Benefit cap defeat will be reversed, says Clegg


Bishop of Ripon and Leeds, the Rt Rev John Packer: "It is wrong to see child benefit as being a welfare benefit"

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Nick Clegg has said ministers will seek to overturn a Lords defeat for plans to cap benefits for households at £26,000, when the bill returns to the Commons.

The Welfare Reform Bill looks set to "ping pong" between the two chambers, after peers voted to exclude child benefit from the overall cap.

Ministers say that would raise the cap to the take home pay of someone on a £50,000 salary, making it "pointless".

Former party leader Lord Ashdown was among 26 Lib Dem peers to rebel.

The peer said that as president of the United Nations children's agency Unicef, he could not back the government's plans in their current form.


But Lib Dem leader and Deputy Prime Minister Mr Clegg said on Tuesday he was a "strong supporter" of the cap, as were the "vast majority" of people, because it was "fair to say you can't receive more in benefits than if you were to earn £35,000 before tax".

He added: "That's the simple principle which we will stick to and we will make sure that any amendments in the Lords that make that impossible will be reversed."

However, he said those worried about "transitional arrangements" - Lord Ashdown's key concern - would be "comforted that we're sticking to the cap but we're going to implement it in a sensible way".

Labour peers also backed the amendment from the Bishop of Ripon and Leeds, the Rt Rev John Packer, after their own amendment to exclude people at risk of homelessness from the cap failed to get enough support.

Crossbenchers also backed the amendment which was carried by 252 votes to 237.


  • Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon
  • Lord Allan of Hallam
  • Lord Avebury
  • Lord Cotter
  • Lord Dykes
  • Lord Greaves
  • Lord Hussain
  • Lord Kirkwood of Kirkhope
  • Lord Macdonald of River Glaven
  • Lord Maclennan of Rogart
  • Lord Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay
  • Lord Redesdale
  • Lord Roberts of Llandudno
  • Lord Smith of Clifton
  • Lord Taylor of Goss Moor
  • Lord Tyler
  • Baroness Benjamin
  • Baroness Doocey
  • Baroness Harris of Richmond
  • Baroness Hussein-Ece
  • Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer
  • Baroness Thomas of Winchester
  • Baroness Tonge
  • Baroness Tyler of Enfield
  • Baroness Walmsley
  • Baroness Williams of Crosby

The cap - which applies to England, Wales and Scotland and would be introduced from April 2013, applies to out-of-work benefits like Jobseeker's Allowance, and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). But it also includes Child Benefit - currently paid to all parents who want it, regardless of income.

Critics argued that imposing the same cap on all families - regardless of the number of children - effectively meant some children would no longer get child benefit, once the £26,000 cap was reached.

The bishop said: "It cannot be right for the cap to be the same for a childless couple as for a couple with children. Child benefit is the most appropriate way to right this unfairness."

But the government argues that the cap merely brings families on benefit into line with working households - it amounts to £500-a-week, equivalent to the average household wage after tax.

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith says including child benefit would effectively raise the cap to £50,000 a year, and told MPs on Monday it was "rather pointless to have a cap set so high that nobody could ever earn it".

Monday's vote was the latest in a series of defeats for the government's flagship Welfare Reform Bill - peers also voted down changes to ESA and Disability Living Allowance. The government has made some concessions but says it intends to overturn the defeats in the Commons.

BBC News Channel chief political correspondent Norman Smith said ministers appeared relaxed about the Lords defeat, because they felt they had public opinion on their side and they felt it put Labour in a difficult position. The party said it supported the cap in principle but voted to support the amendment - arguing the current cap risked making people homeless, ultimately increasing the cost to the taxpayer.


Welfare Reform Bill

  • Has completed its Commons stages and is now in the Report (penultimate) stage in the Lords
  • Ministers have already said they they will overturn Lords defeats in Commons
  • Unless and until agreement on differences is reached the bill is likely to "ping-pong" between the Lords and Commons

Mr Duncan Smith says the cap on out-of-work benefits would save "something in the order" of £600m.

The cap would be £500 a week for working-age families - equivalent to the average wage earned by working households after tax - and £350 a week for single adults without children.

The government says 67,000 households, more than half of which are in London, can expect to lose £83-a-week when it is brought in.

The legislation affects England, Wales and Scotland. Northern Ireland has its own social security legislation, but it is expected that what is approved at Westminster would be introduced there too.

How two families' weekly welfare benefits compare

Source: Benefits totals provided by DWP; BBC calculations based on figures from Direct Gov, HMRC

Family size

Family of five Family of 12

No. families affected by policy



Housing benefit (based on rent in Barnet, N London)



Child benefit



Child tax credit



Other benefits (ESA/JSA)



Weekly total




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  • rate this

    Comment number 775.

    761 AndyS
    No Exaggeration there
    … I would imagine that most child benefits and benefits in general per capita are paid to "Londoners" and of course "Londoners" children albeit if the children don’t actually live in the UK.

  • rate this

    Comment number 774.

