MPs approve annual welfare cap in Commons vote

Empty houses The welfare cap will include spending on housing benefit

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MPs have overwhelmingly backed plans to introduce an overall cap on the amount the UK spends on welfare each year.

Welfare spending, excluding the state pension and some unemployment benefits, will be capped next year at £119.5bn.

The idea, put forward by Chancellor George Osborne in last week's Budget, would in future see limits set at the beginning of each Parliament.

With Labour supporting the idea, the measure was approved in the House of Commons by 520 to 22 votes.

However, eleven Labour backbenchers defied their leadership by voting against the plan.

The rebels included former shadow ministers Diane Abbott and Tom Watson.

The cap will include spending on the vast majority of benefits, including pension credits, severe disablement allowance, incapacity benefits, child benefit, both maternity and paternity pay, universal credit and housing benefit.

However, Jobseeker's allowance and the state pension will be excluded.

Under the proposed system, if a government wanted to spend more on one area of the welfare state it would have to compensate by making cuts elsewhere, to stay within the overall cap.

If the limit is breached - or going to be breached - ministers would have to explain why to Parliament and get the approval of MPs in a vote.

Mr Osborne told Parliament that welfare could be "both fair and affordable".

"Some of these benefits help some of the most vulnerable citizens, like Disability Living Allowance, but that is not an excuse for the failure to manage its budget," he said.

Earlier, Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith told the BBC that the cap would stop politicians in the future from saying welfare spending "was under control when it was rising".

George Osborne George Osborne says governments in future must be honest about the cost of welfare spending

Labour has said it would introduce a three-year cap on structural spending, covering all the benefits included in the government's proposal.

But Mr Duncan Smith said Labour needed to explain how it would pay for its £460m pledge to reverse changes to cuts to housing benefit for additional rooms in council and social housing.

'Arbitrary cuts'

The shadow work and pensions secretary, Rachel Reeves, said Labour had plans in place to pay for its pledge to reverse what it calls the "bedroom tax" - the housing benefit changes that ministers say ended the "spare room subsidy".

Diane Abbott Labour's Diane Abbott was one of those who voted against the plan

Asked whether Labour was prepared to cut aspects of the welfare bill to stay within the cap, she said she was "confident" it would not need to because it would tackle the "root causes" of rising costs - such as low wages, youth unemployment and the increase in part-time workers.

"We would do it in different ways to the way the government is proposing to do it but we are confident that our way will control the cost of social security."

'Safety net'

Diane Abbott, one of the Labour rebels, said the cap was a blunt mechanism that would not take into account changes in people's circumstances and economic factors such as rising rents.

"Social security, people's lives, should not be made a matter of short-term political positioning," she said.

But Conservative MP Ben Gummer said it was "astounding" more was being spent on benefits, tax credits and state pensions than other departmental budgets put together.

He said the cap would force governments to address the underlying causes of welfare dependency rather than just "jacking up the bill every time they are faced with a difficult problem".

Lib Dem MP John Hemming said the welfare state should provide a "solid safety net" but it was "nonsense" to suggest that total costs should not be managed.

BBC political correspondent Chris Mason said the proposed government cap for next year was, in broad terms, what the UK was already spending on those benefits and would rise in line with inflation in following years.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 733.

    My response to those complaining about state pension scroungers. What do you think your national insurance contributions are for? If I wasn't going to get a state pension to top up what I might scrape by for a private pension, then I want a drastic cut in NI payments.

  • rate this

    Comment number 732.

    711. Phil are we to assume that you will not be drawing your full state pension or is this hot air.
    And not enough was deducted to pay for the benefit - so you didn't pay enough in tax to fund what you are drawing for your pension. (assuming that you are a drawing your state pension)

  • rate this

    Comment number 731.

    'You forgot engineers, designers, programmers, scientists etc.. or do you think the real world only has low-skilled & unqualified workers?'
    Shame engineers and scientists don't really get payed that much and once u consider that the financial servitide they are put under because of the massive loans they had to take out for their education it's basicly the same as being on minimum wage.

  • rate this

    Comment number 730.

    631. 1 & 2 aren't reasonable reasons.

