Government wins key vote on planned 1% cap on annual benefits rises


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The government has won a crucial vote in Parliament on plans to limit annual increases in working-age benefits to 1% for the next three years.

MPs rejected a Labour bid to block the proposals by 328 votes to 262 after five hours of heated debate.

But four Liberal Democrat MPs joined Labour in voting against the proposals.

Labour argues that millions of low-income families will be worse off but ministers say benefits should not be going up at a faster rate than wages.

Benefits have historically risen in line with inflation and, without any change, would have been due to go up by 2.2% in April.

Benefits set to be capped

  • Jobseeker's Allowance
  • Employment and Support Allowance
  • Income Support
  • Elements of housing benefit
  • Maternity allowance
  • Sick Pay, Maternity Pay, Paternity Pay, Adoption Pay
  • Couple and lone parent elements of working tax credits and the child element of the child tax credit

But the government says that with public sector pay rises capped at 1%, a similar limit should apply to working-age benefits such as jobseeker's allowance, employment and support allowance and income support as well as elements of working tax credits and child tax credit.

In a message on Twitter, Prime Minister David Cameron said: "The Commons vote to limit benefit rises to 1% while pay is only rising at 1% is fair. Labour have the wrong priorities."

The Lib Dem Business Secretary Vince Cable said the welfare budget could not be "insulated" from spending cuts that were needed to rebalance the public finances.

Benefit recipients, he suggested, had done "relatively well" in recent years in comparison to working people on low incomes, many of whom who have seen their wages frozen and incomes fall in real terms.

"It seemed fair to us to distribute some of this pain in a more equitable way," he told BBC News.

Four Lib Dem MPs - Sarah Teather, David Ward, Julian Huppert and John Leech - voted against the government while Charles Kennedy and Andrew George abstained on the second reading of the legislation needed to implement the three-year cap.

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The debate has been portrayed as an argument over "skivers versus strivers". But others might say it was a debate about the nature of the welfare state.”

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A number of other MPs - including ministers Norman Baker and Lynne Featherstone and former cabinet minister Chris Huhne, did not take part in the vote.

Mr Leech, the MP for Manchester Withington, urged ministers to "take stock" and rethink the cap - saying it was unfair to equate a 1% limit on benefits worth less than £100 a week with a 1% pay rise for someone on a salary of £25,000 a year.

And Mr Kennedy, a former Lib Dem leader, tweeted that he was "looking now to work with like-minded Lib Dems to amend the bill in its later stages".

Legislation needed to implement the cap for 2013-2016 must be approved by the Commons and the Lords.

By approving the proposals at second reading on Tuesday by 324 votes to 268, MPs have ensured they come a step closer to becoming law.

While backing the changes, Mr Cable criticised the language used by some Conservatives in the debate over welfare, in which supporters of the cap have sought to ally themselves with "strivers" against those unwilling to work, describing it as "appalling stuff".

Labour MP David Miliband described the bill as "rancid"

Labour has accused the government of trying to pit unemployed people against the low-paid while former Foreign Secretary David Miliband, speaking in the Commons, called the proposals "rancid".

Shadow work and pensions secretary Liam Byrne said welfare spending had exceeded government forecasts by £14bn and ministers were opting to try and fill the hole by penalising working families rather than asking the wealthiest in society to pay more.

An "impact assessment" of the proposals published by the government suggested single parents would be most affected by the cap - losing £5 a week or about £250 over the three year period.

The majority of working age households in receipt of state support are likely be an average of £3 a week worse off.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 1299.

    The Tories blame the unemployed for unemployment and many here, with comments about a choice to be idle, have fallen for this nonsense. It's global companies that shift jobs to the cheapest labour markets that cause unemployment.
    Cameron wants a low wage economy (his friends get bigger profits) and he gleefully cuts support to those who struggle in such a jungle. What a contemptible bully.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1298.

    This isue demonstrates how the welfare state has got out of control. Too many payments to too many people. It has gone beyond the safety net concept.

    When there is still a deficit of £120 billion this is totally unsustainable.

    Regardless of who is in government the wefare bill will need further severe pruning.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1297.

    Punishing the vunerable (regardless if said vunerable people are on benefits by choice or other circumstance) in society means nothing when the richest individuals & largest corps pay sod all into the system. As far as the £25k MP payrise, each one of them could get £150k+ salary working in the city, if they don't want to serve this country out of duty then don't go into politics, simples.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1296.

