Parliament: Immigration: Straw stirs New Labour revolt

A FRESH backbench revolt was threatened last night, over Jack Straw's plans to impose cuts on social security benefits for asylum seekers, after a number of Labour MPs from the 1997 intake signed a rebel amendment to the Government's Immigration and Asylum Bill.

MPs elected in Tony Blair's Labour landslide who have signed the amendment include Val Davey (Bristol West), Hilton Dawson (Lancaster and Wyre), Betty Williams (Conwy), Tess Kingham (Gloucester), Iain Coleman (Hammersmith and Fulham) and Stephen McCabe (Birmingham Hall Green). "The new intake are flexing their muscles. There is no way this group can be described as the usual suspects," said one Labour backbench source.

The revolt is over the plan to replace benefits with vouchers for food and a cash payment for living expenses, excluding accommodation, of pounds 1 a day for adults, plus 50p for children, which the MPs believe is inadequate. Government whips are braced for a full-scale revolt when the Bill returns for the report stage to the Commons after the Whitsun recess.

"It could be bigger than the vote on the welfare reforms because this is a simple issue," one whip said last night.