, as we have made it clear on a number of occasions, that the Government adhere to the concept of a universal child benefit payable through the mother. I hope that that will be some reassurance to my hon. Friend the Member for Surrey, South-West (Mrs. Bottomley) as well. There is no question of departing from that principle, and that is made very clear in the Green Paper.

Mr. Gordon Brown

Will the Minister confirm that the Government have now abandoned any pretence that child benefit will continue to rise in line with inflation in future years? Secondly, will he tell us whether, if that decision is made, the £175 million saved this year and the perhaps £500 million saved by the time of the next general election will go to the family credit scheme, or will only a small fraction of it go, as happened last week, to improving family income supplement?

Mr. Newton

I do not know what the hon. Gentleman means by using the word "pretence" in this context. I have made the position absolutely clear — that the Government will make judgments about the proper level of child benefit in the light of the circumstances prevailing at the time when those decisions have to be made, taking account of other social priorities, including our particular wish to direct more help more effectively to families with children.

Mr. Frank Field

Will the Minister accept that the answer that he has given is clear and that it is a major change in the stance that every other Conservative spokesman has taken on this issue?

Mr. Newton

I do not think that it is a major change, with the significance with which the hon. Gentleman has sought to invest it. My right hon. Friend the Member for Wanstead and Woodford (Mr. Jenkin), my right hon. Friend's predecessor, made it clear in the statement that has been quoted several times today that the Government's decision in this matter would necessarily be related to economic and other circumstances. Those other circumstances necessarily include judgments about the overall priorities of the social security budget and are particularly concerned with low-paid families in work, on which I placed a good deal of emphasis.

I have said that I think that the hon. Member for Oldham, West did rather less than justice to the Government's proposals represented in the uprating statement. Perhaps that was understandable, since he did even less justice to his own proposals and to the thoughts that he has put, not just before the House, but before the country as a whole.

Perhaps I might have the attention of the hon. Member for Oldham, West for a moment or two, because I am anxious to regale the House with his words on "Newsnight" on 18 June. Indeed, as he said earlier in the debate, I was taking part in the programme with him. He said: We do need a better integration between income tax and the social security system, but based on an income tax system which is graded in its structure so that the lowest paid are either out of tax altogether or they pay a low rate of 15 per cent. and above that 30, 45 or 60 per cent. If you had that you could pay universal benefit like child benefit to everyone but then concentrate it on those in greatest need without a means test by taxing it, and that would be a far better way of ensuring that we retain universality but at the same time concentrate it on those who really need it. When he was challenged by my right hon. Friend about this notion of taxing child benefit—which I must say the Child Poverty Action Group considers to be just as much an attack on child benefit as anything that the present Government have done—the hon. Gentleman said that what he had in mind was a different structure of taxation. Now, however, as we have learnt from his green—or whatever colour it was—paper, which has disappeared into some pigeon-hole somewhere, the hon. Gentleman's idea of a new structure of taxation appears to be one in which everybody right down to the bottom of the income range pays at least 15 per cent. income tax—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Well, what else does it mean? It says that the lowest payers are either out of tax altogether or pay a low rate of 15 per cent. Let the hon. Gentleman tell me what he means.

Mr. Meacher

It is obvious.

Mr. Newton

The hon. Gentleman does not know what it means. The one thing that has encouraged me in the debates on this issue over the past few weeks is that there is at least one thing in common between the Opposition Front Bench spokesman on social security and the Leader of the Opposition, who is unhappily absent, and that is that neither of them understands half the things that he says in the House. The hon. Gentleman has clearly signalled that it is his intention, in some way or another, to tax child benefit, whether at 15 per cent. or 30 per cent., in the hands of very large numbers of people. There is no way that that structure will work without substantial numbers of the families whom the hon. Gentleman is claiming to protect having effectively a 30 per cent. or 15 per cent. cut in their child benefit in the form of a major raising of the tax threshold for the person earning the salary.

I hope that the hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field) will reflect that any such variants of taxing child benefit lead instantly and automatically to a substantial reduction in take-home pay for every family man who is a wage or salary earner. It is not, therefore, a sensible proposal.

Whether that is recognised through the tax or benefits system, or in what combination and at what level, are matters for debate about child benefit. In our system, it is recognised by universal child benefit paid to the mother, and we believe that that should continue, although it does not follow that its relationship with other benefits is immutable or that the Government can escape the need to make judgments from time to time.

Our judgment this year is that it is reasonable to make an increase of 15p for everyone and to give extra help to less well-off families through FIS and housing benefit. That is a judgment for which we do not apologise and which, I believe, the House as a whole will back.

Question put, That the original words stand part of the Question:—

The House divided: Ayes 144, Noes 241.

