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Benefit Entitlements

Volume 447: debated on Monday 12 June 2006

14. What discussions he has had with the Treasury on departmental responsibilities for the benefit entitlements of those in work. (76106)

There are regular discussions between departmental officials and officials in the Treasury on the operation of the tax credit scheme and its interaction with Department for Work and Pensions benefits.

As the Minister knows, the tax credit system is a complete shambles from start to finish—so much so that some of my constituents have been sent a letter stating:

“Unfortunately the forms”—

about how to complain—

“are not available but will be sent to you as they become available.”

So, people cannot even complain about this mess, which has been caused by the Treasury’s power grab for this aspect of policy and by the Chancellor’s obsession with gaining control of every aspect of domestic policy. Will the Minister’s Department now assert itself and get back under its control this aspect of policy that is vital for so many people on low incomes?

The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that tax credits are benefiting 6 million families and about 10 million children throughout the United Kingdom. They have also played an important part in helping to lift 700,000 children out of poverty. Of course, I reiterate the apology that has been offered by other Ministers for the mistakes that have been made in the operation of the tax credit system and for the difficulties that they have caused. However, I do so, in the expectation that Conservative Members will offer an apology for voting against the creation of the system in the first place. Of course it is regrettable that the right hon. Gentleman’s constituent has to wait for the forms, but if we were relying on him and his party, they would still be waiting for the creation of the tax credits themselves, and for the alleviation of poverty that they have brought about.