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 505.

    does the government intend to treat MP's expenses in the same fashion? Under occupancy of second homes for starters. How many MPs only have one bedroom flats? Stop paying fuel allowances to rich Tory pensioners. Means test child benefits, in fact in an over populated world, abolish them. Its only the rich and middle classes that are scared of real means tested benefits.

  • rate this

    Comment number 504.

    Unfair? Destitute? BBC gave an example here: RIGHT, i'm no accountant but i'll help Ray "cope" with his weekly budget: Week shop: Drink 24 cans of lager per week, cost £20? 200 cigs £25? Tobacco pouch £20. pub EACH week (another 3/4 pints?) £20. That's £85 you shouldn't be spending anyway!! Parasitic. SW engineer? you have internet, online retrain! OMG

  • rate this

    Comment number 503.

    Whilst I agree entirely that £26,000 per annum is excessive, many people are missing the point. We have genuine areas of poverty in the UK & genuine people who are falling on hard times due to losing their jobs etc, etc. The welfare system has been crippled by our immigration policy, why do you think everyone comes here??

  • rate this

    Comment number 502.

    480 ppuj

    You really think disabled people should be condemned to a life of poverty? Shame on you.


    496 Approaching 30 can live on pasta, tinned tomatoes and potatoes for a month? For breakfast? And where's the protein and vitamins? Seen the recent articles on rickets?

  • rate this

    Comment number 501.

    "How about linking benefits to previpus contributions"

    Completely agree. Don't some of the Scandinavian countries do this?

    My Mother was a teacher for 25 years before some urchin got her fired. She went to sign on once and once only due to the humiliation of lining up in the queue and the pittance she received.

  • rate this

    Comment number 500.

    I read these comments with a sense of dread as to what has become of our society. The various nasty & unbelievably cruel comments can only be attributable to people who believe that the disabled are living in a luxuriuos lifestyle, paid, begrudgingly, by the taxpayer. I've been disabled for 6 years and I am nearly at breaking point, suicidal. All of you should hang your collective heads in shame.

  • rate this

    Comment number 499.

    Welfare changes are fair? Well if you're a multi millionaire that never grafted in you life & born with a silver spoon that went to Eaton you'd have that point of view.Yes! There's a tinyl minority that receives benefits are scroungers but most are genuine cases. Hey! As long as there's more money in the pot for Wars, Olympics & for the Monarchy, it's Dandy. Queenie needs her 60m+ boat pronto!

  • rate this

    Comment number 498.

    £26k per year is equivalent to a salary of £35k once you factor in tax and national insurance. Futhermore, people on benefits get various other discounts which people in work have to pay full price for.

    I think the total benefit is closer to a salary of £40k, which most people couldn't even dream of!

  • rate this

    Comment number 497.

    1 People on benefits should not be better off than those who aren't.
    2 The economy can't sustain the increasing jobless without change.
    3 Why do people who complain about their benefits always have a cigarette in their mouth - or is that my imagination?
    4 There will always be exceptional cases so stop focusing on the extremes and focus on the greatest happiness of the greatest number.

  • rate this

    Comment number 496.

    I was unemployed but found a job in 12 weeks.
    I was on the phone/internet/hitting the streets mon-fri 9-5 with my CV.
    I worked p/t clearing tables in a hotel, despite being a law graduate, because I refused to take welfare and my hubby earned 17k.
    We can not afford children so we do not have any.
    Also if I have potatoes, pasta and tinned tomatoes I can feed us for a month! Stop moaning!

  • rate this

    Comment number 495.

    rupertrogue Absolutely wrong. benefits in France benefits are based on a percentage of earnings prior to unemployment with a cap. This is paid for 12 months to help the unemployed seek new jobs without destroying family life. After 12 moths it is reduced. The French value people over wealth, something this country has never done. The tories removed the link to earnings!

  • rate this

    Comment number 494.

    if he wants city dwelllers to live 9in cheaper accommadation he should do something abou the landlord who charge high rents ,knowwing they will get itn from the benifit system ,because there is no altrenative,for the tenants,

  • rate this

    Comment number 493.

    What gives the right of those who live off the state to decide where and how they live?

    The state should put these people where housing is cheapest. There should be NO monetary benefits, only non transferable vouchers.

    There are many out there who stories are hard and who are desperately in need; but about half are not and I am sick of paying for such lazy workshy feckless people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 492.


    May I suggest combining your ideas.
    darren80 > level of support by previous contributions
    MrBlue > resons for remaining v's rehousing.

    Assuming a value by prevoius contributions it could be used to offset benefit weekly amout and duration. High cost residence = short time or low cost for longer period.

  • rate this

    Comment number 491.

    Some points on the story about the guy on benefits:

    1. Sky TV, mobiles and going to the pub are luxuries.
    2. A £240 weekly food bill seems rather expensive for a family of eight. How much of that is alcohol and cigarettes?
    3. If the market for 'Raymond's' skills dried up 10 years ago, maybe it's time for him to start thinking about another line of work. Just a thought.

  • rate this

    Comment number 490.

    3 Minutes ago

    If we are talking employers Ni I agree...what incentive to employ when you have to pay 12% on top of the salary for the privilege of employing. Partly explains why gross salaries are kept down...

  • rate this

    Comment number 489.

    I honestly find it amazing that people are receiving benefits (hand outs!) to the tune of £26,000 and above in the first place. What do we get back from that in return exactly? How can it be fair that a life on benefits can be seen as an alternative to working? I work a normal working week of 40 hours and take home around the £500 a week after tax that we're talking about here. Why do I bother?

  • rate this

    Comment number 488.

    At the end of the day £26k is more than enough to live on, when most people who work manage to survive on much less than that!

    Why should benefits allow people to live a higher living standard than those who work, the whole points of most benefits is to tie you over until you get another job, its not a lifestyle choice - its too generous as it is which is why people cant be bothered to work

  • rate this

    Comment number 487.

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

    *They don't*. How many times to the Daily Mail readers need it explaining to them! Someone on JSA will only every get £67.50 a week (less if married) + kids. The rest goes to landlords for rent. If you have a problem with the £26k, take it up with the landlords, it's not those on benefits who set the rent.

  • rate this

    Comment number 486.

    The 'Family Life on Benefits' article is an absolute disgrace and Cameron is completely right to cap this family's benefits. 'Raymond' has the audacity to say that if his benefits were cut he would 'have to choose between food and heating'. So, feeding his own children comes below his appetite for Sky Movies, 24 cans of lager, 200+ cigarettes and several pints in the pub per week. Wow!


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