Nick Clegg averted the axe from over-16s’ child benefit

Paul Walter has spotted an under-reported point in the child benefit coverage of the past few days: that payments for children aged 16 to 18 were originally intended to be stopped, but that this plan was dropped after Nick Clegg intervened.

Paul spotted this in a “deep trawl” of the Telegraph:

The controversial decision to “pre-announce” the child benefit decision was made 10 days ago by the key Conservative power-broking trio of David Cameron, Mr Osborne and William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, it is understood.

A couple of days later they informed Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, and his party colleague Danny Alexander, the Treasury Chief Secretary – but did not tell their fellow Tories in the Cabinet, including Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary.

The large majority of Tory ministers only found out about the decision when Mr Osborne announced it in a TV interview last Monday.

It is also understood that the original plan had been to axe child benefit for all families once their children reached 16, instead of 18 at present, but that this was abandoned after protests from Mr Clegg.

Paul Walter responds:

Note that little bit at the end, mentioned in passing. So Nick Clegg was able to steer the government away from an end to Child Benefit from 16-18 years old and towards the cut for high income tax band payers.

I see that as a very significant shift indeed. We had the budget and the IFS’s (admittedly debatable) verdict that it was mildly regressive. A 16-18 year old cut in child benefit would have been another big blow for lower, average and even well above average earners with children. The eventual move to the cut for higher band taxpayers, despite its potential unfairness, is at least progressive.

You can read Paul’s full article at Liberal Burblings.

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  • Angry ex-Lib Dem 11th Oct '10 - 10:11am

    This is outrageous! I would much rather Nick Clegg were sitting impotently at the sidelines, unable to use his influence in government to steer the Tories away from damaging cuts. True, hundreds of thousands of young people would have been discouraged from entering training and higher education by the need to pay their way in the short term. But at least the Lib Dems would have remained ideologically pure, unsullied by anything as tawdry as real power! That way, I could continue my feeling of smug self-righteousness!!!

  • Excellent intervention by Clegg. Stopping state-handouts to those earning nearly twice the national average wage, rather than stopping them to parents of children in college is clearly the progressive and better option. So, cue Labour trolls’ posting frenzy saying why Clegg is evil for doing this…

  • @ Angry ex-Lib Dem

    How childish …come on admit who youb really are ?

  • After her awful performance on Question Time when she happily ignored the Conference resolution on Child benefit and went on to support a cap on benefit payments equal to the average wage irrespective of number of kids I fail to see how any self respecting Lib Dem could support Susan Kramer.

  • I don’t see why this should get anyone outside of the Lib Dem bubble excited. Big deal. This is surely minor versus the big issue of means testing child benefit?

  • Mike(The Labour one) 11th Oct '10 - 6:30pm

    Good. But there’s a “but”- had this happened you would be defending it as being “necessary”. Imagine if this had happened to all the things sold as “necessary”- the attacks on benefit claimants and so on. How much of what will happen could the Lib Dems have stopped or watered down, if they had the inclination?

  • I agree with Nick

  • ok Miek (the Labour one) – I can see that you are, *cough* Labour. Your comment says it all really. See second comment on the thread.

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