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23 January 2012

Labour backs the Bishops on benefits

Liam Byrne says Labour will support amendment exempting child benefit from £26,000 cap.

By George Eaton

After weeks of anguished deliberation, Liam Byrne, the shadow work and pensions secretary, has finally announced that Labour will support the Bishops’ amendment exempting child benefit from the £26,000 cap if its own proposed safeguards are voted down. In response, Iain Duncan Smith quipped that the opposition “have taken more positions on this (the benefits cap) than a Jane Fonda workout”.

Indeed, somewhat confusingly, Labour doesn’t actually want child benefit exempted from the cap (which it supports in principle). Rather, it is supporting the amendment as a means of getting the welfare bill back to the Commons, where a new vote can be held on its homelessness amendment.

The Conservatives, aware that the cap has the overwhelming support of the electorate (76 per cent of voters, including 69 per cent of Labour supporters, back the policy), are relaxed about the possibility of defeat in the House of Lords tonight. Indeed, Channel 4’s Gary Gibbon claims that they are “on their knees praying for it”. The more headlines accusing Labour of “wrecking” the cap, the better, they think.

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