Election 2015

Election 2015: Tories 'won't cut child benefit'

David Cameron

The Conservative Party has said it will not cut child benefit for the rest of the next parliament.

The pledge was made by a party spokesman in an off-camera briefing to journalists.

Labour has claimed the Tories plan to cut child benefit as part of their planned £12bn welfare savings.

Shadow chancellor Ed Balls accused the Conservatives of "weasel words", saying they had not ruled out taking it "from millions of families".

The Tories say they will freeze working-age benefits, including child benefit, for two years but have not spelt out what else will be targeted.

During Thursday night's special edition of Question Time, Prime Minister David Cameron said child benefit was "vital" to parents and "stays" in place.

On Friday he told ITV News: "Let me be absolutely clear. We are not cutting child benefit, we are keeping child benefit."

Later a Conservative spokesman clarified the party's position and said the Tories would not cut child benefit for the whole of the next parliament.

Image caption Ed Miliband said only Labour could protect family budgets

Labour leader Ed Miliband, however, has said it is "brutally clear" the benefit would be cut under the Conservatives, saying family budgets faced being "devastated" by the £12bn welfare savings, which have not yet been set out in detail.

Labour claims the Conservatives cannot save that amount without restricting tax credits and child benefits.

In a speech in Cardiff, Mr Miliband focused on welfare, promising to begin the process of reversing cuts to housing benefits for social tenants - dubbed by critics as the "bedroom tax" - on day one of taking office.

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Media captionBBC Question Time highlights as leaders face questions

The opposition has seized on Lib Dem claims that their coalition partners considered £8bn worth of curbs to child benefit in 2012.

"The prime minister was asked three times (on Thursday) whether he had a plan to cut child benefit," Mr Miliband said.

"He apparently used 600 words when just one word would have done - the word no. But he did not use that word."

The Conservatives have said they will freeze working-age benefits, including tax credits and child benefit, between 2016 and 2018, affecting 11 million households and saving £3bn.

This comes on top of a one-year freeze in the value of child benefit in 2013-4 and a 1% cap on increases between 2014-6.

Speaking during a visit to an Asda depot in Leeds, Mr Cameron suggested there would be no further reforms to child benefit.

"With child benefit we've made our reform. We said that it's absolutely a vital benefit for Britain's families: it goes straight to the mother in most cases; it forms the key part of families' budgets; and we've made our reform.

"We've said that we had to freeze it in this Parliament, we said that we're going to have to freeze it for the start of the new parliament, but child benefit stays because it's so important."

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