Ed Miliband: Labour would cap social security spending


Labour leader Ed Miliband: ''The system does need reform''

Related Stories

Ed Miliband has promised to cap spending on benefits as he unveiled his party's new approach to welfare.

A future Labour government would introduce a three-year cap on structural spending, including housing benefits, from 2015-6, its leader said.

He also said those in work for under five years may not be eligible for some jobless benefits while those who had worked for longer should get more help.

The Conservatives said the "vacuous" plan would not bring down costs.

In a speech in east London, Mr Miliband announced a series of changes to Labour policy:

  • A three-year cap on spending on structural benefits - including housing benefit and other non-cyclical costs - will be introduced in 2015-6
  • Contribution-based unemployment benefits such as jobseekers allowance (JSA), will be reviewed
  • Priority will be given to those who have worked and paid tax for longer while eligibility for the top-up contributory JSA may be extended from two to five years in work
  • Councils will be given power to negotiate rents with landlords to help reduce housing benefits bills
  • Child benefit for families with one person earning over £50,000 will not be reinstated
  • More help for disabled people to take up work opportunities

The Labour leader said the government's "short-term" approach was failing and history showed that cutting individual benefits alone would not reduce the overall cost of social security.

Instead, Labour would tackle the "underlying causes" of rising welfare costs, such as unemployment, low pay and high rents.

Start Quote

What was clear today, however, is the Labour leader's philosophy. He believes that cutting benefits is not the way to cut the benefit bill”

End Quote

"The next Labour government will have less money to spend. If we are going to turn our economy around, protect our NHS, and build a stronger country we will have to be laser focused on how we spend every single pound.

"Social security spending, vital as it is, cannot be exempt from that discipline."

He said Labour, if elected, would introduce a cap on "structural spending" - such as housing benefit and disability allowances - for three years from 2015-16 to deal with the long-term pressures on welfare budgets.

The idea of a cap - which would not affect parts of the welfare budget affected by changes in unemployment - was suggested by Conservative Chancellor George Osborne in March's Budget.

'Faith shaken'

Mr Miliband did not give an overall figure for the cap, saying it would have to be set at a "sensible" level, but argued that it would help "to control costs" and introduce "greater discipline".

He said the country could not afford to continue paying billions on housing benefit when there was a chronic shortage of new homes being built.

A future Labour government would give councils the power to negotiate with landlords on tenants' behalf over rents and keep any savings they make to invest in building new homes.

Start Quote

Ed Miliband is too weak to deliver the tough decisions on welfare hard working people rightly want to see”

End Quote Grant Shapps Conservative Party chairman

"This government talks a lot about getting housing benefit under control," he said. "But let me be clear: any attempt to control housing benefit costs which fails to build more homes is destined to fail."

Mr Miliband also outlined plans to cut long-term unemployment and encourage employers to pay a "living wage", keeping the costs of in-work benefits down, as well as increasing opportunities for disabled people.

Welfare could not be "a substitute for good jobs and decent employment", he said.

The Labour leader said people's faith in the welfare system has been "shaken" by the appearance that a minority of people were getting "something for nothing and other people nothing for something."

He pledged to restore the "contributory principle" to jobseeker's allowance, so that only people who have paid in "for significantly longer" than the current minimum of two years will be eligible.

The party, he said, will look at whether to give more than the current £71-a-week rate to those who have contributed longest, as this was not "a proper recognition of how much somebody who has worked for many decades has paid into the system".

'Distinctive choice'

The BBC's political editor Nick Robinson said Labour believed they could reduce the benefits bill by getting more people into work, getting employers to pay higher wages and reforming the private rental market.

Start Quote

There's a difference between putting a cash ceiling, which will be difficult to operate in some areas of welfare expenditure, and dealing with what is the main criticism of voters”

End Quote Frank Field Labour MP

In that sense, he added, it did not mark a fundamental change in approach since Labour were not yet spelling out what benefits they would cut and who would get less.

Earlier this week, shadow chancellor Ed Balls said the party would end winter fuel payments for pensioners on high and top-level income tax rates, but this is only likely to raise £100m.

Labour MP Frank Field, a critic of the party's welfare policies in the past, said the speech was a move in the right direction but more must be done to allay public perceptions there was a "something for nothing" culture in the system.

"There's a difference between putting a cash ceiling, which will be difficult to operate in some areas of welfare expenditure, and dealing with what is the main criticism of voters," he said.

But speaking on his weekly phone-in on LBC 97.3 FM, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said Labour had spent the last three years "vilifying" coalition benefit changes but had now "flip-flopped" to support them.

And Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps called the speech "completely empty".

He added: "Ed Miliband is too weak to deliver the tough decisions on welfare hard working people rightly want to see. His plans would actually increase welfare spending, and mean more borrowing and more debt."

