The Liberal Democrats have announced their intention to oppose the government’s ‘Welfare Reform and Work Bill’.
MPs will vote on further cuts to welfare spending on Monday evening, with Labour leadership hopeful Andy Burnham announcing today that he intends to abstain – rather than voting against the Bill.
It has been reported that a number of Labour MPs will vote against the cuts, going against interim leader Harriet Harman who has urged her party to abstain.
Newly-elected leader Tim Farron has confirmed that the Liberal Democrats will vote against the Government’s Welfare Bill.
“The truth is the Tories do not have to cut £12bn from welfare: they are choosing to”, he said.
“The Liberal Democrats will always stand up for families. We will not let the Conservatives, through choice, and the Labour party, through silence, unpick our welfare system.”
Liberal Democrat opposition to their previous coalition allies comes as the Green Party and Plaid Cymru have urged opposition MPs to vote against the Bill.
Former Green Party leadership Caroline Lucas said voting in support of the cuts would represent a “betrayal” of vulnerable people in need of help and support.
Caroline Lucas said: “The Tories are attempting to dismantle our welfare state, and cut back on support given to those who need it the most.
“The bill will slash support for people with ill health including many with mental health problems – new claimants of Employment Support Allowance in the Work Related Activity Group, will see payments cut by almost £30 a week.
“This is very harmful for people with long-term fluctuating mental ill-health. It will lock in child poverty for those born into larger families and it will leave Ministers significantly less accountable for their policies by scrapping the current legally binding child poverty targets.
“It’s also deeply concerning that the bill includes a clause which would allow the Government to further lower the cap on benefits without consulting Parliament – thus potentially plunging more children into poverty without MPs even having a debate on the issue.
“It’s now down to MPs from all parties to look beyond the politics of today’s debate and focus instead on the devastating impact that this piece of legislation will have on people up and down the country.
“Our crumbling social security system is on the brink – now is the time to take a stand.
“George Osborne is playing politics with poverty. Failing to stand up to this regressive Welfare Bill would be an utter betrayal of the principle which says that those in need deserve support.
“I’ll be joining many MPs from across the parties in voting against the Government’s Bill and making a stand for our welfare state.”
Plaid Cymru’s social protection spokesperson, Hywel Williams MP, added: “The welfare reform proposals set out in the Chancellor’s Budget spell very bad news for thousands of working families in Wales.
“Around 120,000 households in Wales currently receive tax credits to top up their low wages which simply don’t provide enough for them to get by.
“The Tories’ plans to cut these tax credits threaten to plunge many more into poverty. Despite the Chancellor’s efforts to rebrand the minimum wage as a living wage, this change won’t offset the impact of these cuts.
“Last week, the Labour party was exposed as being in complete disarray over how to vote on the Welfare Reform and Work Bill today.
“Opposing Tory plans to punish some of the most vulnerable in society should be a no-brainer for Labour.
“Plaid Cymru welcomes the support of the few Labour MPs from Wales who have already voiced opposition to these reforms. However, this is not enough.
“I urge each and every Labour MP from Wales to join Plaid Cymru in sending a clear message to the Tory government in Westminster that our communities cannot and must not endure more cuts.
“Failure to do so will leave many people in Wales feeling betrayed by those who claim to represent them and realising that it’s Plaid Cymru acting as the real opposition to the Tories in Westminster.”