HC Deb 24 June 1999 vol 333 cc1277-8
5. Helen Jones (Warrington, North)

What estimate he has made of the number of people in Warrington, North who will benefit from the working families tax credit. [87060]

The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Gordon Brown)

I regret that estimates for the Warrington, North constituency are not available at this stage, but 200,000 families in Merseyside and the north-west will be helped by the working families tax credit in its first year of operation. In total, 1.5 million families in our country will benefit.

Helen Jones

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. Many people in my constituency welcome the lifeline that will be offered them by the working families tax credit and the encouragement to people in work and others to take low-paid jobs. Can my right hon. Friend tell me and them what the effect on those families would be if the Opposition were ever in a position to carry out their threat to get rid of the working families tax credit and force people back into reliance on benefit, which will affect them not only in the immediate term but in terms of their long-term prospects of progressing through work?

Mr. Brown

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. It is true that 1.5 million families will benefit. Three million children in total will benefit. The average gain to the individual family is £24 a week. Some families will be £50 a week better off as a result of the combined measures for child support that we are introducing. More than 850,000 children and 1.5 million families will be lifted out of poverty. That is a major change from the situation that we inherited. For more than 20 years, child poverty had risen to the point where 40 per cent. of children were born into low-income households. I should have thought that that would be a dividing line between us and the Conservatives at the next election, as my hon. Friend says.

The former social security spokesman for the Conservatives said: We would cut the working families tax credit". The leader of the Conservative party says: It is a tangible difference between the parties. Of course the shadow Chancellor, not to be outdone, says that the welfare spending involved is economic and social lunacy. What to him is economic and social lunacy to us is elementary justice.

Mr. Ian Bruce (South Dorset)

May I ask the Chancellor—[HON. MEMBERS: "Seventy-seven."] Actually, two and a half times the Labour side since a week last Thursday. How much does the Chancellor rely on statistics in this matter? I ask that question seriously, because the Government suggested that some 2 million people would be affected by the minimum wage and would get a pay rise in April this year. The statistics provided by the Government statistical service show that wage rises in April this year were at a rate lower than that in April of the previous year. Why do the statistics seem to be at odds with what the Labour party is saying about low pay and family tax credit?

Mr. Brown

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising the subject of the minimum wage and the working families tax credit, but before he asks the question again, perhaps he will deal with this simple point: why, when he talks about the minimum wage, can he not say that the Conservative party supports it? Why does it continue to oppose it and every measure that we have introduced to relieve child poverty? The party's extremism is such that it is against the new deal, against the working families tax credit, against the child benefit increase and against the minimum wage.