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Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol Cymru


Coalition Whip criticises Welsh Government’s silence on Labour’s regional benefits plan

2013 Mehefin 3 3:44 PM

Assistant Whip for the Coalition Government, Jenny Willott MP, has called on the Welsh Labour Government's Minister for Poverty, Huw Lewis AM, to clarify whether he supports Ed Balls' intention to introduce a regional benefits system which would penalise people in Wales.

In a speech today, Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls MP said that Labour wants a system that "takes account of housing costs in different parts of the country - with an independent body, like the Low Pay Commission, advising on whether the cap should be higher in high-cost housing areas like London, but potentially lower in other parts of the country".

Jenny Willott, MP for Cardiff Central, commented:

"Ed Balls' speech has once again shown how little influence the Welsh Labour Government has over their Labour colleagues in Westminster.

"The Welsh Labour Government is happy to protest against every single decision taken by the Coalition Government, yet Welsh Ministers remain silent when they disagree with their own party. Labour's plan for regional benefits would victimise people looking for work in Wales merely because of where they live.

"Week in, and week out, Huw Lewis stands up in the Assembly pontificating and scaremongering about welfare changes. Yet, was Huw Lewis brave enough to raise this issue with Ed Balls when he visited Cardiff less than two weeks ago? I imagine he didn't even bother. As the fiasco of council tax benefit recently showed, Welsh Labour Ministers are more interested in sitting back and having a spat with the UK Government than they are in actually trying to support the people of Wales.

"Liberal Democrats are fighting for a stronger economy in a fairer society. After the mess Labour left the country in, we have had to make tough decisions to balance the books. While welfare reform is necessary, it mustn't be done in a heavy handed way that would punish people just because they live in Wales.

"Welsh Liberal Democrats fought and won our campaign to halt George Osborne's plans for regional pay, will Welsh Labour now do likewise on regional benefits?"