UK Politics

David Cameron and Ed Miliband clash over cuts' impact

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Media captionDavid Cameron and Ed Miliband clash over the impact of cuts

David Cameron and Ed Miliband have clashed in the Commons over the impact of the government's austerity measures on women and the poor.

The Labour leader said cuts would hit women twice as hard as men, and take three times more from the poorest third of families than the richest third.

But the prime minister insisted it was the wealthiest 10% who would see the biggest falls in their income.

Pensions and income tax changes will benefit women more than men, he added.

In his Autumn Statement on the UK economy last week, Chancellor George Osborne announced a downgrading of UK growth forecasts and a number of measures designed to claw back more money for the Treasury.

They included a freeze on parts of the tax credit for couples and lone parents - a move which campaigners have warned will lead to an increase in child poverty.

'Incredibly difficult'

During Prime Minister's Questions, Mr Miliband quoted from think tank, the Institute of Fiscal Studies whose verdict on the changes was, he said: "The new tax and benefit measures are, on average, a take-away from lower income families with children.

"The figures speak for themselves. His changes are hitting women twice as hard as men.

"Isn't it true that he's the first prime minister in modern times to say it's the women and children first?"

Mr Cameron said raising the income tax threshold, increasing the state pension from next April and revising planned changes to public sector pensions for the lowest paid would all help women more than men.

"If you take all the things that the government has done, which is the right way to measure this, what you find is that the top 10% see losses nearly 10 times greater than the bottom 10% and I think that is fair," he said.

He told the Commons it was "incredibly difficult to deal with the debts and the deficits we inherited", but the government was determined to do so fairly.

The Labour leader, however, said Mr Cameron was cutting support for the poorest families while delaying the tax on private jets for a year.

"Can he confirm that a working mother earning £300 a week is seeing VAT going up, her tax credits cut, child benefit frozen and her maternity grant cut?" he asked.

In reply, Mr Cameron said Labour "had 13 years to tax private jets" and the coalition would do so within two.

He also quoted other remarks from the IFS about a likely increase in UK debt levels that would have resulted from Labour's plans to tackle the deficit more slowly.

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