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 793.

    Davey Tasker
    please tell me were you where educated,i think you may have grounds on which you may sue(my left side)
    Or (My right side ) your parents have a lot of questions that need answering
    Neither of you have the capability to be protagonist & should be put on benefits for some considerable time,to actually gain experience of something you obviously have nothing about

  • rate this

    Comment number 792.

    This is the BBC news on behalf of the Conservative party - script - try to start with "the Prime Minister" or "Downing street sources" (Oliver Craig) or the BBC understands (Oliver Craig), get gormless outdoor presenter to put a positive spin on Tory items he will never question any Tory story but will question or ad his negative spin tuppence to every Labour story.

  • rate this

    Comment number 791.

    I see a direct correlation between the current UK government and that of Nazi Germany with its antisocial policies aimed at disadvantaging the most vulnerable people in society i.e. the disabled, social housing tenants, the unemployed, all governmental departments, the cultural and diverse aspects of communities. All in contrast to benefits for the wealthy – Those that don’t rely upon benefits

  • rate this

    Comment number 790.

    Soo, what does this mean for people who are unable to work due to mental illness once the budget (if it does run out) - runs out?

  • rate this

    Comment number 789.

    The measure of civilized society is how the poorest are treated: however, there isn't a bottomless sack of money - it comes from tax or government borrowing (still comes from tax eventually). If we tax too high we all suffer as the economy contracts, we need people in work paying taxes and not drawing benefits (earned pensions & disability support excluded).
    It's fairly paid jobs for all we need !

  • rate this

    Comment number 788.

    "You mean people who are paid low wages and can't get cheap social housing because Thatcher decided to sell it off and ban Councils building anymore so rich landlords could rake it in?"

    People on low wages rarely develop themselves and this is often the reason for financial challenges in later life. People are not in static situations for life. Easy to blame the state.

  • rate this

    Comment number 787.

    We could just ask Amazon etc. to pay their tax

  • rate this

    Comment number 786.

    '777 a silly point as this is not an exam, but nevertheless it does expose a huge illiteracy in general and a complete ignorance of so much by so many. i'm not talking about the odd obvious typo but an inability to string a few words together to make a coherent sentence. I'm sure you get the point.

  • rate this

    Comment number 785.

    I don't think the right whinge 'blame brigade' can grasp the bigger picture. Even if all unemployment benefits were halted immediately YOU will still pay the same tax, YOU will still pay extortionate rent/mortgages, utility bills etc and YOU will still find a scapegoat to blame other than the actual guilty culprit OUR government who could not arrange a ... up in a brewery.


  • rate this

    Comment number 784.

    It depends if they are a 'scrounging lay about'. As that type of person need not starve as they can spend their benefits on what was meant for when it was conceived - keeping you afloat until you get another job. Not cigarettes etc. If people do run out of money they should have to attend a meeting with all bank statements etc and prove where there money went and why they need more.

  • rate this

    Comment number 783.

    It is right to cap expenditure as excessive expenditure only results in more costs to taxpayers.

    But I just do not trust Torys to not use the cap to target the vulnerable because it is impossible to fully implement the cap untill/unless there is reform on in work tax credits/benefits payments, which are increasing every day immigrants arrive in UK & gets a job subsidised by tax credits

  • rate this

    Comment number 782.

    @775. Dear Sally, haven't we done this dance before?...

  • rate this

    Comment number 781.

    I think the government should counter the following myths:
    1. People on benefits cannot share homes
    2. People who will not work cannot be moved to cheaper properties
    3. People need more than 1 home
    4. It is fair for companies to pay bonuses and make staff redundant
    5. It is fair for companies to pay massive wages to a few, but pay other staff low wages, so they need benefits

  • rate this

    Comment number 780.

    Herbie @ 744
    Sonny girl actually - I am now 60 and have been in full employment since I was 16 and I will have worked for 50 years. So 66 before I get my pension - therefore you are nothing special sonny boy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 779.

    If there was one thing that the EU should be looking to standardise across Europe it is benefits. We need to have a clear understanding right across the EU about entitlement and what will be received.

  • rate this

    Comment number 778.


    Wait till you get made redundant or heaven forbid get hit by a car and cant work. You'll realize just how scewed the system has become.

    The benefit cap of £500 a week was a joke, I've never met anyone on that sort of income ( Approx £47K gross ). But like all previous attempts to reform welfare it targeted those just out of work ie: the people who pay N insurance.

  • rate this

    Comment number 777.

    @763 goonerforlife

    If we're talking about English skills,have you heard of capital letters?

  • rate this

    Comment number 776.

    I'm usually fairly conservative in my views on welfare, but this seems like a mistake to me. What will we do if the benefits fund runs out? While MPs are debating a rise, people will be starving!

    Whether the claimant is a scrounging layabout or a disabled person who really wants a job, we cannot let anyone just starve, surely?!

  • Comment number 775.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 774.

    'You mean people who .. can't get cheap social housing because Thatcher decided to sell it off and ban Councils building anymore so rich landlords could rake it in?'

    Thatcher wanted people to buy their own homes. She believed home owners would become responsible and vote Tory. The expansion in letting is a result of changes to tenure and rent controls not 'Right to Buy'.


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