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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Labour hoist by their own petard on regional benefits

Predictably, David Cameron's statement yesterday in which he suggested capping benefits on a regional basis made headline news in Wales with Welsh Labour spokespeople at the forefront of the critics.

This is not coalition policy of course, it is kite-flying for the 2015 Tory manifesto. Liberal Democrats have made it clear that they will fight any regionalisation of benefits. Labour, however do not have such a good track record.

On Wednesday, 1st February, Liam Byrne, the Shadow Work and Pemsions Secretary told the House of Commons:

"We have indeed had discussions with our colleagues in the Welsh Government, who accept the importance of introducing different arrangements for London and other parts of the country and of a solution that recognises the need to localise the benefits system."

That is a very different story to the one spun by the Welsh Government today. On 29th January 2012 he said:

‘What we’ve said is that we think a local cap would work much better.

‘Because what we want is a very clear signal in every part of the country that you are much better off in work than you are on benefits….

‘If you want to introduce the measure of a cap – which we think is a good idea… if you want to send a signal that you’re better off in work rather than on benefits… wouldn’t it make much more sense to have localised caps, different in different parts of the country because as we know there are different levels of housing benefit in different parts of the country.
‘…but remember, we already have this very big element of local differences in the benefit system. In fact we’ve had it now for nearly 70 years. If you go back to the Beveridge report, published in 1942, Beveridge recognised that there were big differences in housing costs in different parts of the country, which is why today we have different levels of housing benefit in different parts of the country.’
How is that different to what David Cameron was saying?
Yet the LibDems, Labour and Tories, led by Darling, are telling the Scots "Better Together".

We're told by the ConDem coalition that we're "all in this together".

Are you suggesting that the Scots are 'better together' being governed by a Tory Government in Westminster - a party which the Scots have roundly rejected?

The same thing could be said of Wales.

The LibDems cannot have their cake and eat it, by supporting the Tories on keeping Scotland in the Union and opposing them on regional pay and benefits - which will come Scotland (and Wales') way if the Tories form a majority government in the future.

Why aren't Clegg and Moore spelling out now, publicly and with clarity, exactly what powers they want Scotland to have in preference to independence, and which will protect the Scots from the scourge of Tory rule in future? They're now in a position of power in government and able to influence the situation. It's simply not good enough to say that a policy is 'in our manifesto', whilst not trumpeting it loud and clear. Why aren't they calling for a 'federal' option on the referendum paper?

Btw, the latest IPSOS/Mori poll shows a fall in both Tory and LibDem support in Scotland.
Scotland is part of the UK so they have to accept the verdict of the people of the UK in electing the UK Parliament. Devolution offes them the chance to determine alternative policies if they wish. As for polls, they are transitory. The one that matters in 2015. That is 3 years away so instead of navel gazing we are getting on with running the country and that includes ensuring that unpalatable policies like regional pay and benefits do not get adopted by the UK Government.
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