Ashdown leads Lib Dem revolt on welfare reform - UK Politics - UK - The Independent

Ashdown leads Lib Dem revolt on welfare reform

Former leader in unprecedented rebellion as bishops join Lords opposition to planned cap on benefits

An alliance of bishops, senior Liberal Democrats and independent peers will today attempt to derail a key element of the Government's welfare reforms by voting against plans for a £26,000-a-year cap on benefits.

In a move that will embarrass Nick Clegg, the former Liberal Democrat leader Lord Ashdown said yesterday he would rebel against the Government for the first time over the measure because of the "unacceptable" hardship it would cause children.

He is expected to be joined by other Liberal Democrats, including the party's former Work and Pensions spokesman in the Lords, leading bishops and large numbers of cross-benchers to oppose the extent of the benefits cap in a vote on the proposals in the House of Lords tonight. "I [have] voted with the Government on everything until now," he said.

"I see it as my job as an ex-leader to support my successor but I will not support the benefit cap in its present form."

Lord Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay, the Liberal Democrats' former spokesman on welfare reform in the Lords, added that a cap was acceptable "in principle". But he added: "Many of us back the bishops' argument that, as it stands, the Bill could split families and visit the sins of the fathers on the children."

Under proposals put forward by the Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, the total amount of benefit that working-age people could receive would be capped so that households on out-of-work benefits did not receive more than the average weekly wage earned by working households.

The cap would apply to the combined income from the main out-of-work benefits – jobseeker's allowance, income support and employment support allowance – and other benefits such as housing benefit and child benefit.

In a rare move, the Right Reverend John Packer, Bishop of Ripon and Leeds, has tabled an amendment to the Bill which would exclude child benefit from the cap. He said he had discussed the move with his fellow bishops and it had "extensive" support.

Labour has also proposed an amendment which would exclude families judged at risk of eviction.

He said most of the benefits families received went in rental payments and an arbitrary cap was inappropriate. "People in work on £26,000 a year receive child benefit in addition so it would seem appropriate that those who are capped at that level should also receive child benefit," he said.

"I have discussed this proposal with fellow bishops and a number of other crossbenchers as well. I think there is extensive support from the bishops for any move which can soften the Welfare Bill in such a way that those who are in most need are not hit by it."

But in an interview, Mr Duncan Smith accused the bishops of ignoring the concerns of ordinary families who try to "do the right thing". "The question I'd ask these bishops is, over all these years, why have they sat back and watched people being placed in houses they cannot afford?" he said.

"I would like to see their concerns about ordinary people, who are working hard, paying their tax and commuting long hours, who don't have as much money as they would have otherwise because they're paying tax for all of this."

But the Right Rev Packer retorted: "I am disappointed in his comments. What we are trying to do is provide help to those in most need. That is the whole point of a welfare system.

Lord Ashdown added he hoped the Government would re-think the proposals and bring in safeguards to protect those worst-affected. "I know that Nick Clegg is fighting very, very hard for transition arrangements to be put in place."

But Mr Clegg said he was fully signed up to the changes. "I completely back Iain Duncan Smith on this," he told The Andrew Marr Show. "It surely can't be fair that you can be 'earning', if you like, more on benefits than someone going out earning £35,000."

Labour reacted cautiously, suggesting that it would try to find a compromise. "Labour won't be voting against the benefits cap, but we will be seeking to amend the Bill."

News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Sport
FootballFull debuts don't come much more stylish than those on show here
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Travel
travel
News
The ecological reconstruction of Ikrandraco avatar is shown in this illustration courtesy of Chuang Zhao. Scientists on September 11, 2014 announced the discovery of fossils in China of a type of flying reptile called a pterosaur that lived 120 millions years ago and so closely resembled those creatures from the 2009 film, Avatar that they named it after them.
SCIENCE
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Matisse: The Cut-Outs exhibition attracted 562,000 visitors to the Tate Modern from April to September
art
Life and Style
Models walk the runway at the Tom Ford show during London Fashion Week Spring Summer 2015
fashionLondon Fashion Week 2014
News
Kenny G
news
News
peopleThe black actress has claimed police mistook her for a prostitute when she kissed her white husband
Life and Style
techIndian model comes with cricket scores baked in
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

Energy Markets Analyst

£400000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Energy Markets An...

Junior Web Analyst – West Sussex – Up to £35k DOE

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

Nursery Manager

£22000 - £23000 per annum: Randstad Education Bristol: We are currently recrui...

Web Analyst – Permanent – Up to £40k - London

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week