Welfare Reform and Work Bill 2015 passes vote in Commons

21 July 2015

Writing in the Guardian, George Osborne urged Labour MPs to support the Bill arguing it is a “central part of a new contract for Britain between business, the public and the state to create the higher wage, lower welfare, lower tax economy our country needs to see.” Harriet Harman, Leader of the Opposition, instructed Labour MPs to abstain on the vote but 48 rebelled against the Labour whip by voting against the Bill. In the end, the Welfare Reform and Work Bill 2015 passed its Second Reading in the House of Commons by 308 to 124 votes.

The House of Commons Library has produced a briefing which breaks the Bill itself down into three parts:

First, the Bill will introduce a duty to report to Parliament on:

Progress towards achieving full employment

Progress towards achieving 3 million apprenticeships in England

Progress with the Troubled Families programme (England)

Second, it will repeal almost all of the Child Poverty Act 2010 and introduce a new duty for the Secretary of State to report annually on “life chances”: children living in workless households and educational attainment at age 16, in England. The name and remit of the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission is changed so that it becomes the Social Mobility Commission.

Third, the Bill allows for the introduction of extensive changes to welfare benefits, tax credits and social housing rent levels. These will account for around 70% of the £12-13 billion in welfare savings identified in the Summer Budget 2015.

The welfare/housing measures include:

Lowering the benefit cap threshold and varying it between London and the rest of the UK

A four year benefits freeze

Limiting support through Child Tax Credits/Universal Credit

The abolition of Employment and Support Allowance Work-Related Activity Component

Changes to conditionality for responsible carers under Universal Credit

Replacing Support for Mortgage Interest with Loans for Mortgage Interest

Reducing social housing rent levels by 1% in each year for four years from 2016-17.

Some of the measures in the Bill had been widely trailed, such as the reduction in the benefit cap to £23,000, while others, including the social housing rent provisions, were unexpected.