Parliament: MPs in disabled benefits revolt

WELFARE REFORM
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The Independent Online
THE GOVERNMENT faced an embarrassing backbench revolt yesterday over plans to cut state benefits for the disabled when 20 MPs put down amendments to its flagship welfare reform legislation.

Lynne Jones, MP for Birmingham Selly Oak, said the Welfare Reform Bill, which would introduce means-testing and cut entitlements to incapacity benefits, would affect up to 170,000 people. She warned the proposals would act as a disincentive to training for work and discourage people from saving for their retirement.

Under the planned legislation, the entitlement to disability allowance would be changed so that instead of a person having to make national insurance contributions for a total of one year in the course of a lifetime, he or she had to make one year's contributions in the past two years.

The MPs are also putting down an amendment to block plans to start means- testing the benefit, which would deny payments to people who had saved for their own pension.

While the rebellion includes a number of prominent left wingers, it is also supported by David Hinchliffe, chairman of the Health Select Committee and Gwyneth Dunwoody, chairman of the Transport Select Committee.

The Government previously suffered a setback over its approach to welfare reform when 47 backbenchers voted against cuts to single parents' benefits in December 1997. Ms Jones said she hoped the Government had learnt its lesson: "We hope they will see it's better to climb down straight away."

Alistair Darling, the Secretary of State for Social Security, will meet the rebels on Thursday ahead of a Commons vote next Monday amid accusations that he is seeking to rush through the Bill.

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