As it happened: Conservative conference Tuesday

  • Government planning to introduce tax break for married couples during this parliament, the BBC learns
  • David Cameron defends the axing of child benefit for families paying higher-rate income tax
  • Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith promises fairness will result from welfare reform
  • Education Secretary Michael Gove says head teachers will get more power to deal with pupils misbehaving out of school
  • Conference hears from Health Secretary Andrew Lansley, Justice Secretary Ken Clarke, Home Secretary Theresa May and International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell
  • Live page reporters: Victoria King and Gavin Stamp

1654 OK. That's the end of our live coverage for today - a day dominated by questions about child benefit reform and the possibility of the government introducing a tax break for married couples. David Cameron's first conference speech as prime minister will be tomorrow's big event. Before that, Foreign Secretary William Hague and Defence Secretary Liam Fox will be speaking. Please join us.

1652 The international aid debate is coming to a close with plenty of praise from top NGOs for the UK's generosity and leading role on development issues. But Fiona Hodgson, vice president of the National Conservative Convention, says there needs to be much more focus on improving maternal health. More than a 1,000 women die every day around in the world while pregnant or in child birth because of inadequate medical care, she says.

1647 Jon Baggaley tweets: "@BBC_HaveYourSay It's a nice appreciative gesture to mark stability offered. Not even close to the cost of marrying though!" Read Jon Baggaley's tweets
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1634 Chris Ferguson tweets: "@BBC_HaveYourSay it's not about enticing families (to stay) together, it's about making family life possible!" Read Chris Ferguson's tweets
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1628 With all the talk at the conference about financial support for children and families, David Cameron is apparently about to head off to meet his wife Samantha and their new daughter Florence. We saw a glimpse of Florence outside Downing Street after her birth in August. Could another appearance be on the cards? Whether or not it is, the BBC's Laura Kuenssberg says it is unlikely to appease party members worried about the impact of child benefit cuts on their own kids. She says many people are worried that it is a panic measure that has been rushed and not properly thought through.

1618 Helen, from Crewkerne, writes: "Families with children and two, married, parents are no longer the norm. As a single person with no children I am happy to support the social benefits of children's education, health care etc through my taxes. However the need to support married couples via tax breaks defeats me - their living expenses are shared, in old age they potentially have each other or their children to look after them and they may already be wealthy. Why discriminate against unmarried people via the tax system?"
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1617 Mr Mitchell says Labour was guilty of huge profligacy in its aid spending. One example of this, he claims, is the £190,000 that was spent on teaching children aged between two and four about global issues. That, the minister jokes, is what was meant by "potty training". On a more serious note, he says the coalition is determined to make sure every penny of aid is spent effectively in future and that it remains committed to its pledge in opposition to raise aid spending to 0.7% of national income by 2013.

1605 International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell is now addressing delegates. Overseas aid is one of the two areas, in addition to health, which is being ring-fenced from future cuts - a decision that has been questioned by some within the party. But Mr Mitchell says that helping poorer countries is "not just a moral imperative but in our national interest".

1601 Education Secretary Michael Gove has been reflecting on his schooldays in Aberdeen. He told a fringe meeting that an English teacher at Robert Gordon's College named Mike Duncan "changed his life" because of his passion for books and his capacity to inspire his pupils. He also revealed that he had been beaten with a leather belt known as a tawse for what he said was "cheek and insubordination". Not behaviour he is likely to display in future cabinet meetings given that he is now one of David Cameron's most loyal lieutenants.

1554 George Smith, from Inverness, Scotland, writes: "Marriage is a lifestyle choice and should not be subsided by those of us who choose not to marry."
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1546 Back to Ken Clarke's proposals to get prisoners to do regular work inside jail to help instil responsibility and prepare them for life when they are released. Owen Sharp, from Victim Support, says any efforts to give inmates more skills must be welcomed. He backs giving some of the money prisoners earn from this to their victims but is worried that this might simply replace existing financial support for victims of crime, which he says is tiny.

