MP Tulip Siddiq: ‘Why I defied party line to vote no to welfare bill’

Tulip Siddiq

Tulip Siddiq - Credit: Archant

Hampstead and Kilburn MP Tulip Siddiq has said she has no regrets after voting against the government’s controversial Welfare and Work Reform Bill this week – claiming it was a matter of conscience to put her constituents’ interests ahead of the Labour party whip to abstain.

Catherine West

Catherine West - Credit: Nigel Sutton

Recently-elected Ms Siddiq was one of 48 Labour rebels who defied acting leader Harriet Harman’s instructions to abstain rather than vote against the bill, which aims to cut £12billion from the overall welfare budget by reducing entitlement to working tax credits and capping benefits at £23,000 per household in London.

Her neighbouring Labour MPs, Keir Starmer and Catherine West, both abstained, along with the majority of their party colleagues, as the bill easily passed its second reading in the House of Commons and now goes onto the committee stage for review.

Ms Siddiq said: “Since the vote, hundreds of my constituents have got in touch to thank me for standing up for the vulnerable. I came into parliament to serve the interests of the people who put me there rather than to just serve my party’s wishes.

“It’s not an easy thing to defy the whip when you’ve only been an MP for two months, and it wasn’t something I took lightly.

Sir Keir Starmer. Picture: Polly Hancock.

Sir Keir Starmer. Picture: Polly Hancock. - Credit: Archant

“It was really the issue of working tax credits, as well as the fact that the bill wants to abolish targets for child poverty. “In my constituency, there are many children who live in poverty, and I could not simply abstain on something that would make their situation even worse.”

Catherine West, Labour MP for Hornsey and Wood Green, said of her decision to abstain: “I accept there will be criticism from those who say we should have all opposed this bill, but it would still have passed through because the Tories have a working majority.

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“We proposed an amendment, which was our way of voicing our opposition to much of this bill, although there are parts of it which I support.”

Keir Starmer, Labour MP for Holborn and St Pancras, said he also supports aspects of the bill on troubled families and apprenticeships, which is why he decided to abstain to allow those measures to progress.

But he added: “I am opposed to all aspects of the bill which will push children into poverty. If the bill is not amended at committee stage, I will certainly vote against it when it receives its third reading.”