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 781.

    759 Ex Tory Voter

    The wife doesn't have mental health issues and he certainly isn't her carer. In fact she does far more than he does.

    It is an offence for one party to complete the electoral roll form deliberately leaving off someone else who is living in the property.

    Most people would suspect there's something to hide.

  • rate this

    Comment number 780.


    @759 'Ex Tory Voter'.


    Question - how can you not be on the electoral roll while living in UK?"

    Very, very easily : when you move just don't register. When someone knocks on the door asking you too, just politely refuse. We get no junk mail and, despite the threats issued, our credit rating is fine.

  • rate this

    Comment number 779.

    "Put all MP's and Ministers on Minimum wage and then lets see how fast things change, WE are all in this TOGETHER was the phrase used by the Joker Cameron, so how about it?"
    You've got more chance of getting Tony Blair to admit how much he earns and pay 50% tax to help fund the welfare state he bloated.
    We know who are all in it together & it's an exclusive club.

  • rate this

    Comment number 778.


    Countless lefty plonkers ...Does it occur to you people that if you hit say Vodafone with another 10 billion pounds tax bill that they might just move to another country and we would lose ALL of the tax revenue from them?

    Vodafone are already abroad. They wouldn't just get up and leave if forced to pay a full tax bill as they'd lose out on the ~70% profit (post-tax) made in the UK.

  • rate this

    Comment number 777.

    At the end of the day its going to be all about job creation. And we are currently losing so many jobs. Government are attempting to fit an increasing number into a shrinking jobs market and are concerned with ideology instead of day to day practicality and priortising. Concentrate on getting the young and healthy into these scare jobs and leave the sick alone.

  • rate this

    Comment number 776.

    755. AndyC555

    The UK has an astonishingly high standard of living compared to 95% of the world.


    that just shows how badly 95% of the world live, doesn't it?

    reality is, 180 more pensioners die in winter than in summer, many due to fuel poverty. Many families with children cannot afford to hear their homes. I could go on, but that's not a high standard of living.

  • rate this

    Comment number 775.

    487.Rebecca Riot-".... No one wants these people so why ever are they in government?? Naughty tricks most likely explanation!!"


    More leftist paranoia.
    Too many Socialist Worker Party meetings Rebecca.
    Get a life, its too short to with waste it on those loons

  • rate this

    Comment number 774.

    The trouble with any government is that they don't have enough time to think legislation through properly. The damage of some policy is frequently not experienced until the next government

    From reading the posts here it seems clear that the general understanding is that the country needs to reduce spending and tackle 'crony capitalism'. As opposed to hurting the vulnerable and helping the strong.

  • rate this

    Comment number 773.

    The Tory party exists soley to protect private individuals and private companies. If you work in the private sector or fall into the welfare/benefit system you are fair game as you rely on taxes from those the Tories want to protect. The richer you are the more they will protect you, as you (potentially) pay more tax. Did anyone expect the Tories to have compassion? It is not what they exist for.

  • rate this

    Comment number 772.

    Bit like Thatcher aren't they... despite the information provided, the obvious flaws in their decisions... carry on regardless. In fact it would make a good carry on film if it weren't so real.
    Single flat rate benefit is the answer. Don't penalise for previous work and savings. Tax those who don't pay now and stop beating the poor (and middle)

  • rate this

    Comment number 771.

    487.Rebecca Riot-".... No one wants these people so why ever are they in government?? Naughty tricks most likely explanation!!"

    How on Earth do you know how many do or do not want this Govt., have you conducted a Poll?

    'Naughty tricks'?

    If you have suspicions of dishonesty regarding the General Election then I hope you have contacted the Electoral Commisssion

  • rate this

    Comment number 770.

    @759 'Ex Tory Voter'.


    Question - how can you not be on the electoral roll while living in UK?

  • rate this

    Comment number 769.

    Countless lefty plonkers are saying stuff like

    'They dare not contemplate going after bankers or tax avoiders - where they real money is.'


    Does it occur to you people that if you hit say Vodafone with another 10 billion pounds tax bill that they might just move to another country and we would lose ALL of the tax revenue from them?

    Do you care?

  • rate this

    Comment number 768.

    707. Stunned_Silence
    In an ideal world you would be right, but if the money existed to provide everyone with a job then those who genuinely cannot work wouldn't have to worry about their benefits being cut. There are jobs that need doing, but no money to pay people to do them. We have a group who are being paid, the unemployed. Let them earn what they already receive instead of paying for nothing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 767.

    761.Dancin Pagan The Mad Kiltie

    My friend works for minimum wage, he is a single parent with 3 kids. His rent is £550 per month, he takes home £150 per week.

    The state bankrolls bad employers from our taxes.

    You might also say the state bankrolls inflated DSS rentals so private rentals are too high.

  • rate this

    Comment number 766.

    The government only reward the rich and greedy! this includes bankers, Landlords who suppress the poor keeping rents high, anyone who has more talent but no finance, they end up with jealous teachers who want them out! As a psychologist said once, the majority of people at the top are socialpaths, care only about themselve...and would steal from anyone! I am moving abroad!It is cheaper and safer

  • rate this

    Comment number 765.

    I have secondary progressive MS meaning that I'm gradually getting worse. I can't walk or dress unaided. I'm 52 and have worked since I was 18 so have paid in years of contributions. I currently get EAS as I can't work. The government intends to take this off me or make it dependent on my husbands salary. How fair is that?

  • rate this

    Comment number 764.

    "NHS will meet your medical needs."
    Many things are postcode lottery&others they'll drag heels (20mths to get Physio) I have to pay for private chiropracty (not available on NHS) Asthma I pay more in prescriptions than the free market price abroad. There was nobody to manage my case from initial GP to treatment, I had to do it myself. & my posts are entirely consistent.

  • rate this

    Comment number 763.

    132. Jason Feather "I work for HMRC, the amount we lose to benefit fraud is miniscule weighed against the massive amount of tax fraud committed by the richest in society - hundreds of billions! Why are we not chasing this?"

    Jason, apologies if I am repeating someone else's question, but why aren't YOU and your colleagues chasing tax fraud, if it is that serious?

  • rate this

    Comment number 762.

    740. If he is employed, why should he/she?

    To be honest, small 'c' conservative that I am... get our young men digging roads, rail and coal, making their streets cleaner etc...

    Old fashioned conservatives should not be afraid to renationalise industries to help our young adults - then get those same 'workplaces' to have 'outside of work' fraternisation.


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