  • rate this

    Comment number 729.

    When only 22 MPs stand up for the poorest and most vulnerable in society it shows how marginalised those worst off have become and how remote the bulk of Labour MPs are from their constituency.

    Shame on them for towing the Establishment line as poured out by the billionaire owned media.

  • rate this

    Comment number 728.

    Cap energy, accomodation, and transport prices, then the benefit cap will be met easily. However tackling the first three means taking on the vested interests of the political parties (i.e. they lose votes or income), while the latter means kicking the young and poor (i.e easy targets).

  • rate this

    Comment number 727.

    i see milliband is desperate to take credit for the SSE price freeze - has no one pointed out to him that as envisaged 500 people will lose their jobs and end up on welfare. if that were repeated throughout the industry no doubt the number will be in the 000's. well done Ed

  • rate this

    Comment number 726.

    Why do politicians have to know how poor people live and bring up their children?I vote for a politician to do what is best for the country as a whole.Having worked in 'Labour Exchanges' in the 1960s and 1970s I know that the welfare bill needs slashing.I personally would start with abolishing housing benefit,council tax benefit and tax credits.

  • rate this

    Comment number 725.

    Any chance of getting a cap on MP's expenses?

  • rate this

    Comment number 724.

    I thought people on benefits had "their blinds down" in their homes?
    So how do their neighbours know they are watching subscription TV, on huge HD screens, while drinking beer and chain smoking?

  • rate this

    Comment number 723.

    Hoe come people still talk about how it's more cost effective to stay at home to look after children instead of working and paying for child care. I get the basic maths, but taking money in benefits should be a LAST RESORT and the government should not pay it out if there's no other choice. If someone is capable of working, whether they choose to or not, then they should not receive benefits.

  • rate this

    Comment number 722.

    @678 if its legal there is not a problem we are talking about people who deceive the blue badge and the car misuse

  • rate this

    Comment number 721.

    if a government wanted to spend more on one area of the welfare state it would have to compensate by making cuts elsewhere, to stay within the overall cap.

    Fact is, in work tax credit benefits payments are increasing substantially year on year, so to maintain getting people into work on low pay can only result in cutting other parts of welfare budget, so more cuts are now enevitable

  • rate this

    Comment number 720.

    675.the masked crusader
    I read your link. It didn't contain any figures though clearly there's an issue with Blue Badge misuse. I cannot comment on car misuse.

    You're getting downrated again. People refuse to believe that the Blue Badge belongs with the person and may be used in any car for the purpose of transporting the holder whether to hospital, shops or the theatre.

  • rate this

    Comment number 719.

    @696 LOOK
    "we shouldn't be sending money abroad until we as a country are in good shape"

    I reckon we send money abroad more for dubious reasons of 'bribery' and 'image' than for true altruism.

  • rate this

    Comment number 718.

    671 - AuntieLeft " magic money tree"

    Agree. However, we are the 6th richest economy (once the 4th) & yet as a country we always for some reason, or another, are unable to suitably provide for NHS, defence, education, road/rail infrastructure & a myriad of other priorities. So my view is simple. Taxation is a valueable asset, yet its value is wilfully negated by every administration.

  • Comment number 717.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 716.

    Child benefit needs to be paid out for families who have a multi-generational allegiance to our nation. Paying it out to new comers who haven't proven themselves loyal is akin to shooting yourself in the foot come the day. For too long we have allowed those who only love money to rule. Churchill said blood, sweat and tears but he never mentioned money.

  • rate this

    Comment number 715.

    So much social welfare spending is demand driven. How can you put a cap on it? If there is a sudden increase in homelessness or a particularly severe winter do we just reduce the benefits so the grand total stays the same? The government does not understand the harsh realities for people who need to claim or receive benefits

  • rate this

    Comment number 714.

    It's amazing when; Honest workers criticise the coercive Welfare State, only wishing to stop paying people to be idle, have babies, and sloth in a cradle to grave Nanny State...

    How the Welfare State's ardent supporters shriek "most benefit claimants are now in fact severely disabled and unable to work!"

    Well then, if we only paid the severely disabled, we wouldn't be in this mess, would we.


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