George Osborne Faces Open Tory Rebellion Over Cuts To Disability Benefits

PIP crackdown a 'backwards step' says unhappy Conservative MP
David Burrowes is the latest 'rebel'
David Burrowes is the latest 'rebel'

The Tory rebellion against George Osborne over his cuts to disability benefits is gaining momentum after another of his MPs called for a U-turn.

David Burrowes, Conservative MP for Enfield Southgate, said the proposed crackdown on Personal Independence Payments (PIP) was a "backwards step" and that the Chancellor should "press pause".

It came after 20 Tory MPs signed a letter to the Chancellor making clear their unhappiness, which could lead them to voting against the plan.

Meanwhile, Tory minister Nicky Morgan offered a shaky defence of the move on BBC Question Time, signalling the policy was only a “suggestion” even though it forms a £4,4bn chunk of the Chancellor's Budget.

Cabinet minister, Nicky Morgan
Cabinet minister, Nicky Morgan

Her comments echo Osborne’s own when he said he was “happy to listen to proposals” on Thursday morning, and could pave the way for a dramatic U-turn similar to his climbdown over tax credits cuts last year and his “omnishambles” Budget four years ago.

Burrowes, one of the leaders of the rebellion against extending Sunday trading hours that handed Osborne a defeat last week, added to the pressure when he told Newsnight: “These are some of the most vulnerable people. We are on the side of them trying to be more independent - to continue in work or get into work. That’s the whole government agenda. To improve their life chances.

"That takes a backwards step from the way we are looking at it now. So I and other colleagues would be urging him to press a pause on it.”

He argued the Conservative government was “much more generous” than previous governments increasing to welfare to the disabled and has better results, adding: “The PIP is much better than people callously treated people on the Disability Living Allowance. There’s lots we are doing that is so much better but this puts us on the back foot. When we should be looking to the long term this seems like a short term fix. Looking at other priorities it doesn’t sit so well.”

George Osborne visits school in Yorkshire

It comes after he has been warned his cuts will see 370,000 disabled people lose an average of £3,500 a year.

The chancellor on Wednesdy confirmed £4.4bn would be slashed from benefits for disabled people by 2020 by cutting Personal Independence Payments (PIP).

PIP are used to help disabled people who struggle to get dressed, travel or use the toilet.

Tory MPs unhappy with the cuts have put their names to a letter to the chancellor outlining their concerns.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s the World at One, Conservative Andrew Percy, who has organised the letter, said the cuts would hit “exactly the wrong people”.

“I think the savings that it makes are not appropriate and I don’t think can be justified so it’s just not acceptable now,” he said.

“A lot of other measures in the Budget yesterday were very good, very positive, very progressive. This wasn’t one of them and we just need to go away and think about this again.”

Percy said more than a dozen Tory backbenchers shared his concerns and were prepared to vote against the cuts.

“The government only has a majority of 12 so it doesn’t have a great deal to play with anyway, but I think it’s fair to say that the concern being expressed by people – which ranges from just generally wanting to know more to deep opposition – is much more significant than the size of the government’s majority and that obviously will be a concern for the government,” he said.

In its analysis of Osborne’s Budget, the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) said voters should expect an extra year of austerity and “lower wages and living standards“.

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