Labour faces revolt over benefit cuts

LABOUR MPs are preparing to rebel against a government Bill to reform the welfare state, including the cuts announced this week in widows' pension entitlements.

Alistair Darling, Secretary of State for Social Security, is facing the threat of a rebellion over his plans, which would cut the numbers claiming widows' benefits over the next 25 years from about 270,000 to 30,000 - saving in total about pounds 500m.

"It could be as big as the row over lone-parent benefits, and this time we are ready," said one of the Labour MPs who is threatening to vote against the Government when the measure is brought before the Commons. "An awful lot of people didn't realise how big the cuts were going to be until a few hours later and they were really angry."

The cuts in widows' benefits, which will not apply to current claimants, are part of a massive welfare reform bill to impose more targeting of benefits on the needy, including the long-term sick, the disabled and widows, to be announced in Tuesday's Queen's Speech.

The Bill will pave the way for a drastic shift away from universal benefits to more means testing and targeting. It will take money away from better-off claimants in the middle classes and redistribute money to those near the poverty line.

There is growing alarm among Labour MPs that the cuts will hit those who are just above the income-support level. The MPs were infuriated by the way that Mr Darling presented the widows' benefits statement, effectively obscuring the scale of the long-term cuts by announcing an extension of the benefit to men for the first time.

The main losers will be women over 45 whose children have grown up and left full- time schooling. MPs were further annoyed to discover that men will only qualify for widowers' benefit in future if their wives had paid national insurance contributions.

The cuts also spell the end of the contributory principle in which people provided payments to a national scheme to draw on when they were in need. Many making payments now in national insurance contributions will not be able to draw on the benefits when they need them in the future.

MPs who attended the left-wing Campaign Group of Labour MPs this week after Mr Darling's statement reported that more MPs were joining the group. "There is mounting anger on the back bench" said one member of the group.

The left may be looking for an issue such as the welfare state on which to clip Tony Blair's wings after the controversy over the selection of candidates, and allegations of "control freakery" within the leadership.

Audrey Wise, who also played a leading role in the battle over cuts in one-parent benefits, was among the Labour MPs who expressed concern. But anxiety about the handling of the welfare cuts goes wider than the party's left-wing rump.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Approved Food sell products past their sell-by dates at discounted prices
i100
Sport
Jonny Evans and Papiss Cisse come together
football
News
Life-changing: Simone de Beauvoir in 1947, two years before she wrote 'The Second Sex', credited as the starting point of second wave feminism
peopleHer seminal feminist polemic, The Second Sex, has been published in short-form to mark International Women's Day
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
The beat is on: Alfred Doda, Gjevat Kelmendi and Orli Shuka in ‘Hyena’
filmReview: Hyena takes corruption and sleaziness to a truly epic level
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Assistant / Credit Controller

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are an award-winning digit...

Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform Engineer - VMware / SAN / Tier3 DC

£45000 - £55000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform En...

Recruitment Genius: Purchasing Assistant

£10000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Ledger Assistant

£17000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis