MPs reverse Lords welfare defeats

Commons chamber and Lords chamber Ministers say the proposals are backed by the public

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MPs have overturned a series of defeats inflicted on the government's welfare reform bill in the House of Lords.

The coalition won seven key votes in the Commons, rejecting amendments made by peers and reinstating their original proposals into the legislation.

These include plans for a £26,000 annual limit on total household benefits, including child benefit.

Ministers say they will use a rule known as "financial privilege" to ensure Parliament approves the cap.

A special committee of MPs from all parties approved the move on Wednesday.

This will mean the Lords cannot send the same amendments back to the Commons when they re-consider the bill for a final time, preventing what is known as "ping pong" between the two chambers and effectively ending parliamentary opposition.

The measure, which the government says it will also apply to Lords amendments on employment and support allowance (ESA), relates to the principle that the Lords cannot oppose tax and spending decisions agreed by the Commons.

During nearly seven hours of debate in the Commons, the government won a series of votes on controversial aspects of the bill with large majorities.

They voted by 334 to 251 to overturn the Lords amendment - tabled by a group of bishops - which would exclude child benefit from counting towards the £26,000-a-year cap on benefits to working-age households.

The cap is set at the equivalent to the average post-tax salary of a working household.

Labour say they support the cap in principle but argue that rather than one national cap - there should be local caps, set by an independent commission.

'Transitional arrangements'

In the Commons, Work and Pensions Minister Chris Grayling said that idea was "ill-thought out" and "would be more credible if it was not being made at the very last minute".

He said there were already exemptions to the cap - such as families in receipt of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and Working Tax Credit - and outlined "transitional arrangements" to minimise the impact.

David Cameron taunted the Labour front bench and called for a reaction on welfare reforms

People who had been in work for the previous 12 months would get a nine-month "grace period" before the cap kicked in and he said people in receipt of the "support component" of ESA - for people deemed unable to work due to illness - but who do not receive DLA, would not be penalised.

Additional payments would be made to families in certain circumstances, following a similar model used when the housing benefit cap was introduced - at a cost of up to £80m for 2013/2014 and £50m in 2014/2015.

And he said the policy would be reviewed "in a transparent way" - as they would with any major policy change of this kind.

For Labour, Liam Byrne told MPs there were "dangerous flaws" in the "one-cap-fits-all approach".

He dismissed government claims that Labour had never raised the issue of a local cap before and said they had made plenty of calls for safeguards in the cap.

He said the government had already "burnt a third of the savings they proposed for this measure" - because they had got the policy wrong - and the proposal had become a "dog's breakfast".

The government's decision to use financial privilege rules has been criticised by Labour peers.

And former Conservative chancellor Lord Mackay - who led a Tory rebellion in the Lords against charges for parents to access the Child Support Agency - suggested it was "a waste of taxpayers' money at a time of considerable austerity" for peers to pass amendments which were then rejected out of hand.

'Waste of money'


  • Exclude child benefit from overall cap
  • Not charging single parents for Child Support Agency if they've taken steps to reach a settlement
  • Exempt cancer patients from means testing of ESA
  • Means test other ESA claimants after two years, not one as planned
  • Allow young disabled people who have never worked to keep claiming "contributory" ESA
  • Exempt social tenants with one spare room from "under occupancy" penalties
  • Limit reduction to lower rate of "disabled child element" of Child Tax Credits

Earlier MPs voted down Lords changes to reduce entitlements to employment and support allowance (ESA).

They voted by 324 to 265 to back the government over plans to stop young disabled people who have never worked, due to illness or disability, from being able to claim "contributory" ESA - usually paid to those who have paid a certain amount of National Insurance.

They backed ministers by 332 to 266 over plans to means-test the same allowance after 12 months for those judged capable of working at some point in future.

Four Lib Dem MPs, including former leader Sir Menzies Campbell, defied their party leadership over the issue.

And MPs voted down a peers' amendment that would have exempted some cancer patients from means testing by 328 to 265.

They also reversed a Lords amendment limiting a reduction to the lower rate of the "disabled child element" of Child Tax Credits under the new Universal Credit system, by 324 votes to 255.

Critics say the move will hit working people facing severe financial difficulties - and could cost them over £1,300 a year.

The government says it wants to target support at the children with the highest care needs - and say there will be transitional protection so those already in receipt of the benefit will not lose money.

MPs also voted to overturn a Lords proposal calling for social tenants with one spare room to be exempt from new "under-occupancy penalties" linked to housing benefit. It won the vote by 310 to 268.

It also overturned the Lords amendment calling for single parents not to be charged for accessing the Child Support Agency by 318 to 257 votes - but only after ministers said they would reduce planned upfront fees to £20.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 365.

    I have no problem with paying a person with a real disability more than the £26000 cap. If as a normal working household you end up unemployed you get a single digit response. So a system that doles out wealth to the idle is unfair, a system that was created by the Tories to cover their last great purge of the working classes. So they should put it right.

  • rate this

    Comment number 364.