1541 Josh, from Bradford, writes: "Why should we extend a break for those who are married? This is an indirect punishment for those who choose to live their lives without a spouse and is unfair."
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1539 Tim Mawby, from Southampton, writes: "Sorry, your kids can't have new shoes, but this married couple here with no kids who are already well off anyway can have the money instead. Can't see that argument going down too well."
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1536 Recounting the story of a visit to a Glasgow housing estate, Mr Duncan Smith says reforming welfare and helping give the poorest a better start in life has been a "personal journey" for him. He concludes his speech by saying that the party must "honour" the faith that the voters put in it at the election. He gets a good reception from Tory supporters, who stand to applaud him

1529 Liz, from Chester, writes: "For someone with 2 children losing their child benefit equates to over £1700 a year - quite how is such a small tax break going to make this easier to bear?"
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1530 Mr Duncan Smith now addresses the controversial plan to cut child benefit for high earners, announced by George Osborne on Monday. He says the measure is "tough but fair". The government faces a "super-human task" in reducing the deficit but will not do so by "standing on the backs of the poor"

1527 The disabled and people who are genuinely unable to work because of illness having "nothing to fear" from the coalition's welfare reforms, Mr Duncan Smith insists. But he says fairness must be "a two-way street" and taxpayers' money should only go to people who genuinely need care and support and those who are looking for work

1523 There will be a new £2,000 enterprise allowance, Mr Duncan Smith says, to help people set up their own businesses. His aim is to see 10,000 new small businesses created over the next year

1522 John, from Kenilworth, writes: "I presume "stay at home mother" was a slip on Mr Cameron's part, and that he meant to say "stay at home parent"."
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1520Mr Duncan Smith says he wants to introduce a new "welfare contract", focused on helping the unemployed and vulnerable. He says the existing "outdated and wildly expensive" current system will be replaced by a single universal credit that will make work pay.

1519 Iain Duncan Smith says abuse of the welfare system under the last Labour government must end. Hard-working families cannot understand why some unemployed families are paid huge sums in housing benefit while those wanting to work are penalised. He says a welfare cheque can never be a proper substitute for a "loving parent or a good employer"

1517 Laura Barker, from Ware, Hertfordshire, writes: "I have been in support of this coalition government hoping it would provide a good balance to the central government in a time where central cuts are needed. However, the move to strike child benefit in the way proposed feels like a shortcut to a means without due consideration."
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1514 Mr Duncan Smith says he is "honoured" to have been given the task by David Cameron of carrying through fundamental welfare reform. The coalition must take the "incredible opportunity" it has been presented with to rebuild the country, he says. As it goes about this, a desire to help the poorest in society will always "run through the DNA" of the coalition, he adds.

1508 Iain Duncan Smith gets very warm applause from Tory supporters as he gets on the stage to deliver his keynote speech on welfare reform.

1505 Chris Grayling says there is widespread public support for reform of the benefits system and, if the government gets its right, it will transform the lives of millions of people. Asked about the specifics, Lord Freud says he hopes the government will be able to put a new benefits system in place as early as 2013 and that millions of people will be getting the new single "universal credit" by 2015

1456 Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith is due to make his eagerly awaited speech about welfare reform shortly. His ministerial colleagues, including former Labour adviser Lord Freud, who defected to the Tories, and employment minister Chris Grayling are currently discussing the government's vision for a single out-of-work and in-work benefit. Lord Freud says the current benefits system is a "Kafkaesque nightmare", discourages work and has to be overhauled

1452 Chris Harness tweets: "@BBC_HaveYourSay Is Ken Clarke in touch? He says its too difficult to assess couples for child allowance, tax credits you apply as a couple." Read Chris Harness's tweets
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1448 This from the BBC's political correspondent Carole Walker: She says the Defence Secretary Liam Fox has told a fringe meeting in Birmingham that tough budget decisions await the military and they will not be able to do everything he would like them to do in the future. But she says Mr Fox would not be drawn on the future of two planned new aircraft carriers. Former prime minister Gordon Brown said today it was vital that the UK remained committed to building them.


