HC Deb 10 May 2001 vol 368 cc251-2
3. Mr. Tony Baldry (Banbury)

How many people have been affected by the abolition of the married couples allowance. [159875]

The Paymaster General (Dawn Primarolo)

We are replacing the married couples allowance with the children's tax credit as part of a package of measures to focus resources on families with children. The children's tax credit is worth over twice as much as the married couples allowance and will benefit about 5 million families.

Mr. Baldry

I declare an interest in the answer to this question, as I am getting married in 15 days. Does the Paymaster General accept that the abolition of the married couples allowance was in effect a stealth tax on marriage, and that about 5 million couples who benefited from the allowance do not benefit from the child tax credit system? Does she also agree that 1 million of those who could benefit from the child tax credit system do not, and will not, because they have not applied for it? As a result, 6 million families are worse off. Would not it be much more straightforward to reintroduce a married couples allowance that would benefit all families with children under 11 years of age? I am glad to say that that will not include me.

Dawn Primarolo

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his marriage in 15 days' time. I am sure that he would accept that he is not in need of any financial encouragement to get married and does not believe that he would have benefited from the married couples allowance.

The resources used for the married couples allowance were paid regardless of marital status. The allowance was paid to single parents, divorcees and couples. The Government have focused those resources on supporting families with children. Some 85 per cent. of those who are entitled to receive the £520 a year through the children's tax credit have applied for it. I am sure that after the hon. Gentleman's wedding, he will join the Government in campaigning to ensure that the remaining 15 per cent. receive that money as well.

Mr. Malcolm Chisholm (Edinburgh, North and Leith)

I served on several Finance Bills during the previous Parliament, in which the Conservatives cut and cut the married couples allowance without any compensating action for families. Is it not the case that the majority of people welcome the Government's focus on child poverty, and that they welcome not only the children's tax credit but the record increase in child benefit, the working families tax credit and child care tax credits, which have benefited families more than twice over, as my hon. Friend has said?

Dawn Primarolo

I understand that this will be my hon. Friend's last appearance in this House as he takes up his full duties in the Scottish Parliament. His campaigning for the Government to tackle child poverty is well known. He has made a substantial contribution to the development of the policies on the working families tax credit, the increase in child benefit and the increase in income support levels. Those policies have ensured that the Government have already lifted 1.2 million children out of poverty, and intend in the next Parliament to lift another 1 million children out of poverty.