    I'm a 47 yr old man who for 21 yrs from age 16 worked full time earning 40k and was married with 2 kids. 9 yrs ago my wife had an affair and left me with sole care of a 1 yr old baby and a 15 yr old disabled son. I had to give up work to care for them and lost my house! I have been single since, have no social life and care for the disabled child (now 24) 24/7. dont think it cant happen to you!

  • rate this

    Comment number 363.

    I have to laugh at the BBC's related report on living on benefits. "Raymond" says if the caps are introduced his family would have to choose between eating and heating. They spend £240 a month on cigarettes but won't choose to sacrifice those.
    The benefits system should provide food vouchers which can't be redeemed against cigarettes, not give money away for people to squander.

  • rate this

    Comment number 362.

    350.Toby Wilson

    Here, Here. Well said.

  • rate this

    Comment number 361.

    If your trying to save money in your home,first you stop giving it away. so why are we still giving money to India,Africa and the EU ? So we also need to get people back to work. So why give a french company the job of taking over the DWP. and now the health service. When this company has been shown to be a failing people in so many ways.Maybe for once the Lords are right.

  • rate this

    Comment number 360.

    The idea that there should be a regional cap due to differences in living costs is absurd. Is the minimum wage different for regions? Does someone working in Tesco in London receive twice the salary of a Tesco employee in Yorkshire? True some jobs have London weightings but these are generally skilled and highly qualified positions, so are irrelevant.

  • rate this

    Comment number 359.

    "Why is our evidence gathering so poor... Do the homework first?..."

    You can't do that without having people employed to do it first. The way the government is cutting public jobs, it will be the last thing they have time to do. *Of course, you could always get rid of benefits altogher
    *Sarcasm aimed at Government

  • rate this

    Comment number 358.

    £26k tax free is more than enough for anyone.

    End of.

    No wonder I have to pay so much tax.

  • rate this

    Comment number 357.


    Nice windup.

  • rate this

    Comment number 356.

    I look at this from the opposite point of view, which is that household income should be enough to meet the cost of living and to meet that household's responsibilities. An honest day's work for an honest day's pay, in other words.

    As far as this cap goes, I haven't heard anyone mention child benefit for households already bringing in 26k being capped but what's the difference?

  • rate this

    Comment number 355.

    @matson, Don't misinterpret that as me supporting the cap. I don't. I think that it's creating new problems while the real problems (which affect more than just benefits) are going unnoticed.

    The biggest problems are:
    -Lack of income/asset checks (watch Saints or Scroungers, many cheats should have been caught earlier)
    -Living costs.

    The gvt don't want to look at those.

  • rate this

    Comment number 354.


    I imagine the remit for DLA was broadened because it became apparent that the need was much greater than just transport to get to work. Seems fair enough to me that it should cover any extra disability expenses, and children get it because a parent has to give up work to take care of them - as well as the extra expenses in raising a disabled child.

  • rate this

    Comment number 353.

    The latest figures for the cost of the benefits system is nearly £200bn. This now exceeds the revenue raised in taxes. This means there's not enough people working to pay for the those not working. This is unsustainable and can't carry on. It should not be more financially beneficial for able bodied people to stay in bed, than to work, things have to change.

  • rate this

    Comment number 352.

    #161 I’d be asking why there will be no money for many who have paid in all their lives & find themselves on hard times.

    Because Labour left nothing but deep deep debts.

  • rate this

    Comment number 351.

    "check how much SCOTTISH north sea oil generates for the BRITISH economy"

    An independant Scotland with it's geographic share of oil revenue would be running a similar deficit to the UK, and that's BEFORE you add on the cost of maintaining independant governmental institutions that they currently share with the UK.

    And when the oil runs out in 30-40yrs time? Then what?

  • rate this

    Comment number 350.

    Scrap the whole monetary benefits system and replace it with tokens system that create the following entitlements:

    -10 units/day electricity.
    -Reasonable heating costs.
    -Unlimited water.
    -Basic broadband & phone.
    -Sufficient healthy food.
    -Unlimited public transport.

    It should NOT cover:
    -Sky/premium subscriptions.
    -Cigarettes & alcohol.
    -Car running costs.

    These are for people that work.

  • rate this

    Comment number 349.

    I have spent most of my life living under Conservative governments. Why is it that every time that they come to power their first reaction is to bash the poor.

    Their latest efforts to get the poor out of Central London is nothing more than Gerry Mandering.

  • rate this

    Comment number 348.

    On the Features & Analysis page, you give prominence to Raymond's quote saying I see eight people here having to choose between eating or heating.
    Looking at how Raymond chooses to spend his money, the quote would be more accurate if it said - choose between eating, heating or beer and cigarettes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 347.

    It is fair:
    lets take 10% from the income of the disabled or most needy and use it to fund further bail out of the banks across europe.

    If cameron and his cronies showed as much enthusiam to deal with the bankers we would not have to cut anything.

    its takes 9 years to implement changes for them, but benifits and pensions for us have to happen now.

    sounds fair ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 346.

    331. Absolutely completely spot on. Tax avoidance and benefit guzzlers need to be tackled equally. Not all benefit claimants are spongers, not all bankers are irresponsible and a root cause of economic failure. The benefit problem is perfectly summed up here: We should not be paying for this chaps booze and fags.


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