Disabled 'paying more than bankers'

Updated: 
Liam ByrneThe Government is charging disabled people more than bankers for its austerity programme, Labour has claimed.

Shadow work and pensions secretary Liam Byrne condemned the Government's reforms of the disability living allowance and the closure of 36 Remploy factories, which employ disabled people.

Mr Byrne told the Commons that Labour backed the right reforms but said his party had repeatedly warned the Government was going too far and too fast and now disabled people were paying the price.

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said Mr Byrne was being inconsistent and "pathetic" in his arguments, while Tory backbenchers repeatedly intervened to remind him of the note he left on departure as chief secretary to the Treasury, warning the incoming coalition "there is no money left".

Opening an Opposition Day debate on disability benefits and social care, Mr Byrne said: "(The bill) for job seekers' allowance and housing benefit is now running out of control as a consequence of the failure to get people back to work. Nine billion pounds extra is now projected to be spent than was forecast. Someone has to pay this bill.

"And the Government, the cabinet, this front bench, has decided the people who should pay this bill are Britain's disabled people. New research shows over the course of this Parliament, disabled people in our country will pay more than Britain's bankers."

But Mr Duncan Smith, intervening in the debate, said: "You should make your mind up about what you're really saying.

"Half of your front bench have been going around saying we are socially cleansing London because we are being too fierce on housing benefits, and you go around saying we are not cutting enough. It's pathetic."

Mr Byrne replied: "The truth is the housing benefit bill is spiralling out of control because this Government has strangled the recovery and put unemployment up to the highest levels since 1996."

Mr Byrne said the disabled were being hit harder still by rising unemployment because of Remploy factory closures which had offered jobs specifically for disabled workers. Mr Byrne challenged Mr Duncan Smith to join him on a day of work in a Remploy factory to see what happened inside them.

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