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Monday, May 10, 1999 Published at 07:02 GMT 08:02 UK

UK Politics

Labour rebellion over disability benefits

The government wants disabled people to work, if possible

A group of angry 20 Labour backbenchers are set to oppose government plans to cut disabled benefit entitlements.

The backbenchers have put down amendments to the Welfare Reform Bill, which is currently going through parliament.

They want to reverse plans to bring in means testing and cut entitlements to incapacity benefit.

[ image: Lynne Jones:
Lynne Jones: "We don't want a nothing for something society"
Lynne Jones, MP for Birmingham Selly Oak, said up to 170,000 people would be affected by the reforms.

She said the plans would have the opposite effect to what the government wanted, discouraging disabled people from training for work and saving for their retirement.

'Nothing for something'

"It's not ending the something for nothing society, it's creating a nothing for something society," said Dr Jones.

The backbenchers' amendment would block plans to introduce means testing for the benefit, which would deny the payments to people who had saved for their own pension.

Last week the government decided to bring the Bill back to the Commons for its report stage after detailed discussion in committee a week on Monday.

Dr Jones said: "The government appears to be trying to rush it through."

Pressure on Darling

[ image: Alistair Darling has agreed to meet the rebels]
Alistair Darling has agreed to meet the rebels
The rebels are to meet Social Security Secretary Alistair Darling on Thursday in an attempt to persuade him to change his mind on the plans before a Commons vote.

Dr Jones said they had to introduce the amendments now because it would be too late after the meeting with Mr Darling.

The rebellion is similar to the row over single parents' benefits which broke out shortly after Labour took office in 1997.

Dr Jones, who was at the forefront of that rebellion, said she hoped the government had learned the lessons of that controversy.

She said: "We hope they will see it's better to climb down straight away."

The rebels include stalwarts Gwyneth Dunwoody and Harry Barnes as well as several members of the Class of '97, such as Gloucestershire MPs Tess Kingham and Diana Organ.

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