Disability benefit cuts included in the Budget were just 'a suggestion', cabinet minister Nicky Morgan says

The Government appears to be rowing back on the PIP cuts

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Indy Politics

Plans to cut disability benefits included in the Budget were just a “suggestion” and are actually still out for consultation, the Education Secretary has claimed.

Nicky Morgan appeared to row back on the cuts to Personal Independence Payment when she came under fire on the BBC’s Question Time programme.

The cuts, which would see 370,000 disabled people lose an average of £3,500 a year, reduce payments for disabled people who require specially adapted appliances to live independent lives.

“First of all we've got to finish the consultation and the conversations that we're having with MPs, but also with disability groups and others, before we even bring any legislation forward,” she said.

“It is something that has been put forward, there has been a review, there has been a suggestion, we are not ready to bring the legislation forward.”

Ukip MEP Roger Helmer, who was also appearing on the programme, replied: “The Budget is merely a suggestion, is it?”

Ms Morgan’s claim is contradicted by the fact the Department for Work and Pensions has already released a full response to its “concluded” consultation on the cuts.

The consultation page on the website, updated on 11 March this year, says in bold text: “This consultation is concluded” and is not accepting new contributions. 

Minister for disabled people Justin Tomlinson said last week when confirming the cuts ahead of the Budget: “We consulted widely to find the best approach. And this new change will ensure that PIP is fairer and targets support at those who need it most.”

A spokesperson for the DWP on Thursday reiterated the Departments claim about having already consulted on the cuts hours before Ms Morgan appeared on the programme.

As well as having been included and references in George Osborne’s Budget on Wednesday, the cuts were separately confirmed by the DWP last week.

The DWP website says the consultation is closed

Some Conservative MPs are however uneasy about the cuts and Ms Morgan’s statement could be as a result of internal pressure. 

Tory MP Andrew Percy tweeted: "If I can be honest, I'd rather have a penny or two on fuel if it protects PIP."

Another Tory MP, Johnny Mercer, also said: "Concerned by proposed changes to PIP. Not sure right direction."

Sky News reports that Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, has written to Conservative MPs to say that consultation with disability groups will continue.

Such groups were however wholly against the proposed cut when they responded to the already conclude formal consultation process. 

A coalition of 25 disability charities wrote to the DWP on the day the consultation was released arguing that the cuts would have a “severe impact” on people’s security and make it harder for them to find work.

The Independent reported on Thursday that the report cited by George Osborne in support of the cuts itself claimed be based on untested anecdotal evidence.