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Child Benefit

Volume 930: debated on Friday 29 April 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Social Services in what circumstances families will be financially worse off as a result of the introduction of the child benefit scheme; whether such circumstances had been envisaged by his Department when the scheme was drawn up; and what steps he proposes taking to remove such anomalies.

The child benefit scheme involves a major change in the structure of family support by replacing a tax allowance with a cash benefit. Inevitably the conditions of entitlement set out in the Child Benefit Act and Regulations could not be identical with those for child tax allowances; and consequently the person with title to the tax allowance may not have title to child benefit. This was made clear during the passage of the Child Benefit Act. Transitional arrangements have been made to allow continued title to full child tax allowances for parents of non-resident children and some students; and, as I said in my reply to the hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit) on 22nd April—[Vol. 930, c. 192–3]—the Budget proposals reduce still further the number of the relatively few families who would still be worse off. It is not possible to frame a simple list of categories of people who would be in this position since this will typically depend on the interaction of particular circumstances. To take a fairly simple example, some people with tax-free national insurance benefits may be worse off, depending on how long they are on benefit, but only if they have substantial other income in the course of the tax year. If the hon. Member is interested in any particular group I will be glad to see if I can help him further.