Division No. 251] [7 pm
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Banks, Tony (Newham NW)
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Barnett, Guy
Ashton, Joe Beckett, Mrs Margaret
Atkinson, N. (Tottenham) Beggs, Roy
Beith, A. J. Janner, Hon Greville
Bell, Stuart Kilfedder, James A.
Benn, Tony Kilroy-Silk, Robert
Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh) Kirkwood, Archy
Bermingham, Gerald Lamond, James
Blair, Anthony Leadbitter, Ted
Boothroyd, Miss Betty Leighton, Ronald
Boyes, Roland Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)
Bray, Dr Jeremy Lewis, Terence (Worsley)
Brown, Gordon (D'f'mline E) Litherland, Robert
Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith) Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Buchan, Norman McCartney, Hugh
Caborn, Richard McCrea, Rev William
Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M) McDonald, Dr Oonagh
Campbell-Savours, Dale McKay, Allen (Penistone)
Carlile, Alexander (Montg'y) MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor
Carter-Jones, Lewis McNamara, Kevin
Cartwright, John Madden, Max
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Maginnis, Ken
Clay, Robert Martin, Michael
Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S.) Mason, Rt Hon Roy
Cohen, Harry Maxton, John
Concannon, Rt Hon J. D. Meacher, Michael
Conlan, Bernard Mikardo, Ian
Cook, Frank (Stockton North) Millan, Rt Hon Bruce
Corbyn, Jeremy Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)
Cowans, Harry Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)
Cox, Thomas (Tooting) Molyneaux, Rt Hon James
Craigen, J. M. Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Crowther, Stan O'Brien, William
Cunningham, Dr John Park, George
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'l) Parry, Robert
Deakins, Eric Patchett, Terry
Dewar, Donald Pavitt, Laurie
Dixon, Donald Pendry, Tom
Dobson, Frank Pike, Peter
Dormand, Jack Powell, Rt Hon J. E. (S Down)
Dubs, Alfred Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)
Eastham, Ken Prescott, John
Edwards, Bob (W'h'mpt'n SE) Redmond, M.
Ellis, Raymond Richardson, Ms Jo
Evans, John (St. Helens N) Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)
Faulds, Andrew Rowlands, Ted
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) Ryman, John
Fisher, Mark Sedgemore, Brian
Flannery, Martin Sheldon, Rt Hon R.
Foot, Rt Hon Michael Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Forrester, John Short, Mrs R.(W'hampt'n NE)
Foster, Derek Silkin, Rt Hon J.
Fraser, J. (Norwood) Skinner, Dennis
Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald Smith, Rt Hon J. (M'kl'ds E)
Freud, Clement Smyth, Rev W. M. (Belfast S)
George, Bruce Snape, Peter
Godman, Dr Norman Soley, Clive
Gould, Bryan Stewart, Rt Hon D. (W Isles)
Hamilton, James (M'well N) Stott, Roger
Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife) Strang, Gavin
Harman, Ms Harriet Torney, Tom
Harrison, Rt Hon Walter Wainwright, R.
Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith Walker, Cecil (Belfast N)
Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy Wareing, Robert
Haynes, Frank Weetch, Ken
Healey, Rt Hon Denis Welsh, Michael
Heffer, Eric S. Winnick, David
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth) Woodall, Alec
Holland, Stuart (Vauxhall) Young, David (Bolton SE)
Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)
Hoyle, Douglas Tellers for the Ayes:
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Mr. John McWilliam and
Hume, John Mr. Lawrence Cunliffe.
Adley, Robert Aspinwall, Jack
Aitken, Jonathan Atkinson, David (B'm'th E)
Alexander, Richard Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset)
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Baldry, Tony
Amess, David Banks, Robert (Harrogate)
Ancram, Michael Batiste, Spencer
Arnold, Tom Bellingham, Henry
Ashby, David Bendall, Vivian
Bennett, Rt Hon Sir Frederic Grant, Sir Anthony
Benyon, William Greenway, Harry
Best, Keith Griffiths, Sir Eldon
Biffen, Rt Hon John Gummer, John Selwyn
Biggs-Davison, Sir John Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Blackburn, John Hargreaves, Kenneth
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Haselhurst, Alan
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Hayes, J.
Boscawen, Hon Robert Hayward, Robert
Bottomley, Peter Heddle, John
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Hickmet, Richard
Bowden, A. (Brighton K'to'n) Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Holland, Sir Philip (Gedling)
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Holt, Richard
Bright, Graham Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick
Brinton, Tim Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Brooke, Hon Peter Knight, Greg (Derby N)
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes) Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)
Bruinvels, Peter Knox, David
Bryan, Sir Paul Lang, Ian
Burt, Alistair Latham, Michael
Butler, Hon Adam Lawrence, Ivan
