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Tax Credits and Employment

Volume 591: debated on Tuesday 27 January 2015

I thank the Minister for that confirmation that more than two thirds of people getting tax credits are in work. How can she claim to be helping working families when the Chancellor wants to cut their tax credits again, causing real-terms economic pain?

Let us put this into some context. For a start, tax credit spending rocketed under the previous Government and throughout this Parliament we have made it abundantly clear that we support those with low incomes. Let us not forget either that the impact of Labour’s great recession is still being felt. We continue to help people with the cost of living through the increases in personal allowances, the freeze in fuel duty, cuts in council tax and, of course, by reducing the cost of child care.

Working tax credits are in effect a form of corporate welfare for employers who could pay higher wages, especially if tied to increased skills. Will the Minister continue her conversations with the Minister for Skills and Equalities about ways in which we can create a combination of those two, perhaps in the form of tax credits for training, such as proposed by Premier Inn?

I thank my hon. Friend for his suggestion. He is right that more can be done through working with business and learning from their suggestions.

17. How can the Minister claim there is no cost of living crisis when average full-time wages are down by £2,000 a year, when huge and increasing numbers of workers are dependent on state benefits to make ends meet, and when the gap between chief execs’ salaries and the people who work for them is growing all the time? (907251)

Let us be clear. There are a couple of points I would like to make. The Government have shown that the only way to improve and increase living standards is by tackling head-on the country’s economic problems, which are down to the legacy of the previous Government, and by supporting those who do the right thing and aspire to work. I hope the hon. Lady welcomes the fact that in her constituency things have improved, with employment down substantially by 47% and youth unemployment down by 52%.

Tax credits have helped many people, but it is also true that some have been prevented from taking a promotion or a salary increase because they would lose more in taxpayer-funded benefits than they would gain from their employer. That has to be wrong. Does my hon. Friend agree that as universal credit is rolled out across the country, so we return to the crucial principle that work always pays? I am afraid that that got lost under the previous Government.

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. He mentions the very important universal credit roll-out. As it rolls out—[Interruption.] It is already being rolled out, and it is going well. As it rolls out, more and more people will benefit. He is right to point out that this is about both the value of work and aspiration. We are the only party that stands for aspiration and value in work, and inspiring people to get off benefits and back into work.