Letter: Childcare tax breaks

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The Independent Online
CONGRATULATIONS on your campaign for a childcare allowance. In welcoming your campaign, Liberal Democrats may ask you to make two qualifications.

First, the object must be to help those single parents who choose to work, not to penalise those who make the equally legitimate choice to stay at home. It is not the purpose of the state to tell people how to live but to enable them to make their own choices effective.

Second, we hope that you may give changes in the benefit system priority over tax breaks. Tax breaks, by definition, can only help those who are already working and those who suffer worst are those whom the cost of childcare prevents from working at all. In theory, Harriet Harman is tackling this problem, but her changes are hedged about with eligibility conditions so tight that Steve Webb MP, the Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Social Security, has calculated that only 2,000 women in the whole country are entitled to benefit from them.

What we need is to give Harriet Harman some money to put where her mouth is. She might find the Treasury would benefit as much as the single parent.

Earl RUSSELL

Liberal Spokesman for Social Security

House of Lords

London SW1

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