Blyth MP Ronnie Campbell one of few to vote against Conservative's welfare cap

Northumberland MP Ron­­­­nie Campbell was one of a small number of Labour rebels to vote against Conservative proposals for a welfare cap in the Commons

Emily Barber Blyth Valley MP Ronnie Campbell
Blyth Valley MP Ronnie Campbell

Other North East MPs expressed opposition to the cap but did not vote against it, in some cases because they were unable to attend the debate.

Only 11 Labour MPs defied orders from the party leadership and voted against Government proposals set out in the Budget to introduce a cap on overall welfare spending, set to be £119.5bn in 2015/16.

The measure, in the Charter for Budget Responsibility, comfortably passed the Commons 520 to 22, a majority of 498, after the Labour front bench backed the plan.

Conservatives had hoped to embarrass Mr Miliband by giving him a choice between opposing the cap, allowing them to claim he opposed plans to cut the welfare bill, or supporting it and potentially provoking a rebellion among backbench MPs.

But the Labour Party largely united around the leader and only a small number rebelled. They included Blyth Valley MP Ronnie Campbell. Other high-profile rebels included former shadow health minister Diane Abbott and Tom Watson, who was Labour’s campaign chief and deputy chairman before resigning last year.

Labour MPs who expressed opposition to the cap but did not vote against it included Gateshead MP Ian Mearns, who is in the US looking at the American schools system in his role as a member of the Commons Education Committee.

Wansbeck MP Ian Lavery and Easington MP Grahame Morris also said they opposed the cap. They were attending the funeral of former Durham mineworker Stan Pearce, from Columbia, Washington, an activist known for his work with the Durham Miners’ Association (DMA), who died aged 81.

In a message on Twitter, Mr Lavery said: “Just left the funeral of NUM & DMA legend Stan Pearce. For the avoidance of doubt I totally oppose the benefit cap and would vote against it.”

But Newcastle MP Nick Brown said the cap would not affect people who are out of work, and voted for the move.

He said: “The vote is symbolic rather than real. The cap set in the Government’s motion is higher than the previously forecast outturn and it leaves out pensions and Jobseekers Allowance. The principle of controlling this budget as well as other Departmental Budgets is right and therefore I agree with the Labour Party Leadership’s position and will be voting with the Labour frontbench. The proposed cap does nothing to actually reduce the welfare budget. The best way to do so would be to create well-paid private sector jobs here in the North East of England.”

Speaking in the Commons, Chancellor George Osborne told MPs: “This is about building a welfare system that is fair to those who need the system and fair to people who pay for the welfare system.

“It was not fair benefits were unlimited, we have introduced a cap. It wasn’t fair those looking for work faced marginal tax rates as high as 96%, sapping the incentives to find a job.”

Journalists

David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer