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.