IDS was talking openly about restricting Child Benefit to two children, so how can the Conservatives deny Danny Alexander’s claims?

Danny Alexander has claimed that the Tories would meet their target of cutting £12 billion to the welfare budget by  making massive cuts to Child Benefit, means testing, limiting it to two children, abolishing the increased payment for the first child and removing it for 16-19 year olds. He told the Guardian that they had suggested these things back in 2012 and the Liberal Democrats had put a stop to them:

The Conservatives have been under sustained pressure to detail how they will cut £12bn from the welfare budget by 2017-2018, and the Institute for Fiscal Studies thinktank confirmed this week the Tories have so far disclosed only 10% of these cut in the form of a two-year freeze in working age benefits.

A separate internal government paper, Alexander reveals, was drawn up by the Treasury commissioned by the Tories for an additional £6bn cuts in welfare to be announced in the 2012 Autumn Statement.

The £8bn worth of welfare cuts were drawn up by Duncan Smith at a time when the cabinet was considering whether to stick to its timetable to reduce Britain’s national debt as a proportion of GDP. The plan was dropped.

The Tories have come out with a mockraged “But how could he suggest such a thing?” denial. This is barely credible. We know that Iain Duncan Smith was talking openly about limiting Child Benefit to two children back in 2013 as was Grant Shapps who added an even nastier element to this policy – that it should only apply to unemployed parents. According to the Telegraph, then:

But instead of denying the payments to all large families, some Tories have suggested that restrictions should be applied only to parents who do not work.

Grant Shapps, the Conservative chairman, earlier this year suggested that unemployed parents should not receive child benefit for additional children.

Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, last year questioned whether it was acceptable that families on benefits should continue to receive endless amounts of money for every child they have, when parents who are working often cannot afford to have more children.

The Lib Dems have insisted that there should be no more welfare cuts imposed during this Parliament.

As recently as last month, Newsnight reported that the Tories were wanting to restrict payment to three children, with Dominic Raab muttering darkly about “personal responsibility.”

Limiting Child Benefit in the way the Tories suggest would, of course, hit the working age poorest the most.

I am assuming that it’s no accident that Danny is telling us this on the day of the Leaders’ Question Time tonight. The Tories have not been pushed on this enough during the campaign. If their plans for those massive £12 billion cuts to an already pared to the bone welfare budget were not controversial, they would have no problem with publishing them. Their vagueness around both those cuts and their unfunded pledges on tax cuts for the rich and the NHS is surprising for a party which likes to boast about its economic responsibility. People have a right to know what they are getting before they cast their vote.

These ideas have been around in the Tory party for quite some time. If the Liberal Democrats were not in Government, these would not just exist in some Tory policy paper, or some Treasury document. They would be on the statute book.

Child Benefit must be based on need, not on insulting and inaccurate value judgements by well-heeled Conservatives. Stigmatising certain children by denying them benefit purely because of their position in the family is a horrible idea. They really mustn’t be allowed to get away with it.



* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • Bill le Breton 30th Apr '15 - 8:58am

    At last gloves are off! No messing around, this is great campaigning stuff – what a shame it wasn’t done 7 days ago before arrival of postal votes.

    Clegg and Alexander have finally left the psychological comfort zone of the virtual Quad.

    Blukip was always fuzzy and involved UKIP which was already dead and always was communicated with an attack on Labour. THis is pure Tory bashing which is what every candidate needs to hear and repeat.

  • In full agreement with you, Bill!

  • Things must be looking bad in the southern marginals if they are attacking the Tories like this – to little to late.

  • (Though, I still think Blukip has worked on some important doorsteps!)

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 30th Apr '15 - 9:12am

    I always said that he Blu on its own was horrific enough. You don’t really need the KIP.

    Tories have been getting away with creating a hyperbolic nightmare about Labour and the SNP. By far the worst outcome of this election would be them getting their hands on untrammelled power. I still think a small Tory majority is possible and, given the proportion of right wingers, very dangerous indeed.

