Wednesday, 04 March 2015

Clegg defends benefit cap ahead of Lords debate

The deputy prime minister has dismissed claims that families living in London and the South East would be forced to move out of their homes by the benefit cap.

Nick Clegg told BBC1’s The Andrew Marr Show that he supported the £26,000 benefit cap, but that there was scope to look at ‘transitional arrangement’.

‘It surely can’t be fair, it can’t be right, that you can be earning, if you like, more on benefits than someone going out earning £35,000 which is the equivalent if you were to go out and work,’ he said.

‘This is not going to be some sort of punitive programme of mass homelessness. Of course we won’t allow that to happen.’

The denial comes as the employment minister, Chris Grayling, told BBC Radio 5 Live’s Pienaar’s Politics that some families would be forced to find a new home as a result of the reforms.

He said: ‘There certainly will be people who have to move house as a result of this, who have to move to a part of town they can afford to live in, but surely that is right.’

Peers in the House of Lords will discuss an amendment later today that could mean child benefit is excluded from a household’s earnings for the purposes of the cap because it does not form part of the average income figure for all families, which the cap is based on, and would therefore hit families with children harder than those without.

Paddy Ashdown is among those willing to go against his party and fight the reforms, telling Sky News that the proposals were completely ‘unacceptable’.

‘I have voted with the government on everything until now,’ he said. ‘But this legislation, in its present form, I cannot accept.’

Mr Clegg dismissed suggestions that child benefit could be excluded from the cap to help hard-pressed families.

‘If you did that it probably wouldn’t make much sense trying to have a cap at all. I think it is highly unlikely we would do that,’ he said.

The denial comes in the wake of a story in the Observer newspaper which says that a leaked internal Department for Work and Pensions document shows that up to 100,000 children in families on benefits will be pushed into poverty - which is defined as homes where the income is below 60 per cent of the average household income for families of the same size.


Readers' comments (37)

  • Gavin Rider

    Gary - apologies, I now realise that it must have been supplementary benefit I was claiming, because I don't think I qualified for unemployment benefit just after graduating, not having paid any National Insurance contributions.

    (It was a long time ago, and I didn't particularly care what the money was called at the time, just that I could receive it).

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  • F451

    Gavin - are you sure the home in question was not former LA stock?

    I have no specific data on the extent of former LA stock now being rented out privately - and nor does the government - but it would prove very useful. That said, when the terror benefit cases were all the rage for the front pages of the Mail, the housing type pictured was often the former London Borough Street Property sytle (those purchased by Councils over the many years when former private owners could not maintain reasonable standards and off loaded the stock, partly because of rent controls.)

    The Westminster home in the article you refer to was one of a terrace of 3-story homes, not disimilar to many other former local authority terraces in Boroughs across London. I'd be interested to know how you claim categorically that it was not ex-LA stock. I'd also be interested to know how you may claim categorically that the majority of privately rented stock is not former LA.

    My claim that it is is based on visual observation in many boroughs and towns. I admit that is not categorical evidence, but I am confident in the validity of the statement.

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  • Rick Campbell

    I'm back for a short while Gavin old chum (honestly meant as you know -- but others and particularly new readers, may not).

    I see what you're saying about 'tiresome' -- but we all may well be found guilty of saying tiresome things and most just put up with it -- I'm not saying that is the right course of action especially as I don't put up with the demonisation.

    I wonder how long it would be before posters got fed up with "victimisation" and would such victimisation be viewed as a hate crime, harassment and/or anti social behaviour -- or would the use of the word be viewed as incitement of some sort? I get into enough trouble with Tom and Alex sometimes about my language without any more.

    As you will be aware Gavin, there can be an awful lot of misconception and/or misperception about all sorts of things and IMHO those who actively seek to foster/promote damaging propaganda/myth in order to alienate sections of society on whatever grounds are evil, and as such, demonisers.

    I perceive that you and I spend much effort and time with other posters counteracting misperceptions caused by our words/posts -- and we come in for more than our fair share of vilification too.

    As for 'demonisation'; on IH threads it has (rightly or wrongly) become the word of choice to ‘encapsulate’ the stirring up of bad feeling towards tenants, the vulnerable, the long term sick, etc, in and by the media, government, posters and the like. Rather like the word "gay" is used in alluding to sexual orientation as opposed to its usage in alluding to being happy/merry.

    "I also saw the demonisation of private landlords as the cause of the high rents charged."

    -- some posters to various sites were saying that it was the greed pf private landlords that put the rents up so high in the first place that has made it necessary for a cap to be introduced

    -- such assertions seemed to make out those landlords as an evil in society (like welfare claimants) for which the blame for the current situation lies

    Nathalie @ 11-19am --- How very kind of you to say so, thank you immensely -- you have caused me much blushing and humility

    I have honestly been downtrodden most of my life, bullied, victimised and demonised (this has given me a good grounding for the present ‘climate‘) -- and without recourse to hyperbole… I know what it’s like and it is happening on an unprecedented scale in the UK .

