Downing Street signals disability benefit U-turn after Tory backlash

Posted On: 
18th March 2016
Downing Street paved the way for a climbdown on controversial plans to cut disability benefits today by describing them as "proposals" and pledging to hold talks with rebel Tories.

The Prime Minister's spokeswoman said they would also meet with disability campaigners before bringing forward legislation on changes to the Personal Independence Payment.

George Osborne unveiled plans to cut £4.4 billion from PIP in Wednesday's Budget, a move which the Institute for Fiscal Studies said would cost nearly 700,000 claimants an average of £3,500 a year.

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The move sparked a furious backlash from Conservative backbenchers, with one saying there was "zero chance" of the cuts being approved by the Commons.

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan created confusion on Question Time last night by saying the policy was merely a "suggestion" at this stage.

The Number 10 spokeswoman insisted this morning that "the Government's position hasn't changed, we remain committed to making these much-needed reforms".

But she added: "We have got the time now to bring forward the legislative proposals to be explaining it to colleagues across the House and explaining it to disability groups.

"This is about taking PIP back to what it was originally intended to do, to target the support on the most vulnerable and the most in need."

Jeremy Corbyn increased the pressure on the Government today by saying Labour will force a vote on the PIP proposals.

He told the BBC: "It’s interesting that the Government’s language has changed from ‘will do’ to now saying they are consulting.

"We are going to force a vote on this. We’re launching a petition this morning against this, because what the Chancellor is doing is demanding that those with disabilities who want to lead the most independent life they can pay for his corporation tax cuts. 

"Surely as a society we’re good enough, big enough and open enough to say we want everybody to fulfil their dreams in their lives. That’s what this is about, independence for those with disabilities.

"Any of us could become disabled at any time. We’re just a car accident away from a major disability. We should think about that."