Northumberland MP Ronnie Campbell was one of a small number of Labour rebels to vote against Conservative proposals for a welfare cap in the Commons
Other North East MPs expressed opposition to the cap but did not vote against it, in some cases because they were unable to attend the debate.
Only a handful of Labour MPs defied orders from the party leadership and voted against Government proposals set out in the Budget to introduce a cap on overall welfare spending, set to be £119.5bn in 2015/16.
The measure, in the Charter for Budget Responsibility, comfortably passed the Commons 520 to 22, a majority of 498, after the Labour front bench backed the plan.
Conservatives had hoped to embarrass Mr Miliband by giving him a choice between opposing the cap, allowing them to claim he opposed plans to cut the welfare bill, or supporting it and potentially provoking a rebellion among backbench MPs.
But the Labour Party largely united around the leader and only a small number rebelled. They included Blyth Valley MP Ronnie Campbell. Other high-profile rebels included former shadow health minister Diane Abbott and Tom Watson, who was Labour’s campaign chief and deputy chairman before resigning last year.
Labour MPs who expressed opposition to the cap but did not vote against it included Gateshead MP Ian Mearns, who is in the US looking at the American schools system in his role as a member of the Commons Education Committee.
Wansbeck MP Ian Lavery and Easington MP Grahame Morris also said they opposed the cap. They were attending the funeral of former Durham mineworker Stan Pearce, from Columbia, Washington, an activist known for his work with the Durham Miners’ Association (DMA), who died aged 81.
> I wonder if Stan Pearce, as a DMA activist, might have rather they had got their arses down to Westminster instead, and actually voted instead of just talking about it.
In a message on Twitter, Mr Lavery said: “Just left the funeral of NUM & DMA legend Stan Pearce. For the avoidance of doubt I totally oppose the benefit cap and would vote against it.”
> Yeah, right…
But Newcastle MP Nick Brown said the cap would not affect people who are out of work, and voted for the move.
He said: “The vote is symbolic rather than real. The cap set in the Government’s motion is higher than the previously forecast outturn and it leaves out pensions and Jobseekers Allowance. The principle of controlling this budget as well as other Departmental Budgets is right and therefore I agree with the Labour Party Leadership’s position and will be voting with the Labour frontbench. The proposed cap does nothing to actually reduce the welfare budget. The best way to do so would be to create well-paid private sector jobs here in the North East of England.”
> Yeah, but since no-one actually is… hitting the poor is the next best alternative ?
Source – Newcastle Journal, 27 March 2014
Those Labour rebels …
Diane Abbott, Ronnie Campbell, Katy Clark, Michael Connarty, Jeremy Corbyn, Kelvin Hopkins, Glenda Jackson, John McDonnell, George Mudie, Linda Riordan, Dennis Skinner, Tom Watson, Mike Wood.
All North East Labour MPs, with the exception of Campbell, either did what Red Ed told them or really, really would have voted against, if only they conveniently hadn’t arranged to be elsewhere.
Several North East MPs will either defy a party whip or not be at the House of Commons when Labour is told to vote in line with the coalition for a new cap on how much can be spent on state benefits.
Ed Miliband has told his MPs to back a Budget plan to cap welfare at £119bn, ending a situation in which benefit spending is increased to match the number of claimants.
While party leader Mr Miliband is keen to avoid looking soft on welfare, across the North East, MPs have called for the party to proudly stand up for low income families.
Easington MP Grahame Morris said he will not be voting for the cap. He told The Journal: “I cannot vote for the welfare cap. By implication it plays to the Tory strategy of divide and rule demonising those on benefits as the undeserving poor.
“It conveniently ignores the fact that two thirds of the welfare budget goes on pensions that people have contributed to during their working lives. Another substantial slice goes on supporting those in work on low wages.
“Once again Labour must differentiate its position from the Tories. It is shameful of the Tories to seek to set the working poor against the disabled. There are better, fairer ways to limit benefit spending for example by limiting the £20bn taxpayer spend on housing benefits which goes to private landlords through the introduction of rent controls.”
Gateshead MP Ian Mearns said he will not be in the Commons for the vote as a result of select committee business, but would not have voted for the cap.
He said: “Inherent in this is a further reduction in real terms of benefits over time. If the economy has another significant downturn this limits the capacity of the state to respond to genuine hardship.
“And let’s not forget that only about 3% of the benefits bill is for jobseekers’ allowance, the biggest single pot is for pensions.”
And Blaydon MP Dave Anderson also hit out at the plan. He said: “The welfare cap is just another piece of the Coalitions jigsaw to make the poor, the weak and the disabled pay for the failures of big business and global capitalism.
“This vote comes in the same week that Lloyds have been exposed as continuing to exploit customers over the disgraceful PPI misselling scandal. It is these rogues and many others like them who should be carrying the can for economic failure and not the most vulnerable in our country.”
It is thought other MPs will not be in Parliament for the vote, avoiding the need to rebel. Some 20 MPs nationally are thought to be ready to vote against the cap.
Labour has said that since much of the cap on spending does not include benefits linked to increased unemployment, it is happy to accept the changes.
The party has hit back at claims that there is little to differentiate its economic policy from the coalition, insisting a future Labour government would “make different choices”.
> It’s what the present Labour opposition is doing right now that really matters. And it doesn’t seem to be doing very much at all, apart from trying to make out it’ll be tougher on the poor than the current bunch.
Does ‘Red Ed’ really think that’s the way to win votes ? If he does, he’s going to be disapointed.
Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary, Rachel Reeves, said Labour would support the Government when voting on the welfare cap, but insisted the party would also “take tough decisions” over future spending if in office after the General Election.
Source – Newcastle Journal, March 26 2014