Fresh confusion as Labour says it will not lift freeze on 'all benefits'
Labour’s policy on the benefits freeze is mired in confusions again after a Shadow Cabinet minister clarified that Jeremy Corbyn had not committed to increasing all welfare payments in line with inflation.
On TV last night, the Labour leader appeared to suggest that his party was going to scrap the freeze on JSA, housing benefit and tax credits when he said: “Benefits will be uprated. They will be uprated of course.”
Mr Corbyn added: “They are not going to be frozen because they will be uprated every year as they should be.”
Former Chancellor George Osborne announced last year that working-age benefits would be frozen in cash terms until 2020.
Labour’s general election manifesto does not pledge to end the benefits freeze, but sets aside £2bn a year to reverse some cuts to universal credit, which some Labour figures have suggested would be use to increase wider welfare payments.
Barry Gardiner, the Shadow International Trade Secretary, stressed that Mr Corbyn’s comments last night did not mean Labour was pledging the more expensive policy of lifting the cap on benefits across the board.
He told the BBC’s Daily Politics show: “Jeremy’s been very clear that they would be uprated each year. Let’s be clear: he did not say all benefits. ‘Uprating benefits’ does not mean ‘all benefits’...
“What we’ve said is that there is £10bn which is as yet unallocated and it will be £2bn per year over the lifetime of the Parliament which will be done after we’ve reviewed the benefits and looked at the way we can uprate them using the £2bn. That’s exactly what we’ve said, it is in the manifesto...
“It doesn’t say specifically which, but it says we’ll conduct a review.”
Labour’s policy was first thrown into confusion at the manifesto launch, when Mr Corbyn appeared to commit to lifting the benefits freeze – only to row back on the policy later that day.