Tax breaks for stay-at-home mothers could be used to help couples disadvantaged by the decision to abolish child benefit for high earners, Prime Minister David Cameron has suggested.
Chancellor George Osborne's announcement that from 2013 taxpayers earning more than £44,000 will no longer receive the benefit has sparked unease among activists and MPs at the Conservative conference in Birmingham.
They fear a backlash from middle-class families angry that the change will hit single-earner households harder than two-income couples, who will potentially be able to keep the benefit while earning more than £80,000.
Mr Cameron this morning defended the change, which will save the Treasury £1 billion a year, but said the Government would take steps to ensure its actions to deal with the deficit are fair "across the piece".
The Prime Minister told BBC Breakfast: "We have also got to look at other things we have promised to do. If you look, for instance, at the issue of the stay-at-home mother, we do talk in the coalition agreement about having some sort of transferable tax allowance to help couples in that way.
"So there are things that we will try and do to make sure that all of what we do, if you look across the piece, to deal with the deficit is fair."
It is understood that Mr Cameron - who met wife Samantha and their new baby Florence as they arrived by train in Birmingham - claims child benefit worth around £2,500 a year and does not intend to give it up until the rules change.
The PM said he was "sorry" not to have been up-front about the need to cut the benefit in the Conservative manifesto for the May General Election, telling ITV News: "In the election campaign, both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats said there are going to be cuts, there are going to be difficult cuts and we outlined some of those cuts.
"We did not outline all of those cuts, we did not know exactly the situation we were going to inherit. But yes, I acknowledge this was not in our manifesto. Of course I'm sorry about that, but I think we need to be clear about why we're doing what we're doing."
The Tory manifesto promised to recognise marriage in the tax system by allowing basic-rate taxpayers to transfer unused allowances worth up to £150 a year to their spouses, at an estimated cost of around £550 million.