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Ministers brush off benefits defeat

The Government has insisted it will push through its plans for a benefits cap despite suffering a stinging parliamentary defeat at the hands of Church of England bishops.

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith wants out-of-work payments limited to £26,000 a year per household, which he claims will save "something in the order" of £600 million towards deficit reduction.

But a bid by bishops - backed by former Liberal Democrat party leader Lord Ashdown - to exempt child benefits from the calculation was backed by a majority of 15 in the House of Lords.

The Government admitted it was "disappointed" by the result but insisted it still intends to push through its plans "in full".

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: "We are very disappointed by this decision and it clearly flies in the face of public opinion. There has to be a limit on the amount of money benefit claimants can receive.

"We think that limit is set at a fair rate of £26k - the equivalent to someone earning £35,000 before tax, a salary that many working families would be happy to receive. If you take child benefit out of the cap it will simply become ineffective."

Around 67,000 families will lose £83 a week under the cap, which is due to be brought in from 2013 in England, Scotland and Wales.

Prime Minister David Cameron insisted it was a "basic issue of fairness". "It's time to call time on these excessive welfare payouts," he added. "That's what the benefit cap will do."

But Lord Ashdown, a loyal supporter of the coalition, joined 25 other Lib Dem peers to rebel against the plans.

He said that as president of the United Nations children's agency Unicef, he was not prepared to back the reforms, denouncing them as "completely unacceptable" in their current form.


From Belfast Telegraph