1444Tory MP Douglas Carswell says he's in favour of the child benefit cuts as the party's priority should be supporting people earning £15,000 not £50,000. Asked whether the party is in danger of angering its "natural constituency", he says the coalition needs to act in the national interest, not focus simply on the needs of one group of people.


1440 Stuart, from, Wolverhampton, tweets: "@BBC_HaveYourSay sick of people on 44k describing themselves as middle income and people moaning the state are paying them less to have kids" Read Stuart's tweets
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1425 Lord Ashcroft was a no-show at a lunchtime fringe meeting about where the Conservatives went wrong in the general election campaign. He is observing a "self-denying ordinance", said panel chairman Fraser Nelson. Everyone at the meeting got a signed copy of his book on the Tory campaign, Minority Verdict, as a consolation prize, reports the BBC's Brian Wheeler.


1418 Former prime minister Gordon Brown has warned the government against cancelling orders for two Royal Navy aircraft carriers. In an interview with BBC Scotland, Mr Brown said the costs of not going ahead with the ships "are probably greater" than the costs of completing them. He also said cancelling them would be a "betrayal" of the Rosyth dockyard in Fife and the Clyde shipyards.


1413 The Unlock charity, which is run by ex-offenders, warned against limiting pay to the minimum wage. Chief executive Bobby Cummines said: "The principle of real work in prisons is good, as long as it's a fair day's pay for a fair day's work. If people in prison are cheap labour, people will say they are stealing jobs. I don't have a problem with deductions being made, as long as they are fair."

1406 A bit of reaction to Ken Clarke's proposals on prisons. Jon Collins, from the Criminal Justice Alliance, said: "Proper wages and a proper working week will help to prepare prisoners for work on the outside as well as ensuring that they can pay something back to their victims and to society. However, the prison service must not lose sight of the importance of education, training, and alcohol and drug treatment in reducing reoffending, and time and money must be made available to ensure that they are provided."


1402 Another big draw on the conference fringe is Eurosceptic MEP Daniel Hannan. There was the polite, middle-aged equivalent of Beatlemania on Sunday evening as crowds of activists attempted to squash their way into a tiny fringe venue to hear him speak. On Monday, at another fringe, he got an enormous round of applause when someone praised him for putting Gordon Brown in his place in his famous European Parliament/YouTube speech, although the shine came off slightly when the speaker revealed himself as a member of the English Democrats.

1356 Who would have thought a meeting about the "post-bureaucratic age" would be such a crowd-puller? They were turning people away at the Jury's Inn earlier, while others were queuing down the corridor, craning their necks in a vain attempt to hear Francis Maude's words of wisdom, Brian Wheeler reports.

1344 Labour MP Ann McKechin has accused David Cameron of being "in denial" over the impact of the deficit reduction plan in Scotland. She said: "His plan to cut faster and harder than is safe risks pushing us back into recession. Unemployment is still rising in Scotland. Every six minutes someone here loses their job. The tragedy is that even if there was no deficit, this government would be cutting anyway.

1335 David McCormack, from Bristol, writes: "As a new father I am utterly dismayed by this and other attacks on families whilst corporation tax is coming down. I voted Lib Dem and hoped that in the coalition they would stop some of the Conservative excesses but they haven't done a thing. I will never vote for them again."
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1323 The BBC's political editor Nick Robinson writes: "Team Cameron expected its leader to have to fight off charges this morning that cutting child benefit was tough but it clearly weren't prepared for the accusation that it's unfair." Read Nick's blog

1321 Justice Secretary Mr Clarke, 70, also jokes he is a "living advertisement" for raising the state retirement age - he says across Europe he expects it will "drift up to the late 60s" but whether there will be any imminent announcement on the issue from the chancellor, he doesn't know.

1319 On Radio 4's World at One, Ken Clarke says he understands concerns about child benefit - but says he's not sure the public have "totally taken on board" the seriousness of the financial situation. He adds there "might be" changes to the married couples' allowance but then adds he actually has "no idea", and jokes that when he was chancellor he got annoyed by colleagues going around talking about economic policy.

