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Child benefit issues give Ed Miliband victory at his first PMQs

By Tim Montgomerie

Screen shot 2010-10-13 at 12.05.38 After exchanging courtesies and one 'above-politics' question on the Linda Norgrove tragedy, Ed Miliband turned to the issue of child benefit. Hundreds of thousands families where one parent stays at home will lose their child benefit but two-earner families earning twice as much will keep theirs. That's simply not fair, he said.

David Cameron didn't deal with the issue directly but said he didn't think it fair that people earning much less than £44,000 should pay their taxes so that people earning more than £44,000 could receive child benefit.

The new Leader of the Opposition quoted pre-election words from David Cameron at a meeting of 'Cameron Direct' in which he promised to protect child benefit. 'I agree with the Prime Minister, he joked, does he?'.

Mr Miliband says that the child benefit being taken away from a single earner couple on £33,000 after tax, with three children, is equivalent to 6p on income tax.

Screen shot 2010-10-13 at 12.16.15 After David Cameron repeatedly replied by pointing to the need to make tough decisions to tackle the deficit Mr Miliband said it is clear that Mr Cameron has no answer to the specifics on child benefit. The policy was a shambles from the moment it was launched, said Mr Miliband. In his second good joke he suggested the Prime Minister might have preferred the BBC strike to have gone ahead and the Tory conference not to have been reported. The policy should be withdrawn, he ended.

It was a very confident performance from Ed Miliband and the Tory benches looked very uncomfortable. Although David Cameron ended strongly with a list of ways in which Labour had "squeezed the middle" this was a big win for the new Leader of the Opposition. Fortunately most people will have been watching the Chilean miners and it won't be every PMQs that Labour will have such an easy wicket as the issue of child benefit.

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