Labour cautious about freezing child benefit for over-fives

Freezing child benefit for the over-fives may not be a "bad idea", Labour's shadow childcare minister, Lucy Powell, has said.

The idea was suggested by the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) to help fund more free childcare for the under-fives. It also recommended abolishing the marriage tax allowance and restrictions on pensions tax relief.

In an interview with Progress magazine, Powell said she did not think that overall package was right, as she did not want to freeze benefits aimed at school-age children to fund care for pre-schoolers.

However, she said freezing child benefit for the over-fives "in and of itself might not be a bad idea", and if that were to happen, she "would want to see the fruits of that going to the over-fives".

Powell also made it clear she has bigger ambitions for Labour's policies on childcare beyond its promise of more free hours of childcare for three- and four-year-olds.

"If there were a general election tomorrow, the offer on the table in terms of childcare is a very clear one," she said, " … [but] the challenge over the coming year to the election is to articulate that further [and] to be clear that there is a direction of travel.

"I'm clear I have bigger ambitions, and my challenge is both to identify how these things can be paid for and come up with policy solutions for the challenges as we see them. And then, more than that, win the political argument internally for what I passionately believe in."

A number of suggestions from the Condition of Britain report by the left-leaning IPPR thinktank have already been adopted by Ed Miliband. The report, launched last week, called for a welfare state in which benefits are more closely linked to what a claimant has already contributed.

Powered by article was written by Rowena Mason, political correspondent, for on Friday 27th June 2014 00.01 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010