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Welfare Reform (Multiple Births)

Volume 521: debated on Monday 10 January 2011

14. What recent assessment he has made of the likely effects of his welfare reform proposals on families with multiple births. (32656)

The changes that we have proposed for welfare reform are intended to make work pay for everyone and to tailor specific back-to-work help to meet individual circumstances. Approximately 10,000 births in the UK are multiple births, from a total number of 800,000 births.

Reforms to the Sure Start maternity grant have protected cases where the first birth is a multiple birth; the Sure Start maternity grant will be payable for all children when the first birth is a multiple. I would welcome any further views or thoughts from anybody about what they feel we ought to be doing about this issue.

I thank the Secretary of State for that reply and declare an interest, as the father of one-year-old twins.

Although having twins is a very rewarding privilege, it is, as has been remarked before, often a case of two for the price of three. Research undertaken by the New Policy Institute on behalf of the Twins and Multiple Births Association, or TAMBA, shows that multiple-birth families will suffer more than most under the proposed reforms. May I ask the Secretary of State whether he or one of his Ministers will meet me and representatives of TAMBA to discuss some of the perhaps unintended consequences of their reform proposals for families with multiple births?

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his twins; I have four children, and one at a time was quite enough. I hope that he benefits greatly from that double-up. We will definitely see him and any group that he wishes to lead to discuss the matter further.

I welcome the Government’s decision to pay a maternity grant for each child when the first birth is a multiple birth, but does the Secretary of State not accept that parents can face exceptional costs when a multiple birth follows an earlier, single birth? Could he not apply the same rationale and pay the maternity grant in those circumstances?

The issue that my hon. Friend has raised is complicated. We are looking at it and discussing it, and I am happy to take it further with him if he wishes. However, it does add complications to an already complicated system.