Wythenshawe’s Labour MP, Mike Kane, has abstained in the vote in the first debate in parliament over the government’s Welfare Reform Bill, within a fortnight of heckling the Chancellor over £12 billion of cuts which will hit 60 per cent of families in the town.
The bill, which will cap the total benefit entitlement for a family at £385 a week as well as slash child and tax credits for low paid workers, was opposed by 48 Labour MPs, who defied an order from their acting party leader Harriet Harman not to vote.
Mr Kane voted for a Labour bid to halt the bill whilst supporting the benefit cap. But when the amendment was defeated, the MP towed the party line by remaining neutral and abstained in the final vote on the bill.
The Wythenshawe MP was reprimanded by the Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons during the budget speech on July 8th when he and two other MPs tried to drown out Chancellor George Osborne as he tried to announce cuts.
He said he was happy to be be part of “a gang of three standing up to a gang of 300 Tory MPs whose cuts will impoverish the people of Wythenshawe.”
An independent think tank the Institute for Fiscal Studies found that extending the freeze in working age benefits, tax credits and local housing allowance out to 2020 will affect 13 million families who will lose an average of £260 a year as a result of the measure.
The reduction to work allowances in Universal Credit – the amount a claimant can earn before benefit starts to be withdrawn – will cost about three million families an average of £1,000 a year each. The report concludes the change will reduce the incentive for the first earner in a family to enter work and says equivalent changes in the current tax credit system will have much the same effect.
Acting Labour leader, Harriet Harman, provoked anger in some sections of her party when she said MPs should not oppose the entire bill and should support the benefits cap.
Three of the four Labour MPs bidding to become the party’s next leader – Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall – abstained whilst supporting the amendment, with just one candidate – Jeremy Corbyn, joining the rebels to oppose the entire bill.
Mr Corbyn said on Facebook: “We should be proud of the fact the last Labour government took 800,000 children out of poverty – but the approach of this bill goes in the opposite direction. We cannot stay neutral on that.”
Andy Burnham said on Facebook he would oppose the bill at a later stage of the law-making process unless “major changes” are made.
What happens next?
The bill will now go to a committee of MPs where it will be examined line by line. If there are any proposed changes to the bill they will be debated by all MPs at the Report Stage. The bill will then be voted on again in its amended form, if there are any changes, at its Third Reading.
The bill will then be discussed by the House of Lords who will have the opportunity to propose changes before sending it back to the House of Commons for MPs to consider any Lords amendments. Both Houses of Parliament must agree on the wording of the bill and there is sometimes a period of a bill passing back and forth between the houses in a process known as “ping pong”. If there is no agreement the bill could fall or the government could invoke the Parliament Act which would mean the will of the Commons would prevail over the Lords and the bill would then be made law through Royal Assent.