1311 Still, there will be plenty of time for discussion, as events in the main hall don't get under way again until 1430 BST. One of the more eagerly awaited speakers this afternoon will be Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, who is expected to give more detail of welfare reform plans.

1309 Time for lunch now at the Conservative conference - more than half an hour after the scheduled 1230 BST.

1307 Spending less doesn't lead to failure, if the government has the "political courage" to take decisions in the national interest, Ms May says. "Together, in the national interest, we will succeed," she tells delegates, ending her speech.

1305 On to immigration. Ms May says Britain has benefited from it but levels need to be controlled to ensure this remains the case. It is time to "stop importing foreign labour on the cheap", the home secretary adds.

1303 Ms May promises to stand up to extremists and their "bigoted ideology".

1302 Theresa May says the government is reviewing counter-terrorism laws. She gets a round of applause for mentioning the abandonment of Labour's ID cards plans.

1300 Ms May pledges to give victims and communities the power to force their local authorities to take action about crime when they fail to do so. She says she has appointed Baroness Newlove - whose husband Gary was killed by youths - as the government's champion for active, safer communities.

1256 "Vandalism isn't anti-social behaviour - it's crime. Intimidation isn't anti-social behaviour - it's crime. Drug dealing isn't anti-social behaviour - it is crime," Ms May says. She tells delegates that alcohol is at the root of so many of these crimes and therefore, she will "tear up" Labour's 24-hour licensing bill.

1252 Ms May says she'll free the police from bureaucracy to allow them to become "real crime fighters". But she criticises one former chief constable who said the job wasn't as simple as just catching criminals. She says, forcefully, that it is precisely that simple.

1247 From one cabinet big hitter to another. Home Secretary Theresa May is next up. She attacks Labour's record on crime and says it's time for a new way of doing things. One, she says, that really does tackle the causes of crime.


1244 Amanda Lether, from Caterham, Surrey, writes: "Yet again, another attack on hardworking middle income families. Why are we continuously discouraging such people from having children? Soon the only people who will be able to afford to have more than one child will be the very wealthy or those on benefits."
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1240 "We will pay for fewer crimes, we will pay for fewer victims," says Mr Clarke, outlining his ideas to employ private companies, charities and other bodies to help get offenders back into work. Anything "from boot camps to therapeutic communities" is fine with me, he says, as long as the schemes work to cut reoffending.


1237 Nick Rac, from Winscombe, writes: "I have no problem as someone earning over 50k losing this benefit but I have a real issue with families being able to have a combined income £87,500? Mr Cameron then uses the pathetic excuse that this would be to difficult to administer? These are people running our country. I will sort out the admin for them if they find it too difficult!"
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1234 Mr Clarke says he's working on plans to introduce drug-free wings in prisons which will provide inmates with greater support and testing services to help them kick their addictions.


1228 "For serious criminals, prison is the best and only sentence," Mr Clarke says. But prison must also prevent reoffending and Labour did nothing to try to change the fact that at present, it doesn't do that. In fact, the previous government resorted to the "ultimate absurdity" of releasing offenders early "so they could get back to committing more crimes even more quickly", Mr Clarke adds.


1225 Rose, from Stafford, writes: "I was actually outraged to hear people that are earning 40k and above were actually entitled to benefits. It is disgusting. People on that amount of money do not need benefits and if they feel they are struggling then they should get a smaller house or not spend so much money on a fancy car."
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1221 Justice Secretary Ken Clarke is the next speaker on the stage. He says he is a wholehearted supporter of George Osborne's strategy for cuts, which is "absolutely essential to get this country back on its feet". But he says "any fool" - presumably not a reference to the chancellor - can "just lop percentages off his budget" - instead, this government must do more with less, not just do less.

1214 Not sure if it's a sign of the crunch to come, but the poster-covered lorry touring the centre of Birmingham as part of the campaign against defence cuts has suffered a bit of mishap. A BBC crew was poised to film the lorry as it went back round the block. Twenty minutes later it hadn't arrived. It turns out there'd been a bit of a coming together with a taxi. No damage done, though, our man at the scene reports.


