HC Deb 26 January 1998 vol 305 c16
12. Mrs. Virginia Bottomley

If she will make a statement on the future of child benefit. [23063]

Mr. Field

I remind the right hon. Lady of the two commitments made in our manifesto.

Mrs. Bottomley

When I worked for the right hon. Gentleman 27 years ago, we campaigned to protect children from the Chancellor's threats. Will he give an undertaking to work as hard and to fight with as much determination today to protect children from the Chancellor's menaces? I have not changed my mind about the importance of recognising the extra costs and needs of children at every income level. Has the right hon. Gentleman changed his mind?

Mr. Field

I have not changed my mind, but when the right hon. Lady and I worked at the Child Poverty Action Group, we were both trying to protect family allowance—it is now called child benefit—from a Tory Chancellor.

Mr. David Heath

In view of the Secretary of State's well-publicised concerns, how many women who are millionaires draw child benefit?

Mr. Field

If the hon. Gentleman would like to table a question on that specific point, I shall try to find the answer.

Mrs. Gillan

Does the Minister realise that working mothers throughout the country have been seriously alarmed at the recent report in The Times of 15 January that, in order to tax child benefit and cap maternity benefit, the Chancellor may end the independent taxation of women? Does he agree that abandoning separate taxation would further undermine the institution of marriage and make it more tax advantageous to cohabit? Will he now rule that out completely to set working mothers' minds at rest?

Mr. Field

Traditionally, taxation issues are the province of the Chancellor of the Exchequer.