Helen Hayes and Chuka Umunna abstain on the controversial Welfare Bill

Helen Hayes and Chuka Umunna abstain on the controversial Welfare Bill

We expect that many of Lambeth’s poorer residents will be hugely disappointed to see that both Helen Hayes and Chuka Umunna were among the 184 Labour MPs who didn’t vote against the second reading of the Conservatives’ Welfare Reform and Work Bill. Vauxhall MP Kate Hoey also abstained from voting.

Helen Hayes and Chuka Umunna abstain on the controversial Welfare Bill

The government plans for £12 billion in welfare cuts was passed in Parliament yesterday by 308 votes to 124.

Labour MPs were instructed by the party whip to abstain from voting, but 48 sparked a mini-rebellion and voted against the bill which seeks to introduce significant changes to tax credits, benefits and jobseeker’s allowance.

The bill was opposed by the SNP, the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and the Greens, and Labour backbencher John McDonnell let the Tories know what he thought of the bill in no uncertain terms:

I would swim through vomit to vote against this bill. And listening to some of the nauseating speeches tonight, I might have to.

See his passionate speech below (or click here for a much better version on Channel 4’s website).

If the Welfare Reform and Work Bill goes ahead in its current form, it will:

– Restrict child tax credits to the first two children
– Cut the benefit cap to £20,000 a year, or £23,000 in London
– Cut the income of many sick and disabled people on Employment Support Allowance by £30 per week
– Remove government’s legal requirement to reduce child poverty
– Remove the words “child poverty” from the Child Poverty Act 2010, renaming it the Life Chances Act

Helen Hayes and Chuka Umunna abstain on the controversial Welfare Bill

[Pic: BBC]

Cat Smith, Labour MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood, told ITV News why she also voted against her party on government reforms to the Welfare Bill:

The Government makes much of scroungers and talks up benefit fraud, but the reality is that most welfare is paid to people in work or in pensions to those who have retired, housing benefit goes to private landlords, and the while no one would support benefit fraud, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation has previously estimated that this is less than 1% of the budget.

So, why aren’t we having a debate about how as a community we meet our obligations to one another. To do so, we need to ensure that those individuals and corporations with the broadest shoulders contribute enough to government revenue, so that those with least in our community have enough for a decent standard of living.

Helen Hayes and Chuka Umunna abstain on the controversial Welfare Bill

Newly appointed Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron used his first Commons speech as Liberal Democrat leader to pile in with a scathing attack on the plans, which he decried as “unfair, unwise and inhuman”.

We will vote against this Bill because we know the depth and character of these proposals are unfair, unwise and inhuman. They are anything but economically necessary.”

This Government pledges a living wage which even they know is not one. They want a welfare state that is anything but good for our country’s welfare and it uses the guise of economic necessity to cover up ideologically driven cuts.

Cutting tax credits, tightening the benefit cap and ramping up Right to Buy are not just morally wrong they are economically wrong. Widening inequality is not just against British decency it is also economically stupid.


Helen Hayes is Member of Parliament for Dulwich and West Norwood, and Chuka Umunna is Member of Parliament for Streatham.

Please add your thoughts on the matter in the comments box below, or join the debate on the forums.