  • What the Lib Dems think they are doing: Attacking the Conservatives.
    What the Lib Dems are actually doing: Proving that Coalitions don’t work, defeating their main aim of the last 5 years with a self-inflicted wound.

  • Come on…I love it, actually getting back to what I have been doing for the Lib Dems for 50 years, stuffing the Tories.Think thats what the majority of us want

  • @Dan in the real world people are allowed to disagree on proposed solutions to a problem and then compromise to find a solution that works for all parties. In an election campaign its only natural to promote your own policies and point out the weaknesses in your opponents’.

    @Bob Sayers “I love it, actually getting back to what I have been doing for the Lib Dems for 50 years, stuffing the Tories.Think thats what the majority of us want”

    And that attitude is why the party is in the mess that it’s in. Too many people seem to see “stuffing the Tories” as an end in itself, rather than looking for constructive ways in which we can work with people where we see common cause in order to enact the sort of policies we want to see in place.

  • Would the liberal democrats rule out working with any party that wanted to cut child benefit?

  • John Barrett 30th Apr '15 - 9:54am

    The sad thing about this story is that clearly much political debate is now either non existent, or in the gutter.

    If IDS thinks limiting Child Benefit to two children or to the wealthy is a good idea, there should have been an open debate about it, in our party, where there will be a range of views – then between parties. What we are hearing now is that discussions clearly happened behind closed doors when we were in the coalition and kept quiet, now the gloves are off in the election campaign more details have come out into the open.

    The end result is that neither party is actually going into detail about what they stand for and the electorate, and many of our own supporters are switching off.

    Most people now interviewed on TV say they will just be glad when the election is all over, but if the polls are correct, that is when the real political discussion will start.

  • @g what do you define as a cut in child benefit?

  • Sadly, too little too late….Danny has known about this for years; the time to produce this was weeks ago when the Tories (Osborne in particular) openly refused to ‘detail’ their £12B ‘black-hole’…. Such an interjection from ‘one who was there’ would have focussed media attention on every Tory election interview….

  • @expats OTOH deploying it on the day of the QT debate will put pressure on Cameron in this debate and will still be fresh in the minds of undecided voters in a week’s time.

    Clever timing.

  • TCO 30th Apr ’15 – 10:14am ……[email protected] OTOH deploying it on the day of the QT debate will put pressure on Cameron in this debate and will still be fresh in the minds of undecided voters in a week’s time……Clever timing….

    OTOH… Cameron will only have to ‘dodge the issue’ once. Had it been “News” for a while there would have been a groundswell demanding an answer…bad timing

    Let’s wait and see whether it even figures strongly in the debate…

  • Child Benefit is the only benefit paid as of right to the carer who is – most of the time, but not always – the mother. It is great to see Danny fighting for it.
    I think Bill is right too!

  • Bill le Breton 30th Apr '15 - 11:12am

    ATF – I think it may even have been worth the right ear bashing I received last Sunday from our gallant friend 😉

  • Bill le Breton 30th Apr '15 - 11:14am

    Good old fashioned Liverpool street fighting, Flo!!!!

  • jedibeeftrix 30th Apr '15 - 11:24am

    “Child Benefit must be based on need”

    It isn’t. For all intents and purposes it is a universal benefit in application, regardless of coalition tinkering.

    Child tax credits on the other hand are not they are specifically described as for low income families.
    So why the hell am I and my wife eligible to receive them?

    Child benefit should stop at three kids, I.e. whole number above the required replacement rate. Want more, take responsibility. This is not stigmatising kids, that is absurd.

    Working benefits I’d prefer scrapped (along with lower general taxation), but if they must survive they should be targeted on those in [genuine] need, not young families in a middle decile of income according to guardian figures.

  • Helen Tedcastle 30th Apr '15 - 11:39am

    At long last, Danny puts the boot in to the Tories and their ruthless cuts agenda. Why has it taken him so long?

    IDS seems to have a pathological dislike of the poor, especially those with children. Limiting payments to random numbers of offspring to suit his agenda has to be a new low, even for the hard-right of the Tory Party.

