Jeff Smith

Standing up for south Manchester

Why we voted against the Welfare Bill – and why we abstained



I’m a Labour MP because I want stand up for working people and for the most vulnerable people in society. That’s what Labour stands for and that’s why, last night, the Labour Party in parliament voted against the Welfare Reform and Work Bill.

You might not appreciate it by reading the media coverage, but all Labour MPs supported an amendment which explained why we disagree with the Bill, and why we were voting to stop it going through. 

Had Labour’s amendment passed, the Bill – as it stands – would not have been given its second reading.

We did this because it was important to outline the things in the bill we oppose, as well as the things we support. There are some things we approve of in the Bill; a commitment to three million apprenticeships; measures to cut social housing rents; and extra support for troubled families. These will benefit our communities – indeed, some of these things were Labour ideas – so it would be wrong to oppose them.

But the Tories tried to set a trap for Labour by including these proposals in a Bill with other measures that, as Labour MPs, we know to be wholly wrong: like abolishing the child poverty targets, and cuts to support for sick and disabled people. 

That’s why the vote on the Bill as a whole was so sensitive.

Make no mistake - the Tories desperately wanted Labour to vote against the Welfare Bill. My view is that if the Tories want us to do something, it’s probably not a good idea.

Even if every Labour MP had voted against every provision in this Bill, it would still have gone through. The SNP and Lib Dems are trying to mislead people into thinking the government could have  been defeated, but the government had a majority of MPs in parliament – there is no way this Bill could have been defeated.

Instead, the government would have used the opportunity to accuse us of voting against apprenticeships, and try to paint us as the party of welfare. After the 2010 election, the Tories managed (unfairly) to label Labour as the party of financial irresponsibility. Now they’re trying to label us as the party of welfare, not work.

The truth is that Labour will always be the party of working people – and the party that stands up for the most vulnerable. But the best way we can stop the Tories putting through legislation like this is for us to get a Labour Government. And to do that we need to avoid Tory traps like last night’s vote, sowe  don’t allow them to misrepresent us.

So what happens next?

The Bill now goes to committee stage, where we’ll try to amend it clause by clause. Labour are putting down a large number of amendments. We’ll force individual votes on the things we disagree with, and make clear what we do and don’t support. 

And if we don’t get the changes we want, when the Bill comes back for the third reading we will have an opportunity to vote against.



commented 2016-08-27 01:28:41 +0100
I’m just going to leave the term “wafer thin majority” here
commented 2015-08-06 19:32:08 +0100
Thanks for your patronising ‘view’, Jameson Barnes. Interesting to hear about the ‘pre-conceptions’ I apparently have, my unwillingness to understand the issues at hand, and my actual lack of understanding of the bill and what it entails.

I think you’ll find I completely understand the welfare bill and the impact it will inevitably have on society. Interesting to see how my differing opinion is played down and belittled.
commented 2015-08-06 19:25:16 +0100
Thanks for yo
commented 2015-08-01 17:25:04 +0100
Very well explained, shame some people are just too busy with their per-conceptions to actually make any real attempt to grasp the issues, like “Joe” below….Joe, your comment shows you either haven’t read, or cannot understand what is being said here, far too eager to launch into your pre-existing tirade, in my view!
commented 2015-07-24 13:30:07 +0100
How can you claim to stand up for vulnerable or working people after cowering away from such a huge attack on the very groups you claim to defend?! Being ‘scared of what the tories might try and make you look like ’ or claiming to think they ’want you to vote a certain way’ is NOT an excuse, you have fallen into their trap despite trying to avoid it because the bill went through!. Yet another nail into the coffin of the vulnerable, children will go hungry, the disabled will suffer, and you have to do better. The opposition must OPPOSE, not abstain. We need you to be a representative who votes for what for what they think is right – not just what their party requires from them, the strength of the opposition, or the chances of victory.
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