‘Slashing support for families’: Tories deny ‘secret’ £8bn child benefit cut

Britain's Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander (Reuters / Stefan Wermuth)
The Conservatives have denied they are planning to cut welfare by a further £8 billion, as revealed on Thursday by Liberal Democrat Treasury minister Danny Alexander, saying the measures are “definitely not” part of post-election policy.

The sweeping cuts were exposed by Alexander, the Liberal Democrat chief secretary to the Treasury, in Thursday’s Guardian. He claimed the four most senior Tory ministers were handed a document called “Welfare Reform Quad Summer Reading Pack” in June 2012, in which plans for deep cuts to child benefit and child tax credit were laid out.

The proposals included limiting child benefit to two children, means testing for child benefit and removing the higher rate of benefit for the first child.

LibDem leader Nick Clegg called the Tories "deceitful" for attempting to implement the cuts, and said his party would "tread warily" if they were to form another coalition.

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A Tory spokesperson said the plans were “definitely not” party policy.

“This set of policies was never proposed or supported by the prime minister and chancellor and would never be proposed or supported by the prime minister and chancellor.”

“This is desperate stuff from Liberal Democrats who are now willing to say anything to try and get attention,” he added.

The Conservatives have, however, previously said they wish to cut a further £12 billion from the welfare bill, but have refused to lay out plans for further benefit cuts before the general election on May 7.

“I am lifting the lid on this now because the Conservatives are trying to con the British people by keeping their planned cuts secret until after the election,” Alexander said in a statement.

“It’s clear from our time in government that the Tories target will be slashing support for families.”

“They now ask the British people to trust them when they make unfunded pledges on health and tax, yet they won’t tell us how they will cut welfare for millions of families to pay for their plans. They may give with one hand, but they will take away twice as much with the other.”

He added: “For five years, I won battle after battle to stop the Tories veering off to the right with ideological cuts and it has been worth it to keep the economy on track while ensuring a fairer society.”

Conservative MP Michael Gove denied the claims and echoed the spokesperson’s claim, saying the Tories would not go further than freezing tax credits.

“We’re going to freeze them for two years, we are not going to cut them,” he said.

A Liberal Democrat source said the party had exposed the dangerous levels of Tory cuts planned by a potential government.

“The measures set out in the document would have raised over £8 billion – and shines a light on the scale of the cuts to working age welfare support the Tories will need to make to deliver on their cuts to welfare.

“Whilst the Tories refuse to make their cuts public it is clear they have already done the thinking. If this is what they were capable of proposing in 2012, this is what they will be planning in 2015. It’s really important political leaders should be held to account on this in the last TV debate of the election. The public need the full picture to make the judgment.”