  • I don’t think this message undermines Lib Dem involvement in the Coalition at all. It simply recognises that the Lib Dems are not soft Tories and the prospect of a Conservative government is not that pretty. It also recognizes that the Conservatives are the main opposition in a lot of seats and that attacking labour in seats they were never going to win is a bit pointless. The alternative approach simply strengthens the Conservative vote.

  • I love it Bill!!!

  • David Evershed 30th Apr '15 - 11:54am

    Whatever IDS was proposing about child benefit, Osborne has today denied that the Conservatives wanted to implement it or have proposals to implement it in the future,

    See BBC report at

    Speaking to BBC London Mr Osborne said the document Mr Alexander was using to substantiate his accusations was “three years old” and “commissioned by the chief secretary himself”.

    The chancellor added: “We haven’t put into practice any of these options, we don’t support them. We didn’t support them then and we don’t support them in the future.

    We will see whether IDS or Osborne turns out to be correct.

  • Bill le Breton 30th Apr '15 - 12:01pm

    David Evershed – just repeat on every door – parents, grandparents – repeat it again and again, louder and LOUDER. You do not reply to Tory weazle words – Shout it from the roof tops. THEY ARE GOING TO SNATCH YOUR CHILD BENEFIT.

  • Eddie Sammon 30th Apr '15 - 12:13pm

    Can people who want “pure Tory bashing” also explain the benefits of being a “mini me” Labour Party?

  • @Eddie Sammon “Can people who want “pure Tory bashing” also explain the benefits of being a “mini me” Labour Party?”

    Those who refuse to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

    “The party gained ground in the 1923 general election but ominously made most of its gains from Conservatives whilst losing ground to Labour – a sign of the party’s direction for many years to come … There was much speculation and fear about the prospect of a Labour government, and comparatively little about a Liberal government, even though it could have plausibly presented an experienced team of ministers compared to Labour’s almost complete lack of experience, as well as offering a middle ground that could obtain support from both Conservatives and Labour in crucial Commons divisions. But instead of trying to force the opportunity to form a Liberal government, Asquith decided instead to allow Labour the chance of office, in the belief that they would prove incompetent and this would set the stage for a revival of Liberal fortunes at Labour’s expense. It was a fatal error. Labour was determined to destroy the Liberals.”

  • Eddie Sammon 30th Apr '15 - 12:33pm

    TCO, good point, but I don’t even mind if people want the Lib Dems to move to the left as long as they respect political opponents, rather than just shouting about the evil tories.

    Saying “we think taxes should be higher to pay for public services we need” comes across much better than “THEY ARE GOING TO SNATCH YOUR CHILD BENEFIT”, to quote Bill le Breton.

  • David Evershed 30th Apr ’15 – 11:54am ……………..The chancellor added: “We haven’t put into practice any of these options, we don’t support them. We didn’t support them then and we don’t support them in the future………..

    “But we won’t tell you what we are proposing because they would cost us the election.” “I believe the voters should accept that I have a ‘cunning plan’ that allows £12B in cuts without affecting anyone”…He added that David Cameron’s appearance on QT will confirm that the plan is “really, really cunning”…..

  • Bill le Breton 30th Apr '15 - 12:55pm

    Why Tory bashing is important tactically?

    If like me you have always thought there was a danger that the Tory vote would rise in the last few days, you should support focused and uncontaminated attacks by us on the Tories – to help reignite the Tory Nasty Party brand and suppress such a tendency – and combating any putative rise in Tory support levels in our Tory facing seats.

    But won’t that hurt us in Labour facing seats?

    No – what will harm us more is the polarization of the vote between the Tories and Labour in the last few days following any sign of momentum gathering behind the Tories. (In the same way that the polarization of the Labour SNP vote is damaging us north of the border.

    I happen to think that this analysis is finally getting through to the High Command. And we shall see. I am told that there is more to come.

    But then I probably haven’t fought in as many elections campaigns as others contributing here and I shall be interested he how they think the party can better survive the next 7 days.

