13 Oct 2010

Ed Miliband’s first PMQs as Labour leader

Ed Miliband makes a “good debut” in his first appearance at Prime Minister’s Questions as Labour Leader, writes Political Editor Gary Gibbon.

Mr Miliband attacked the Government over its plans to scrap child benefit for higher-rate taxpayers, saying thousands of middle-income families would be hit.

But the Prime Minister said it was not fair that low-income families in Mr Miliband’s Doncaster North constituency should have to contribute towards wealthier people’s child benefit.

And he questioned the opposition leader’s right to speak for the “squeezed middle”, saying previous Labour governments had hit these people with tax rises.

At last week’s Conservative conference, the Chancellor George Osborne announced that people earning about £44,000 a year would lose their child benefit from 2013.

"A slightly vicar-ish quality"

Good debut by Ed Miliband, raising the tempo and volume more than I expected, writes Political Editor Gary Gibbon.

A slightly vicar-ish quality when he started, piano, then he got more strident raising the volume as he went on.

David Cameron pressed the "he's the trade unions' man" button and said he's "not red, it's Brown."

When Ed Miliband said on Child Benefit "I'm not defending the rich" (he went on to say I'm defending deputy head teachers and police inspectors) he was saying something it would've been hard for Gordon Brown to say.

Ed Miliband got Nick Clegg laughing along with others at his joke about how the PM might've preferred the threatened BBC strike to go ahead during his Conference to obscure the Child Benefit announcement.

David Cameron confirmed in a later answer that all the criteria governing the Winter Fuel Allowance will survive the Spending Review.

Mr Miliband asked: “How many families where one parent stays at home will be affected by the changes that you have proposed to child benefit?”

Mr Cameron said 15 per cent of working people were higher-rate taxpayers, and “the decision we have taken is to say that child benefit shouldn’t be received by families where there is a higher rate taxpayer”.

He added: “This is a difficult choice because as we deal with the deficit, we do have to ask better-off people to bear their share of the burden.

“The fact is that today we spend £1bn giving money through child benefit to relatively better-off homes.”

Mr Miliband said: “By my reckoning there are hundreds of thousands of families where one parent stays at home …. and the question they are asking is this: why should a family on £45,000, where one person stays at home, lose their child benefit, £1,000, £2,000, £3,000 a year, but a family on £80,000, where both partners in a couple are working, should keep their child benefit?”

A family on £33,000 after tax with three children would lose £2,500 as a result of the changes, he said, the equivalent of 6p on the basic rate of income tax.

Mr Miliband added that the Prime Minister had said on the election campaign trail that he would not change or means test child benefit.

Mr Cameron was also asked what his plans were for the winter fuel allowance, which is paid to pensioners. He implied it would not be taken away from people.

“I made a very clear promise at the election and I stand by that.”