Duncan Smith: No benefit cap U-turn
Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith has denied the Government is preparing to dump a proposed £26,000 annual cap on benefit payments in the latest of a series of policy retreats.
Welfare reform minister Lord Freud fuelled expectations that the policy would be softened when he detailed a series of exemptions from the proposed cap on Sunday.
Liberal Democrat members of the coalition are understood to be uneasy about the handout limit, set by Chancellor George Osborne at the level of the average income of a working family. But Mr Duncan Smith denied there had been any U-turn.
"The benefit cap will restore fairness to the taxpayer and fairness to those who do the right thing on benefits," he said. "The policy is unchanged. The £26,000 benefits cap remains."
Unveiling the proposed limit last year, Mr Osborne said it was not fair that 50,000 families received more in handouts than "the average family gets from going out to work". But there were warnings that the policy could drive thousands of people out of their homes, particularly in expensive areas such as London.
Speaking on the BBC's Politics Show, Lord Freud indicated that the Government was investigating ways of reducing the impact.
"We have got quite a lot of protections in this cap," he said. "Firstly of course, if you are in work, you are not affected. Secondly, if you're a disabled person or there's a disabled person in the household, you're not affected. If you're a war widow or a widower, you're not affected."
He added: "We're also looking currently at exceptional circumstances which some people may find themselves in and we're going to be putting out arrangements for that later in the year."
Prime Minister David Cameron's official spokesman said: "With regard to Lord Freud's comments, it is true that, in the proposals which we have published and which are currently going through the House of Commons, there are some exemptions.
"The cap is not applied to households with someone in receipt of Working Tax Credit. It is not applied to households including a child receiving Disability Living Allowance. But that is in the proposals as published and already being discussed by the Commons. There is no change to the policy. We have got no plans to change the policy."