  • Eddie Sammon.
    No it doesn’t come across better. The conservative are busily scaremongering against the SNP and are still trying to push a skivers and strivers agenda, whilst their press try to depict the Lib Dems as dishonest and irrelevant. This is a battle for survival in an increasingly negative campaign. In seats where the Conservatives are the main opposition they are not going to soft peddle attempts to remove Lib Dems. To survive the Lib Dems have to make sure this doesn’t happen.

  • David Evans 30th Apr '15 - 1:09pm

    TCO’s post shows that at last some people are getting it. The key last two sentences of the article say “So the net effect of the changes projected here would be that the number of MPs in the Commons who could potentially support a minority Conservative government will actually go down by 15. Perhaps Conservatives should think twice before celebrating setbacks for their coalition partners.” Will next Thursday’s headline be “Vote Clegg. Save Cameron.”

  • Eddie Sammon 30th Apr '15 - 1:13pm

    Bill, thanks for your polite response. I think the Tories can be toxified without making ourselves toxic too. I think there is a way to do it.

    Personally I raised my eyebrows in horror when I saw the plans to get rid of child benefit for 16-19 year olds, but these things can be done if only taken from richer youths.

  • All this toing and froing of who commissioned the paper.
    George Osbourne saying it was Danny Alexander and now Danny Alexander saying it was in fact Cameron.

    Danny should release the actual document and show us who commissioned it.
    Assuming he would have had the sense to keep a copy for himself as future evidence .

    Let the country see once and for all the truth about the kind of Prime Minister we have and his attitude to working poor families.

  • matt (Bristol) 30th Apr '15 - 1:32pm

    We need to keep on saying louder and louder that Tory claims to ‘stay the course’ and ‘finish the job’ are lies.

    They are acting like they are John Major in 1992 and trying to pretend that if you vote for them you’lll get more of the same. You won’t, you’ll get harsher cuts and a bickering party that’ll fall to pieces over the EU faster than you can say ‘Jean-Claude Juncker.

    If you like what the coalition has done, you at least half approve of the LibDems.

    If you want a reasonable chance – in many seats in my area – of moving the country’s direction of pollitical travel after the coalition towards the centre-left and away from the Right, you still need the LibDems.

    And if you want to change the system so you can vote for your minor party of choice, you still need the LibDems (and I wouldn’t vote SNP in Scotland, either – remember what happened to Blair’s hints of electoral reform when he got a landslide?)

    Even if you hate the LibDem leadership for the coalition and want to kick them hard, now is not the time to move your vote aware from the party.

  • Tory bashing is fine and as I have said that I have doing it for many years because the main opposition where I live is Tory but dont get me wrong,there are many Labour Councillors etc that I have argued with because they feel that spending money is the answer to all problems. Rather than engaging with people to seek ways forward……I have worked with Labour once in coalition, it was not a happy experience

  • Helen Dudden 30th Apr '15 - 1:43pm

    You supported this Government so it could hurt so many.

    Only those up to 11 years need to eat, and I understand this is not instant.

    Meningitis jabs for all, my own grandchild had one for her second birthday, about £300.

    Yes, you are flagging in the south, but, there is little to say further.

  • Eddie Sammon 30th Apr '15 - 2:52pm

    PS, Danny Alexander has had his Weetabix today. He’s been on the telly saying he saved welsh worker’s pay from being slashed. I admit this is good stuff. Lol.

  • David Evershed 30th Apr '15 - 3:18pm

    Bill Le Breton defends proclaiming the Conservatives as the nasty party on the grounds that the ends (fewer Conservative MPs) justify the means (smear tactics).

    Politicians replacing arguments about policies with insults about their opposition does nothing to help any party. It just results in all politicians being tarred with the same brush.

  • Interesting – They are the “horrible Tories” now. Danny Alexander did a very good job of being the spokesperson for the coalition. I for one think that he was an eager Tory stooge.

    I don’t believe him now as he attacks his previous lover – few will.
    Danny is finished and promoting him to the Lords will only make your party appear even more foolish and out of touch.

