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 465.


    I've seen quite a few like this - as long as they have kids, they get the money. Free childcare and benefits capped at 2 kids are needed. Maybe then the disabled and genuine unemployed can get a better deal.

  • rate this

    Comment number 464.

    I agree with a cap, however it should vary by region. The cost of living\housing in London differs greatly than the cost of living in Cornwall for instance. Allowing only rich people to live in city centres will create urban slums. Similarly I don’t agree with tax payers paying extortionate rents to opportunistic landlords. However, something has to be done to get the workshy working.

  • rate this

    Comment number 463.

    I love how people conveniently forget that their taxes dont just go on paying for the disabled to have a basic standard of life.

    What pays for your childrens education, the true cost of your prescriptions not the small contribution you make. Ultimatley we are all subsidised by someone more wealthy thats how it should be. Its a safety net to protect the vulnerable and disadvantaged.

  • rate this

    Comment number 462.

    Elsewhere on this site (without comments of course) is an unemployed family whose income would decrease by £82 a week under the proposals. They claim that they would have to eat or heat after the cuts. Yet they smoke 200 cigs a week, have Sky TV and spend £35 a week on mobile phones. THESE ARE NOT ESSENTIALS, PEOPLE! I work and can't afford these luxuries, so we do without - why not them??

  • rate this

    Comment number 461.

    Looking at Raymonds spending, I think he can easily eat, just cut the booze, fags and sky.

    I've don't smoke but had to cut several luxuries because my disability means I had to go part time and i wish to support myself..

  • rate this

    Comment number 460.

    Why not just bring back the work house and have done with it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 459.

    Where do people get the idea that £26,000 is not enough money?

  • rate this

    Comment number 458.

    There are not enough real jobs to go around. Huge efforts by those who are unemployed to get themselves into employment will not change the number of people needing benefits, just who needs them. Those who do manage to get a job will likely have their wages subsidised by taxpayers so that fatcat employers can get rich. Stop blaming people for the lack of available jobs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 457.

    453.Ex Tory Voter
    0.5m vacancies

    Where are you sourcing that number from?

  • rate this

    Comment number 456.

    @434 People who have cars under the Mobility Scheme do not then receive their DLA payments, as these cover the costs of the car. Also, additional payments need to be paid for the car depending on what car is chosen. Hence a large payment contribution, in adition to forfeited DLA payments, would have to have been paid by the person the BMW!!! Your comment did make me giggle though!

  • rate this

    Comment number 455.

    463. I think if the BBC, bastion of all that is left wing and hyper PC in the world, has picked that as an average claimant you'll find that more claimants are like that than the hugely enthusiastic, deservingly unfortunate claimant the hangwringers claim everyone is.

  • rate this

    Comment number 454.

    Don't forget, it's £26,000 net income. So you'd be earning about £30,000 or so to get the same amount of money in a job.

  • rate this

    Comment number 453.


    The purpose of welfare benefits are to temporarily support people when they need help. Not provide a living indefintely for those that are too lazy and pathetic to make something of themselves or be responsible for their life choices."

    0.5m vacancies, 2.6m unemployed = 2.1m needing help. You are arguing against yourself!

  • rate this

    Comment number 452.

    Benefits and the welfare state is to help people short term in order to get people back on there feet. It is not or never should be a lifestyle wish and should only be given for a short while. I like millions of others are sickened that so many people can receive more money than most in the UK earn, and can live a lifestyle few of us can afford, it really only could happen here

  • Comment number 451.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 450.

    benefits should not allow the provision of 24 cans of lager, 200 cigarettes, tobacco, sky television and mobile phones.

    £26,000 in any case is too high not too low.

  • rate this

    Comment number 449.

    £26,000 is plenty. People should get a job if they want more. If people want to live in an area where rent costs a small fortune (e.g. London), that's fine if they can afford it. If not, move somewhere more affordable.

  • rate this

    Comment number 448.

    The example of the family in the box on the right shows how easy it would be to live within the cap. They have far more children than they can afford to support themselves, yet are spending over £100 a week on what is clearly discretionary spending. some might even call SKY movies luxury. The head of the household says work for his speciality dried up 10 years ago: what has he done to retrain?

  • rate this

    Comment number 447.

    unfortunately virtually the whole argument revolves around self interest.
    As this involves billions of pounds lets have a referendum and see what course of action the majority want this goverment to take.
    I am fed up with supporting a very large group of people who feel that living on benefits is a right.

  • rate this

    Comment number 446.

    Just heard that Labour are going to vote against the Cap tonight - idiots. Labour are NO longer the party for the workers.


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