1211 Allan Fraser, from Darlington, writes: "The measures announced by Osborne, and the idea of a 40-hour working week for prisoners announced by Clarke, are both correct for this financial time and correct idealogically."
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1208 Mr Gove says the Department of Education owns or has leases on more than 100 buildings and many of them are unused or underused. He says the government will open new academies in those buildings.


1205 Mr Gove announces that historian Simon Schama is to advise the government on how to better teach history in schools. He says the "trashing of our past" must end and children must get the full story - good and bad - about Britain's past.


1201 Lady Roisin tweets: "@BBC_HaveYourSay CB was given to Mothers as some rich fathers don't share income. Keep it separate. Use total family earnings to decide" Read Lady Roisin's tweets
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1157 "Teachers have to be respected again," insists Mr Gove. He announces that all headteachers are to get a new power to punish children who misbehave on their way to or from school. He says this is all part of ensuring that "the balance of power" in the classroom swings back towards the adult and away from the child.


1153 Education Secretary Michael Gove is now addressing delegates. He says Britain has fallen behind other countries over the last 10 years, and the gap between the achievements of the rich and poor has widened. More children from one public school - Westminster - go to the top universities than the entire population of poor boys and girls on benefits, he says, and this a "grotesque failure" the government will fix.

1149 Former Labour health secretary Andy Burnham tells the BBC's Daily Politics that Andrew Lansley is "on a collision course with the NHS" because of his plans to force through a "dangerous reorganisation" of the entire institution. Mr Burnham says it's "the last thing he should be doing right now".


1144 Guido Fawkes tweets: "Tory slogan "Together in the National Interest" seems very appropriate since the conference is about the interest on the national debt." Read Guido Fawkes' tweets
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1141 Geoff Canada - a man Michael Gove describes as a "hero" of his - is now addressing delegates. His project, the Harlem Children's Zone, has transformed education in New York. He says the UK and US are failing their children, "and if you have a system that is failing your children there's no way you can remain a great power".

1136 David Campbell Bannerman, UK Independence Party policy chief, says they would merge all child-related welfare - like child benefit and tax credits - into a single, flat-rate, non-means-tested payment of £38 per child per week. He says UKIP would also restrict that payment to a maximum of three children "as this reduces the incentive for lower income households to have more children than they can afford".

1132 Steve, from Wirral, writes: "I am 44 years old and have never been unemployed. I earn £44k in the private sector. My wife doesn't work. I have 3 children. The loss of £2.5k child benefit is equivalent to a gross pay reduction of 10%. On top of the 10% pay cut (2009) and pay freeze (2010) this additional reduction (£200 take-home pay per month) will leave us unable to fully fund our mortgage repayment."
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1127 Alan, from West Oxfordshire, writes: "David Cameron is absolutely right in defending these benefit cuts. Ms. Cooper should look back at the cost of this when Labour were in power. There are millions who do not need these benefits. Stop scrounging off the state. I am a pensioner and cut my cloth accordingly without moaning for more."
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1124 We've moved onto education now in the conference hall. A headteacher Katharine seems to be striking some chords with her address, especially after she says that when she gives her pupils an exam paper from 1998 "they groan and ask for one from 2005 because they know it'll be easier". She says education has been "dumbed down" and we now live in an era where "all must have prizes, all must have GCSEs and all must have a place at university".


1118 A Conservative MP says he believes his party will fight the next election as a coalition with the Lib Dems. Jacob Rees-Mogg says it would make "no sense to oppose people who have been members of that government and have made a big contribution to it". This, of course, is not the party line and Tory HQ says the plan is for the election to be fought separately.


1113 BBC's Laura Kuenssberg tweets: "Penny Mordaunt MP tells us child benefit cuts were 'poorly presented' and that she still has questions about what happens to married couples" Read Laura Kuenssberg's tweets
Nick Robinson


1109 Sources close to David Cameron have played down the suggestion that there could be moves to provide tax breaks for married couples to mitigate the effects of the child benefit cut. This morning in an interview with the BBC, the PM suggested the 'transferable tax allowance' could be a way of helping compensate families who lose out on child benefit. But while, ministers privately concede there could be some alterations to the policy before it is introduced, they insist there is no mood or need to look at revising the actual threshold at which people will lose their payments.


