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Tax credits: 20 Tory MPs raise concern over George Osborne's cuts plan

Published 29/10/2015

Former Tory leadership contender David Davis said George Osborne's cuts proposal
Former Tory leadership contender David Davis said George Osborne's cuts proposal "was a mistake"

Twenty Tory MPs issued a public warning to George Osborne that they will maintain pressure on him to make changes to his controversial cuts to tax credits in order to protect low-paid workers.

Treasury minister Damian Hinds insisted the Government was in "listening mode" over the reforms to working tax credits, aimed at shaving £4.4 billion off welfare spending, which were thrown into turmoil following a defeat in the House of Lords.

In a sign of the unease on Tory benches in the Commons over the proposals, 18 Conservatives voted to support a backbench motion calling for mitigation of the measures, with another two acting as tellers.

Stevenage MP Stephen McPartland led Conservative opposition to the plans, warning that Tories with concerns would "continue to raise the issue" until their demands were met.

Mr Osborne was left reeling by a double House of Lords defeat on Monday night which stalled the plans and he has been forced to promise revised proposals at the Autumn Statement next month.

Mr McPartland said: "I do want to urge the Treasury to talk to us, to listen to us, to work with us because I do warn the Treasury if they don't come forward with mitigation proposals we find acceptable we are going to continue to raise the issue and we are going to continue trying to ensure we look after those poorest in society."

Senior Conservative MP Neil Parish warned the Government will "drive people back on benefit" if it is not careful with its tax credit reforms.

The Environment Select Committee chairman said: "I think we are standing up for what we believe to be right because as far as I am concerned it's absolutely fundamental people that work are better off than those that don't."

Mr Parish added: "If we're not at all careful this policy will actually drive people back on benefit and do the absolute opposite direction of where we want to take people."

Former Tory leadership contender David Davis said the cuts proposal "was a mistake" as he warned the working poor should not lose out.

He said: "The poorest, the working poor, the dependants cannot afford to lose one pound so that's the test the Government has to meet."

The cross party backbench motion was passed by 215 to 0 after supporters of the proposal - tabled by Labour's Frank Field and Mr Davis - forced a division. The Government did not oppose the motion.

David Cameron insisted at Prime Minister's Questions that there had not been a Tory rebellion on the tax credit plans, and they had been defeated in the Lords in an alliance between the "unelected and the unelectable" of Jeremy Corbyn's Labour.

The MPs who voted for the motion today were not rebels because the Government did not oppose the motion, but their stance is a measure of the strength of feeling on Tory benches about the issue.

The Tories who backed the motion were Peter Aldous, Heidi Allen, Bob Blackman, Mr Davis, Kevin Foster, Philip Hollobone, Adam Holloway, Bernard Jenkin, Tim Loughton, Jason McCartney, Mr McPartland, Scott Mann, Tania Mathias, Mr Parish, Andrew Percy, Will Quince, Jacob Rees-Mogg and Martin Vickers, with Guto Bebb and Jeremy Lefroy acting as tellers.

Responding to the MPs in the Commons Mr Hinds said: "We are all united in wanting to implement policies to deliver the best possible settlement for our constituents - now, in the near future and for generations to come.

"I acknowledge, as does the Chancellor, the concerns expressed today and those expressed elsewhere and earlier by MPs.

"The Chancellor has said he has listened to concerns and will come forward with proposals in the Autumn Statement to achieve the goal of reforming tax credits, saving the money needed to secure our economy while at the same time helping in the transition to the changes."

Shadow work and pensions secretary Owen Smith said: "Tonight's vote must come as some relief to the Government, ending a rather short-lived so-called constitutional crisis, as the Houses of Parliament returned to equilibrium, with the House of Commons joining the Lords in opposition to the tax credit cuts.

"The Prime Minister should sleep easy in his bed, knowing that at either end of the Palace of Westminster there are Tories opposed to cutting the incomes of three million working families, and prepared to speak out against them.

"The Chancellor has said he's in listening mode. Well let's hope he heard the message from both MPs and peers this week, and gets on with reversing his destructive cuts."

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