    Welfare needs to be rehauled,sadly this lot can't do it as they don't understand the nature of poverty and have the wrong motivations. An alternative approach to reform could involve:
    Demanding employers pay a living wage,tax credits to the employed are subsidising profits
    Rent controls
    The unemployed should be in training or work for their benefit, hours determined by hourly living wage

  • rate this

    Comment number 1295.

    What people do not seem to understand is it actually suits politicians to pay people to be idle it’s their easiest option and provides a pool of cheap labour if that is not the case then stop paying benefits and let’s see what happens?

    Where it has gone wrong is the system has encouraged them to procreate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1294.


    You are trying and thats all anyone can ask of you and you are a perfect example of why people shouldn't be judged. Good luck!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1293.

    Im one of these so called scroungers, I was made redundant a few years ago, my wife had to look after her sick father full time , whilst I look after my 3 young kids. I am trying to set up a web design company (with one customer so far) whilst searching for a part time job. What else am I suppose too do, sit back and take yet another hit so the rich can have their tax breaks...

  • Comment number 1292.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 1291.

    So pleased this has gone through. I have not had a pay rise for 3 years but my families living costs have gone up. So why should people who have no intentention of working, I see them in my job, be better of them me. In fact I would scrap all tax credits, there is work out there, but the benefit system ensures many do not have to work and milk the proper work force

  • rate this

    Comment number 1290.

    I work in the private sector and have not had a pay rise since 2008 due to poor economic conditions
    Those on benefits complain that they might "only" get 1% this year.
    Is it surprising that I'm angry?

    -Well yes as more than 50% of those who are losing benefits actually work in the private sector.
    If private sector companies paid a living wage to employees you would have a point but they don't

  • rate this

    Comment number 1289.

    Well it all seems to be working! Let's blame all those that are in work on subsistence wages, those that are made redundant and desperately trying to get back into gainful employment, the youth that are leaving education with no prospect of a job, it's all their fault.

    Labour gives us the politics of envy, the Tories the politics of spite To hell with the lot of 'em!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1288.

    Govt's own figures show less than 1% of the welfare bill is oging where it shouldn't - and most of that is through error, not fraud (soucre DWP)..... much will crime rise as desperate people, unemployed because of the bankers/Govt mismangement of the economy, seek to feed their children......

  • rate this

    Comment number 1287.

    The Tories are winning the war on the benefits front. I suspect the problem is that most of us know of lower class scroungers with children who live on benefits at our expense and have no intention of working but few of us know upper class scroungers who survive on inherited wealth and have never had a proper job in the lives and have no intention of finding one.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1286.

    I work in the private sector and have not had a pay rise since 2008 due to poor economic conditions.
    Those on benefits complain that they might "only" get 1% this year.
    Is it surprising that I'm angry...?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1285.

    Notice something wrong here, ie MPs are still shafting the taxpayer through their expenses free travel, subsidised rents meals Oh what a wonderful gravy train they are on whilst the rest of us are having to pay for their City mates mistakes/downright crimes. Picking on pensioners next? Be afraid Cameron/Osborne puppet Nicky Alexander be very afraid

  • rate this

    Comment number 1284.

    I have had no pay rise for the last 5 years.
    However I note with interest that UK senior management have awarded themselves an average 18% annual rise over the same period.
    This coalition of the right feign outrage at benefit rises being greater that wage rises but not a word on UK management rewarding themselves while cutting or holding down their employees wages.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1283.

    The governement should question why so many people in employment need benefits. If people were paid a living wage they might not need to rely on benefits. But paying a true living wage would mean cutting down profits for the shareholders and the fat cats at the top who avoid tax. And what kind of society is it that is unwiling to support it's weekest: the jobless, the sick, few are truly lazy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1282.

    Comment by 1275 is incredulous. Have we in this society of ours now removed the concept of taking responsibility for our own lives? And then we wonder what has gone wrong with our society, I think it is quite neatly captured in post 1275.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1281.

    The Tories have short memories. Growth in welfare spending started in the 80s when industries closed and the collateral damage that resulted was parked on incapacity benefit to mask unemployment. We then moved towards a low pay service based economy where it's alright for employers to pay the basic minimum whilst not meeting their own tax obligations. This shower in power have a damn cheek.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1280.


    I think the poster 1275 is pulling our legs :). . . . . .If not, he needs shooting


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