Letter: Welfare for women

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Sir: It is nonsense to suggest that the Government wants to revert to a regime where women are treated as virtual chattels of their husbands, or to embark on a massive transfer of resources from women to men ("Women lose up to pounds 10bn under Labour", 1 December).

The Government is committed to modernising the tax and benefit system so that it boosts family income through work. We believe this is the best way to relieve poverty and strengthen family and community life, from which women as well as men will gain.

Diane Coyle writes that "In three-fifths of eligible families that [the main earner] is the man". In fact, the mother is the sole or main wage earner in three-fifths of families in receipt of Family Credit. So it is likely that the majority of those receiving the tax credit, paid through the pay packet, would be women.

There are a number of options under consideration for the form of the Working Family Tax Credit, including the use of a family income test. This is not the same as ending independent taxation. Such a test already applies to Family Credit, where, for a couple, both partners' income is written on the same claim form.

As Gordon Brown made clear last week, the Working Family Tax Credit provides the opportunity for helping working mothers by improving further the support given to low income families for child care. On the same day, he announced enough funds to set up an out-of-school childcare club in every community. This is good news for working mothers and their families.


(Airdrie and Shotts, Lab)

London SW1

The writer is Economic Secretary to the Treasury