  • This is exactly the kind of policy bashing we should be doing, to each and every other party we are competing against. One has to draw a distinction between policy and ad hominem attacks – I thought calling the Chancellor ‘dangerous’ was just silly. This is much more the ticket. Tory bashing or Labour bashing on policy is putting clear water between us and the others, and as a voter rather than a party member nowadays more of the same please.

    Respect is about attacking ideas and not people – to think respect is about not speaking up just makes us irrelevant.

    One last point – being in coalition hasn’t stopped the Tories treating the LDs with contempt: the thuggery of the campaign against Lorely Burt in Solihull reminds me in every way of some of the sharper dust ups with the Labourites. Her Tory opponent has disrupted constituency clinics and has used his chums in local media to go negative on her since the day he was selected (long before the writ was dropped). It’s so depressing. It’s like something from Alan Bleasdale. The Conservatives clearly feel they owe the LDs nothing.

  • @David Evershed I agree . By all means attack policies but saying things like “nasty” or “evil” or “mean” is counter-productive.

  • @Andrew S “The Conservatives clearly feel they owe the LDs nothing.”

    Their constituency activists are the opposite to ours – they see us as “the enemy” in much the same way as our “Tory bashing” posters see them.

  • An even more important lesson from history (which I have been repeating for five years more often than anything except Matthew Huntbach’s history of the Liberal-SDP merger) is that those who get in bed with the Conservatives end up being devoured by them.

    Labour took advantage of the Liberals’ problems in the 1920s, but that followed a remarkable series of Labour own-goals: first the Asquith-Lloyd George split, then offering the ‘coupon’ to a majority of Conservative candidates, then sticking with a Conservative-dominated coalition until the Tories were finally ready to spit the Liberals out. And the whole unsavory affair was repeated in the ’30s and ’40s, weakening the Liberals yet further by splitting off a ‘National’ splinter group which was Tory in all but name. The Tory continuance of the MacDonald government produced a similar ‘National Labour’ group which met an equally miserable fate. Since then Labour has avoided coalitions other than the temporary wartime coalition under Churchill.

    The Conservatives do not love their coalition partners — they resent them, as they feel they are the natural party of Government, and should need no outside support — and they take the first available opportunity to destroy them. Nick Clegg, Danny Alexander, and David Laws should have known this on going into the coalition and kept the Tories at arms’ length. Instead we were treated to nonsense about “Liberal Conservatives” and a meeting of minds and a bold new vision and whatnot.

  • Bill le Breton 30th Apr '15 - 4:02pm

    I think I spoke of ‘re-awaking the nasty party brand’ which is quite different thing altogether but I wouldn’t expect those of you who couldn’t campaign your way out of a paper bag to appreciate that.

    No doubt you are living off someone else’s majority. That is political sponging. Which I regard with Ctemp.

  • The Tories have, in this election, confirmed that they are indeed, “The Nasty Party”….Their unremitting personal attacks on Milliband rather than promoting their own policies and now, in their panic over Alexander’s ‘revelation’ they are contradicting themselves on facts but are united on smears…..

  • matt (Bristol) 30th Apr '15 - 5:08pm

    David-1 — no party in UK history that I can think of has successfully exited from a peacetime coalition without a damaging (and in most cases, long-running) split or some kind of serious realignment / merger. (in fact the only coalition to end ‘well’ at all that I can think of is Churchill’s wartime one – which ended well for every participant except the Liberals who were squished).

    Whatever people’s differing visions and fears for the future for the party, we have the chance to be the first to do so, but the first step is mutual respect and forbearance within the party.

  • David Allen 30th Apr '15 - 5:11pm

    Well – Even a worm can turn. It’s good that Danny Alexander has finally turned against the Tories, a week before polling day. It would be far better if Clegg and Alexander had made it clear three years ago that there was an argument going on within the Coalition.

    The Tories, of course, are claiming that IDS’s proposals were just part of a long laundry list of options which got rejected, and that Danny is misrepresenting their significance. I suspect it’s the Tories who are fibbing. However, because Danny never brought the argument out into the open, he cannot now prove his case.

