THE Bishop of Portsmouth has hit out at the government over controversial plans to slash tax credits for working families.
The Rt Rev Christopher Foster spoke during a debate in the House of Lords last night, where peers voted to delay enforcing the move – and that help should be given to claimants.
It comes as Gosport councillor Rob Hylands warned 4,600 families in the borough would be worse off and lose a total of £4.7m, with the average one losing £750 a year.
Bishop Christopher said he was ‘appalled’ by the proposals – which the government hopes will drive down the welfare bill by £4.4bn – and urged ministers to think again.
In his ‘regret motion’, he called the cuts ‘morally indefensible’ and said: ‘It’s clear to me and many others that these proposals blatantly threaten damage to the lives of millions of our fellow citizens.
‘This must not be the way to achieve the government’s goal at a cost to those, who if we believe the rhetoric, the government intends to encourage and support.
The changes to tax credits will hammer families in Gosport.
‘To many in my diocese and beyond this seems punishing rather than encouragement.’
The regret motion would have seen the Lords agree to the changes but note that they disapproved of them.
But instead, an amendment by independent crossbench peer Baroness Meacher was passed, which delays the cuts until the government responds to analysis of their impact by the Institute for Fiscal Studies and considers ‘mitigating action’.
The voting was 307 to 277, majority 30.
Cllr Hylands, who used figures obtained from the House of Commons library, said: ‘The changes to tax credits will hammer families in Gosport. The move completely undermines any claim the Tories have of being on the side of working families.
‘What makes this even worse is that 7,600 children in our area will now be forced to live in poorer households, reducing their life chances and making it harder for their parents to make ends meet.
‘Study after study have shown that the Conservatives’ claim to be supporting low-income families through a minimum wage increase nowhere near make up for these cuts.
‘It’s time for them to come clean and be honest with those doing the right thing and going out to work.’
Cllr Hylands added: ‘We worked hard while in the coalition to ensure that going out to work would always pay more than choosing to remain on benefits.’
But Chancellor George Osborne criticised ‘unelected’ Labour and Liberal Democrat House of Lords peers for blocking the government on a financial measure.
David Cameron is also set to launch a ‘rapid review’ into the constitutional fallout of the result. The prime minister has failed to rule out handing out a hundred or more new Tory peerages to give his party a majority.
The chancellor will unveil how those who would be affected by tax credit cuts can receive financial help in the Autumn Statement.
*George Osborne has vowed to take on the House of Lords over the constitutional crisis sparked by the devastating blow peers inflicted over plans to cut tax credits.
The Chancellor, who will face MPs later in the wake of a double defeat on the reforms, made clear that action will now be taken to rein in the upper chamber.
Details of a “rapid review” order by David Cameron after peers defied a century-old convention not to block financial measures approved by the Commons are expected to be set out today.