Child Tax Credit

Oral Answers to Questions — Treasury – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 10th March 2005.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Andrew Turner Andrew Turner Vice-Chair, Conservative Party 11:30 am, 10th March 2005

How much child tax credit has been (a) overpaid and (b) recovered in the past 12 months.

Photo of Dawn Primarolo Dawn Primarolo Paymaster General (HM Treasury)

Statistics on tax credit overpayments will be published by the Office for National Statistics in the spring. The overpayments are mainly being recovered through payment reductions in later awards.

Photo of Andrew Turner Andrew Turner Vice-Chair, Conservative Party

If the statistics are going to be published, I do not see why the Minister should not give them to the House. However, does she agree with The Guardian that £2 billion in overpaid tax credit was wasted up to 2003 because it was written off as irrecoverable? Does she also agree with Advice Northern Ireland that families who need to claim the benefit are extremely unlikely to have cash lying around that they can repay to the Inland Revenue? Are not waste on overpayments, and the misery faced by those from whom the overpayments are recovered, the hallmarks of this policy?

Photo of Dawn Primarolo Dawn Primarolo Paymaster General (HM Treasury)

I remind the hon. Gentleman that the hallmark of the policy in his constituency alone is that 10,800 families receive tax credits. That does not include those who claim income support or jobseeker's allowance. On average, those families receive considerably more than they did under either family credit or working tax credit. The reason why I cannot give him the statistics is that they are a matter for the ONS, and not for me.

Photo of Angela Eagle Angela Eagle Labour, Wallasey

Does my right hon. Friend accept that many thousands of people in Wallasey receive child tax credit and that they are extremely grateful for the substantial increase in living standards that it gives them? They are also grateful for the extra chances that it gives many people to go to work and make it pay. That is why unemployment in my constituency has fallen by more than 60 per cent. since this Government came to power.

Photo of Dawn Primarolo Dawn Primarolo Paymaster General (HM Treasury)

The House will know that, in real terms, families with children will be better off by an average £1,300 a year. The poorest fifth of the population are, on average, £3,000 a year better off. There is a massive programme of support for working families. We want to help them to balance their commitments to paid employment and to their children.

Photo of David Curry David Curry Conservative, Skipton and Ripon

The right hon. Lady asked to see copies of the letters that the Inland Revenue has written to people who have been overpaid. Would she note that the Inland Revenue blames them for not realising that they have been overpaid? Would she tell the Inland Revenue that this sort of bureaucratic arrogance is entirely unacceptable, and that its staff should remember that they are there to serve the people?

Photo of Dawn Primarolo Dawn Primarolo Paymaster General (HM Treasury)

I am actually very grateful to the right hon. Gentleman, who had a private conversation with me a week or two ago, precisely on the phrasing of some of the letters that the Inland Revenue is sending out. I can tell him that as a result of the conversation with him I have asked that those letters be sent to me, I have asked that the phraseology be considered again, and I have made very strongly the points that he made to me then and has now made in the Chamber.