Clause 51 — Period of entitlement to contributory allowance

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Prime Minister – in the House of Commons at 2:00 pm on 1st February 2012.

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Photo of David Winnick David Winnick Labour, Walsall North 2:00 pm, 1st February 2012

He may well work again, but not at this moment. He writes that when the Welfare Reform Bill becomes law in April he, and others, such as cancer sufferers, people with psychiatric problems and those with other life-threatening illnesses will have their benefits “stripped” from them once 12 months is up. If his partner earns the sum I have mentioned of as little as £149 a week and if they have modest savings, he will receive nothing at all once he is means-tested. If that case is an illustration of the Government’s intentions, there is all the more reason for a reluctance to support the measures and a recognition of what the House of Lords has tried to do.

As I listened to Jenny Willott and to the Liberal Democrat Minister of State, who intervened on my right hon. Friend Stephen Timms, I asked myself whether, if they were in opposition, they would have the slightest hesitation in upholding the decision of the Lords by majority vote. The answer is pretty obvious. To their credit, a number of Liberal Democrats in the Lords decided to vote against the Government, and Liberal Democrat MPs would, in opposition, have voted in the same Lobby as us at half-past 2. It is unfortunate that they are willing to sacrifice their principles so flagrantly as a result of being in the coalition.

Let me end on a quote:

“People who are sick, who are vulnerable…I want you to know we will always look after you. That’s the sign of a civilized society and it’s what I believe.”

That was the Prime Minister at his party conference. What he is now doing with his colleagues and with the support of the Liberal Democrats is hitting out at the most vulnerable people in our society—cancer patients and the rest, including the man I mentioned. Those are the people who will be penalised financially and harmed in so many ways as a result of what the Government are doing. That is a direct contradiction of what the Prime Minister said about protecting the most vulnerable in our society.