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Labour manifesto will avoid scrapping two-child benefit limit

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Labour will fight the election refusing to reverse the Conservative government’s contentious two-child limit on benefits, despite calls from many campaign groups and MPs to scrap the policy, according to people familiar with the party’s draft manifesto.

The decision is the latest sign of Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer’s determination to maintain financial caution as he seeks to hold on to a sizeable polling lead over the Conservatives ahead of the July 4 ballot.

The limit, introduced by former prime minister David Cameron a decade ago, restricts child tax credit and universal credit to the first two children in most households.

It has been the subject of criticism in recent years from figures including members of the shadow cabinet. Jonathan Ashworth, when shadow work and pensions secretary, last year called it “heinous”, and party deputy leader Angela Rayner has described it as “obscene and inhumane”.

Starmer himself pledged in 2020 to scrap the limit, but has since abandoned that promise along with various other leftwing positions.

The manifesto will not commit to any reversal of the child tax-credit policy — even though some Labour figures still hope the policy could be dropped over the course of the next parliament. 

The details of the manifesto are set to be published late next week, subject to a final “Clause Five” meeting of Labour officials, shadow ministers and union leaders on Friday. 

The document will repeatedly promise “change” but insist that all of Labour’s policies are fully costed and fully funded. 

The manifesto will also commit to recognising a Palestinian state as part of the peace process in the Middle East, the people added.

The party’s programme for government will call for an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Gaza, back a two-state solution and seek to make sure that neighbouring countries do not get a “veto” on the creation of a Palestinian state. 

A written commitment to recognising a Palestinian state is likely to be seen as an olive branch to many former Labour voters who turned away from the party over its position on the Gaza conflict during the local elections last month. 

The issue of Israel’s bombing of the Gaza Strip has split the party, prompting a dozen resignations at the end of last year when Starmer initially resisted calls for a ceasefire — a position he has since reversed.

Labour, which has previously opposed the use of compulsory identity cards in elections, will also confirm in the manifesto that it will not overturn the policy. The requirement to provide proof of identity at polling stations was brought in last year by the Conservative government. However, Labour will allow military ID cards to be used at the ballot box, the electoral programme is expected to say. 

The manifesto will also include a commitment to “drive down” net numbers of immigration to the UK, although it will not feature any numerical target.

The document will also reaffirm Labour’s commitment to an employment New Deal with a commitment to “banning ‘fire and rehire’” and “banning exploitative contracts” while protecting existing collective bargaining arrangements. 

The document is also expected to include Labour’s “Green Prosperity Plan”, under which the party would in government set up a new state-owned energy company called Great British Energy to co-invest with private renewable groups. This plan will also include spending on a national insulation programme and on a “national wealth fund” to help decarbonise industries such as steel. 

The party will also push ahead with its plans to remove tax breaks for private schools, non-doms and private equity bonuses, the people added. 

Labour declined to comment.

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