George Osborne has insisted the government is still committed to removing child benefit for high rate taxpayers after David Cameron said he understood accusations the policy was unfair.
Speaking on Friday the chancellor said it was "fair" for wealthier people to pay their share, despite controversy over the plans.
"We are very clear that it is fair that those who are better off in our society make a contribution to the saving of money we need to make to pay down the debts so we will be removing child benefit from higher rate taxpayers," he told journalists.
In a hint that the way the policy is implemented could be reviewed, he added: "We haven't set out how we are going to implement that and we are going to do that in the next few months but the principle that it is not fair to ask someone who is earning say £20,000 or £25,000 to pay for someone who is on £80,000 or £100,000 to get child benefit is one that I think is very important."
The government plans to remove child benefit away from families where at least one parent earns more than the second highest rate of tax, around £44,000 a year.
But the measure has been attacked as unfair, as a family that has two parents earning below the threshold could have an overall income of around £80,000 and keep the benefit while a family where one parent earns slightly over the threshold would lose it.
"That you lose the child benefit if you have a higher rate taxpayer in the family. Two people below the level keep the benefit. So, there's a threshold, a cliff-edge issue," he said.
However a Number 10 spokesperson said "the change will go ahead" and insisted the prime minister "was expressing views that he has expressed before".
"He is still very clear that top end earners should pay their fair share of tax. There is still some time before it is going to be implemented. These are matters for the Chancellor," the spokesman said.
Labour have called on the government to rethink the plans. "These ill-thought-through plans are due to hit families in less than 12 months' time, so David Cameron and George Osborne urgently need to come up with some new proposals," shadow treasury minister Chris Leslie said.
Commenting the head of the child poverty action group, Alison Garnham, said ministers were "paying the price" for rushing out policy.
"It would be better to scrap it and find other ways to make the wealthiest pay their fair share, whether or not they have children.
“The government’s plans are riddled with unfairness. The cliff edge means single earner families will be penalised, the targeting of child benefit means families with children will be affected but 70 per cent of higher earners will not, and the three year freeze in Child benefit levels means the poorest children will be hardest hit as living costs continue to rise.
“Protecting Child Benefit is not just about fairness, it's about investing in all our children so we don't damage childhoods, destroy life chances and leave society to pick up the pieces and pay a bigger bill later.”
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