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Govt in 'disarray' over child benefits

Govt in 'disarray' over child benefits
Ed Balls has hit out at the Government's child benefits policy, saying the Coalition is in "total disarray".

The Shadow Chancellor's comments come as Justice Secretary Ken Clarke defended the assessment of child benefits, insisting it was "ridiculous" to suggest ministers were preparing to make a U-turn over the proposed changes.

Speaking to ITV News, Mr Clarke said it was "quite wrong" that high earners received child benefits, describing it as an "anomaly" which had to be addressed.

In an impassioned Opposition Day Debate in the House of Commons, Labour's Rachel Reeves warned of "Budget bombshell" facing families up and down the country if the Government's benefit changes were passed. The motion was eventually defeated by 284 votes to 220.

The Prime Minister's spokesman this morning confirmed that the Government is examining the implementation of the cut-off point in child benefit cuts and may make an announcement in the forthcoming Budget.

Speaking after Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg indicated this morning that ministers were prepared to examine "anomalies", the spokesman said: "The Prime Minister has said in the past that we will look at this issue of the cliff edge, and that is what we're doing."

Asked whether the Prime Minister agreed with Mr Clegg that this was an "unintended consequence", the spokesman said: "I think we've never set out the detail of precisely how this would be implemented. It is due to come in in January 2013, so clearly we'll have to clarify the implementation of this ahead of January 2013.

Mr Clegg told BBC News this morning that there were problems with two lower-rate payers in the same household still able to receive the benefit, and that was "the kind of thing that we’ve always said we’re prepared to look at".

Chancellor George Osborne is expected to reveal in his forthcoming Budget that the cut-off threshold for receiving the payment will start at £50,000, rather than the £42,475 originally planned.

Labour wlll try to put pressure on the Coalition in Parliament later when they have an Opposition Day debate on child benefit.

But Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls said the Government was not doing enough to help families with issues such as tax credits and fuel prices also hitting household finances.

He told ITV's Daybreak: "There is more to do to stop these unfairnesses and help to support families at these really difficult times."

Chris Leslie later said the plans for child benefit cuts were such an "administrative nightmare" that the Government was "always going to have to reverse out of what was a total car crash".

Green Box: Govt in 'disarray' over child benefitsClick to open

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On air

Christopher Chope: I can not support child benefit cuts

05/03/2012 on The World at One, BBC Radio 4