Article by Robert Winnett and James Kirkup, The Telegraph
David Cameron said that living on welfare had become an “acceptable alternative” to working and suggested that benefit payments were too easy to receive.
He spoke as the Government faced serious opposition to the plan to cap the maximum benefit payments that can be received by any household at £26,000. The House of Lords is seeking to block the policy.
The cap has been set at the same level as the average family’s earnings and ministers insist that it is unfair that taxpayers must subsidise those receiving more from the state than typical employees earn.
The Government was defeated in the House of Lords after bishops tabled an amendment to the Welfare Bill proposing that child benefit is excluded from the cap.
The amendment, which was backed by dozens of Liberal Democrat peers, threatens to wreck the entire concept of the cap.
Senior Conservatives have said they are determined to force through the legislation by overturning the Lords amendment, a move which is said to have widespread public backing.
Speaking before the Lords debate, the Prime Minister sought to echo Norman Tebbit, the former Conservative minister, who told unemployed people to “get on your bike” in 1981.
Asked about the impact of the £26,000 benefits cap, Mr Cameron said: “In many cases the answer will be for someone in that family to go out and work, and that will be the right answer for that family.
“We have too many children growing up in our country in households where nobody works, where a life on welfare has become an acceptable alternative”.
Opponents have claimed that the cap will push more children into poverty but the Prime Minister insisted that the greatest suffering was endured by children growing up in workless households.
“The way children suffer today, there are far too many children in households where no one is working,” he said. “And one of the reasons why in some households no one is working is because welfare has become so available.”
Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, also suggested that the current benefit “incentivised” some parents to have more children in order to remain in large, expensive homes paid for by welfare which they could not afford by working.
“This is utterly wrong and it’s a benefit system that desperately needs change,” he said.
Figures released earlier this month showed that there are currently at least 190 families with 10 or more children who are dependent on benefits. Each family can claim more than £60,000.
The Government’s setback in the Lords came as a new poll suggested that Mr Cameron’s popularity is at a post-election high.
An ICM poll for The Guardian showed support for the Conservative sitting at 40 per cent, with 35 per cent for Labour and 16 per cent for the Lib Dems.
Another poll suggested that Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, was failing to appeal to male voters.
A government spokesman said the Lords vote “flies in the face of public opinion”.
He said: “We are determined our reforms will be implemented in full and we will take this back to the House of Commons to reverse tonight’s decision.”
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