Government Defeat in the Lords over Disability Benefits Cut

Lord Freud

The Government has been defeated in the House of Lords over their proposals to cut disability benefit by 286 votes to 219.

Lord Freud led the debate for the Government and said in his statement:

“The ‘poverty plus a pound’ approach … led to billions of pounds being invested under the previous Government, with little or no transformational impetus in the life chances of young people. It is widely recognised that the low-income measures can give a misleading picture. For example in a recession, when average income falls, poverty can appear to be falling too even if living standards have not improved for those at the bottom.

I stress again that low-income measures drive the wrong action, as I have sought to explain throughout the passage of the Bill through this House. Such measures simply focus on treating the symptoms of child poverty, whereas the Government are intent on tackling the root causes such as worklessness and educational failure. It is in these areas where we believe that the right action can make the biggest difference to the lives of disadvantaged children, both now and in the future”.

The Lord Bishop of Durham said during the debate:

“My Lords, throughout our debates on the Bill, we have all consistently expressed our desire to see child poverty in our nation reduced and, ultimately, eradicated. We have different views about how this might best be achieved, and about the impact the Bill will have. I continue to have deep concerns about its impact. I fear that it will lead to more children and families being poor.

Having said that, I fully agree that, in most cases, the best way out of poverty is through work, and work that is better paid. I remain unconvinced that the measures in the Bill will have the complete effect suggested”.

Lord Kirkwood said:

“I remind colleagues that in the last figures the HBAI produced, in 2013-14, something like 17% of British children were in poverty. That is a ballpark figure of 2.3 million in all. That is a serious situation. If that is not difficult enough looking back, looking forward, the best estimate that I can find—the most accurate, up-to-date figure—is the projection that that figure might rise from 2.3 million to 3.8 million by 2020. That is the biggest increase in my generation and an issue of some concern. Obviously there are very difficult financial circumstances, and austerity has to be factored into the policy mix, but it struck fear in my heart when, speaking from Hong Kong, the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that he is looking for further savings in public expenditure”.

A spokesman for the Department of Work and Pensions said:

“The vote in the House of Lords is a routine part of the legislative process and next steps will be announced in due course”.