HC Deb 02 April 2001 vol 366 cc18-9
17. Mr. Andrew Miller (Ellesmere Port and Neston)

If he will make a statement on take-up of child benefit since 1997. [154874]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Social Security (Angela Eagle)

Child benefit is paid to more than 7 million families: virtually all families with children receive it. Since 1997, we have increased the rate of child benefit for the first child by 26 per cent. in real terms—to £15 a week. From next week, this will increase again to £15.50 and to £10.35 for all other children.

Mr. Miller

For the 10,500 families in Ellesmere Port and Neston who gain from child benefit, that sum represents an extra expenditure over and above inflation of more than £1.5 million since 1997. It is truly welcome. However, will my hon. Friend ensure that, when future programmes in other parts of the Department's work are considered, special attention is given to those areas of my constituency where there is still child poverty?

Angela Eagle

It is one of the Government's aims to end child poverty within 20 years, and more than 1 million children will be lifted out of poverty in this Parliament. Therefore, we are on track to achieve our aim. The Tories tripled child poverty during their time in office, and I contrast our record on child benefit and the increase of 26 per cent. with the three-year freeze in child benefit between 1988 and 1990 that was the Tory legacy.

Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham)

What proportion of wealthy households do not claim child benefit?

Angela Eagle

Child benefit claim rates are almost 100 per cent.