1101 Lord Sugar has told the BBC the Lib Dems in government are like "Leyton Orient suddenly being planted in the Champions' League. "They're like, 'Oh yeah, we did say that, but we actually didn't really think we were going to get any power,'" he told BBC Radio 5 Live. "You've got Clegg who used to get three pars in the Observer as leader of the Liberal Party somewhere out there hosting the world congress or something like that - unbelievable." Perhaps he'd like to fire the deputy PM.


1054 Helen Crome, from Ware, Hertfordshire, writes: "I don't understand the method used to work this out, I think my 4 year old could probably work the maths better!; 2 X 43k = 86K, 1 x 45K = 45K. Not hard to figure why people are a bit put out on this. We completely understand cuts have to be made and some will be painful, but please could they be done with some sense of intelligence."
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1048 Think we might have another buzz phrase on our hands. Heralding "an information revolution" in healthcare, Andrew Lansley said a new mantra for NHS patients should be: "No decision about me, without me". The words have been picked up by at least one of the doctors speaking after him - could there be a Tory bumper sticker in the offing?


1044 Colin Glencross, from Reading, writes: "Where is the fairness in our big society now? A child could have devised a more equitable system than announced. The child benefit system will allow a couple on 85k to be included and another couple on 45k to be excluded."
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1039 Policing minister Nick Herbert says too often we are simply "warehousing prisoners" when really they should be engaged in "purposeful activity". He wants them to gain skills like construction or IT installation which "may give them the chance of going straight" when they get out. On the subject of pay, he says the "lion's share" of any wage paid to prisoners will be deducted for victims, but perhaps those approaching release might be able to keep a bit more if it would help them get started once they get out.


1036 The New Statesman asks: "Is this the coalition's 10p tax moment?"

1032 Mr Lansley announces that £70m saved by cutting consultancy and management costs is to be spent this year on rehabilitation and home adaptations for patients discharged form hospital. He says this money will be enough to support more then 35,000 people over the next seven months.

1029 Lee Derbyshire tweets: "44k is a lot of money... I'd swap that for my child benefit!" Read Lee Derbyshire's tweets
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1026 "Change is what is needed," the health secretary says repeatedly, most importantly to improve survival rates and health inequalities. He refers to plans to give GPs power over NHS budgets and to make sure that providers to the health service offer best value for money. These sorts of reforms have sparked concern in some quarters, not least from organisations representing doctors and nurses themselves.


1022 "We will not make the sick pay for Labour's debt crisis," says Mr Lansley. But he that doesn't mean, he insists, that the government should continue to put more taxpayers' money into an unreformed health service. Labour promised to end mixed-sex wards and extend free dental care - it did neither, he says.

1021 Health Secretary Andrew Lansley is now on the main conference stage. He says it took Labour three years after it took power in 1997 to publish a plan for the NHS - and was, throughout its time in office, a government "that picked up the baton of reform but dropped it as soon as it got hot". He says the coalition government plans to drive forward reform quickly.

1013 LBC 97.3 tweets: "David Cameron tells LBC 97.3: Child Benefit reforms are fair, plus he'll help solve Tube strike - http://bit.ly/aC19Ka" Read LBC 97.3's tweets
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1011 Some who watched our conference coverage yesterday might have thought David Cameron had come over all shy and retiring when he chose to sit in the audience, not on stage, during his chancellor's big speech. The PM says he didn't want to "hog the limelight", telling ITV's Daybreak: "I know it is a novel idea, cabinet government, but actually I have got a great team and I want people to get to know the team and not just the team captain."

1009 Just before things get going in the conference hall, gathering delegates are being treated to a contemporary dance performance. Yesterday, we had a classical music number.

