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The main arguments made by Tory MPs in defence of the benefits squeeze

By Tim Montgomerie
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Here is a selection of the arguments that Tory MPs made during yesterday's debate on limiting the increase in benefits to 1% for each of the next three years.

The Government's overall policies help those on low incomes: "The Opposition have argued that this uprating of 1% will impact on working people and not just those on benefits. Given that the previous Government made 90% of workers eligible as welfare recipients, that is inevitable. Unfortunately, Labour Members make the mistake of taking these measures in isolation. If we take the Government’s measures as a whole, including tax allowances, energy tariff changes and cutting petrol duty, low-income working households will be better off." - Aidan Burley MP

And the biggest burden of deficit reduction is being met by the better off: "I want to remind the Opposition of what they have done. They have opposed £83 billion-worth of savings this Parliament. That is equivalent to adding another £5,000 of debt for every working family in the country. We hear much about taxing the rich, yet, in this Parliament, the richest will pay more in tax than in any single year of the previous Government—more tax on capital gains, more stamp duty—they will be less able to avoid and evade tax and they will pay more when they take out their pension policies." - Iain Duncan Smith MP

Stop taxing people only to return that money via the benefit systems: "Is not the philosophical underpinning of this debate our wish to create a hand-back society, not a hand-out society? Is not cutting taxes on lower earners the best way to help those on low earnings, rather than recycling their hard-earned money through the benefits system?" - Robert Halfon MP

Fairness between those in work and those out-of-work:

  • "My constituents in Erewash often say to me that fairness works both ways. One gentleman said to me that he is working around the clock and his wife has two part-time cleaning jobs, and that they are trying their best to keep things going. Like me, he wants to support people in this society who, for whatever reason, will never be able to stand on their own two feet and get work, but that was not his point. His point was about the standard of living of other people in the area on full benefits. He did not think it right that they should have a higher percentage increase than his family’s budget." - Jessica Lee MP
  • "I was approached by a member of Manchester constabulary in my advice surgery recently. He said, “How can you justify putting out-of-work benefits up by 5.2% last year, when I have had a pay freeze and I risk my life every day?” Is that not the nub of the argument? People who are in work have to be treated fairly." - Jake Berry MP

Far too many people received welfare under Labour: "It is hard to believe that until the last general election, anyone earning up to £60,000 a year could still qualify for tax credits. That was nonsensical and crazy. At the time, £60,000 was nearly two and a half times the average salary, but the Government of the day still chose to issue those privileged people with welfare payments." - Alun Cairns MP

You can't help people with an empty wallet: "People will see through those who pretend to care when they do not have the money to show that they care." - Richard Fuller MP

Labour oppose with proposing an alternative:

  • "We are spending more than £200 billion a year on welfare. That is almost £1 in every £3 raised in taxes—more than the budgets for health, education and defence combined. After 13 years of economic mismanagement and overspending, the British people want a country that lives within its means once again. We need to find savings across the Government, and the uprating measures announced in the autumn statement are forecast to save £2.5 billion by 2015-16. It is interesting that not one Opposition Member addressed how they would fill that funding gap by opposing the Bill. That proves they have no answers for the problems the Government face." - Sajid Javid MP, Treasury minister
  • "I have listened carefully today to Opposition Members and I have not heard any of them explain how they would manage to maintain benefits at their current level or fund the increases that they want to impose. What would they cut in order to fill that gap? What extra taxes would they impose on people? Would they simply continue to do what Labour Governments have done since the time of Attlee, which is just to borrow the money they need in order to pay for projects that they cannot afford?" - David T C Davies MP

While the Coalition is taking tough decisions it is still protecting pensioners and other vulnerable people: "We have made some choices about who we are going to protect and who we will not. There is a debate about disability, but I am pleased that we are protecting pensioners. It was a commitment by this Government to protect pensioners and we have continued with that." - Kris Hopkins MP

Conservatives see an important role for government in providing a safety-net: "Our welfare system is a valuable part of our social fabric. Even a believer in a small state, like me, can believe that we should unquestionably support those in our society who fall on desperately hard times, either temporarily or permanently. For those who find themselves truly in need, support must be provided through our welfare system as a safety net for the most vulnerable." - Julian Sturdy MP


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