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 385.

    If anyone actually watched PMQs they will have seen Cameron shouting at Labour to say something when, of course, they coudn't. It is PRIME MINISTER's questions - Miliband only gets a few questions and had used these up as Cameron well knew. Our PM is a disgrace.

  • rate this

    Comment number 384.

    OK people on benefits should get jobs,where are these jobs please?
    People should move to where jobs are available ,where is this please?,If its london if they have families they will have to claim housing benefit,its housing benefit which is the biggest cost,end non domicile landlords or those who have set up tax dodging trust-funds with vast housing portfolios reintroduce controlled rents.

  • rate this

    Comment number 383.

    Build a whole load of social housing in Scotland, move the London claimants there, then give Scotland independance.

    Two birds, one stone :-)

    Oh, and "why? the rent is too dam*ed high!"

  • rate this

    Comment number 382.

    A small calculation, for those making the point that they have put in so they are entitled to take out.

    If you have earned £20k PA for the last 10 years you have paid circa £20k in NI contributions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 381.

    What about the longest term unemployed in the country - the Royal family have several council homes - enough that they never stay in one for long, get special police protection from the rest of us and yet still get huge annual paymets in addition to their already fabulous wealth.

    Means test all bennifits, not just the ones going to the poor.

  • rate this

    Comment number 380.

    OK - firstly, congrats for finding a smoking/drinking person to illustrate this story - it panders to those who really do believe that all people on benefits are somehow layabout scroungers who waste money.
    To cap HB is fine, no problem, once the fair rent office is set up again, and landlords are forced to charge a more realistic rent, not just whatever they can get away with. Works both ways!

  • Comment number 379.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 378.

    Read the "Living on Welfare" BBC article. Raymond will lose around £80 per week when the benefits cap is reduced. However, the list of his weekly expenditure includes 24 cans of lager, 200 cigarettes, £32 for mobile phones and £15 for sky. I am a high earner for which I am thankful but I cannot afford an extra £15 per week for sky tv and have a phone on cntract which costs me £2.50 per week!

  • rate this

    Comment number 377.

    Love it when people make up stories about teenage girls getting pregnant, people quitting jobs to sign on, blah blah blah

    It's such rubbish, if you've ever had the appalling moment when you have to sign on you will know THE MAJORITY of people do not choose this life.

    Do not allow hysteria to force through a bill that will hurt a lot of genuine claimants whilst stopping only a few bad guys.

  • rate this

    Comment number 376.

    You only have to read the story attached to this link and realise this is exactly the sort of family these new payments are targeted at. How can any man with a shred of pride sit on his butt all day, smoking and drinking and expect a hard working taxpayer to feel sorry. Any job would be better. I then would expect taxpayers to top up, but this is unbelievable.

  • rate this

    Comment number 375.

    Associated Article - Family life on benefits
    Ray says - I see eight people here having to choose between eating or heating.

    Why not choose to stop the 24 cans of lager, 200 cigarettes and a large pouch of tobacco instead.

    10 years off work and only 45.. Get a job Ray!

  • rate this

    Comment number 374.


    You sum up nicely what's wrong with the system. £1700 per week rent, where do you live, in a palace?

  • rate this

    Comment number 373.

    Those people most against the cut in benefits are the very people who have never contributed diddly squat to the tax pot in their lives. Miliband is the totally out of touch with reality. Having a pop at bankers is easy peasey but having to make real decisions, like curbing Labour`s benefits culture, seems to be beyond him. Just goes to show what an opportunistic person he is.

  • rate this

    Comment number 372.

    The overall 'package' of welfare on offer in the UK is probably the most generous in the world. For exqample, even in France and Germany unemployment benefit stops or is drastically reduced after a year or so.There can be very good cases put for not enacting many of these cuts- but the problem is that someone has to pay and we are fast running out of money.

  • rate this

    Comment number 371.

    Why, so we can keep wasters like this on permanent holiday?

    Under these cuts they'll be worse off by £82 a week. That'll be his fags AND tobacco then!

    And the excuse that as an old software developer the "market for my skills dried up". Reality check pal, keeping up with technology is what everyone else does. That's no excuse! Get off your ass & get a job!

  • rate this

    Comment number 370.

    Trust the BBC to do what all the media seem to do.Find an example of the worst excess's on benefit.Its no wonder the genuine sick/disabled end up being tarnished and lumped together with those who abuse the system.Careful,compassionate and targeted reform yes.Penalising the sick and disabled just to save money is wrong.

  • rate this

    Comment number 369.

    If anyone doubts the validity of the much needed reforms
    just look at the Entitlement Screams on HYS
    It is down right perverse that people expect the workers
    to swallow the demands of the Scroungers !
    The Tax payer has had enough and '' demands change''
    that's what they want. PUT IT TO A VOTE !!

  • rate this

    Comment number 368.

    349.bernard calland
    "Why is it that every time that they come to power their first reaction is to bash the poor."

    because previous governments/parties over spend leaving the fund raising to the Tory's to do in their term in office so they get the bad name & not the gov that spent all the revenue.
    If govs did sustainable policies (even for the hard times) there would be no need to cut back

  • rate this

    Comment number 367.

    Elsewhere on the BBC This father of 7 says he will be £82.40/wk worse off with the benefit cap but I'm sorry if you can give up fags, booze and sky movies (which cost £92/wk) on benefits when people who work can't afford these things. That doesn't even include the £32 on mobiles, £20 more booze at the pub or the rest of the sky package, heard of Freeview?

  • rate this

    Comment number 366.

    Finally some sense to our welfare system, but what about a cap on the length of time you can claim benefits for? Other countries do it and it would force the work-shy and down-right-lazy scroungers in our country to get a job!


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