In Brief

Lib Dems claim Tories trying to 'con' public over welfare cuts

Danny Alexander leaks what he claims are 'secret' Conservative plans for £8bn of welfare cuts

The Conservatives have been accused of "trying to con the British people" over alleged plans for an £8bn cut to welfare, including child benefits and child tax credits.

Danny Alexander, the Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary to the Treasury, said he spent five years battling to stop the Tories from "veering off to the right with ideological cuts".

Alexander claims that in June 2012 senior cabinet members – including himself, David Cameron, Nick Clegg and George Osborne – were sent proposals by the Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith outlining £8bn of welfare reforms.

Plans included means testing child benefit; removing child benefit for 16 to 19 year olds; limiting child benefit and child tax credit support to two children; and removing the higher rate child benefit from a family's first child.

The plans were dropped, but one Lib Dem source claimed: "If this is what they were capable of proposing in 2012, this is what they will be planning in 2015."

A Conservative spokesman described the allegations as "desperate stuff from Liberal Democrats who are now willing to say anything to try and get attention".

He said the party does not recognise any of the proposals and added that "they are definitely not our policy".

The Guardian says that previous hints of such cuts have been brushed aside before, but it will be "harder for the Conservative Party to refute the accusations of Alexander, a man that has sat at the centre of the government and has been in possession of the relevant documents".

In a statement, the Chief Secretary said: "I am lifting the lid on this now because the Conservatives are trying to con the British people by keeping their planned cuts secret until after the election. It's clear from our time in government that the Tories target will be slashing support for families."

Last week, the Institute for Fiscal Studies said the Conservatives needed to "spell out substantially more detail of how they will deliver the overall fiscal targets they have set themselves". The party plans to cut the social security budget by £12bn by 2017/18, said the IFS, but more than £10bn of these cuts are yet to be specified.

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