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Tax and Benefits

Volume 556: debated on Thursday 10 January 2013

2. What assessment she has made of the implications for her policies on women of recent tax and benefit changes. (136067)

Departments always take full account of the impact on women of their policies, and the Government are supporting women and their families, for example by extending child care through universal credit and by lifting 2 million of the lowest paid workers—of whom six out of 10 are women—out of income tax altogether.

Research from the House of Commons Library shows that women will be hit four times harder by incoming direct tax, tax credit and benefit changes. Will the Minister tell us why she allowed the Chancellor to get away with treating women so unfairly in his autumn statement?

The hon. Lady needs to look at the total package of measures brought forward in the autumn statement. We are absolutely mindful of the need to make sure that we support those who find it most difficult in today’s society. That is why 1 million women have been taken out of tax altogether and why we are putting £200 million more into child care for people who are working the shortest hours. Those things have never happened before, and I hope the hon. Lady will applaud and welcome those measures.

On 5 January last Saturday, BBC Radio 6 Music made history when three consecutive daytime programmes were presented by female DJs for the first time in the BBC’s 45 years of music radio. While less than 20% of the BBC’s music radio programmes were presented by women in 2012, will the Secretary of State please continue her discussions with the BBC to correct that imbalance?

I am wondering how that question relates to tax and benefit changes, but I will of course always encourage the BBC to make sure that women have a full role in the work they do.

The Minister will agree that it is really important for pregnant women to be able to afford to eat healthily and to take their full maternity leave when the baby is born, so why is she cutting £180 from maternity pay, cutting more than £1,000 in tax credits and, according to the House of Commons Library, even including the tax allowances that she mentioned, cutting a total of £1,300 from new mums on low income, yet giving a £13,000 tax cut to someone—usually a man—who is earning over £400,000 a year? In her role as the Minister for Women and Equalities, did she even try to stop the Chancellor hitting women, especially new mothers, so hard?

The right hon. Lady will have heard my response to her colleague earlier—the Treasury is looking at the detail of how its policies impact on various groups and has made it an absolute priority to give support to those who need it most, ensuring that more families are able to get into work and that work pays for more people. Above all else, it is making sure that our children do not have to deal in the future with the record levels of deficit left by the right hon. Lady’s Government.

Does my right hon. Friend share my astonishment that Opposition Members always want to emphasise the plight of women? Is she as delighted as I am about the growing numbers of health visitors, the growing numbers of nursery places for disadvantaged two-year-olds and the tax-free allowances that directly affect so many women and make their lives so much better under this Government?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We want to target support effectively in our communities, and I think that, whether we look at the role of Sure Start centres or the role of health visitors, the changes that have been made are plain to see.

7. According to the impact assessment relating to the Welfare Benefits Up-rating Bill, 2 million lone parents, 90% of them women, will be affected by this measure. Why does the Minister think it fair for millionaires to be given a tax cut of more than £2,000 a week while 1.8 million women bringing up children lose an average of £5 a week? (136073)

An impact assessment relating to a benefit that is predominantly claimed by women will, of course, predict the impact that the hon. Gentleman has described. We need to ensure that families across the board receive the support that will enable them to get into work that pays, and the support that they require for the future.