Brent Labour MP: “My colleagues fell into government trap by voting against the welfare bill”

Barry Gardiner, Labour MP for Brent North

Barry Gardiner, Labour MP for Brent North - Credit: Archant

The Labour MP for Brent North said his party colleagues who voted against the government’s welfare reforms yesterday have stepped into a trap.

Barry Gardiner obeyed the interim party leader Harriet Harman by abstaining on the Conservative Party’s Welfare Reform and Work Bill at the House of Commons while 48 of his colleagues rebelled.

He said: “The Tories set a trap for the Labour Party. They put into their own legislation elements of our policies which they knew we could not vote against without embarrassment.

“I voted in favour of the Labour Party amendment which clearly said it declined to give a second reading to the bill. After that was defeated by government, I abstained on the substantive motion because it contained some proposals such as the apprenticeships, support on mortgage interest which are good Labour polices.”

The bill will see housing benefit axed for all those under 21, tax credits capped at two children and the benefit cap reduced from £26,000 a year to £23,000.

He explained: “Either we voted for the bill because we supported those of our policies that they’d incorporated into it but in so doing we voted for unacceptable changes to the benefits system such as three million families that are going to lose £1000 or impact on carers from the benefit cap. Or we voted against those regressive policies in the bill but in so doing voted against our own on apprenticeships.

“It was meant to trap us. It was a false choice designed to force us into either opposing our own policies or supporting the evil policies they were putting forward. I’ve always considered that if you’re asked to choose two unacceptable positions the sensible position is to refuse both. That is why I abstained.”

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He said his fellow colleagues to vote against the bill, such as Brent Central’s Dawn Butler MP and Hampstead and Kilburn’s Tulip Siddiq, had “fallen into the trap.”

He said: “Some people so wished to express their view on those elements of the bill that they voted against it at second reading.

“The party was absolutely united in voting for our amendment, which was our official party amendment.”