Help Yourself – But Please Don’t Take More Than £26,000
The Alice in Wonderland nature of our politics has been exposed again today.
The Government wants to restrict the total benefit available to a household to £26,000 per year. That is, apparently, the average wage earned by working households after tax.
Now you might think that quite a modest proposal. Households on benefit are living off other people’s taxes. Stopping such households getting more in benefit than the AVERAGE taxpayer household is getting in wages, sounds pretty tame. It will apparently affect only 67,000 families.
In fact, in a sane world, we would be arguing about why the Government did not go further. Perhaps capping benefits at the minimum wage for example. The minimum wage is £6.08 per hour, or £12,646 per year. You would need two earners on the minimum wage to equal that proposed £26,000 cap – and that’s before taking into account the taxes they would pay.
Many millions of people in this country will be angry today at the very idea that there are 67,000 households getting more than £26,000 per year of other people’s taxes.
Labour, however, were against the proposal for other reasons. They thought it too tough. They backed an amendment proposed by some Church of England Bishops who wanted to exclude child benefit from the calculation.
That amendment would in effect increase the cap to £50,000.
It would be hard to find a more telling signal that the Church of England does not care for decent hard-working poor people, struggling to pay their taxes.
The Lords overall passed the amendment. Iain Duncan Smith, who seems to be one of the few sane people in our politics, has vowed to reverse the decision in the Commons. We must hope he succeeds – but we must also recognise that this measure can only be a very small start in the process of slashing back the welfare state. Britain’s taxpayers have had enough.