Chancellor defends decision to slash tax credits as Tory party conference gets underway

Chancellor George Osborne addresses the Conservative Party conference in Manchester.
Chancellor George Osborne addresses the Conservative Party conference in Manchester.
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Chancellor George Osborne has defended his decision to slash tax credits, insisting that protesters who demonstrated against the cuts were not ‘representative’ of public opinion.

An estimated 60,000 people brought central Manchester to a halt on Sunday as they marched on the Conservative annual conference, demanding an end to austerity and the preservation of tax credits.

It’s been estimated 15,000 families in Portsmouth are affected by Mr Osborne’s move, with Lib Dem campaigners raising concerns about the impact on low-income households.

Prime minister David Cameron on Sunday resisted pressure from former Tory minister and ex-Havant MP David Willetts to review the chancellor’s plans and ‘ease’ the cuts in next month’s Autumn Statement.

But Mr Osborne said a ‘typical’ family with one person working full-time on the national minimum wage will be better off overall, when all of the Government’s changes to benefits, income tax allowances and the establishment of a new ‘national living wage’ are taken into account.

And he said that maintaining tax credits at their current level would force the Government to divert money away from priorities like health and education.

Mr Osborne told ITV1’s Good Morning Britain: ‘What we are offering ... is a new settlement where we get lower welfare bills, but we get higher wages and lower taxes too, there’s help with free childcare, and we also live in a country that lives within its means and that provides security to every working family.

‘That’s the new settlement and we’ve got to get on with it if we are going to deliver a country that offers jobs and opportunity in the future.’

Mr Osborne said the impact of the tax credit cuts on workers and their families would be offset by the introduction of what he terms a ‘national living wage’ of £7.20 an hour for over-25s next April, as well as by general rises in pay as the economy improves.

Asked about Sunday’s protest march, Mr Osborne said: ‘I just don’t think that is representative at all, frankly.

‘That was a big trade union march.

‘There’s always a trade union march against the Conservatives when we have a conference, because the trade unions pay for the other political party in this country - the Labour Party.

‘The commitments we have made on welfare, including these £12bn of savings we are talking about, were in a general election manifesto and 11 million people voted for the Conservatives.

‘They voted for the Conservatives because David Cameron and this party offer stability, security and opportunity.’