    Labour, reasonably enough, just want to harry the Tories and force them to come clean about what they plan to do now (or else, get pilloried for not coming clean). Nicola Sturgeon says that Danny has a bit of a cheek to come out with this now after spending five years propping up the Tories. I suspect a lot of voters will agree.

  • @Matt (Bristol) “Whatever people’s differing visions and fears for the future for the party, we have the chance to be the first to do so, but the first step is mutual respect and forbearance within the party.”

    Agreed Matt.

  • I was going to add – given your famous wisdom – what do you see as being no-nos in that respect?

  • matt (Bristol) 30th Apr '15 - 5:28pm

    I have no wisdom and am a mere onlooker, mainly, but any wisdom I have tells me answering that question would be bl**dy stupid.

  • @Matt (Bristol) as you’re someone with a declared leftish tinge but without some of the baggage of the more long-standing leftwing members I think your opinion would be extremely useful, as it would be seen as genuine by both sides.

  • I don’t think this is just a smear campaign. The Conservatives are committed to massive spending cuts. most taken from the welfare bill. They are on top of this promising tax cuts. So if this isn’t amongst their plans what is? I’m inclined to trust Danny Alexander far more than I am either Ian “dubious CV” Duncan Smith or George “there are no plans to raise VAT” Osborne. I’m only surprised they haven’t drafted in Grant Shapps to say it’s all just a dastardly Lib Dem smear as well.

  • Child benefit is no longer universal anyway – so go ahead and limit it to 2 kids, though it would be fairer if this was implemented for kids born after a set date. In the south east if you hold back on having kids until you can afford to buy a house big enough for them to live in, in many areas you are fairly close to earning too much to receiving child benefit anyway.

  • I realise, naturally, that this is all part of the pantomime that is the 2015 general election, so I hesitate to make these points. But I will anyway:

    1. All sorts of policies are floated within Whitehall, by individual departments and by the Treasury, especially when governments are having to reduce the amount they are borrowing and spending. Indeed, I recall that in the run-up to the 2010 Comprehensive Spending  Review, Danny Alexander threatened departments with much bigger cuts than the ones that were eventually implemented, and much bigger than Tory as well as Lib Dem Cabinet ministers were prepared to stomach. He asked ministers to draw up ‘illustrative’ cuts of 40% in case those proved necessary. (I’m sure the Tories could lay their hands on that memo if they wanted to; indeed it was leaked to the newspapers at the time.)

    I don’t criticise Danny for that: the Chief Secretary’s job is to be the tight-fisted custodian of public money; he (and the Chancellor) are already massively numbered by the array of spending ministers around the Cabinet table with an interest in voting themselves higher budgets without willing the means to pay for them.

    2. It’s true that these proposals on Child Benefit came from the DWP, but again that is normal: the Treasury demands savings and departments have to suggest ways of delivering them. If those ways are too unpalatable to other ministers and to the Prime Minister, they are rejected, and other means have to be found or the demand for savings is relaxed.

    That appears to be what happened in the case of restricting Child Benefit to two children: IDS advocated it – remember at this time he was also resisting cuts to the other parts of his budget, and arguing for means-testing pensioner benefits – and he was overruled by the Quad. It is not clear it was dropped at the behest of the Lib Dems. Remember that when the coalition tapered away Child Benefit above £50,000, some of the strongest opposition came from Tory MPs.

    3. I don’t imagine that even Danny Alexander expects that dredging up this episode from 2012 a week from the election will earn the Lib Dems retrospective credit for blocking a ‘nasty’ Tory idea: if so, why has he waited until now to reveal this when the two parties have spent months ‘differentiating’, spelling out the policies that the other blocked or fighting over the credit for the more popular ones that were implemented?

    4. Rather, the significance (and chief purpose) of this non-revelation is to show the kind of policies that will be on the table again if the Tories are to deliver their proposed £12 billion of welfare savings. Here the Tories have only themselves to blame: by failing to set out more than £2 billion of savings, they have left themselves wide open to speculative forays by all and sundry. By making so many other specific pledges – £8 billion for the NHS, multi-billion pound tax cuts, a ‘tax lock’, protecting pensioner spending etc – they have only served to highlight the areas where they have not made such commitments.

