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 1153.

    1143 - Nice idea but each persin would require about 5.27 sheep to get by, and that means there would be no grass left. Completely unrealistic, isn't it.

    Who would emigrate here then. England without any grass.... just doesn't bear thinking about. How would we find our roots? What would those ancient feet walk upon?

    We have a very serious problem in the UK. We vote for idiots and pay them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1152.

    @1140 ohwell

    "Labour...........WHERE ARE YOU"

    Probably died with John Smith.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1151.

    It appears that foodbanks are now supported by the left. It goes to show.

    Rightwing or leftwing in the UK makes no difference.

    If you fall on bad times you are the new Jew.

    No brutality....Yet.

    Is this what our fathers fought for in WW2.

    Its sink or swim in this barabaric nation with no morals and rights only for the well off.

    Burn in HELL London elite and the media.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1150.

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

    Some form of welfare spending is paid to over 20 million people in the UK.

    Personal wealth of the richest one thousand in the UK people will be over £450bn. Much of it is obtained by tax avoidance and it will not be capped.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1149.

    So, the giverment will donate what amounts to £1800 per head of population, to the population. That would be brilliant if the money spent by government was collected in France. Unfortunately, it isn't. As you probably know.

    There will bewar in Europe. History teaches. Nations will rearm. Sound familiar? There will be annexations, small ones to start. Then, England will invade Normandy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1148.

    1146.the voice Go for it. It's long been proved that the wealthy live longer healthier lives than those in poorly paid jobs. Having a long life in pain from industrial injuries isn't a blessing and the right to die is being fought for by more and more people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1147.

    @1146 the voice

    Very controversial,but I agree. Personally,I don't want to live till I'm 90.We should have the right to go when we want to.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1146.

    Is state enforced euthanasia the answer? if we can't afford to keep people in their old age perhaps we should put a cap on living too long? how about 90 and that's your lot?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1145.

    @1139.Tio Terry
    I'm not suggesting we use one thing, bread was 143% increase since 99 (which is more than cigs @137%), but most things have increased in price more than wages since the minimum wage was introduced other than a new ford focus which is hardly an everyday purchase. One of the few things to keep track of wages is the big mac

  • rate this

    Comment number 1144.

    The media in Britian is so rightwing apart for a noble few, that welfare has been presented as something only the poor get. Yet a Third of the bill goes on benefits that are entirely not needed.

    Yet we cant afford the population increase and the pressures but we appear to be able to afford wars, trident and welfare for the Rich.

    The media have presented an unbalanced view of welfare.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1143.

    So, where can we find about 64 million acres of land to distribute?

    Do more state, rely upon yourselves, build a home, raise sheep and cows, chickens, a li'l wind generatoer, waret mill,... ha ha. Fooled you!

    An awful lot of people are desperately disadvantaged by the last 5-6 years. It isn't over, there is no meaningful growth and won't be. Just a slow invisible decline and waffle from wafflers

  • rate this

    Comment number 1142.

    Benefits for people in full time work because wages are too low only means that money goes to the buisness owners.


  • rate this

    Comment number 1141.

    Labour hold your head in shame, this unholy alliance 500+ for and 20- are no longer a party for the disadvantaged.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 1140.

    Labour. Born of the unions, for the ordinary man. WHERE ARE YOU.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1139.

    I dont think calculating minimum wage against a single denominator is reasonable, you could do the same against a pint of beer or milk. One thing does not represent a reasonable view. Anyway, you have still not come up with a way of determining a "Fair Wage", in fairness, I have no idea how to do it, I'm open to suggestions!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1138.

    Tio Terry
    1 Minute ago

    Not quite sure what you are saying, all I said was Tax Avoidance is legal, unlike Tax Evasion which is not. If the government of the day cannot make and enforce the rules whats the problem?


    ISAs are tax relief schemes used in the way they were intended by tax law and not comparable to tax avoidance which bends the tax laws to achieve them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1137.

    Maggie Thatcher gave the feckless working class of this country a good sorting out. They quite clearly need another one. They have become weak and lazy on socialist benefits.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1136.

    At a population of 64 million that's about £1800 per head.

    Give ir take, that is roughly what the givernment borrows each year.

    The arguments are long established but, for example, this is also only slightly more than is spent on the NHS per year.

    At fsys end, these sums of money BUY YOUR VOTES.

    A despicaby sad way of things.

    Give people enough land to grow their food.

    The good old days.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1135.

    Not quite sure what you are saying, all I said was Tax Avoidance is legal, unlike Tax Evasion which is not. If the government of the day cannot make and enforce the rules whats the problem?
    Agreed but how does that change legal Tax Avoidance?

    No such thing as an honest politician.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1134.

    1122.sorrysorryandsorry You've never been sick or out of work have you. In the 80's private firms were sold off unemploying thousands, In the 90's big firms bought small firms, asset stripped to profit shareholders then closed firms. Irresponsible lending led to the recession. There are no jobs for life, when you get made redundant you'll have a major shock if you think it's a life of luxury.


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