Government to push through welfare reforms
The government has vowed to fight on with its controversial plans to cap benefits after losing another House of Lords vote on the Welfare Reform Bill last night.
Peers voted through an amendment to exclude child benefit payments from the proposed £26,000 cap.
However, the government has said that it will seek to overturn the decision when the bill goes back to the House of Commons, claiming that the public wants to see the reforms – which it say will save £600 million - passed in full.
A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions said: ‘We are very disappointed by this decision and it clearly flies in the face of public opinion. There has to be a limit on the amount of money benefit claimants can receive.
‘We think that limit is set at a fair rate of £26,000 - the equivalent to someone earning £35,000 before tax, a salary that many working families would be happy to receive.
‘If you take child benefit out of the cap it will simply become ineffective, failing the very principle of our reforms, which is to bring fairness back into our welfare system while ensuring that support goes to those who need it.
‘We are determined our reforms will be implemented in full and we will take this back to the House of Commons to reverse tonight’s decision.’
Work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith reaffirmed the coalitions commitment to keeping the cap at £26,000, saying that excluding child benefit from the cap would make it ‘pointless’.
The amendment, tabled by Lord Bishop John Packer, was passed by 252 votes to 237 last night after receiving support from Labour, Liberal Democrat and cross bench peers.
The vote represents the latest in a series of setbacks for the government on the bill. It has already suffered defeats over plans to limit Employment and Support Allowance and on the introduction of a so-called ‘bedroom tax’ that would punish underoccupying tenants in social housing accommodation.
However, the government last night did defeat an amendment from Labour peer Lord William McKenzie calling for households to be exempt from the proposed £26,000 cap if councils consider they would be ‘threatened with homelessness’.