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Lib Dems and Labour to push for changes to benefits uprating bill

14 January 2013

Round two of the row over rises in benefit payments is on the way, with Lib Dems and opposition parties tabling a series of amendments to the government’s legislation. I have learned that Lib Dem Andrew George has already laid his proposals for changing the welfare uprating bill, which will return to the House of Commons for the report stage and third reading next Monday.

George’s amendments are backed by four other Lib Dem MPs: and two of them were neither rebels nor abstainers at last week’s second reading vote. While Charles Kennedy and John Leech abstained and rebelled respectively on the second reading, Dan Rogerson was loyal, and Alan Reid was absent.

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While unlikely to gain much traction, the amendments themselves will spark an interesting discussion in the Commons about fairness: and this time, it will be a little more nuanced as George wants benefit rises to move in line with wages, not a 1 per cent cap. He proposes replacing the 1 per cent cap with ‘a percentage by which the general level of earnings is greater at the end of the period under review in that tax year under section 150(1) of the Social Security Administration Act 1992 than it was at the beginning of that period’. The only instance in which the 1 per cent cap would apply would be if that rise were higher than earnings.

George says that having abstained on the second reading, he will rebel at third reading if his amendments are not accepted. I am told that Liam Byrne’s shadow welfare team is also drawing up amendments to the Bill for report stage. But Labour will continue to struggle in this debate because of its official backing for the cap on public sector pay. Green MP Caroline Lucas is trying to replace the 1 per cent rise with the Retail Prices Index.

Another thing to watch out for in next Monday’s debate will be whether the debate continues to be as much about which side has made greater use of pejorative language to describe benefit claimants as it is about whether the measures themselves are fair. All sides have gradually realised that the striver/skiver/shirker/scrounger debate hasn’t covered anyone in a great deal of glory, with commentators across the political spectrum lining up to condemn it. So last week’s Commons vote descended into the Tories telling Labour that they’d used those unpleasant words just as much. It will be interesting to see whether either side is up for a reprise next week.

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  • telemachus

    Andrew George might be betraying his roots

  • tele_machus


  • 2trueblue

    Between this and the debacle over boundary changes/Lords reform we need Cameron to call an election NOW. He can’t do any worse than leaving it another 2yrs. The LibDums are not interested in a coalition they are interested in their own voices. Maybe then we can get on with things and see what Cameron et al are about. I am utterly fed up with the LibDums.

  • ATurtle

    How they can call this bill the Benefits UPRATING Bill, I can’t see, it’s the Benefit DOWNRATING Bill

  • Chris lancashire

    So George conveniently forgets that benefit uprating has exceeded average wage rises for the last three years. Surely, if he applies his thinking rationally, a clawback of over-uprated benefit for the last three years should be applied for his increase linked to average wages is effected. However, like all politicians, he knows how to spend it but not how to earn it.

    • Spoonydoc

      By your reasoning should he also backpay claimants for all the years where wages rose much faster than inflation (and thus benefits)? This is more usual except during recession. If benefits had risen in line with wages since 1970, JSA would now be worth £120 pw rather than £71.

  • Jonathan Featonby

    Interesting. The Amendment you quote is different to that on the Amendment Paper: and has a rather different meaning.

    • telemachus

      Andrew George (Liberal Democrat, St Ives) – allegedly claims nearly £850 a month for mortgage interest payments on a Docklands flat, the home insurance policy for which is in his daughter’s name. George said that whilst his daughter did use the flat as a “bolt-hole”, she did not spend more time there than he did.

      • Chris Read

        Since Andrew George provided 1/3 of the capital for the flat, and also furnished the flat himself, allowing his daughter to stay there sometimes is not much of a scandal.

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