Working Tax Credits

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:23 pm on 30th November 2011.

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Photo of Chloe Smith Chloe Smith The Economic Secretary to the Treasury 4:23 pm, 30th November 2011

We need to move in one direction in this economy, which is to tackle the deficit. I made that point very strongly up front. We must also look to major reforms such as the universal credit, and perhaps before that the Work programme in some cases. There are a number of examples that I look forward to the Government delivering. I have given some; let me give some more that will also answer the points made about what people might get in return.

The Government are investing a further £380 million by 2014-15 to extend the offer of 15 hours of free education and care a week for disadvantaged two-year-olds, which will cover an extra 130,000 children. That is only one element of what the Government will do to help working families. Support has been focused on those on out of work benefits—this is a key point that I have no doubt the right hon. Member for East Ham will appreciate. They need greater protection against rising prices than people on working tax credit who are, of course, not solely reliant on this income; they also have income from work, which is key. I do, though, take the points made regarding the difficulty of getting a job in the palm of your hand before asking for it.

The Government, however, remains committed to making work pay. As the Chancellor made clear yesterday, the best way to help working people is by taking them out of tax altogether. In April 2012 we will make a £630 increase in the income tax personal allowance, taking it to £8,105. This is in addition to the £1,000 increase in April this year. Together, these increases will benefit 25 million individuals and take 1.1 million low-income individuals out of tax from April 2012.

As I started to articulate, there is then the reform to which I look forward. Universal credit will unify the complex current system of means-tested out of work benefits, tax credits and support for housing into one single payment. The award will be withdrawn at a single rate, with the aim of offering a smooth transition into work and encouraging progression into work.

For parents currently on working tax credit, and in the future, the Government continue to provide support for 70% of child care costs—I am conscious that hon. Members have mentioned child care today. That goes up to a weekly limit of £175 for families with one child and £300 for two or more children. Under the universal credit this support will be extended to those working fewer than 16 hours, which will allow 80,000 additional families to receive help with childcare costs. That will give second earners and lone parents, typically women, a stronger incentive to work, and I am proud of all those measures. That will give second earners and lone parents, typically women, a stronger incentive to work, and I am proud of all those measures.

I shall deal briefly with child poverty and the way in which the Government see it before concluding. Poverty is about more than income; it is about a lack of opportunity, aspiration and stability. We are keen to tackle its root causes, and ensure that children born in low-income families realise their full potential. I have suggested measures that will help, both in the short and long term, but policy in this area has been distorted by a preoccupation with counting the number of children below a certain line, rather than moving families over a real line, as opposed to an imaginary one.