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

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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."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 381.

    Story the other day in the paper, a family have produced 10+ kids and get £60 000 in benefit. Of course it needs reforming.

  • rate this

    Comment number 380.


  • rate this

    Comment number 379.

    Just now

    Are you actually saying we should leave benefit thieves to get on with their thieving, otherwise they'll thieve even more? Imagine where that sort of logic would lead society!

  • rate this

    Comment number 378.

    Testing the benefits of young disabled and cancer patients??

    Yet again the Tory right wing minority are crossing the line of basic British decency??

    This Tory led Government gets more and more extremist!!

    Unelected and self appointed?? Rebels against decency!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 377.

    I would instead:
    Abolish tax credits
    Abolish national insurance
    Abolish capital gains tax
    Abolish personal tax-allowances
    Abolish vehicle excise duties
    Apply VAT to all products and services
    Lower VAT to 15%
    Raise basic tax rate to 33%
    Replace 40% rate with 50% rate and move threshold to 75,000
    Replace all benefits with 2, non-means tested ones.

  • rate this

    Comment number 376.

    Benefits depend on which part of the country you live in and in what type of accommodation. A wealthy business-man in London who becomes unemployed will get massive contributions to any mortgage, but a where I live full housing benefit will not pay the average rent for a one-bedroom flat! The benefits system is unfair but NOT lavish, don't be deceived by the rubbish printed by the press.

  • rate this

    Comment number 375.

    The welfare bill keeps rising because the cost of rents, energy, and food keeps rising: benefits have to enable basic survival. Cutting the number of people claiming benefits isn't solving the problem. The government needs to address the rising cost of living, and then the welfare bill will naturally fall.

    Building more houses would be a good start: prices/rents would come down, and jobs created.

  • rate this

    Comment number 374.

    This is what happens with capitalism: the rich look after themselves and get the rest of us to blame each other for the appalling state we have to live in, no jobs, no living wage, no welfare, soon, no health-care, no housing benefit...the people need to wake from their capitalist-materialist-induced slumber and bring down the powers that be...NOW

  • rate this

    Comment number 373.

    Stunned Silence

    Having the right man in charge can impact the value of RBS by billions. A profitable RBS when sold could pay all welfare bills that we cannot afford at the moment. In footballing terms do you want Mourinho in charge or some bloke from the pub?

    I dont want welfare cut to the needy. I want the clipboard yielding removed from the public sector. In the care sector its ridiculous.

  • rate this

    Comment number 372.

    My son is severely autistic, non verbal, has severe learning difficulties and no doubt will be eligible for a lifetime of benefits. Yet there are simple jobs my son could do. It would be much better for him (and society) to be working and making a contribution than to be sat at home every day watching TV. Problem is, who is going to give him a chance and employ him when he leaves school?

  • Comment number 371.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 370.

    your part 2
    They get a lot more for food allowance than a single benefit claimant gets for food fuel clothing etc so cut their expenses to the level that the unemployed have as its adequate to live on. Is bread margarine and jam so much dearer in westminster £400 a month on food as if!

  • rate this

    Comment number 369.

    @337. JamesStGeorge
    tax evasion is a crime, so clearly not putting in is as bad as taking out.

    tax avoidance is not a crime, but only because the rich have influence on those making the laws.

    and everybody takes out. The rich are rich because they've taken a disproportionate share of/profited from wealth generated in conjunction with others. Taxation is just a way to put back some of that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 368.

    The government is spending billions of pounds on training GPs only to then ignore their diagnosis and spend billions more on ATOs officials arriving at a different conclusion and then billions more on an appeals process which in well over half of cases concludes ATOs were wrong! You couldn't make it up.No wonder we are skint!

  • rate this

    Comment number 367.

    @310 - maybe. Just seen an article that reckons £100million a year avoided and some pay just 2% tax - although on £100k a week that's still over 100k tax a year. Which is loads more than me. And it still disproves that immigrants don't pay tax which was my point.

  • rate this

    Comment number 366.

    For what is paid to a few thousand city workers in bonuses alone, we could overhaul the benefits system for millions. The least-deserving have sucked this country dry whilst those in need suffer.

    PS. Most of those bonuses are paid so as to avoid much of the tax. These are finance people, they're adept at working the system to their advantage.

  • rate this

    Comment number 365.

    305 retired at fifty. Ive heard of know someone who was reported for ben fraud sometime ago. The person reporting said the authorities were investigating but the person is still apparently working cash in hand aswell as working at a pub. Also been reported for drink driving and although police know him say they have not caught him at it, could be that they sit on the wrong road all the time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 364.

    The system seems skewed to me. I know one couple on benefits who just about cope and another (with children) who are doing very nicely. Car, satellite tv, very fancy curtain drapes and furniture, central heating, holidays, etc. so how is it that one set of circumstances seems totally different to the others - but both in receipt of benefits? What's the difference?

  • rate this

    Comment number 363.

    3 bankers, 2 MPs, 5 corporate executives,a press baron and a benefit claimant are sitting at a table with a pie. They cut the pie into 12. The bankers, MPs, executives and press baron share 11 slices between them. When the benefits claimant takes the remaining slice, the others call him a cheat & beat him up. That is our welfare system these days.

  • rate this

    Comment number 362.

    tax credits should be exactly that......ie an increase to your personal allowances, so that when you take a job, rather than choose benefits as a life choice,you pay less tax on what you earn. Tax credits should NEVER have been a payable, mortgageable monthly lump sum...........which is a disincentive to work, and makes it a certain vote loser when you reduce it


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