HC Deb 20 July 2000 vol 354 cc534-5
13. Ms Sally Keeble (Northampton, North)

What progress is being made with the introduction of the children's tax credit. [130140]

The Paymaster General (Dawn Primarolo)

The Inland Revenue has issued claim forms to PAYE taxpayers in families that, according to its records, may be eligible for the credit. We estimate that almost 2 million forms have already been sent back to the Inland Revenue. There has been a radio and press advertising campaign to encourage people to claim and return their forms in good time.

Ms Keeble

I am grateful for that reply. May I congratulate the Department on its effective advertising and take-up work, which has been well received in my constituency? Will my hon. Friend confirm that this tax credit will be available to people with small businesses who are not on PAYE? Does she agree that many families want to know whether this and the other child support measures that the Government have introduced will be supported by the Conservative party, or whether they will all disappear into its £16 billion black hole?

Dawn Primarolo

The self-employed will claim the credit on their tax returns in the normal way. As for support for the children's tax credit, we must add it to the list of items that the Opposition oppose, because they have rejected and voted against it at every opportunity. That means that nearly £8.50 a week would be denied to families who need it most.

Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham)

Is the Paymaster General proud that hundreds of thousands of married couples have been deprived and short-changed of support for a full 12 months before the belated introduction of the children's tax credit?

Dawn Primarolo

What I am proud of is that this Government recognise that pressure on families is greatest when they have children. What I am proud of is that we are addressing the fact that 3 million children are living in poverty, which was inherited from the previous Government's policies. What I am proud of is that at the end of this Parliament, 1.2 million children will have been lifted out of poverty, and the children's tax credit, which the Opposition oppose, will have played its part in that.

Mr. Malcolm Chisholm (Edinburgh, North and Leith)

Is it not the case that no additional costs are associated with marriage, but that many are associated with having children? Is it not therefore correct to target help on children via the children's tax credit, the working families tax credit, the record rise in child benefit and the other many initiatives that will reduce, and finally eliminate, child poverty?

Dawn Primarolo

My hon. Friend is absolutely correct. Indeed, when the shadow Chancellor was at the Treasury, he said that the married couples allowance had the least on-going justification because it was given to couples when they married—and only when they married—in recognition of the fact that the man was acquiring a wife and therefore had less taxable capacity. We recognise that pressure is placed on families when they have children—when one parent may give up work or when the family faces child care costs. That is the point at which to help families and to ensure that children are lifted out of poverty.