Labour to consider options for reform of child benefit
Tuesday 14 December 1993
Commenting on a series of potential changes in one of the most politically-sensitive areas on which it will have to report to Labour, Mr Dewar said: 'It is a healthy corrective to the prejudiced treatment of children's issues which has marked government policy. This is a document looking for solutions and not for scapegoats.
'This is a discussion document which very properly sets out the options for child benefit, but it is significant that the abolition of child benefit is not on the commission's agenda.
'It deals with the problem in the round, pointing up the cruel statistics which show one child in five living in a family dependent on income support.'
But in spite of provisos that the commission's work is still exploratory - and subject to final ratification by the party - the six options set out in the paper, together with the advantages and disadvantages, show that once unthinkable reform of the benefit is now firmly on the political agenda.
Despite the paper's emphasis on the 'exceptionally high' take-up rate of the benefit as it now stands, its examination of the alternatives is bound to be exploited politically by the Government as it prepares to abandon its commitment to retaining and uprating the current system before the next election.
While Mr Dewar emphasised that means-testing was the least-favoured option in the paper, he said: 'It is right that thought be given to the best way forward. There is a public debate on these issues. This is a constructive contribution to it.'
Other options include retaining child benefit and increasing it substantially by withdrawing the married couple's tax allowance. That could be combined with the option of taxing the increased benefit.
A further possibility is an extra tax levy on child benefit, under which the benefit would be progressively withdrawn, until exhausted, at a special high rate of tax.
The paper says the benefit could be abolished and tax allowances reintroduced - a possibility floated by Peter Lilley, Secretary of State for Social Security - but it lists a number of severe disadvantages.
Alternatively, the benefit could be converted into a combined
benefit/tax credit, or restricted to the under-fives.
- 1 Migrant crisis: Greek soldier saved 20 people singlehandedly off Rhodes beach
- 2 Sofyen Belamouadden murder: The inside story of a crime that horrified Britain
- 3 Company breaks open Apple Watch to discover what it says is 'planned obsolescence'
- 5 UK weather: Britain braced for snow as arctic air mass moves in
Migrant crisis: Greek soldier saved 20 people singlehandedly off Rhodes beach
Ian Brady: Moors murderer announces his support for Ukip and the SNP
Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding
UK weather: Britain braced for snow as arctic air mass moves in
Bali Nine executions in Indonesia: Death row British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford says she 'just wants to get it over with'
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
General Election 2015: Britain would become a 'communist dictatorship' under Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon, claims wife of Michael Gove
£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful, family owned m...
£20000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Account Payable Assistant - SW Londo...
£14560 - £17680 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Even though their premises have...
£44000 - £48000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Marketing company based in cent...