The government is introducing a £26,000 annual cap on total benefits that can be paid to a single family, which it says means no-one on state support will get more than the average annual income.

An estimated 67,000 households will be affected by the cap this year.


More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 89.

    If Labour cant provide an alternative to the Conservatives , you might as well vote Conservative

    If Labour cant provide an alternative to the Conservatives then you might as well vote for some of smaller more extreme parties who do offer an alternative & make one of them into the main opposition

  • rate this

    Comment number 88.

    Ed – whatever happened to; “From each according to their ability, to each according to their need” - that says it all, and I’d have signed up to that!

  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    #33.Christopher Clarke-Williams
    It was Labour who took the country from being debt free to as much in debt as we were after ww2 in just over 120 years.
    The most profound cause of debt in the UK over the past 100 yrs is down to the following:-

    1: The cost of ALL war
    2: Banking sector bail out
    3: Personal debt

    Else public debt, such as education & NHS, is not the main concern.

  • rate this

    Comment number 86.

    Will Stop wars or proxy wars on foreign soils or not.
    Will stop flow of untrained economic migrants or not with huge expenses on social benefits
    Will cap on child benefit for families with more than four children or not.
    Reverse GP contract or not.

  • rate this

    Comment number 85.

    Well done Ed, way to alienate most of your grass roots supporters. DO NOT TRUST LABOUR they only want your votes but don't seem to want to do anything different than the tories.

  • rate this

    Comment number 84.

    Cap spending on benefits ??? Is he having a laugh ??
    ....... maybe after he's upped the benefit budget by 100 or so billion .... then cap it !

  • rate this

    Comment number 83.

    Ed will never have the Balls to do it!! It's right that the dole should be contribution based as it was in the 70s...it was called Unemployment Insurance and it's right that non workers shouldn't be better off that workers. But the vulnerable need a safety net. Defining vulnerable is the tricky bit...do you keep on giving people who have kids irresponsibly to get more handouts? The kids' welfare?

  • rate this

    Comment number 82.

    I would like the present government to put a cap on tax avoidance.

    One can but dream.....

  • Comment number 81.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 80.

    I so hope that sometime soon one of the parties is going to come up with a clear and positive vision and plan for UK's future. I don't think that with Milliband at the helm the Labour party is going anywhere. He & Balls seem to be happy to have lost themselves (and the rest of us) in the complexities of their own tortuous thinking and battles with policy. I no longer know what Labour is on about.

  • rate this

    Comment number 79.

    it seems that the large political parties are all singing from the same hymn book so no chance of radical change happening , imo this would lead to people voting for parties promising change either the right wing UKIP or the left wing green party . I know which of these two gets my vote .

  • rate this

    Comment number 78.

    So, less money available but we will throw it at the same old, same old. Oh dear. Is this the best the opposition can do?

  • rate this

    Comment number 77.

    The idea is good , whether Labour can pull it off is a different matter.

    How about promising to lower Foreign Aid first so the cuts in the UK wouldn't be so deep.

  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

    Would this be the same Labour party that bankrupted the country with mass overspending last time they were in power ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 75.

    All the Tories care about is securing a majority at the next election.

    At least Labour don't thrive on power and are actually trying - albeit not doing a very good job - of working with normal people. I genuinely see compassion in Millband, whereas Gove, Cameron and Gideon couldn't give two hoots about anyone other than their rich mates.

    You are all fools for believing otherwise.

  • rate this

    Comment number 74.

    It's like listening to someone try and their Ex back. "But I've changed...honestly".

    We don't believe you Ed. You messed up too much last time and we've moved on.

  • rate this

    Comment number 73.

    Ed is moving in the direction old labour want i.e. back to contribution only for out of work benefits. He should have gave a commitment to full employment though. Ultimately the welfare system should only be NHS, Pensions & Disability with a limited time contributory system for unemployment + access for British citizens only. Do that Ed & you can win an election.

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    massively disappointed to see him pandering to the tabloid 'benefit scum' crowd, we need someone who is actually honest to counteract the divisive poison spread by the 1% but it's hard and they are scared.

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    There is no substance behind these headline grabbing ideas, merely a move to try and regain some ground on the Tories' lead on Welfare reduction.

    No mention of how they will persuade companies to increase their wage bill (farcical: not a chance!!!) nor how councils will force landlords to reduce rents (again, not a chance).

    The only way to achieve these things would be through legislation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 70.

    Ed M says he will "turn the economy around".
    I doubt that he could actually turn around without losing his way.
    I wouldn't trust his partner Ed B with my kids pocket money and they say two Ed's are better than one.

    Out of choice I would vote for Mr Ed The Horse!


Page 62 of 66


More Politics stories



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.