Fresh Labour confusion after Jeremy Corbyn stops short of pledging to lift benefits freeze

Posted On: 
26th August 2017

Labour's policy on the benefits freeze has been plunged into more confusion after Jeremy Corbyn reined back on a pledge to end it.

Jeremy Corbyn addresses supporters in Coatbridge.
PA Images

Party officials briefed journalists that Mr Corbyn would make the promise during a visit to Coatbridge in Lanarkshire yesterday.

A trail of his speech quoted the Labour leader saying: "We will lift the freeze on social security, using part of the billions we set aside for reform in our costed manifesto, by recycling social security savings made by introducing a real Living Wage of £10 an hour, and by building the affordable homes we need.”

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But when he came to make the address, Mr Corbyn only said: "We are confident that we will be able to end the benefits freeze."

A Labour source told The Times: "In his campaign speeches... not everything [prebriefed] is said, but the intention was to say that. It’s in line with our policy."

A party spokesman said: "We are confident that we will be able to end the benefits freeze."

Labour's manifesto launch in May was overshadowed by confusion over the party's position on working-age benefits, which former Chancellor George Osborne froze until 2020.

Mr Corbyn told journalists "clearly we’re not going to freeze benefits", before appearing to U-turn on that multi-billion pound pledge within a couple of hours.

He said instead that other welfare spending commitments, including £2bn earmarked to mitigate the impact of some cuts to Universal Credit, would ease the impact of the benefits freeze.

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liz Truss said: "Labour spent their whole election campaign promising the country things they simply couldn’t afford and they’re doing the same thing again.

“Ending this freeze would cost a massive £12.9bn and leave ordinary, hardworking people footing the bill. If Labour want people to put their hands in their pockets to pay for this they must set out where the money will come from. 

“It is clear that Labour’s sums simply don’t add up."