What’s in the Welfare Bill that Labour just failed to oppose?

The Welfare Reform and Work Bill is making its passage through Parliament at the moment. After much hand wringing, Labour instructed its MPs to abstain. Only 48 defied the whip to vote against. Media Commentators including those at the supposedly left-wing Guardian agreed this was smart politics. For others though – including me – it begs the question once again, what is the Labour Party for?

But what is in this Bill that Labour found so difficult to oppose? The explanatory notes to the Bill can be found here. Here are some of the measures Labour felt they could not vote against:

  • Reducing the benefit cap to £20,000, except for £23,000 in Greater London
  • Freezing certain social security benefits and certain tax credit amounts for four tax years
  • Limitation in the amount of support provided by the child tax credit for families who become responsible for a child born on or after 6 April 2017
  • Limiting the child element of universal credit to a maximum of two children and removing the distinction between the first and subsequent children in the rate of the child element
  • Removing the work-related activity component in employment and support allowance and the limited capability for work element in universal credit
  • Changes to conditionality for responsible carers in universal credit
  • Replacing current support for mortgage interest payments for benefit claimants with the offer of a recoverable interest-bearing loan secured as a second charge on claimants’ properties

The one on mortgage interest payments was new to me and appears particularly nasty. If you are unfortunate enough to lose your job, the government will loan you the money to pay the mortgage interest, but if you can’t repay it whilst in work, they will take your house. Not sure that really falls within the definition of social security.

If Labour can’t oppose real terms cuts (for 4 years!) to working-age benefits, replacing support for mortgage interest with interest-bearing loans secured against the property and a 30% cut in social security payments to many who are sick or disabled, then seriously, what is the point of them?

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5 thoughts on “What’s in the Welfare Bill that Labour just failed to oppose?

  1. “The one on mortgage interest payments was new to me and appears particularly nasty”
    Why do we need even more subsidies for landowners? They don’t make land anymore. This seems perfectly sensible.

    1. The word ‘more’ does not apply to this. It has been a part of the social security system for many years, allowing home owners to stay in their homes if they fall on hard times. ‘Landowner’ is a rather grand term for those who benefit from this element of social security,

    2. “Why do we need even more subsidies for landowners?”

      You either rent the bricks or you rent the money. If you rent the bricks then you get housing benefit given. If you rent the money then you get housing benefit loaned. Why?

      A more appropriate social security measure would be to prevent mortgage holders from repossessing houses and forcing them to become landlords instead on an assured tenancy.

  2. The point of the Labour Party is to give the illusion that Parliament still has a point to it as well.

    If you’ll forgive a Grammar Nazism moment, can I just point out that the expression ‘begs the question’ does not mean ‘raises the question’? It means to employ circular reasoning i.e. to make an assertion and then come up with a supporting argument for it that depends on the assertion itself. For example, “I believe God is real because the Bible tells me he is and the Bible is the word of God,” begs the question of why the Bible should be treated as reliable.

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