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Fresh benefits row

Fresh benefits row
Labour and the Conservatives have clashed over new jobless benefits figures ahead of a key Commons vote on capping benefits.

Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps said it was unfair for benefits to rise at a faster rate than wages.

He was speaking as figures released by the Government show jobless benefits rose 20% in the last five years, compared with an average 12% rise in private sector pay.

"At its heart, this is about fairness," the Tory chairman said. Speaking to BBC Radio 4's World At One programme, he added: "Benefits have been risen almost twice the rate of average pay rises. And it’s very difficult to justify when the public sector, for example are being kept to a 1% pay rise, that benefits should increase faster, than say your average public sector worker."

But Labour said Jobseeker's Allowance had failed to keep pace with wages over the past 10 years.

Labour has released its own figures claiming the allowance has risen by less than earnings in this period.

Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Liam Byrne said: "Iain Duncan Smith has given the green light to a £14 billion cut to tax credits that's pushing millions of working families into poverty and now means thousands of part time workers are better off on benefits. Now he wants to hit working families again with his strivers tax bill."

Nick Clegg has also joined in the debate in The Times, challenging Labour to set out how it would pay for increased spending on welfare.

MPs are due to debate legislation which is designed to break the link between benefit rises and inflation. Under the pans, child benefit, housing benefit and universal credit will be capped for two years from 2014/15.

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