    The irony of it all is to have a dog or a cat the RSPCA will visit and ensure you can provide a home for them to live in yet it is anyones "human right" to bear children. Thus the only real solution would be to apply for and be granted licenses for children. Would this ever get through ECHR? Thus we are stuck in the dilema people can produce as they see fit and the rest shall have to pay.

  • rate this

    Comment number 773.

    ...That's because it is racist!
    Why should you care whether the people receiving exhorbitant and unrealistic benefits are immigrants or whether they're born in this country.
    They're either deserving or they're not.
    I can tell you, most of the benefit scroungers I'm aware of were born in this country, earn cash in hand as well as claiming and were given every opportunity in life

  • rate this

    Comment number 772.

    The system does require urgent reform but remember it's mainly the Tories that want it. I've a suspicion they would prefer to see the reintroduction of the Poor Laws for those without work or, even more aligned to Tory ideology, the re-establishment of the "Work House" I believe that the Tories do believe that the poor are the architects of the predicament they're in & are unworthy of any support.

  • rate this

    Comment number 771.


    Glad to see you're keen to work.

    How about a job in the House of Lords?

  • rate this

    Comment number 770.

    I suppose the Conservatives will accuse the electorate of "having meddled in politics" next...

  • rate this

    Comment number 769.

    Our crazy system of benefits and tax credits all hides the real problem, and diverts attention away from the rich who own all the property and charge the rent. Work does pay. Not buy adding benefits & tax credits, but by making life more affordable

  • rate this

    Comment number 768.

    And labour governments don't fuel class warfare by dishing out benefits to all and sundry to get votes?

  • rate this

    Comment number 767.

    Hi Dare,

    om curantly sieking wurk. I av no skills to me nowlege, but i am onest an will werk aed 4 ya. im lukin fer 27k as any less wud be silly fur me ta take as me mom sez isle be outta poket. can ya elp.

    ps. nofing to strenuous as ive neva workt be4

    kind regards

  • rate this

    Comment number 766.

    I earn less than a claimant can and yet I pay for everything.... and I cant even get these people to sweep the floor before me.

  • rate this

    Comment number 765.

    How about child benefit for two children only, born in and remain living in the UK. £millions are sent abroad after the mothers deliver the child in UK under NHS and promptly return to their country of origin.

    How this could be policed? No idea, but I wish someone would sort this out.

  • rate this

    Comment number 764.

    People are tuning out that most of the benefit total paid to claimants is to cover housing costs.
    The cap on housing benefit is already causing landlords to not renew agreements making low-income families both in and out of work to move to cheaper areas.
    There's not a limitless supply of cheaper rentals. Cameron is intending another round of right-to-buy, so less social housing available.

  • rate this

    Comment number 763.

    Even £26k net doesn't really challenge dependency culture. Benefits should be a safety net not offer an average wage other than for those disabled or seriously ill. Government should cut the 26k and tackle profiteering private landlords who are ripping off both the state and ordinary families

  • rate this

    Comment number 762.

    I've been brought up by a lefty family & always believed that those who need to be helped, by those who can, should be. However, my situation highlights problems of working life - myself and my partner are freelance (constantly try to get fulltime regular work). We are continually worried. We get no holiday/sick pay. We luckily have a mortgage - rent is so steep. We can't afford holidays/car/baby.

  • rate this

    Comment number 761.

    Ethnic cleansing of the haves and have nots. The great majority that will be affected are the ones that live in the southeast and london. Soon I suspect there will be no british person living in London let alone visiting due to the cost of train fares. So who would our capital then belong to? The have's, the well to do, the people in power etc. etc. Yes I may exaggerate just a little but its true.

  • rate this

    Comment number 760.

    by god the bbc are very afraid of channel 4?

    yet another post deleted with reference to a programme that has been shown on uk tv

    bbc - why are you so afraid of other 'channels' who show a different perspective?

  • rate this

    Comment number 759.

    I fully agree with the proposals, but who is this Paddy Ashdown fellow? What has he ever done in government? Oh yes I forgot, he has never had to take the responsibility of being in government, because he was a minority party leader, and not a very good one at that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 758.

    740. Laurie Knight

    No-one but Gordon Brown, some lords who believe in a sky fairy, or the equally mad (and that's pretty mad) disagree with this cap.
    +people about to be made redundant who will lose their home.

    Cap rents.
    Raise revenue from the wealthy tax evaders. Cancel HS2 and Trident.
    Invest in job creation.
    Austerity will increase unemployment and encourage benefit dependency.

  • rate this

    Comment number 757.

    If they want people back to work then stop making all these cuts which affects the disabled by not having any support in place. Shutting down Shaw Trust & making cutbacks to Remploy is not the answer to help the disabled into work. Without the support there is no proper route into work for the disabled.

  • rate this

    Comment number 756.

    £26,000 is equivalent to £35,000 before tax and the threshold for paying higher rate (40%) tax is £35,001. As personal allowance is £7,475 anyone objecting to the government's proposals is saying you deserve benefits equivalent to a salary only £7,476 pounds less than that of a supposedly rich person.


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