Ed Balls gave the clearest indication yet today that his party would vote against the government’s plans to cap benefit rises to 1 per cent rather than in line with inflation. Speaking at Treasury Questions, the Shadow Chancellor said:
‘It’s important for members on both sides of the House know the answers to the questions I asked the Chancellor. First of all, 60 per cent of families hit by his tax and benefit changes are in work. And according to the IFS, as a result of the Autumn Statement measures, a working family, the average one earner couple will be £534 a year worse off by 2015, a working family worse off. These are Mr Speaker, the very families who pull the blinds and go to work Mr Speaker, and on average every Tory constituency has over 6,00 of these families who will lose out.
‘On the question he asked, we will look at the legislation. But if he intends to go ahead with such an unfair hit on mid- and lower-income working families, while he’s giving a £3 billion top rate tax cut, we will oppose it Mr Speaker. Let me ask him, why is he making striving working families pay the price for his economic failure?’
The Chancellor later said Labour would have to explain ‘to the hard working people’ in the country why ‘Labour would have a higher benefits bill’ as a result of the party’s decision to vote against the Welfare Uprating Bill. The point that George Osborne can also make repeatedly is that while the benefits payments for working families will now only rise by 1 per cent rather than in line with inflation, this is the same for wages as well.