Cameron Forcing Through Benefit Cuts

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Disabled people and their supporters marching last May against benefit cuts
Disabled people and their supporters marching last May against benefit cuts

Disability Rights UK, representing over 500 organisations across the country, and the Child Poverty Action Group, yesterday condemned MPs for overturning House of Lords amendments to the Welfare Reform Bill.

The government won seven key votes by majorities of around 80 votes in the House of Commons on Wednesday, reinstating its original proposals into the legislation.

These include plans for a £26,000 annual limit on total household benefits, including child benefit, and cuts in benefits for disabled children and cancer sufferers.

To force the Bill through, ministers will use a rule known as ‘financial privilege’, after convening a special committee of MPs from all parties to approve the move on Wednesday.

This means peers cannot send the same amendments back to the House of Commons when they reconsider the bill for a final time.

A Child Poverty Action Group spokesman told News Line: ‘This is a very irregular use of parliamentary procedure. It is hard to understand how it is justified.’

He added: ‘We expect the Bill will be the biggest change in the Welfare State since Beveridge and will leave many families in greater poverty.

‘The government should not be dodging proper parliamentary procedure.’

Disability Rights UK said: ‘The Bill aims to cut 280,000 disabled people from receiving out-of-work benefits altogether and 500,000 disabled people to be made ineligible for a benefit designed to help with disabled people’s higher costs of living.

‘A third of all disabled people already live in poverty but the Bill will now enforce destitution for some families and individual disabled people.’

Unite the union had urged MPs to oppose the Welfare Reform bill, warning that it will hit low-paid working people, push over 200,000 children into poverty and leave some families with as little as 62p per person per day to live on.

In a briefing to MPs, the union warns that the household benefit cap will result in: 30,150 households losing £50 a week; 17,420 households losing £50-£100 a week; 8,040 households losing £100-£150 a week; and 11,390 households losing more than £150 a week.

Unite general secretary, Len McCluskey, said: ‘The government should be seeking to improve the living standards of those on low incomes and benefits, not stigmatising people and peddling the concept of the “deserving” and “undeserving poor”.

‘The real enemy is not the perceived “workshy” but the growing dole queues across the country and flatlining growth. Singling out some of the most vulnerable, as salaries at the top continue to soar and big corporations avoid and evade billions in tax, will divide society.’

• Public sector union Unison yesterday urged the government to resist calls from big business to weaken employment rights, warning that it would have a damaging effect on the UK’s workplaces – for both employer and employee.

In a submission to the Department of Business Innovation and Skills’ (BIS) consultation into TUPE regulations that protect employees’ terms and conditions when a business or service is transferred from one owner to another, Unison warns that rolling back the regulations would see legal costs rise and disputes increase.

Bronwyn McKenna, Unison assistant general secretary, said: ‘We are urging the government not to weaken this vital protection.

‘It could see employees stripped of their rights, with employers permitted to reduce pay, impose less favourable terms and conditions or sack staff once they’ve been transferred.’