  • 5. Given the large portion of the social security budget the Tories appear to have ring-fenced from cuts, it is indeed plausible that they would have to do something major on Child Benefit. Restricting it to three children would save a trivial amount. Restricting it to two children would save more, a little over £1 billion.

    A more fundamental reform, saving close to £5 billion, would be to abolish Child Benefit altogether as a separate benefit and subsume it within Universal Credit, fully compensating low-income families. The IFS has floated this idea – noting that, following the coalition’s reforms, Child Benefit is now in effect a means-tested benefit albeit of a peculiar kind. “If Child Benefit is to be considered as just one more part of the means-tested benefit system, then a more sensible form of means-tested support for families with children already exists through the child tax credit system, which will be subsumed in Universal Credit in future. It would be possible to abolish Child Benefit and increase the appropriate components of Universal Credit such that those receiving Universal Credit did not lose out… This would be a radical change to the structure of the benefits system, but would mean that the system of support for families with children was much more coherent.”

    6. Personally I think that if there is to be further reform of Child Benefit it should follow the principles the IFS set out there, not seek to limit it to a particular number of children. There is no obvious rationale for a separate Child Benefit (now means-tested at the top end) as well as a more conventionally means-tested system of support via child tax credits. Even in its reformed guise, Child Benefit is a pillar of the middle-class welfare state. If significant welfare savings are to be found, it cannot remain sacroscanct. The same principles apply to the pensioner benefits. But given the Tory resistance even to limited means-testing of Child Benefit in the middle/upper income range, I can’t see them going down this route. In general they seem to want to protect middle-class benefits.

    7. In any case, it is incumbent on any party planning radical reform of this sort to set out their plans openly and argue the case for them well before an election, explaining their reasons and the implications for government and family finances. Since there are 4.3 million families who currently receive Child Benefit but won’t be entitled to Universal Credit, and they would lose more than £1,000 per year on average, it would be a ‘brave’ party that did so. Cometh the hour…

  • Matt (Bristol) 30th Apr '15 - 11:07pm

    TCO – to be more polite, I think exactly what forbearance will or won’t be called for from us all will depend on what happens in the weeks after May 8. As Tony Greaves has been saying, post-election negotiations could make for strange bedfellows and strange ironies or apparent hypocrisies we could all find difficult to stomach in different ways…

    Again, I don’t want to be seen as prejudging things and counting either metaphorical chickens or smashed eggs — but anyway let’s not see a recurrence of – for eg – the 1931 fiasco of infighting over tactics leading to a three-way split.

  • @Matt (Bristol) Thanks that was interesting and useful.

    FWIW I think it’s incumbent once the post election situation is settled for every party member to accept party democracy on the decision, get behind the leader and look forward. What they absolutely should not do is go off in a huff if their personal preference is not the majority view, and undermine The party and leader from the sidelines.

  • Alex,
    Very well argued, but I think chipping away at middle-class benefits is central to discrediting the benefits system as a whole. I think they are protecting pension age benefits for current people of a pensionable age because old people disproportionately vote and quite frankly will not live as long, Hence the moves to push up the retirement age which will take more people out of the benefits bracket in the future. Unlike, you I happen to suspect they would roll a lot of benefits into Universal credit in power, They would have five years before the next election and will be trying to introduce laws to halt tax rises by future governments because it is driven by ideology. Of course, I also happen to think the economy would tank in the run up to their EU referendum, but for some reason there’s an unwillingness to factor that possibility in.

  • Jedi.
    did I say underhand? But since you ask I think the Tories are underhand, from Ian Duncan Smiths phoney CV and epiphanies that mirror statements he made before they happened, to Grant Shapps multiple identities, to Boris Johnson’s well documented lies as a journalist, to Call me Dave’s evasions. I don’t trust them. I make no bones about it. I don’t trust Labour either which is why I don’t vote for them. I think it is underhand to present 12 billion of cuts without naming them and then to alter the law to enshrine things you are unwilling to put before the public. Sure, there’s no campaign to raise tax, but I suspect that this is because advocates of low tax, low pay economies deliberately try to confuse high taxation of the rich and the powerful with taxation aimed at average earnings. Like the way we’re supposed to equate land value tax with a tax on your grannies bungalow. I also think it’s culturally regressive and that one day in the future people will realise that the pre Regan/Thatcher era sent people to the Moon. It’s like the philosophy that stopped China having an industrial revolution hundreds of years before the UK. Regressive, small minded and a dead end.

