Coffee House

MPs push ministers on regional benefit cap – as Tories mull putting it in manifesto

24 February 2014

One of the regular duties of a Work and Pensions minister is to defend his or her programme of reform against criticisms from all sides about how it is administered. At today’s Work and Pensions questions in the Commons, Mike Penning didn’t try all that hard, though, to defend Atos Healthcare and its contract to carry out the Work Capability Assessment. Instead, he described the situation as a ‘mess’ and blamed the last Labour government for the contract.

By contrast, Iain Duncan Smith was quizzed by Labour and Conservative MPs on one reform that needs no defending: the benefit cap. Instead of being urged to drop or make the cap less draconian, the Work and Pensions Secretary was asked by Andrew Turner, the Isle of Wight MP, whether he could lower the cap as it is currently £10,000 higher than the average wage of Turner’s constituents. A Labour backbencher also asked whether there was a case for regionalising the cap.


IDS’ response to both was that the cap was currently working and he currently had no plans to change it. But I understand that serious consideration is being given by senior Conservatives to lowering the cap in some regions of the country as a 2015 manifesto pledge. This would mean that it would remain at £26,000 in London but could be lower in areas where rents are much lower and the cap barely bites workless households.

P.S. Speaker Bercow might be keen on slapping down rowdy MPs at more heated sessions than these departmental question times. But today he received an amusing bit of backchat from the normally very cordial Laura Sandys. Her colleagues were particularly tickled by her reference to ‘behavioural change’…

More Spectator for less. Subscribe and receive 12 issues delivered for just £12, with full web and app access. Join us now.

  • scampy1

    Only allow third world immigrants given work permits to enter you pansies in government?

  • Monkey_Bach

    YouGov recently repeated a question from last April about the government’s welfare reform package as a whole, freezes, caps, bedroom tax, etc. Back in April 2013 56% of people said they supported them, 31% were opposed: these days only 49% support them, 38% are opposed and 13% undecided – statistically a very significant drop. People can now actually see the beginning of what the programme of cuts in social security means on the ground and support for such maladroit brutality has been steadily falling as time goes on. If the Conservatives think that they can win a majority by promising to be even more cruel and unenlightened than they have been while in coalition with the Liberal Democrats they must be insane.

    The tide is going out on the nasty party leaving them stranded.

  • saffrin

    If they raised the tax threshold and reduced VAT, working for a living might be worth doing Ian.
    Further more, if you stop UK companies advertising abroad to gain on EU migrant subsidies, there might, just might, be enough jobs for our own unemployed.
    But then as it’s all about profit, how are the lads doing in the Buy to Let department.

  • anyfool

    A more sensible thing would be to leave the current cap in place and pretend you are sticking up for the regions outside London.
    After 5 years it maybe a sustainable cap that also prevents house prices in London skyrocketing out of control.

  • Smithersjones2013

    MPs push ministers on regional benefit cap – as Tories mull putting it in manifesto

    Don ‘t fall for such a bear trap Tories it will finish you off across vast swathes of the country. Why should migrant filled London (already the greatest drain on public expenditure in England) benefit for its profligacy ~ 27% per capita more expensive than the neighbouring South East which has the lowest per capita expenditure).

    It will ensure Labour can alienate the Tories in the North, Scotland and Wales for a generation or more and UKIP likely will have the same opportunities (urban liberal elitism etc etc) in the south if they play it smart.

    • monty61

      Indeed. It’s idiotic politics, and even worse economics, creating a vicious circle of lower benefits and lower wages. The feckless will head to where the pickings are best. And there will be all sorts of unintended consequences wherever the borders are set. How stupid can the party be on this one?

  • HenryWood

    Listening to the Laura Sandys/Bercow exchange, it is now very apparent that Mr. Speaker has lost the House.

Can't find your Web ID? Click here