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John McDonnell speech: MP says he would 'swim through vomit' to oppose welfare bill

Published 21/07/2015

Labour backbencher John McDonnell made his distaste for the Government's proposed welfare bill clear when he told MPs that he would "swim through vomit" to oppose it.

Amid the five-hour debate over the bill, which is designed to cut welfare spending by £12 billion, the MP for Hayes and Harlington announced:

"I would swim through vomit to vote against this bill. And listening to some of the nauseating speeches in support of it, I might have to."

McDonnell was among 48 Labour MPs to oppose the bill, defying acting Labour leader Harriet Harman who had called on her colleagues to abstain.

Among the planned cuts, the Welfare Reform and Work Bill will reduce the overall household benefits cap to £20,000 a year, down from £26,000.

Mr McDonnell said that it was necessary to understand why the cap had been set at that level.

"We hear lots about how high the welfare bill is, let's understand why that's the case," he said.

"The housing benefit bill is so high because for generations we've failed to build council houses, we've failed to control rents, we've done nothing about the 300,000 properties that stand empty in this country."

The bill passed by 308 votes to 124. A Labour amendment that sought to derail the bill was defeated by 308 votes to 208.

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