South Tyneside MPs take issue over benefits

Emma Lewell-Buck has attacked the Government over tax clawbacks
Emma Lewell-Buck has attacked the Government over tax clawbacks

Two South Tyneside MPs have attacked the Government over benefits payments.

South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck said tax officials are clawing back working tax credit overpayments and “pushing people into poverty”.

Mrs Lewell-Buck said HM Revenue and Customs have been recovering accidental overpayments in working tax credits by reducing, peoples’ child tax credits entitlement without notice.

This, she claims, has led to families being left with less money to live on than the minimum amount recommended by the Government and forced some into debt.

At Treasury questions, Mrs Lewell-Buck said: "A large number of my constituents have been alarmed that mistaken overpayments of working tax credits made by HMRC have been recovered, without warning, from their child tax credit entitlements.

"Is the Department’s policy now to push people into poverty and debt by punishing them for HMRC’s mistakes?”

In response Harriet Baldwin MP, the Economic Secretary to the Treasury said: "The hon. Lady might remember the terrible roll-out of working tax credits that occurred when the Labour Government were in power. I can assure her that we will continue to improve administration of tax credits.”

Afterwards Mrs Lewell-Buck said: “It is typical of this Government that they chose not to apologise to the families effected and instead chose to side step the question and incorrectly blame the last Labour Government for something that has happened under their watch.

"It is outrageous, yet sadly not surprising that the Government think it is acceptable to punish people in this way for their own mistakes’’.

Meanwhile Jarrow MP Stephen Hepburn hit out at Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith over how people will be affected by the Government’s welfare reforms.

Mr Hepburn said: “The Government’s humiliating U-turn on tax credits is welcome, but the Chancellor has confirmed that another £12bn of welfare cuts will take place.

"Those cuts will affect the poorest, the most vulnerable and those who are struggling to survive in society, like families.”

“The way Iain Duncan Smith is introducing Universal Credit will slash the living standards of many people."