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Budget (Impact Assessments)

Volume 525: debated on Tuesday 22 March 2011

11. If he will (a) prepare and (b) publish an assessment of the relative effect of his forthcoming budget on women, families and ethnic minorities. (47928)

Consistent with the approach taken at the June Budget, the Government will publish analysis on the Budget’s overall impact on households across the income and expenditure distributions in the Red Book. The Budget is an overall statement of economic policy containing a wide range of measures, and it is not possible to make a robust assessment of its overall impact on specific groups.

I am surprised by that answer. Since the general election, the Government have made 17 distinct cuts to tax credits and child benefit, which are paid to women. Tomorrow, the Chancellor will announce increases in personal allowances, which will benefit millions more men than women. Does the Minister think it is fair that money should be taken from women to give it to men?

All I can say is that I am surprised that the hon. Lady is opposed to increases in personal allowances and I suspect that she might be somewhat lonely in the Lobby opposing it.

Is the Minister aware of my freedom of information request from last September which found that the previous Government never carried out an equalities impact assessment—not in the March Budget, the December pre-Budget report or the March 2010 Budget? They never did it either.

Order. I am sorry but I must repeat, and I hope that the message will be heeded, that questions must be about the policy of the current Government.

Does my hon. Friend agree that raising the income tax threshold, protecting spending on the NHS and increasing spending on social care will definitely benefit women?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to highlight this point. Some of us recall the difficulty in getting distributional analyses out of the previous Government and it has to be said that this Government are taking great steps forward.

The Chancellor chose to hit women three times as hard as men in his Budget last year and now, as living costs rise and the public sector is slashed, he wants to hit them yet again by changing the rules around maternity and paternity leave and flexible working in small companies. Is it really women whom the Prime Minister has in mind when he talks about taking on the enemies of enterprise, and can the Minister reassure the House that it will not be women who bear the brunt of tomorrow’s Budget?

This is pretty desperate stuff. It is in the interests of the entire country that we sort out the public finances, even if the Labour party will not accept that.

Does the Minister agree that the fact that we are not cutting the NHS will really support women because they are so often carers in their family and it is so important that we support them in that important role?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right and it is striking that the previous shadow Chancellor and the previous shadow Health Secretary said that it was madness to ring-fence the NHS. That is not the view of this Government.