Four Conservative MPs are to join the SNP to call for a House of Commons debate on postponing cuts to disability benefits.
The government has said it plans to press ahead with cuts to employment and support allowance (ESA) for new disabled claimants of £29 a week, saying the savings would be reinvested in better support.
Those deemed well enough to prepare for returning to work will have their payments cut to £73 a week, bringing them into line with jobseeker’s allowance. Damian Green, the work and pensions secretary, has said these cuts will go ahead but there are no plans for further welfare reductions.
SNP MP Neil Gray will apply for a debate on the cuts at the backbench business committee, backed by Conservative MPs David Burrowes, Heidi Allen, Jeremy Lefroy and Stephen McPartland, who have led calls from the Tory backbenches for a rethink of the plans.
Burrowes said he had spoken to many colleagues who had concerns and suggested he could try to force through changes by amending the finance bill following next year’s Budget. “There is considerable concern across the House to make sure we get this right,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “Lots of us are involved in private discussions with ministers and you can count that in the tens of people [Conservative MPs] who have similar concerns.”
Allen said colleagues were openly remorseful about voting for the cuts, saying there was “no other piece of legislation or change which I have seen more regret about on my side. Dozens of colleagues really regret the way they voted”.
Gray told the BBC he hoped there would be a Commons debate before the autumn statement on 23 November. “It will be an opportunity for the government to listen to MPs from across the chamber and to the organisations representing sick and disabled people who want to see these cuts halted,” he said.
Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs will also back calls for the backbench debate to postpone the cuts.
A spokesman from the Department for Work and Pensions said: “To ensure people have the best practical support possible, we have reinvested these funds to form part of the new personal support package, which includes support for ESA and universal credit claimants with limited capability for work.
“The system was in need of reform as it trapped many disabled people on welfare and failed to provide the right incentives and support to help people into work, with only one in 100 claimants moving out of the work-related activity group and into work each month.”
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