[Mr Gary Streeter in the Chair] — Child Benefit
Christopher Chope (Christchurch, Conservative)
I congratulate Roberta Blackman-Woods on securing this debate, which follows up debates during the Budget, during
Second Reading of the Finance Bill and on clause 8 of the Finance Bill, and a similar debate before the Budget in this Chamber, which I had the privilege of introducing.
As the hon. Lady said, we have never had a satisfactory answer to why, if it is necessary to find a greater contribution towards reducing the deficit from those on higher earnings, we are targeting people on higher earnings with children, rather than those who do not have children. If my hon. Friend the Minister wishes to intervene at this stage and give the definitive reply, I shall happily give way.
The hon. Lady mentioned loss of support among Conservatives. I am worried and do not wish the Conservatives to lose support, which is why I have put a lot of energy into trying to ensure that this legislation is improved. If the Opposition had just asked to look at clause 8 during the Finance Bill debate on the Floor of the House—we considered clause 8 and schedule 1—we could have discussed the principles and referred to schedule 1, and those privileged to serve on the Finance Bill Committee would then have been able to consider the schedule in more detail. It is now apparent, according to the report by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, that an enormous amount of detail needs line-by-line scrutiny. Sadly, as a consequence of the earlier debate, such scrutiny cannot now be delivered, given the structure of the Committee stage of the Finance Bill, because schedule 1 has already been considered. That is a problem. I shall not ascribe blame or responsibility for that, but it means that the Government do not have the benefit of detailed scrutiny of the workability of their proposals, or, as in this case, the lack of workability.
We have a real problem. I hope that the Opposition spokesman, Cathy Jamieson, will say what she thinks we can do to bring this issue back on Report in a form that finds favour not just with me and my hon. Friend Mark Reckless—two Conservative Back-Benchers. Incidentally, we happen to be men and it is all ladies on the Opposition Benches this morning. Let us see what we can bring about.