Rebels: Tory MPs Mark Reckless (left) and Christopher Chope (right) have urged the Government to scrap the ‘absurd and ludicrous’ plans
Mr Reckless said the policy was ‘particularly toxic’ for MPs who wanted to see the Government do more to promote marriage and the traditional family - since the biggest losers will be families where one parent stays at home.
‘Ministers cannot answer colleagues who question them about the sheer unfairness of one family with a single earner on £45,000 losing their child benefit, while a family with two earners, each earning around £40,000, get to keep their child benefit,’ he said.
‘Certainly, I don’t feel that I am currently able to give constituents a satisfactory answer as to how this is fair, particularly when we continue to pay child benefit to many thousands of children in EU countries such as Poland and Lithuania, where costs are much lower, even when they have never set foot in the UK.
‘Colleagues had expected the Treasury to come forward with proposals to mitigate the unfairness of the policy, but now it is suggested that this would be too complicated and difficult, given the implications of household means testing for independent taxation.’
In the Commons, former minister Christopher Chope urged the Government to scrap the ‘absurd and ludicrous’ plans.
He claimed the withdrawal would punish hard-working families and abandon the ‘dearly and long-held principle that we should have a universal benefit for families with children’.
He said: ‘Why does the Government wish higher rate taxpayers with children to make a greater contribution towards deficit reduction than higher rate taxpayers without children?
‘Surely it would be fairer if all higher rate taxpayers contributed equally to deficit reduction.’
The Christchurch MP said means-testing the benefit would increase the workload of HM Revenue and Customs, adding: ‘Could one think of a more absurd and ludicrous policy?’
‘The Prime Minister and his predecessors have so frequently professed support for "hard-working families" that the expression has almost become a political T-shirt.
‘How extraordinary therefore that the Government is still persisting with a policy which will undermine those hard-working families, especially those in what is now described as the ‘squeezed middle’.
‘What families could be more hard-working than those 55,000 to 60,000 single parent families where the lone parent works such long hours in a demanding job as to earn over £43,000 a year, thereby qualifying as a higher rate taxpayer and as a victim of this policy?’
Exchequer Secretary David Gauke admitted child benefit was ‘a vital and substantial income boost’.
But he added: ‘It is vital we ensure all parts of society contribute to tackling the economic legacy this Government has inherited.
‘It’s fair that higher rate taxpayers who are better off make a greater contribution to savings.’
The Tory minister said the Government planned to recognise marriage through taxes and ‘remained committed and will bring forward proposals at an appropriate time’.
Labour’s shadow Treasury minister Cathy Jamieson said: ‘Labour has repeatedly warned about the unfairness and problems with David Cameron’s child benefit plans and it’s good to see some Conservative MPs belatedly voicing their concerns too.
‘These ill thought out plans mean a two-earner family each earning £40,000 - a total of £80,000 - would keep all their child benefit, but a single-earner family on £43,000 would lose it all from next year.
‘Tough choices on tax, spending and pay do need to be made to get the deficit down. But this out of touch Government has chosen to hit families with children in the squeezed middle much harder than the banks.
‘As well as this botched child benefit policy, the Government is pushing through huge cuts to tax credits in just a few weeks’ time which will make it harder for parents working part-time to stay in work. That’s why we need an urgent rethink, not just on child benefit but on the Conservative-led