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Osborne plays down benefit reports

Chancellor George Osborne has sought to play down reports that the Conservatives are backing plans to stop families claiming child benefit for more than four children.

The Chancellor repeatedly told ITV Good Morning Britain (GMB) that there were "no plans" to adopt the policy put forward by the right-of-centre think tank Policy Exchange.

The move comes after child benefit was means tested for the first time last year, reducing access to the benefit for those households where one parent earns over £50,000 and ending it altogether when this reaches £60,000.

For households with no one earning more than £50,000, child benefit is paid at £20.50 a week for the oldest child, and £13.55 for any additional children.

The plan put forward by Policy Exchange would see payments reduced for each child after the first, with no child benefit at all for fifth and subsequent children born after April 2016.

Asked if he was considering the think tank proposals, Mr Osborne told GMB: "We don't have any plans to do that, there are these ideas out there but we don't have any plans, I haven't got any plans in the Treasury to do that.

"We had to make a very difficult decision, as part of protecting child benefit for the great majority of people, to take it away from the better off in our society.

"That has all been part of trying to turn our economy around, fix our debts, and you can see the benefits of all that in the jobs that are being created. Of course we still have more to do to turn our economy round."

Asked if the policy could appear in the Conservative Party manifesto, Mr Osborne said: "I am not writing the manifesto today but it is not my plan. My plan is to turn around the British economy."

The Daily Telegraph reported last week that the Policy Exchange proposals - aimed at saving £1 billion over the course of the next Parliament - were expected to appear in the Conservative manifesto.

An opinion poll commissioned by Policy Exchange found that more than two thirds of people would support capping child benefit at four children.


From Belfast Telegraph