Butterfill, John Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel
Carlisle, John (N Luton) Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (W'ton S) Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf'd)
Carttiss, Michael Lightbown, David
Cash, William Lilley, Peter
Chalker, Mrs Lynda Lloyd, Peter, (Fareham)
Chapman, Sydney Lord, Michael
Chope, Christopher Luce, Richard
Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th S'n) Lyell, Nicholas
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S) McCrindle, Robert
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe) McCurley, Mrs Anna
Clegg, Sir Walter MacGregor, John
Colvin, Michael MacKay, Andrew (Berkshire)
Conway, Derek MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute)
Coombs, Simon Maclean, David John
Cope, John McNair-Wilson, P. (New F'st)
Couchman, James McQuarrie, Albert
Cranborne, Viscount Major, John
Critchley, Julian Malins, Humfrey
Crouch, David Malone, Gerald
Currie, Mrs Edwina Maples, John
Dickens, Geoffrey Marland, Paul
Dicks, Terry Marlow, Antony
Dorrell, Stephen Marshall, Michael (Arundel)
Dunn, Robert Mates, Michael
Durant, Tony Mather, Carol
Eggar, Tim Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Emery, Sir Peter Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Evennett, David Mayhew, Sir Patrick
Eyre, Sir Reginald Mellor, David
Fairbairn, Nicholas Merchant, Piers
Fallon, Michael Meyer, Sir Anthony
Farr, Sir John Mills, Iain (Meriden)
Favell, Anthony Miscampbell, Norman
Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey Mitchell, David (NW Hants)
Fletcher, Alexander Moate, Roger
Fookes, Miss Janet Montgomery, Sir Fergus
Fowler, Rt Hon Norman Morris, M. (N'hampton, S)
Fox, Marcus Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes)
Gale, Roger Moynihan, Hon C.
Gardner, Sir Edward (Fylde) Murphy, Christopher
Garel-Jones, Tristan Needham, Richard
Glyn, Dr Alan Nelson, Anthony
Gorst, John Newton, Tony
Nicholls, Patrick Squire, Robin
Normanton, Tom Stanbrook, Ivor
Norris, Steven Stanley, John
Onslow, Cranley Steen, Anthony
Oppenheim, Phillip Stern, Michael
Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S. Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)
Osborn, Sir John Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Ottaway, Richard Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)
Page, Sir John (Harrow W) Stewart, Ian (N Hertf'dshire)
Page, Richard (Herts SW) Stokes, John
Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil Stradling Thomas, J.
Patten, J. (Oxf W & Abdgn) Sumberg, David
Pawsey, James Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Temple-Morris, Peter
Porter, Barry Thomas, Rt Hon Peter
Portillo, Michael Thompson, Donald (Calder V)
Powell, William (Corby) Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)
Powley, John Thorne, Neil (Ilford S)
Prentice, Rt Hon Reg Thurnham, Peter
Price, Sir David Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
Proctor, K. Harvey Tracey, Richard
Raison, Rt Hon Timothy Twinn, Dr Ian
Rees, Rt Hon Peter (Dover) van Straubenzee, Sir W.
Rhodes James, Robert Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Ridsdale, Sir Julian Waddington, David
Roberts, Wyn (Conwy) Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Robinson, Mark (N'port W) Walden, George
Roe, Mrs Marion Walker, Bill (T'side N)
Rossi, Sir Hugh Walker, Rt Hon P.(W'cester)
Rost, Peter Wall, Sir Patrick
Rowe, Andrew Waller, Gary
Sackville, Hon Thomas Ward, John
Sainsbury, Hon Timothy Wardle, C. (Bexhill)
Sayeed, Jonathan Warren, Kenneth
Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb') Watts, John
Shelton, William (Streatham) Wells, Sir John (Maidstone)
Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge) Wheeler, John
Shersby, Michael Whitney, Raymond
Sims, Roger Wiggin, Jerry
Skeet, T. H. H. Wolfson, Mark
Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick) Wood, Timothy
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield) Yeo, Tim
Soames, Hon Nicholas Young, Sir George (Acton)
Speed, Keith
Speller, Tony Tellers for the Noes:
Spence, John Mr. Archie Hamilton and
Spencer, Derek Mr. MIchael Neubert.
Spicer, Jim (W Dorset)

Question accordingly negatived.

Question, That the proposed words be there added, put forthwith pursuant to Standing Order No. 33 (Questions on amendments), and agreed to.

MR. SPEAKER forthwith declared the main Question, as amended, to be agreed to.

Resolved, That this House endorses the Government's commitment to maintain Child Benefit as a universal benefit paid to all mothers as a contribution to the cost of bringing up children; notes that an additional £2 billion will be spent on benefits as a result of the uprating in November; welcomes the additional help that will be provided for low income families with children and welcomes the proposals for a simpler and more effective benefit structure which will result from the Government's recent review.

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