Will my hon. Friend draw a contrast between the policy of the Government, who are helping 572,000 families with low incomes, and the policy of another party, which is determined to create mass unemployment among the low-paid by introducing a national minimum wage? Does he expect it to recant on that policy on the road to Sedgefield?
I do not see why my hon. Friend should be shy about it. I think that he should name the Labour party as the party determined to bring in a minimum wage, which would destroy jobs. The great difference between us is that, while the Labour party remains obsessed with the level of benefits, we are equally concerned about the level of benefit dependency. Whereas our policies take people off benefits, the Labour party's policies would return people to them.
Would the Minister care to tell us what studies have been done by his Department on how much family credit could be saved by the introduction of a national minimum wage of £4.10 per hour and what the effect would be on the poverty levels of a large number of people who have to rely not just on family credit but on other benefits, because the wages paid—often by multinational corporations—are so disgracefully low? Indeed, in some cases they are actually falling.
The average payment for family credit at the moment is some £48 a week, which, as I said earlier, goes to some half a million families. As to studies, I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman would not rather rely on the judgment of the deputy leader of the Labour party, who said straightforwardly that a minimum wage policy would cost jobs. That seems to me a good enough study.
Does my hon. Friend agree that the time in people's lives when they are most likely to be poor is when they have their first child and move, normally from two incomes, two mouths to feed, to one income, three mouths to feed? Will he commit the Government to continue to pay child benefit as a way of ensuring that only one household in 12 needs family income support?
Child benefit remains a cornerstone of our support for families. The commitment was in the manifesto. The policy of the Government since that time has shown that we care very much about ensuring that the poorest families have the greatest support, which is why the 1988 reforms have produced £1 billion-worth of benefits, which are going to the poorest families in the country. That is £1 billion more than there would have been but for those reforms.