During Treasury question time, challenges to the upcoming child benefit reforms were put forward by Opposition Members who questioned the mechanism used to enforce the changes, and the fairness of means-testing.
Speaking to The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury Mr David Gauke, Labour MP Nic Dakin asked what mechanism would be used to ensure that households which include one or more higher rate taxpayer would be excluded from receiving child benefit payments. Mr Gauke asserted that benefit would be withdrawn using PAYE and self-assessment systems, claiming the “vast majority of claimants” would continue to receive payments and would “not be affected by this change”.
Mr Dakin then criticised the Prime Minister’s claim earlier this year that he wanted this Government to be “the most family-friendly Government we have ever had in this country”. Mr Dakin asked, “How does this proposal support a family where on partner stays at home to look after the children while the other partner earns over £45,000 a year?”
Mr Gauke responded by attacking the Opposition’s assertion that households paying higher rate tax should continue to receive benefit payments while “those who do not earn so much contribute towards that”, saying it showed Labour was “not getting to grips with the scale of the [fiscal] crisis”.
The plans, set to come into force from January 2013, have previously been attacked for being unworkable unless an overhaul of the tax system takes place. As child benefit is paid to the mother with the father’s tax status irrelevant, there were fears of difficulty determining if a household had one or more higher rate taxpayer.