MPs explain welfare reforms stance

Labour leadership contenders Leigh's Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper
Labour leadership contenders Leigh's Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper
  • Andy Burnham and Yvonne Fovargue abstained in welfare bill vote
  • Lisa Nandy absent from Commons on maternity leave
  • All three vow to oppose bill at third reading stage if no changes
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WIGAN borough’s three parliamentarians have clarified their position on the controversial Tory welfare reforms, which have cleared their first Commons hurdle.

Almost 50 Labour MPs defied interim leader Harriet Harman to vote against the Welfare Bill on Monday, but Makerfield’s Yvonne Fovargue and Leigh’s Andy Burnham were not on the list.

Both chose to abstain, having earlier voted in favour of a defeated reasoned amendment outlining Labour’s concerns with the reforms.

And those Labour MPs seen as having been toeing the party line have been slammed for not opposing the Bill.

Lisa Nandy has been included on several versions of the abstain list but was not present for the vote as she is on maternity leave.

In a statement, the Wigan MP said she plans to oppose the third reading of the Bill.

I would never support a measure that pushes more children into poverty and unless this government abandons its plans I will vote against this Bill when it reaches third reading.

Wigan MP Lisa Nandy

Adding: “I firmly believe the Welfare Reform and Work Bill is a bad piece of legislation that will make life harder for people in and out of work, and push more children into poverty.

“I am deeply opposed to attempts to change the definition of child poverty and when I return to Parliament after the summer recess I will be taking up this fight against a Government who have knowingly made choices that have left a quarter of all children in Wigan growing up in poverty.

“I would never support a measure that pushes more children into poverty and unless this government abandons its plans I will vote against this Bill when it reaches third reading.”

Ms Harman’s reasoned amendment outlining concerns about the Welfare Reform and Work Bill was defeated 308 to 208, majority 100.

The interim Labour leader has insisted her party should not oppose the plans - which cut tax credits, reduce the welfare cap and introduce a “national living wage” - outright because it will not be heard on the issues it has a particular problem with.

Ms Fovargue vowed to oppose the bill if it is not changed during committee stage before returning to the Commons for the third reading.

She said: “There are some measures in the Welfare Reform and Work Bill which I support and some measures which I oppose. We tabled a reasoned amendment to the Bill which was defeated.

“Labour will now table amendments during committee stage to improve the bill. If the Government do not amend the bill to cover the concerns that I have then the opportunity exists to oppose the 3rd reading of the bill.

“I voted to oppose the Budget. It is regressive and will cut tax credits for millions of working families. I am also against the tax credit cuts which will make thousands of Wigan families worse off. These measures are not in the Welfare Reform and Work Bill – they will be in Statutory Instruments in the autumn, and I will oppose them again.”

Three of Labour’s leadership candidates, Mr Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall, abstained but Jeremy Corbyn chose to join the revolt.

In a statement, Mr Burnham indicated that he also plans to oppose the bill when it returns for debate.

He said: “I will always defend our record as a Labour Government of supporting low-paid vehicle in work, and into work, through our tax credits.

“Our Reasoned Amendment sets out clearly our opposition to many aspects of the Bill.”

Adding: “I can reassure you that this is only the beginning of a major fight with the Tories. I am determined that we will fight this regressive Bill line by line, word by word in committee.

“If the Government do not make the major changes during committee stage, then, as leader, I will oppose this Bill at third reading.”