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British MPs vote for welfare cap

Update: February, 02/2012 - 11:43

LONDON – British lawmakers voted on Wednesday to impose a cap on welfare benefits, setting them at the same level as the average household income.

Members of parliament's lower House of Commons voted to reinstate plans for the cap after the upper House of Lords tried to force through amendments, watering down the proposals.

The Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government is behind the cap on state handouts, set at £26,000 (US$41,000, 31,400 euros) a year so that no-one can earn more on benefits than the average wage earned by working households after tax.

"The cap is right and the cap is fair," Prime Minister David Cameron told lawmakers before the votes.

"We're introducing a new principle into our welfare system: that an able-bodied family that can work should not get more in benefits than the average family gets from work."

In nearly seven hours of debate, the government won seven votes on amendments the Lords had tried to put in, with large majorities.

Employment Minister Chris Grayling told MPs: "We have to change the nature of our welfare state.

"We have got to move away from the world which existed under the previous government, where children grew up generation after generation in houses where no one worked, entire communities had people who had no experience of work in their family, who knew nothing about how to improve their lot in life."

The opposition Labour Party support the idea of a cap in principle, but argue that there should be local caps to take into account the cost of living in cities such as London, rather than one national cap.

The cap is equivalent to a gross salary of £35,000.

Workers who lose their jobs will not be subject to the cap for up to nine months.

It is estimated that 67,000 households will have to move or find a job to make up the difference in their incomes when the cap takes force in a year's time.

The Welfare Reform Bill will now go back to the Lords, where the government will cite "financial privilege," meaning peers cannot block the measures because they affect tax and spending decisions.AFP

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