In total, 4.5 million households are in receipt of tax credits, and 71% of them are in employment. The Government believe it is right to provide additional support to those in need through the benefits system, but we have been clear throughout that we want to ensure that people are better off in work than on benefits.
I am sure the hon. Lady shares my delight at the great news that the gender pay gap is lower than it has ever been, that there are more women in work than ever before and that 1.85 million people are in work who were not in work at the time of the last general election. That is cause for celebration. The Government have strived at every point to support women into work, whether through entrepreneurial allowances, support for women with child care or other measures.
19. Is my hon. Friend aware of the Institute for Fiscal Studies report on living standards showing that living standards are back to where they were before Labour’s great recession? Does this not help the very people she has mentioned? (907975)
Yes, my hon. Friend is exactly right. The IFS report also showed that 200,000 fewer people were in relative poverty in 2014-15 compared with 2009-10, including 100,000 children, and that since 2010 the number of children under 16 in workless households had fallen by about 390,000, taking it to the lowest level since records began. That is very good news.
25. The average wage in my constituency is £450, which is £71 per week less than the national average. How can the Minister defend real-terms cuts to tax credits for these hard-working people, particularly the women, in my constituency? (907981)
The hon. Gentleman will surely be delighted at the news from the IFS and other forecasters that real wages are now rising at a higher rate than inflation, and it is thanks to our long-term economic plan that inflation is so low. We have had council tax cuts and fuel duty freezes, and we have done everything we can by raising personal tax-free allowances to enable people to benefit from a recovering economy, but we can only do it by sticking to a long-term economic plan.
Am I right in thinking that universal credit will replace working tax credits and child tax credits, making 3 million households better off by an average of £177 per month and improving work incentives by allowing people to keep more of their income as they move into work?
Yes, my right hon. Friend is exactly right. Universal credit is a major reform that will transform the welfare state in Britain for the better. It will replace the current complex system of means-tested working-age benefits, including tax credits, and make 3 million households better off by on average £177 a month.