Mr Brown, who has introduced ground-breaking policies to target benefits to the poorest families as a step towards ending child poverty, is fiercely hostile to the proposals that emerged from Downing Street before the local elections. Several cabinet ministers share his scepticism. At a meeting with Labour backbench MPs last week he made clear the measure did not have his support. He said there were already powers, seldom used, to deal with such problems but he would not be drawn further.
Education secretary Estelle Morris has become the latest cabinet minister privately to indicate she is not in favour of the move.
Lynne Jones, Labour MP for Birmingham Selly Oak, has tabled an early day motion in the commons, which already has the support of 47 MPs, stressing that the removal of benefits from the poorest families was counter-productive. It also voices support for 'child benefit to remain an unconditional universal benefit that encourages self-sufficiency'.