I have written, to those constituents that have asked, to explain my position on the Welfare Reform and Work Bill.
Thank you for writing to me about my vote on the Welfare Reform and Work Bill.
There are two important things to note. Firstly this bill has not yet become law, Monday's vote was only on the second reading of a bill, where the government proposes a lot of the details of the bill. The bill has now entered its Committee stage, where amendments can be attempted, this is where I will be focussing on curbing the bill's most extreme elements. Secondly, we have fewer MPs than the Conservatives so rather than engage in token opposition of the entire bill we are working to mitigate the worst excesses of the bill by trying to attract a few of the more moderate Tories to vote with us on a number of amendments.
The Bill contains some of the £12billion cuts to welfare which the Chancellor announced in his Emergency Budget on 8 July. Others cuts, such as the cuts to tax credits for three million low and middle income families, are not included in the Bill and will be dealt with as secondary legislation. I will oppose these cuts when they come before Parliament.
There are a number of measures I support in the Welfare Reform and Work Bill, including plans to create 3 million apprenticeships, reduce rents for those living in social housing, and cap the amount that people can claim in benefits to ensure that people are always better off in work.
I therefore did not oppose the Bill in full. The Labour Party tabled a Reasoned Amendment to the Bill which allowed us to highlight those elements of the Bill which we support, whilst also outlining those which we oppose and will seek to have removed from the Bill.
- the abolition of child poverty targets, which the Labour government put in place, and which require the government to take action to reduce absolute and relative poverty
- cuts to support for the sick and disabled who are not fit for work – this includes people who have cancer or Parkinson’s disease
I voted to oppose those changes. In addition to this, we have tabled 24 detailed amendments to the Bill which seek to mitigate the worst impacts of this legislation. I will be pushing hard as the Bill passes through Parliament in the coming months to make sure that it is workable and fair.
Labour’s amendments include:
- carers, those with children under 2, and those who have experienced domestic violence, not being subject to the household benefit cap
- councils being given sufficient emergency funding to help those most affected by the household benefit cap
- the four year freeze on working-age benefits being subject to an annual review to take into account the national economic situation, the rate of inflation and (in the case of Local Housing Allowance) the cost of renting
- 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.
On Tuesday I spoke in Parliament to raise with the Chancellor of the Exchequer the issue of the increasing number of in-work families in poverty. The Chancellor refused to acknowledge that the removal of tax credits would hurt working families. I and the rest of the Labour Party will be voting to oppose the removal of tax credits which will only make struggling families worse off.
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. I came into Parliament to fight for working people, and against child poverty, and I will continue to do this for as long as I am elected by the people of Ealing, Southall.
Virendra Sharma MP