12 January 2012

The House of Lords tonight inflicted three defeats in a row on the government'?s welfare reform bill., bringing fresh hope that disability living allowance may yet be saved from the axe next week.

Peers voted on three amendments relating to changes to employment and support allowance (ESA)tonight.

In the first vote they threw out plans to end ESA in youth, which allows young people who have been disabled from an early age to qualify for ESA without having paid any national insurance contributions.

In the second vote the peers rejected a plan to end exemption from the work capability assessment for people undergoing chemotherapy.

In the third, and by far the most surprising defeat for the government, peers voted to extend the proposed time-limit for receiving contribution based ESA in the work-related activity group from one year to two years.

The defeats are an utter humiliation for Lord Freud, the minister whose job it was to sell the welfare reform bill to peers. At one point he appeared entirely lost for words.

The government must now try to negotiate an agreement with peers over changes or face the possibility of its welfare reform bill bouncing back and forth between the two houses for many months.

It is worth noting that the victories were due to a combination of Labour and cross bench peers voting together. Lib Dem peers were subject to a whip for two of the votes, though three rebelled in each of these. But even in relation to the cancer vote, when no whip was applied, a dismal total of just 5 Lib Dem peers voted to support claimants against these savage cuts.

It was clear that the cross bench peers had been well briefed before tonight’?s debate and there is now a real possibility that the government will not get things all its own way next Tuesday when plans to axe DLA and replace it with personal independence payment will be considered.

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