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  • Gavin Rider

    Nathalie - the purpose of a discussion forum is to discuss issues, and that often means arguing from a different point of view to another contributor. My comment about your inappropriate use of the word "eviction" was not to be pedantic about language, it was to ensure that your point was properly understood, so that it could be appropriately responded to.

    I also think it is a little unfair for you to refer to me misinterpreting what you write, when it is your unclear use of language that would be the cause of any misunderstanding.

    I have never been evicted. I have, however, had to move home many many times as a result of the end of a lease or a change in my employment. Unfortunately that is life - you can't expect someone else to always shield you from the hardship of life by providing you with insulation from reality.

    And to pick you up on one of your own "misinterpretations" of what I have said:- you say:

    "five million people is not 'everyone' in a country of 60 million plus"

    I quite clearly referred to "everyone who is living in private rented accommodation and hence subject to a limited-term tenancy agreement". My statement was very clearly and precisely qualified, so I was clearly not talking about every resident of the UK. Why then did you respond as if I was? You seem to be adopting F451's approach of completely inventing something to accuse me of for the sake of it.

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  • Gavin Rider

    Rick - here is the rub. You say "those who actively seek to foster/promote damaging propaganda/myth in order to alienate sections of society on whatever grounds are evil, and as such, demonisers"

    I agree with you about such people being evil, but that does not make them demonisers of others. sorry to be a pedant, but if we cannot even use words properly it undermines the value of anything we say, which may actually have some worth.

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  • Gavin Rider

    ...and now you have even got me mangling the meaning of what I say!

    I am off now. Back this evening.

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  • Rick Campbell

    "The deputy prime minister has dismissed claims that families living in London and the South East would be forced to move out of their homes by the benefit cap."

    The opening line of the article? YES

    The deputy prime minister? YES

    No familes living in London and the South East would be forced to move out of their homes by the benefit cap. COBBLERS!

    Anyone disagree with me and/or NC -- after all, he is a politicial and wouldn't tell porkies, would he?

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  • Gavin Rider

    Rick - aha, I think I have now understood your sentence about the demonisation of private landlords:

    "I also saw the demonisation of private landlords as the cause of the high rents charged".

    I interpreted this to mean that in your opinion it was the demonisation of private landlords that was responsible for the high rents being charged in the private rented sector.

    I now believe that what you MEANT to say was that the high rents being charged in the private rental sector are resulting in the demonisation of private landlords - no?

    In that case, I absolutely agree with you, and the use of the word "demonise" in that context would be justified. Not all private landlords are evil, of course, but some clearly are - particularly Buy-To-Let investors who deliberately set out to exploit the housing market for personal gain and in reality end up making their profits by exploiting people.

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  • Rick Campbell

    Sorry Gavin, just noticed that I missed summat …

    “It is not a criticism of all benefits recipients to try and deal with the anomalies that allow a few families to exploit the system.”

    I didn’t think it was.

    “I take it you are not of the opinion that there is no exploitation of benefits going on?”

    I read it and thought ‘Gavin is being mischievous here’ so I took the negatives out -- still thought the same (brain not working properly yet) … and in reply :-

    My belief is that there is some exploitation of the welfare system but that is not to say that all claimants are ’misusing’ the welfare system -- there are many people (I will not guess how many but I would think they are in the vast majority) who are long term sick, vulnerable and in need of as much support as possible in order to have a reasonable but not luxurious standard/quality of life.

    Sadly, there seems to be an ever-increasing opinion based on the false presumption that all claimants are scroungers on in excess of £26,000.

    No matter what the snakespeak used by the government and opposition, there are people suffering from having their benefits cut -- many such claimants have to endure hardships during the long road through the appeal systems.

    There are those who may look upon this suffering with glee -- what a sick and uncaring society we have spawned.

    Catch you later Gavin.

    p.s. I was trying to convey that some views seem to put the blame of high rents charged by ‘greedy private landlords’ as the cause for the high benefit expenditure that was being capped -- you got me at it now.

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  • F451

    Meanwhile - ignoring the plethora of side issues the key issue remains: that if average wages are too low to allow someone to live in our cities, using this as an argument to cut benefits is absurd. If wages being too low are the problem then obviously addressing this is the solutino. Taking steps to share poverty more evenly across the poor is no answer.

    Even the excesses of private landlords falls to one side around this core of the issue. Rents are too high - the government has ensured that is the case through successive policy decisions, and private landlords are exploiting those decisions as they were invited to do. The two faced demonising extremists like our Housing Minister can not say 'let housing benefit take the strain' one day then moan if rents are too high for wages to afford. His doing. His fault. His mess. His responsibility - but not caused by the poor, rather inflicted upon them.

    Failing to pay people sufficiently for their work is not an indication of over-generous benefits but is an indication of low pay - otherwise the in-work benefits would compensate such that those fully employed would not be 'worse-off' in reality. Why do wages fail to 'make work pay'? Why do in-work benefits fail to 'make work pay'? How can cutting benefits without increasing pay 'make work pay'?

    The illogic and untruths peddled by this government and their apologists beggars belief, yet too often gets swallowed whole without a murmour from the population. Incredible.

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