Labour must abandon its agenda driving women into work after they have children in the mistaken believe it “liberates” them, a senior MP has said.
Frank Field, the chairman of the Commons Work and Pensions Committee, said mothers should be given the option of cashing in child benefit and tax allowance in the first two years of their child’s life in order to stay at home if they wanted.
“I think we need to drop this agenda, which was under New Labour, that we know what women want and therefore we are going to drive them out to work because that liberates them,” he said.
The veteran Birkenhead MP was speaking on a panel event in Westminster hosted by the Resolution Foundation think-tank on Monday morning.
“I think we want a system whereby parents, particularly women parents in the first instance, have the resources to chose whether they wish to raise their children or if the government money is used to pay somebody else to look after their children,” Field said.
“If we look at the monies in child benefit and tax allowance going to families, it’s £100,000... why shouldn’t parents, whose push on their finances is in the first years of a child’s life, be able to take a quarter of that tax free, £25,000, that we want to spend this in the first two years of life.
“We know our benefits thereafter will be cut, but it will give us the freedom to choose when we decide to draw our public expenditure rather than clever old dicks who are not so clever in Whitehall deciding you’re going to spend that over 19 years of your child’s [life].”
He added: “It’s about freedom being extended to parents without spending extra money - or much extra money.”
Field was speaking at the discussion of Chancellor Philip Hammond’s upcoming Budget alongside Conservative MP Nicky Morgan and Labour MP Rachel Reeves.