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Tax Credits

Volume 448: debated on Thursday 13 July 2006

11. How many non-pensioner families in the Ashton-under-Lyne constituency were recipients of tax credits in each of the last three years; how many have been identified as having received overpayments; and if he will make a statement. (84772)

The estimated number of child and working tax credits awards in the Ashton-under-Lyne constituency in 2003-04 was 11,600. In 2004-05 there were 13,300 awards to families in Ashton-under-Lyne, of which 4,100 were overpaid.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. It is clear that many families in my constituency have been lifted out of poverty by tax credits, and she is to be commended for her role in that. However, she will know that the continuing delays in resolving disputes about overpayments still cause hardship and distress for some people. One of my constituents has been told repeatedly that she is invisible to the computer, even though she can produce reams of correspondence that the computer has generated. Other eligible constituents have simply abandoned their claims in despair. Will my right hon. Friend redouble her efforts to get to grips with such problems?

As my hon. Friend acknowledged, some 13,300 families in his constituency benefit from tax credits. He will be aware that I have announced to the House that the Department must deal with disputed overpayments within four weeks, and that it must continue to pay claimants while disputes are being resolved. That is precisely what is happening. I hear what my hon. Friend says about specific cases in his area. I cannot deal with them now, but if he raises them with me in writing, I shall do my best to get him a sensible answer.

Order. I can tell the hon. Gentleman that Tunbridge Wells is a bit too far away for him to get involved in this question. While I am on my feet, I must advise you, Mr. Stuart, that you must be quiet. You have had your say in the House, and it is unfair to barrack Ministers every time they speak.