Updated again Thursday morning
The Press Association reports:
The Government has suffered a defeat over its welfare reform proposals as peers supported a move to exempt child benefit from the £26,000 benefits cap.
Peers voted by 252 to 237, majority 15, in favour of an amendment introduced by the Bishop of Ripon and Leeds, the Rt Rev John Packer, which received Labour backing.
He said: “It cannot be right for the cap to be the same for a childless couple as for a couple with children. Child benefit is the most appropriate way to right this unfairness.”
He argued that, in effect, the cap denied child benefit payments to people whose other benefits had reached £500 a week.
“This cap is not simply targeted at wealthy families living in large houses,” he said. “It will damage those who have to pay high rents because often that rent has increased substantially in the course of their occupancy of that house.”
The defeat was the fifth the Government has received on the Bill, including three on one day earlier this month…
Or, as Channel 4 News reported:
An amendment tabled by the Bishop of Ripon and Leeds, the Rt Rev John Packer, calling for child benefit to be excluded from the cap, was passed by 252 votes to 237, a majority of 15.
A Labour amendment to exempt families threatened by homelessness from the cap was rejected by 250 votes to 222, a majority of 28. But 17 Liberal Democrats, coalition partners with the Conservatives, supported it.
The Lords was debating the government’s plans to ensure that a workless household cannot claim more than £26,000 a year in benefits – the average income after tax of a working family. The cap is equivalent to £500 a week for people with children.
Labour backed Bishop Packer’s amendment, despite being in favour of a cap in principle.
Bishop Packer said the cap “failed to differentiate between households with children and those without”, adding: “This cap is not simply targeted at wealthy families living in large houses. It will damage those who have to pay high rents because often that rent has increased substantially in the course of their occupancy of that house.”
The record of the debate on this amendment starts here.
The voting record on this amendment can be found here.
Five bishops voted in favour of the amendment: Chichester, Ripon & Leeds, Leicester, Lichfield, Manchester.
Andrew Brown wrote at Cif Belief that This welfare bill has united bishops like never before.
The Children’s Society issued this Statement in response to the Government’s defeat in the House of Lords with regard to the proposed benefit cap set out in Welfare Reform Bill:
“The Lords have stood up to the Government and sent a clear message in support of children up and down the country.
“The Children’s Society is delighted that the Lords have seen sense today and excluded child benefit when calculating the benefit cap. Children should not be held responsible and penalised for the employment circumstances of their parents.
“Child benefit is a non-means tested benefit paid to working and non-working families. It’s a benefit all households with children are entitled to and is there to help with the cost of having children.
“If the intention of the benefit cap is to promote fairness, it is totally unfair that a small family with a household income of £80,000 a year receive it, yet a large family with a benefit income of £26,000 are excluded.
“The Government must not ignore the fact that the Lords have spoken out to defend the plight of some of the country’s most disadvantaged children”.
The Guardian has a review of media reactions to all this here.
The BBC has an interesting analysis: What is the role of bishops in UK politics?
The Bishop of Leicester writes in the Telegraph ‘Lord Carey was wrong to defend government’s welfare reforms’.
The Independent has a leading article: Bishops and benefits don’t mix.