Falsehoods and confusions about the benefit cap

By staff writers
January 23, 2012

Since early this morning there has been a furious battle to establish proper fact and true value in the argument over the government's proposed welfare benefit cap. As I write (17:30, 23 January 2012) it has just won the first vote in the House of Lords, but the arguments have been going the other way.

Whereas Iain Duncan Smith's defence of his proposal has been largely rhetorical (http://www.politics.co.uk/comment-analysis/2012/01/23/duncan-smith-this-...) in denying the damage it will cause, and aggressive in dissing those who point out otherwise, critics have tried to pin down the stats and arguments that are in danger of getting lost. The DWP has had to change tack twice already, in massaging its figures and arguments in the revised impact assessment for the cap (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/16137) - which it only issued a very short while before the Lords debate begun, thus denying protagonists a proper opportunity to scrutinise it.

Earlier on today, the Child Poverty Action Group exposed what they dubbed the 'six myths of of IDS’s benefits cap'. Well, given that to a theologian like me 'myth' actually means a story that points to a deeper truth than can be expressed forensically (rather than a 'lie', as in popular usage), I'd prefer the term 'falsehood'. But semantics aside, the six key untruths are as follows:

1. The cap is just for out of work claimants of benefits
2. Claimants have more money than working families
3. Families with a disabled member will not be affected
4. There will be no behavioural changes and social impacts
5. The cap will deliver fiscal savings
6. This is a new policy

The full details are here: http://www.cpag.org.uk/press/2012/230112.htm

The government has got away with one, two and five all too easily. Many doubt it on three and four, but are frequently swayed by blandishments or confusions. Six shows how short our memories are.

Meanwhile, the Bishop of Ripon and Leeds' amendment 59, seeking to exempt child benefit from the cap, has labour backing and a better chance of success than 58. Note: the amendment succeeded.

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