Women MPs in revolt over plans to scrap childcare tax breaks

Female Labour MPs are threatening to revolt over Gordon Brown’s plans to scrap childcare tax breaks.

Senior backbenchers, including Patricia Hewitt, the former health secretary, and Caroline Flint, the former Europe minister, have protested against the government’s plans to stop tax exemptions on childcare vouchers which save parents up to £2,400 a year.

Gordon Brown announced his plans to remove the tax incentive – which currently saves employers £373 for every employee on the scheme – at the Labour Party Conference in September.

More than 74,000 people, mostly women, have already signed a petition on the Downing Street website against the plans, while almost 40 Labour MPs have signed a parliamentary motion protesting about the move.

The Labour MPs are said to be drawing up a letter to the prime minister urging him to reconsider, the Times reported.

Caroline Flint said: “This sends the wrong message to working mums. I am very worried about us taking a benefit away from a group of working women.

“We are in danger of not being seen to support working mothers, some of whom could find they are no longer able to afford to work. We need to be very clear about what we are trying to achieve here.”

Patricia Hewitt publicly labelled Brown’s proposals “the wrong thing to do socially and the wrong thing to do politically”.

She said: “We all welcome an extension of nursery education for two-year-olds, but I hope the government will think again on childcare vouchers.”

About 340,000 families claim childcare vouchers through about 35,000 employers.

The vouchers can be used to offset the cost of childcare from Ofsted-registered providers, saving higher rate taxpayers £1,195 a year, and basic rate taxpayers £962 a year. Both parents can use the vouchers, saving couples up to £2,390 a year.

Under government plans the tax relief on childcare vouchers would be stopped by 2015, with the money saved being used to fund free nursery care for 250,000 two-year olds.

A Downing Street source added: “It is not being as well targeted as it should. We believe it is right to redirect the money at nursery places for two-year-olds.”

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