Labour chiefs have challenged Conservative MPs opposed to reductions in tax credits to defy their party’s leadership and vote against the £4bn package of savings in the House of Commons on 20 October.
They took the unusual step of writing to all non-Labour MPs with the message: “This issue transcends narrow party lines.”
George Osborne, the Chancellor, is facing calls to modify the plans which come into effect next April. Growing numbers of Tory MPs, who fear the cuts could provoke huge levels of anger among low-paid voters, are privately pressing him to ease the pain of the move.
Boris Johnson, the London Mayor, added to the pressure on him on 19 October by saying he was “sure” Mr Osborne could act to soften the cuts’ impact on the low-paid.
Labour will attempt to exploit the Tory disquiet in a Commons vote on 20 October, calling for the cuts to be abandoned.
In a letter to all MPs, seen by the Independent, Owen Smith, the shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, and Seema Malhotra, the shadow Chief Secretary, to the Treasury, condemn the “deeply damaging cuts”.
They argued that a huge amount of independent analysis has emerged exposing the true scale of the proposed cut since the Commons last debated tax credits.
“This issue transcends narrow party lines, as surely none of us came in to politics to take money away from low and middle paid workers. The vote is a chance to show that by voting to reverse the cuts to tax credits.
“If left to go ahead, the changes will make people significantly worse off the length and breadth of the country, hitting thousands of people in every constituency. This is why representatives of all parties have raised concerns about this issue,” they said.
Mr Johnson told the BBC: “I think everybody is concerned about something which bears down unfairly on the working poor, and it’s very important as we take this thing forward that we do it in such a way as to minimise that impact.”
The Mayor added: “What I would like to see is working with the tax and benefit system and the living wage to make sure that hard-working people on low incomes are protected. I’m sure the Chancellor can do that.”
His comments came after the former Cabinet minister, Andrew Mitchell, argued that Mr Osborne might have to “tweak” the plans in his spending review next month.
The Bow Group, a Tory think-tank, said the cuts could “damage Britain’s entrepreneurial economy and the Conservative Party’s claim to be the workers’ party”.
However, Downing Street insists the government is not shifting over the policy.
Meanwhile, Mr Osborne is facing a possible last-ditch bid to kill off the cuts in the House of Lords.
A rare “fatal” motion is expected to be tabled by peers opposed to the measures, with a potential crunch vote on 26 October.
Labour sources suggested such a motion would be almost certain to result in a Government defeat as there is no Tory majority in the Lords.
Fatal motions are rarely used as peers are unwilling to undermine the supremacy of the Commons. But opponents will argue that the Salisbury Convention does not apply as the tax credit plans did not feature in the Conservative election manifesto.
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