Page last updated at 22:12 GMT, Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Welfare Reform Bill clears Parliament

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The government's welfare reform plans have cleared Parliament.

Peers passed the Welfare Reform Bill on 29 February 2012, ending a stand-off between the Commons and the Lords over certain aspects of the bill.

Crossbench peer Lord Best agreed to withdraw his amendment limiting the government's plans for a so-called "bedroom tax", which cuts benefits to social housing tenants with spare rooms.

The bill will now be sent for Royal Assent.

The legislation, which introduces an annual cap on housing benefits, has had a stormy passage through the House of Lords.

The government suffered seven defeats over its plans to shake-up the welfare system when the legislation was first considered, and a further one after MPs had overturned all the setbacks.

The bill is designed to simplify the welfare system by replacing existing benefits with a single, universal credit from 2013.

It also introduces tougher sanctions for those who refuse work and replaces the disability living allowance with a new Personal Independence Payment, which requires claimants to go through regular assessments of how their condition affects them.

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, who has championed the bill, says the changes will ensure that "work always pays".

The majority of the changes apply to England, Wales and Scotland.

Northern Ireland has its own social security legislation although there is a long-standing policy of parity in this area.

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