Welfare Bill: Changes to continue despite Lords defeats

Houses of Parliament Labour have urged ministers to drop the proposals after the defeats in the Lords

Related Stories

The government says it will press ahead with changes to the welfare system, despite defeats in the Lords.

Labour and independent peers, and some Lib Dems, voted down restrictions on benefits for cancer patients and young disabled people.

Employment minister Chris Grayling said the welfare state would support those in "genuine need" but "tough decisions" had to be taken to tackle the deficit.

Labour said ministers had crossed "the basic line of British decency".

The government says its controversial Welfare Reform Bill, which applies to England, Scotland and Wales, is the biggest shake-up of the welfare system in 60 years.

Among its plans are proposals to pay out "contributory" employment and support allowance (ESA) - which is currently not means-tested - for one year only, after which some claimants would be means tested.

But it suffered defeats on three issues in the Lords on Wednesday night.

  • Peers voted down plans that would have meant some cancer patients receiving contributory ESA would have been means tested for the benefit after 12 months. Instead they voted to make it two years to give them longer to recover.
  • They also rejected the 12-month limit for ESA claimants who are judged capable of working at some stage in the future.
  • And they rejected moves to stop disabled young people who have never worked, due to illness or disability, from receiving contributory ESA - usually paid to those who have been paying National Insurance.

Mr Grayling told the BBC the government would "look carefully" at what peers had said, but ministers would seek to reverse the amendments in the Lords when they came back into the Commons.


Evidence of tension between the coalition parties has emerged in the wake of the government's defeats in the House of Lords.

The government lost three votes over its welfare reforms after Labour and independent crossbench peers united to oppose the plans to cut employment support allowance.

But they were helped by a substantial number of Liberal Democrat peers who either rebelled or abstained.

For example, in the last vote - on plans to exempt cancer sufferers from cuts to the ESA - more than half of all Lib Dem peers failed to support the government.

In all, five Lib Dem peers rebelled and voted against their government. A further 44 did not vote.

In contrast, just 42 Lib Dem peers voted for the government.

This suggests that while the Lib Dem leadership may be signed up to the coalition's spending cuts, many of their peers are less keen to wield the axe.

He said: "We are not taking away benefits from people who've got no other form of income, we're not taking away from people who are going to be sick and disabled and unable to work for the rest of their lives.

"What we're doing is for people who are on the path back to the workplace and who have got other financial means... [we are saying] we will give you something back, you will receive benefits for a period of time, but you can't receive benefits indefinitely, paid for by people on low incomes in work elsewhere."

He said the government had increased "the number of cancer patients who receive long-term unconditional support from the state".

Deputy PM Nick Clegg said the government would "look in detail at some of their reservations and objections".

Of 71 Lib Dem peers present in the Lords on Wednesday, five voted against the government to exempt cancer patients from being means-tested for employment and support allowance - and 24 abstained. A further 20 were not in the Lords for the votes.

Mr Clegg said he "respected" that many peers wanted to make sure welfare reform was handled "fairly and sensitively".

"We think we're getting the balance right, of course we're prepared to enter into a discussion, but does the welfare system as a whole need to be reformed? Yes it does."


But Baroness Meacher, who moved the amendment protecting young people from cuts, told the BBC: "Very severely disabled children, coming into adulthood, they've been disabled probably all their lives and will be disabled all their lives, will never have a chance to earn, to build up capital to build up insurance contributions or anything of that sort.

"These people would have that benefit withdrawn from them under the bill - our amendment made sure that those people will continue to have the benefit as of right - and therefore a degree of dignity."

In the Commons on Thursday, Labour MP David Winnick said targeting stroke and cancer patients for cuts was "sick" and urged the government to think again.

Commons Leader Sir George Young replied that the government would give "serious consideration" to the votes.

But he said the most serious cancer cases - those assessed as not being fit for work - would not be affected by the 12-month time limit.

And he said the government had asked Professor Malcolm Harrington, who reviews the tests applied to benefit claimants to determine whether they are fit to work, to work with cancer charity Macmillan to make sure tests were "appropriate".

But Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Liam Byrne said the coalition had been defeated for trying to "cross the basic line of British decency".

He urged ministers not to try to reinstate the measures in the Commons.

"For months Labour has been determined to stop this cruel attack on cancer patients in its tracks. And the House of Lords agreed," he said.

"The government's proposal to cut paid-for benefits for people still in chemotherapy crosses the basic test of fairness."


More on This Story

Related Stories


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 101.

    I think change is needed but how can you tell if some are in need and others arent? I get benefits, income support, dla and to look at me you would think im perfectly healthy but im not, ive have cardiomyopathy, grade 3 heart failure, an ICD to prevent sudden cardiac death, This is where the problem is...picking out those who need it most.

  • rate this

    Comment number 100.

    "..We dont want a race to the bottom in the 21st Century..."

    Want it or not, that's what you'll get.
    You really think China etc, where many live on pennies a day, will continue to fund western sovereign debt to keep us in our accustomed living? Greece Italy etc should tell you otherwise. When China etc really pull the plug, there won't be money for welfare and a lot of other things too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 99.

    Reply to Space
    I was working when I moved here, I have been working for the majority of my three years here. The house was derelict when I moved in. The market rent is £550 I am already saving you money because I spent mine. If you checked your facts, the housing rate has been cut in half for under 35s. I do not want housing benefit, but what choice do I have with no stable work.

  • rate this

    Comment number 98.

