Welfare Reform Bill Defeated For Seventh Time, Long Night Expected On Wednesday
The Government has been defeated for a seventh time in the Lords on the Welfare Reform Bill, this time over the amount paid to children who are receiving the lower rate of Disability Allowance (DLA). The government wants to cut the total paid out to children receiving the lower rate, because they say payments to children have grown out-of-kilter with those paid to adults.
Peers opposing the move said it would affect 100,000 families, and voted for the amendment by 246 to 230. Not the biggest defeat in the long battle in the Lords over welfare reform, but it only adds to the uphill battle facing ministers.
MPs are preparing for a potentially long night on Wednesday as they consider amendments to the Welfare Reform Bill made by the Lords. The government is adamant it will seek to overturn the amendments made by peers, including their rejection on charging single parents to use the Child Support Agency.
That amendment saw the biggest defeat for the coalition since it came to power - a majority of 142. Despite this the Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith has pledged to push the charges through, saying they're "better for the children" as they would encourage parents to negotiate rather than using the CSA.
Ministers' apparent determination to push the charges through parliament raises the prospect of 'ping-pong' between the two houses on Wednesday afternoon. Both the Commons and the Lords could be in for a late night, depending on how far the Lords wants to test the will of the elected chamber.
If there's no agreement, the government can choose to invoke the Parliament Act to over-ride the Lords and pass the Welfare Reform Bill into law. But the technicalities of this mean it can only be done in the next session of parliament - that's after the Queen's Speech expected in May.
The other Lords amendments in full:
- Amendment 12 waters down the so-called "Bedroom Tax" which would reduce housing benefit payments for families living in council homes with at least one spare bedroom. Lords majority 68.
- Amendment 36a reversed an attempt to take Employment Support Allowance away from young disabled people - something peers say would only save £10m but which currently guarantees they can live independent lives. Lords Majority 44
- Amendment 38 raising to 24 months the proposed 12-month limit on claiming contributory ESA. Lords majority 48.
- Amendment 38 exempts cancer patients from the contributory ESA limits. Lords majority 56.
- Amendment 59 Is a Bishop's amendment which excludes child benefit from the £26,000 household benefit cap. This was an amendment backed by Labour after it lost its own motion to prevent people at risk of being made homeless being assessed by the cap. Labour were accused of flip-flopping over the benefit cap after this vote. Lords majority 15
- Amendment 62 Is the massive defeat for the government on dropping the proposal to charge single parents for using the Child Support Agency. Attempting to overturn this amendment would be the most controversial for the government given the size of the defeat. Lords majority 142.
Amendment 1, passed today, brings the total to seven. MPs will begin debating the amendments in the Commons straight after PMQs on Wednesday.