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Child Tax Credits

Volume 538: debated on Wednesday 11 January 2012

2. What assessment he has made of the effect of the autumn statement on child tax credit payments in Scotland. (88252)

The welfare system must remain fair and affordable, while protecting the most vulnerable. Most working-age benefits, benefits for disabled people and the basic state pension will increase by 5.2% in April. In order to remain on course with the debt consolidation plan and meet their fiscal mandate, the Government will increase the child element of child tax credit by the rate of inflation.

According to the House of Commons Library, the Government’s decision not to proceed with the £110 increase in the child element of child tax credit will take £41 million away from nearly 400,000 children in Scotland alone. Worst hit in Scotland will be Glasgow city, where 44,000 children are set to miss out on £4.8 million. When will the Secretary of State stand up for the children of Scotland?

The Government are standing up for the children of Scotland. That is why our priority is sorting out the mess that the Labour Government made of our economy. The hon. Gentleman would do well to heed the words of the former Secretary of State for Scotland, the right hon. Member for East Renfrewshire (Mr Murphy):

“The truth is the Labour party would have to make cuts if we were in power.”

We all accept that these are difficult economic times, but does the Minister agree that one of the most effective ways of helping the lowest-paid families is raising the income tax threshold to £10,000 and beyond?

I entirely agree. The measure has had a significant impact in Scotland, and more than 2 million basic-rate taxpayers will benefit from it during the current Parliament.

After another week that has been dominated by political debate and headlines relating to Scotland’s constitution, we must not ignore a report by End Child Poverty showing that 50% of local authority areas in Scotland contain wards in which 30% of children are living in poverty, and that in some wards in my constituency the figure is 50%. What action is the Secretary of State taking, along with the Scottish Government, to ensure that every child in Scotland is given the best start and opportunities in life?

The hon. Gentleman raises important issues, such as the fact that many of the levers relating to child poverty rest with the Scottish Government. As a result of the autumn statement, the Scottish Government received more than £500 million in additional revenue. I should have thought it would be better if they focused on how to deploy that revenue to deal with such problems as child poverty than to obsess about the constitution.