10 Dec 2008 : Column 548
Mr. Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden) (Con):
It is for you to decide, Mr. Speaker, whether the Secretary of State’s claim that he did not brief the press despite issuing a press release requires an apology to this House. None the less, I wholeheartedly welcome the statement, now he has brought it to the House, just as I have welcomed innumerable statements of similar rhetoric from his predecessor. Can he assure me that attributing more substance to his statement than to all those previous statements made during the past 10 years is not a triumph of hope over experience? Can he explain, given his rhetoric and Freud’s arithmetic, both of which I support and which suggest that the savings from getting people back to work should exceed the costs of doing so, why he requires more than a temporary increase in his budget to bring this about? More specifically, can he tell us what safeguards he proposes, so that fully disregarding child maintenance when working out income-related benefits will not create a direct incentive for couples to split up? When they are together, couples get no allowance for the income earned typically by the father in helping to bring up the children, and it is important to consider that. I hope that he has found a way of overcoming that, but if he has not, he should be aware of the problem.