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.
What does five more years of the Tories mean for Britain?
What does five more years of the Tories mean for Britain?
1/8 Welfare payments will be slashed
One of the most controversial parts of the Conservative manifesto was to cut benefits for the working age poor by £12 bn over the next three years. But during the campaign they only said where £2 bn of these savings would come from. That leaves £10 bn still to find. Some experts think the only way they can close that gap is by means testing child benefit – with millions of families losing out
2/8 There will be tax cuts for those in work and those who die
The Tories will increase the threshold at which the 40p rate of tax becomes payable to £50,000 by 2020. They haven’t said so but it is also likely that at some point in the next five years they will abolish that 45p rate of tax altogether for the highest earners. They also want to increase the effective inheritance tax threshold for married couples and civil partners to £1m
3/8 There will be an in/out EU referendum in 2017
The next two years are going to be dominated by the prospect of a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU. First off David Cameron has the daunting task of negotiating a deal with other EU leaders an acceptable deal that he can sell to his party so he can go into the referendum campaigning for a ‘yes’ vote. This may be unachievable and it is possible that the Tories may end up arguing to leave. Opinion polls show Britain is divided on EU membership, one poll this year showed 51% said they would opt to leave compared to 49% who would vote to stay in
4/8 There will be more privatisation of the NHS
Having won the election the Tories now have a mandate to go further and faster reforming the NHS. In order to make cost savings there is likely to be greater private involvement in running services, while some smaller hospitals may lose services they currently provide like A&E and maternity units
5/8 There will be many more free schools – and traditional state schools will become a thing of the past
The Tories plans to create 500 new free schools and make 3,000 state schools become academies. They will also carry on reforming the Department of Education and remove more powers from local authorities over how schools are run
6/8 On shore wind farms will be a thing of the past and fracking will be the future
Government spending on renewable energy is under real threat now the Lib Dems are no longer in power with the Tories. Subsidies are likely to be slashed for off-shore wind farm and other green energy supplies. Meanwhile there will be generous tax break for fracking as ministers try and incentivise the industry to drill for onshore oil and gas
7/8 There maybe more free childcare – but not necessarily
In the campaign the Tories pledged to double the amount of free early education for three- and four-year-olds from 15 hours a week to 30. The extra hours would only be offered to working families where parents are employed for at least eight hours a week. However they have not said where the money will come from to fund the pledge
8/8 Workers' rights could be reduced
The Tories want to slash business regulation, merge regulator and cut costs. The Lib Dems stopped them from reducing the employment rights of workers in power – but these are now under threat
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.”Reuse content