The House of Lords have rebuffed Tory plans to cut Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) for the second time.
In January peers voted to remove the cuts to ESA from the Welfare Reform and Work Bill, but MPs in the Commons reinstated the measure.
On Monday, the Lords defeated the government again over the bill which proposes to cut £30 a week from the benefits of ill and disabled people who have been found unfit to work.
The Guardian reports:
Peers passed an amendment that calls on ministers to deliver a formal assessment of the likely impact of the cut on the health, finances and work prospects of hundreds of thousands of claimants, who will see their unemployment benefits reduced by £1,500 a year.
The 286-219 vote repeats the government defeat on planned cuts to employment and support allowance (ESA) in January, sending the proposal back to the Commons and prolonging the “ping-pong” over the issue between the two houses.
MPs voted down the original Lords amendment in the Commons last week, despite a handful of Tory MPs speaking out against the bill. Heidi Allen, MP for South Cambridgeshire, issued a “warning shot” to her own party by saying she was uncomfortable with the cuts and may vote against the government if it did not listen to the Lords on the issue.
Ministers argue that cutting the ESA from April 2017 for new claimants placed in the work-related activity group (Wrag) – who have been formally declared to be too ill to work but well enough to undergo work-related interviews or training – would provide an incentive for them to return to work
But peers have contested the claim, saying there is no evidence that the proposed cut would help ESA Wrag recipients get back into employment, while campaigners say the cut will push claimants further into poverty.
There are about 500,000 people in the Wrag group. The cut to Wrag payments would see individuals’ weekly unemployment benefit fall from £102.15 to £73.10. The government estimates that the cut would save the Treasury £1.4bn over four years.
Allen warned the Commons last week: “If we don’t get this right we will damage not just the employment prospects and wellbeing of these vulnerable claimants, but also our reputation and our trust among the electorate.”