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Benefit Cap

Oral Answers to Questions — Prime Minister – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 20th June 2012.

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Photo of Jim Fitzpatrick Jim Fitzpatrick Shadow Minister (Transport) 11:30 am, 20th June 2012

If he will amend his policy on the benefit cap in respect of families with children.

Photo of William Hague William Hague The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

The Government believe that it is not reasonable or fair that households should receive a greater income from benefits than the average weekly wage for working households. In some cases it can be more than double the average household income. Our changes will mean that no family on benefits will earn more than a working family’s average salary, £26,000 a year for couple and single-parent households. This strikes the right balance between supporting families and providing incentives to work.

Photo of Jim Fitzpatrick Jim Fitzpatrick Shadow Minister (Transport)

Rent levels in inner London and near Canary Wharf in my constituency are disproportionately high. Jobcentre Plus has written to 900 families in my constituency, who between them have 4,000 children, telling them that their benefits will be cut on 1 April by £200 a month on average. This will cause them either to rack up rent arrears or to have to move. Mayor Boris Johnson—

Photo of Jim Fitzpatrick Jim Fitzpatrick Shadow Minister (Transport)

Mayor Boris Johnson says he will not preside over the removal of the poor from inner London. Boris gets it: why don’t the Government?

Photo of William Hague William Hague The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

I know that the hon. Gentleman has long-running concerns about this and has frequently expressed them. It is important to stress that for all but the most expensive parts of London, at least 30% of all private rental properties will be affordable. In London, under the system that we inherited, 150 families were receiving housing benefit of more than £50,000 a year, and that is not acceptable to the taxpayers of this country in general. Our reforms are fair. Housing benefit will still be paid to meet rents of almost £21,000 a year. There is also a £190 million fund for discretionary payments to help local authorities with the changes, including assistance to renegotiate lower rents with landlords, but the principle remains, and I say it again, that it is not fair that people on housing benefit can afford to live in streets and homes that people out working hard are unable to live in.