Despite the victories for the Government on the disabled premium in the new Universal Credit with a cut from families with disabled children saving around £10m+, campaigners expected the (higher costing ESA) amendments to be rejected today. The Lib Dem peers weren’t whipped, a decision David Cameron might well be regretting tonight – especially after his poor performance defending Housing Benefit cuts in PMQ earlier this afternoon.
This was the most important debate and vote so far and in an exciting, nail biting triple defeat, the time limit on ESA was extended from 1 to 2 years and there is now an time limit exemption for cancer patients. Some campaigners are disappointed other groups have been excluded but that is something to work on!
Even more important was the amendment to allow young people to claim ESA automatically, which will affect a significant number of young people who cannot work full time or work at all.
Lord Freud clearly got himself into a pickle today, was seen to be struggling with his facts and at one point declared he didn’t know what to do next!
This could lead to the government being forced to go back to MPs and ask them to reverse this later down the line. We can only hope that the Lib Dems will find that a bitter pill to swallow when their peers upstairs have said no!A small victory and a great step forward for us and other campaign groups but we can now hope the media will pick up on this story – this bill has been powering through and now finally, in the House of Lords the Government have the first chink in their armour. We have Lord Patel to thank – he said: “If you are going to rob the poor to pay the rich we have entered a different form of morality.”