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Posted - 05/10/2010 : 08:31:36
Prime Minister David Cameron is facing criticism over child benefit cuts after Labour claimed Conservative welfare reform plans were "unravelling".
Chancellor George Osborne said that from 2013 the benefit would be removed from families with at least one parent earning more than about £44,000 a year.
Labour's Yvette Cooper described it as an "unfair attack on child benefit".
The PM said Labour had "bankrupted the country" and he wanted to reduce the deficit while protecting the poorest.
Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith is due to give more details on welfare reform to the Tory conference.
Just hours after Mr Osborne's announcement, Children's Minister Tim Loughton said the move to cut the benefit from 1.2 million families might need revising.
Mr Loughton told Channel 4 News: "If there are ways we can look at compensating measures for those genuinely in need that will be looked at in future budgets.
"If the thresholds need to be adjusted there's plenty of time to look at that."
Ms Cooper responded: "The government's unfair attack on child benefit is now unravelling."
She added: "They have clearly been taken aback by the reaction of parents across the country.
"George Osborne and David Cameron obviously don't understand what it means for families on middle incomes to lose thousands of pounds a year."
Mr Cameron told BBC Breakfast on Tuesday that he wanted to support families but the government had to tackle the deficit - he said 85% of people would continue to get child benefit.
Addressing criticism that a family with two earners who collectively earn more than £44,000 will still get child benefit, while families with only one earner will lose it, he said looking at the whole family income would have necessitated "an incredibly bureaucratic and expensive" and intrusive system, means-testing every family in the country.
"We must make sure that as we deal with the deficit, we protect the poorest, the most vulnerable, the neediest in our society. So we have to ask those who are better off - those on the higher rate tax - to make a contribution," he said.
"It is difficult, I wish I wasn't having to do this, but we have to deal with the problems in front of us."
Asked about winter fuel payments and free bus passes to wealthier pensioners, he said: "Obviously you have to wait for the spending review announcement but I made some pretty clear promises to pensioners in our country, and those are promises I want to keep."
Mr Osborne told the conference he could no longer defend paying out £1bn a year to better-off families, and the move "made sense" given the scale of debt and welfare spending he had inherited.
Meanwhile, Mr Duncan Smith will outline how the government will spend money to encourage people to leave the benefits system.
He will tell the conference in Birmingham there will be extra help for those who want to start their own business.
BBC political correspondent Iain Watson says the announcements will accentuate the positive after the focus on Monday was on benefit cuts.
The Conservatives will announce more help for patients leaving hospital in England, more resources for poorer school pupils, and loans for unemployed people who can come up with viable business plans.
This will build on the Enterprise Allowance Scheme, introduced by the last government.
Former frontbencher David Davis has raised doubts over whether the child benefit plan is a wise way to bring about reform, as it might encourage mothers to go back to work earlier than they would have wished.
And privately some backbenchers are even more critical, one even likening it to Labour's damaging abolition of the 10p tax rate.
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