New Clause 1 — Childcare provision

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Office – in the House of Commons at 6:00 pm on 8th April 2014.

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Photo of Catherine McKinnell Catherine McKinnell Shadow Minister (Treasury) 6:00 pm, 8th April 2014

Any good news on the economy will always be welcomed, not just by Members of this House but by those out there who are struggling with the cost of living. No matter what good news we see in the coming months, it will not outweigh the fact that we have had three years of a flatlining economy in which wages have been squeezed and prices have risen much faster than wages, particularly in this area of child care costs. People will be worse off in 2015 than they were in 2010. We know that a family in which both parents work will be £2,073 worse off by the next election. Perhaps the electorate will just have to add that to the ever-increasing list of Liberal Democrat broken promises.

The Prime Minister is currently touring the country, boasting about the rise in the personal allowance—I am surprised that Government Members have not raised that yet. Incidentally, the Deputy Prime Minister claims that the Conservatives were dragged kicking and screaming to every meeting on the personal allowance. The simple truth is that working families are thousands of pounds worse off now than they were in 2010 thanks to tax and benefit changes, falling living standards and rising child care costs, all of which this out-of-touch Government have continually failed to get a grip of, and all of which contribute to the fact that child poverty is set to increase rapidly under this Government. After an unprecedented reduction in child poverty under Labour, the IFS now predicts that an extra 400,000 children will be in relative poverty by the end of this Parliament and it is clear why that is. It says:

“Tax and benefit reforms introduced since April 2010 can account for almost all of the increase in child poverty projected over the next few years.”

As we know that families will be significantly worse off by the next general election, let me turn to the Government’s proposals for tax-free child care, which were lauded in the Budget but which are missing from this year’s Finance Bill. Parents would be forgiven for thinking that they are in for a £2,000 subsidy of their child care costs, based on what Ministers have been claiming in interviews and articles in recent weeks. Let us be absolutely clear about this. Although any new money to help families facing soaring child care costs is undoubtedly welcome, this coalition will not fool mums and dads. When we scratch beneath the surface and go beyond the headline figures of £2,000 and 1.9 million families, we find that the facts very quickly come to light.

Only one in five families will receive help through tax-free child care, yet that one family in five would have to incur child care costs of £10,000 per child to get the maximum £2,000 that Government Members have been boasting about. Ten thousands pounds per child per year! How many families in Britain could possibly afford to spend the £8,000 required to receive the maximum support from the Government? Well, the latest annual child care costs survey by the Family and Childcare Trust suggests that over a year a British family spends an average of £5,487 for a nursery place for a child of two and above, which, incidentally, is £1,298 more than it cost in 2010, so in reality most families will receive at best just half the support being parroted by Government Members—[Interruption.] I am pleased that Mr Jones has been enlightened by that, as he was so horrified when I enlightened him about the reality of this Government’s policy.