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Tuesday, November 9, 1999 Published at 08:20 GMT

UK Politics

Peers back down on welfare bill

Peers inflicted a fresh defeat on the government on Monday

Peers have backed down on their rebellion over the government's controversial welfare bill after MPs once again rejected their amendments to it.

The BBC's Emma Udwin: "A Bill which sparked a major outcry will now become law"
Speaking in the Lords shortly after MPs sent the Welfare Reform and Pensions Bill back to the upper House, Labour peer Lord Ashley, who had led the campaign against proposed cuts to disability benefits, said: "Enough is enough."

He said the government had failed to answer the serious criticisms of the bill, but he said he was now withdrawing his amendments: "Apart from the provisions to incapacity benefit, this is a fine bill."

Earlier, MPs had overturned Lord Ashley's amendment relaxing proposals for tighter eligibility requirements for incapacity benefit, by 314 votes to 234.

Forty-five Labour MPs rebelled and voted against the government.

The Commons then voted by 312 to 232, to overturn another Ashley amendment which raised the threshold above which disabled people with occupational pensions would be means-tested to qualify for incapacity benefit from £85 a week to £128.

[ image: Lord Ashley: Opposed changes in the bill, but withdrew his amendments]
Lord Ashley: Opposed changes in the bill, but withdrew his amendments
MPs also voted by 361 to 178 to reject peers' demand to let young war widows with children keep their husbands' occupational pension rights.

Social Security Secretary Alistair Darling said there were no more concessions to opponents of the bill.

He told MPs: "The government has listened. It has made changes.

"There are no more changes to come and this bill, as a whole, is taking a major step forward in providing far greater opportunity and a far greater measure of fairness than has ever been the case in the past."

'Enough is enough'

The bill was then sent to the Lords for a third time. Lord Ashley had said the government's plans would cause hardship to hundreds of thousands of disabled people.

[ image:  ]
But the potential showdown failed to materialise as he instead withdrew his amendments.

As he did so, he said "Many of the fundamental issues raised in the debate yesterday were not answered by my noble friend [Social Security Minister Baroness Hollis] ... But as I say, enough is enough.

Lords Reform
"I believe Baroness Hollis and the government as a whole is compounding its failure. It is political miscalculation on political miscalculation, saying 'No, No, No'."

Lady Hollis commended Lord Ashley for having fought a "gallant and generous-spirited campaign on behalf of disabled people, as he sees it. We agree to disagree."

Having cleared the Lords, the bill now goes for Royal Assent and then passes into law.

Last week the government issued a thinly-veiled threat to withdraw the Weatherill amendment - the deal to reprieve 92 hereditary peers from abolition under the first stage of Lords reform - if the Lords continued to defy ministers.

The inference was that they might decide to scrap all hereditary peers.

The House of Lords Bill has been scheduled to clear the Commons on Wednesday.

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UK Politics Contents

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08 Nov 99†|†UK Politics
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Internet Links


Welfare Reform and Pensions Bill

National Disability Council

Department of Social Security

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