Welfare Bill August 15

Thank you for writing to me about the Welfare Reform and Work Bill.

I appreciate the huge concern many people have about this Bill. The larger numbers of letters I have received shows me how worried people are about the impacts this Bill will have.

The Bill contains some of the £12billion cuts to welfare which the Chancellor announced in his Emergency Budget on 8 July. However, the cuts to tax credits for three million low and middle income families are not in the Bill. They will be dealt with separately and I and the rest of the Labour Party will oppose these cuts when they come before Parliament.

Despite what the media have said all Labour MP's including myself opposed the Bill by supporting Labour's amendment, which is below:

"Whilst affirming its belief that there should be controls on and reforms to the overall costs of social security; that reporting obligations on full employment, apprenticeships and troubled families are welcome; and that a benefits cap and loans for mortgage interest support are necessary changes to the welfare system, this House declines to give a Second Reading to the Welfare Reform and Work Bill because the Bill will prevent the Government from continuing to pursue an ambition to reduce child poverty in both absolute and relative terms; effectively repeals the Child Poverty Act 2010 which provides important measures and accountability of government policy in relation to child poverty; and includes a proposal for the Employment and Support Allowance (work-related activity component) which is an unfair approach to those who are sick and disabled."

This amendment highlighted those elements of the Bill which I support whilst also outlining those I oppose and will seek to have removed from the Bill.

This was defeated (208 to 308) by the Conservatives who won an overall majority in Parliament at the last election. Some (48) colleagues then choose to call another vote against the Bill but this was even more heavily defeated as expected.

We will continue to oppose the many unacceptable parts of the Bill as it goes through its months of various stages in Parliament and we have already put forward 24 detailed amendments below. I will be pushing these hard as the Bill passes through Parliament in the coming months to make sure that it is workable and fair:

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/bills/cbill/2015-2016/0051/amend/pbc512007a.pdf

Labour’s amendments include exemptions to the household benefit cap for carers, those with children under 2, and those who have experienced domestic violence. Councils being given sufficient emergency funding to help those most affected by the household benefit cap. An annual review on the four year freeze on working-age benefits to take into account the national economic situation, the rate of inflation and (in the case of Local Housing Allowance) the cost of renting. And a plan to make sure that reducing social rents does not negatively impact on the ability of housing association and councils to build more affordable homes.

As you can see there is a lot more going on beyond the simplistic and deliberate misinterpretation of our opposition to the Welfare Bill. To portray this as somehow supporting the Bill is wrong, inaccurate and of course only helps Labour’s enemies.

I can assure you that I will be doing everything I can to make sure that this Bill does not make life harder for working families, and protects those who are unable to work. Thank you once again for contacting me and sharing your views.