1008 Tracy Ashington, from Burton-on-Trent, writes: "What about a helping hand for those who do a hard day's work day in and out? Perhaps state benefits should be points-based. The more tax and NIC you pay the more points you amass. And if you never claim then you should be rewarded with a handsome pension."
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1006 Katherine Rake, chief executive of the Family and Parenting Institute, told the BBC the child benefit is the latest in a string of measures to cause concern: "Child Trust Fund has gone, child tax credit. We seem to be particularly targeting families with children, so I think people are thinking it's unfair on that level. And then of course you've got the case of the stay-at-home mum, for whom this is the sole bit of income."

0957 NBAIR, from Glossop, writes: "This is not thought out. Why should joint incomes benefit? Why should the less well off be penalised? I also think that any government acting in the interests of the family should remove any child care benefit encouraging both parents to work. Too many times children are being treated like a hobby."
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0954 Last night, children's minister Tim Loughton appeared to suggest that the child benefit policy could be looked at again in the light of some criticism. But this morning he tweeted: "People overexcited over my child benefit comments. Calm down. Of course I'm not calling for review. Yes it's tough but fair."

0946 David Cameron pledged this morning to keep the winter fuel allowance and free bus passes for pensioners, but Kevin Maguire, from the Daily Mirror, told the BBC "you could fill a recycling plant with pledges from Conservatives". On the child benefit cut, he said: "They rushed it out and they haven't thought it through. There's this monstrous unfairness and I can't see where they go from here."


0942 Andrew Bennett, from Swindon, writes: "Some of the stated justification accompanying the child benefit cut is that it is fair, and that we are all in it together. In which case, why are higher-rate tax payers without children not "in it together"? Before those without children get too righteous they should remember that unless other people were prepared to spend the enormous amounts it takes to raise children then the economy and society would collapse. So, as a higher-rate taxpayer, please feel free to raise the income tax rate (and so give EVERYONE a chance to help the country out of a hole), but keep giving those who are making sure our society has a future a helping hand."
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0936 We're also expecting to hear more today on another aspect of welfare reform, the plan to combine - and in theory, simplify - many existing benefits into a single universal credit. Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith - for whom this issue has become something of a personal crusade - will give more details of the plan in his conference speech this afternoon.

0929 Away from child benefit, one of the other talking points today is a plan to force prisoners to work while they're behind bars. Justice Secretary Ken Clarke is to say in his speech later that "getting out of bed is optional" for prisoners at the moment, and instead they should be made to do paid work and give part of their earnings to victims of crime.

0923 The newspapers are split down the middle on the child benefit move. "Bold and impressive" is the Times' verdict, while the Sun and the Financial Times also give it the thumbs up. Other papers - including those usually most supportive of the Tories - are outraged. The Daily Telegraph brands it "brutal" and "unfair", while the Daily Mail says the "blatant anomaly" of single vs dual income is difficult to accept. Several commentators compare it to the 10p tax debacle when Labour announced plans to scrap the lowest rate of tax, but faced a torrent of criticism.


0916 Iain Tucker tweets: "DC struggling with any principle on why to chop child benefit for £44k+ but maintain universality on, eg, state pension #todayprogramme" Read Iain Tucker's tweets
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0912 Some critics argue that the move penalises stay-at-home mothers because if their husband is a higher-rate taxpayer they will lose child benefit, but a dual income household, where both parents earn just below the ceiling, will keep it. David Cameron suggested he might look at the issue again: "In the coalition agreement we do talk about having some sort of transferable tax allowance to help couples in that way, so obviously there are things we'll try and do."


0905 David Cameron has been doing the rounds this morning on television and radio, and has defended the decision to take away child benefit from households with a higher-rate taxpayer. He said it was a "tough decision", but insisted it was "fair to ask families who are better off to make a bigger contribution to dealing with the deficit so we can protect the poorest and most vulnerable people in our country".


0900 Good morning and thanks for joining us for another day of live coverage from the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham. We'll be hearing speeches on health, education, crime, welfare reform and global poverty - and the Conservatives no doubt hope they'll be the focus of the day. But it's yesterday's announcement on cuts to child benefit that is still dominating the news agenda today.





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