Iain Duncan Smith refuses to rule out cutting disability benefits, but says he will be 'kind'

The DWP secretary says the disabled should not be scared of the Government's policy

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Ministers have refused to rule out making further cuts to disability benefits as speculation grows about exactly where the Government’s planned £12bn of welfare cuts will fall.

Asked several times by Labour MPs whether the disabled would be spared from cuts, Iain Duncan Smith said he would treat claimants with “kindness” but would not commit to protecting their benefits.

“It is our purpose to protect the most vulnerable – it has been from the beginning and will continue to be so,” the Work and Pensions Secretary said.

“There is no reason why people should, in that case, be fearful, and I hope that honourable members do not try and whip that up.”

Kate Green, a shadow Labour DWP minister, appeared angry at the suggestion, however.

“Disabled people don’t want kindness – they want justice, and access to the benefits that help them to live their lives,” she said.

“Will the Secretary of State give disabled people a cast iron guarantee – no cuts to their benefits not cuts to the fact credits and no cuts to the disabled premiums those tax credits can bring?”

Mr Duncan Smith accused Labour of “hypocrisy” for their opposition to the cuts, noting that shadow DWP secretary Rachel Reeves had promised to be “tougher than the Tories” on slashing welfare.

“Isn’t it a bit of hypocrisy for Labour members to come here and then [make claims about cuts], having said that they would be tougher than we are?” he said.

The £12bn welfare cuts outlined in the Conservative manifesto are due to be announced in full at the Budget.

David Cameron has also refused to rule out cutting in-work disability benefits.

"Whatever the pressures, we will stand by my promises to protect the most vulnerable – including the most disabled who cannot work because that’s the sign of the compassionate country I believe in," the PM said.

Some disabled people have already faced cuts and lost out due to harsher conditions on claiming the Government's new Personal Independent Payment compared to the system it replaced.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies warned in May that the planned cuts would likely either reduce work incentives of increase poverty, because of their sheer scale.

 

The IFS says around £10.5bn of the £12bn welfare cuts planned by the Tories are yet to be named, amounting to a remaining 87.5 per cent.

Around 40 per cent of the welfare budget is protected from cuts, including the state pension and universal pensioner benefits. The IFS says the rest of the budget will take a much deeper, 10 per cent cut as a result.

Measures already announced include a two-year freeze for working age benefits and tax credits, a reduction in the benefits cap, and removing housing benefit from young jobseekers.

The institute says options available to David Cameron’s government include cutting benefits for families and children, housing assistance, and disability allowances.

A Government spokesperson said at the time of the publication of the analysis: “We’ve already achieved billions in welfare savings over the course of the last Parliament, which have helped cut the deficit in half as a share of GDP.

“As the Chancellor and Prime Minister have set out, further savings will need to be made to continue reducing the deficit, including £12 billion of welfare savings through measures including freezing working age benefits.”

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