Lib Dem MPs want to change Welfare Bill
- 15 Jan
Some Liberal Democrats are seeking changes to the welfare bill that is capping benefit increases below the rate of inflation.
The legislation, currently going through parliament, will cap rises in a number of benefits to 1% rather than the level of inflation, and was controversially passed last week.
Liberal Democrat MPs, including former leader Charles Kennedy, Alan Reid, John Leech, Dan Rogerson and Andrew George, have submitted the amendments. They call for benefits to be uprated in line with wage inflation, or for benefits to be uprated by 1 per cent or by wage inflation, whichever is higher.
An alternative amendment from the MPs calls for the 1 per cent rule to be removed from the bill entirely in favour of increases based on wage inflation.
Andrew George, said at the House of Common's at last week second reasing of the bill:
We have... heard that one justification for capping benefits at 1 per cent is that, allegedly, benefits have risen significantly more than wages.
In that case, would it not be wise for the government to introduce a measure so that benefits do not increase by more than average wage inflation?
In response Iain Duncan Smith, work and pensions secretary, said the bill will bring ‘fairness back into the welfare payments process' and said eventually benefits will go back to being inflation-linked.
Labour's shadow welfare secretary Liam Byrne is also thought to be drafting up amendments to the bill, and Green Party MP Caroline Lucas has also tabled an amendment to the bill to remove the 1% cap rise in favour of linking benefit increases with the retail price index measure of inflation.
The amendments are not expected to change the bill, but will at least force the conversation at the committee stage of the Welfare Benefits Uprating Bill next Monday and for the Conservative party to have to answer the questions. It may also convince more of the party to rebel against the Liberal Democrats official vote of support for the bill. Four Lib Dem MPs voted against the bill at the second reading, and one, Charles Kennedy, abstained from voting.
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