    The "means testing" for income-related ESA only pays out to a couple with an income below ~£100per week. To state that 90% of claimants would still recieve benefits while extended the time limit to 2 years will cost over £1bn is contradictory. If this only affects 10% of claimants then a shorter time limit isn't going to result in a cut in spending that large.

  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    90. Jacobite

    but think nothing about wasting £9.3 billion on the London Olympics or £40 billion + on the HS2 project both of which the vast majority in this country don't want.

    When you say "majority in this country", do you mean you've done a nation-wide survey and know for sure, or do you mean *you* don't want, and can't comprehend that others might think different?

  • rate this

    Comment number 96.

    If ever there was a case for rejecting an elected House of Lords then surely this is it.
    Had there been an elected chamber the whipps would have been buzzing around making sure that Lib Dem and Tory peers toed the party line and it would have been a rubber stamping exercise pushing this legislation through.
    This government is becoming infamous for it's policy rejection rate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    It's ridiculous how many people I have met that purposefully do not work and claim benefits. Worse still unmarried women churning out babies to several fathers to up their benefits and stay off work. It's not just a few that abuse the system it's a significant amount. Go to any council estate and have a good look. Nice idea tories but your way off the mark on how bad it has become.

  • rate this

    Comment number 94.

    Welfare is a great thing. How lucky we are to have a system that provides support for those in need.

    However it is subject to abuse and the country pays for many who can work but prefer to doss.

    I welcome reform....keep it fair but stop the freeloaders.

    We all know people who take the P out of the system. Crack down on those types!

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    I would also agree that a min wage job is better than being on benefits i advise all to take them if you get the chance. You may get less money etc at first but you can start to push forward once you have that job. You will feel better in yourself and i gives you a great sense of freedom from those just want to judge.

    @ 82. working Stiff - Tax isnt just for welfare!

  • rate this

    Comment number 92.

    The welfare system was created initially to save people for destitution and stop people dying because of poverty. This humanitarian necessity has been turned into a profligate bureacratic monster that doesn't help some people enough but keeps others in beer and satellite TV because they know how to play the system.

    @23. squeek - how very Marxist of you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 91.

    with regards to empiredowns statement, there is no free labour market, this is a fallacy. The very notion of free market economics is a fallacy, based on 'labour flexability' (read as: employment unstability). So we must not suck up and bear it, watching sustained attacks on the infrastructure of the working classes, all the while being told by the VERY rich that we are 'all in this together'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 90.

    The government are worried that they will loose estimated savings of around £2 billion by loosing this vote but think nothing about wasting £9.3 billion on the London Olympics or £40 billion + on the HS2 project both of which the vast majority in this country don't want. The government should leave the Young Unemployed the Sick and Pensioners alone and get their priorities right.

  • rate this

    Comment number 89.

    well done y'r Lordships, a reality check at last.
    People want anyone else to pay the deficit. Camo protects the _ankers,, and goads workers indignation to squeeze the giizillions from non-workers. But make chemos work. Seriously?
    Allthewhile forgetting the real basic issue WHAT work? You give a cancer patient a job; now, go on.

    Pit of fear and loathing. A very peculiar.practice indeed..

  • rate this

    Comment number 88.

    Firstly (from Lord Patel) "I am highly sympathetic to sick and vulnerable people not being subjected to something that will make their lives even more miserable" next "if the proposals were dropped entirely, the government would lose an estimated £2bn in savings." ..... The cancer victims should never have been targeted in the first place!

  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    MP: Hey, gullible slaves, sorry, scum, I mean public! Look at the nasty, cheaty benefit scroungers robbing us blind ... but please don't say or do anything about the corporations that avoid and evade billions in tax and value human life at minimum wage or less. If you did we might not receive our bribes and cushy directorships.

  • rate this

    Comment number 86.

    A problem with the welfare state is that one aspect of its creation that was assumed was that thee would be plenty of jobs, indeed that there would be some spare, and that cheap affordable housing would be available throughout the country, that could be paid for on ONE salary.
    By and large through the 1950's we had this, and the system worked.
    We don't now. Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 85.

    68. Martin Q Blank

    Minimum wage jobs are demeaning and depressing. I have no idea how to resolve benefit culture but I think more carrot and less stick should be considered."


    What poor little darlings. Sorry to hear that they're too good for the first rung of the ladder, we shouldn't be paying someone to sit at home because they think a shop job or call centre is below them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 84.

    The benefit system should be there to provide the bare necessities to keep a family going if it falls on troubled times. It should not be there to allow scroungers to have a better standard of life than hard working people. Anyone on benefit who can afford to go on holiday is recieving too much and should have their benifits cut or stopped. Luxuries are things that you earn through hard work!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 83.

    65. Grumpy_Haggis

    Interesting comment from China when responding to requests to bail out the euro - they will not support an economic systens where the welfare state institutionalises sloth and indolence.
    We dont need lectures from totalitarian regimes who have 10's of millions of people living in abject poverty.
    We dont want a race to the bottom in the 21st Century.

  • rate this

    Comment number 82.

    As I pointed out before '' fairness '' in the Socialists mind means
    and you can see from some posts..
    Its a Privilege to work and for that privilege you should be Taxed Taxed Taxed
    Also as part of that privilege you are expected to pay for '' The Entitled ''
    How much ,The Socialist, will tell you as much as it takes..
    Until the Tax payer revolts it will go on and on.


Page 44 of 49


More Politics stories



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.