  • Caron you can’t seriously believe that a Tory majority is possible? Unless you are predicting the Lib Dems to get wiped out in Tory facing seats which I doubt you believe as if this actually happened it really would be the death knell of the Lib Dems as a prominent political party.

    On the subject of child benefit I definitely think there is a credible argument to restrict it in multiple ways. For example I would take it from a lot more higher earners, it seems ridiculous that in a period of austerity we are still giving out state handouts to those who don’t need it. I would also support restricting child benefit to two children as long as it wasn’t done retrospectively.

    The reason why I am supporting the Lib Dems this election because I hope in the event of a hung parliament they can force the Tories to make the necessary tax rises or force Labour to make the spending cuts and this keep the country on a stable yet fair course.

  • JJ 1st May ’15 – 11:14am ………………On the subject of child benefit I definitely think there is a credible argument to restrict it in multiple ways. For example I would take it from a lot more higher earners, it seems ridiculous that in a period of austerity we are still giving out state handouts to those who don’t need it. I would also support restricting child benefit to two children as long as it wasn’t done retrospectively………………

    The reason always given for not ‘means testing’ CBs was that it was more expensive than a single payment system. However, George Osborne managed to ‘complicate matters’ by using individual salaries rather than household incomes…. I, too, believe that, as you put it, ‘state handouts’ should go to those in need; however, experience shows that, with every new level of bureaucracy it is those in need who suffer…..

  • @ matt (Bristol)
    “no party in UK history that I can think of has successfully exited from a peacetime coalition …(except) … Churchill’s wartime one”

    1704-08 Tory-Whig Coalition Tory Earl of Godolphin and Whigs such as the Earl of Oxford and the Earl of Sunderland. (The Earl of Oxford went on to lead a Tory ministry, however by 1714 the Whigs were back in government under Townshend.) The Whigs did successful leave this coalition.

    1783 Fox-North (Whig-Tory) Coalition under the Duke of Portland
    At the 1784 general election those supporting this government did badly.

    1806-07 Ministry of All the Talents under William Grenville.
    At the 1807 general election there were fewer Whigs in the House of Commons

    1852-55 Peelite-Whig Coalition under the Earl of Aberdeen
    Fell over how the Crimea War was being conducted. Led to the formation of the Liberal Party. (It has been estimated that 37 Peelities were elected in 1852, and 26 in 1857.)

    1895-1905 Conservative and Liberal Unionist Coalition
    (There were 71 Liberal Unionists elected in 1895, 68 in 1895 and 1900, down to about 25 in 1906 and then increased to 32 and 36 in the 1910 general elections and in 1912 they merged with the Conservatives.)

    1915-22 Coalition Government
    There were 272 Liberals elected in December 1910 and about 127 Coalition Liberals elected in 1918 with the Asquith Liberals reduced to 36 (which is more than the 132 Conservative MPs elected in 1906), but they were reduced to 53 and 62 in 1922 and only increased to 158 in 1923.

    1931-40 National Government
    In 1929 only 40 Liberal MPs were elected, but after joining the National Government their number increased to 72 at the 1931 general election being reduced to 33 Liberal Nationals and 21 Liberals in 1935. In 1945 9 Liberal MPs and 11 Liberal National MPs were elected.

    With regard to child benefits a case can be made as Alex Sabine says to abolish it and replace it within the Universal Credit system. However I would prefer that it was replaced with a Child Income along-side a Citizens Income linked to the abolition of the personal tax allowance, so that everyone receives benefits and there is no longer a split between them and us. Hopefully it would change the nature of the debate by everyone having the same entitlement.

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