MP in benefits debate blast

Reporter: Richard Hooton
Date published: 09 January 2013

OLDHAM East and Saddleworth MP Debbie Abrahams has accused the Government of creating an “us and them” culture in a debate over benefits.

The Government’s plan for a real–terms cut in working–age benefits cleared its first Commons hurdle after heated exchanges between coalition and Labour MPs last night. MPs voted by 324 to 268 to give the bill a second reading.

Mrs Abrahams blasted the government’s plan to cap benefit rises at one per cent for the next three years from next April.

She said: “They are determined to demonise people receiving benefits, create resentment in those not receiving benefits, and to create an ‘us and them’ culture. Seven million working households will lose an average of £165 a year as a result of this bill. Fortunately the public are starting to see through the myths they are peddling.

“The first myth is that most people on benefits are out of work. Over two thirds of recipients are in work.

“Myth number two is that benefits have gone up by more than average earnings. Since 2002, average earnings rose by 36 per cent, Jobseeker’s Allowance by 32 per cent.

“The Government says the one per cent cap is about making savings and bringing the deficit down, but at the same time they give tax breaks to the wealthiest in society.

“We need to get the economy moving again. The Chancellor should swallow his pride and bring forward infrastructure projects and a house building programme, put a £2billion tax on bank bonuses, cut VAT increases for home improvements and give a National Insurance holiday for small businesses.

“Without this we are in danger of losing a generation, storing up health and social problems for the future and seeing a divided, not the One Nation Britain that we want.”

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith accused Labour of tying working families into the benefits system and “buying votes” by increasing handouts.

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