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Sarah Teather insists she ‘fought extremely hard’ to highlight dangers of benefit cap

PUBLISHED: 16:39 19 November 2012 | UPDATED: 17:14 19 November 2012

Sarah Teather is the Lib Dem MP for Brent Central

Sarah Teather is the Lib Dem MP for Brent Central

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Lib Dem MP for Brent Central, who failed to vote on the issue, slams her government’s welfare reforms

A former minister who publicly spoke out over her government’s flagship welfare reforms this weekend, despite not voting on the issue, has insisted she “fought extremely hard” behind the scenes to highlight the dangers.

Sarah Teather, Liberal Democrat MP for Brent Central, was quoted this weekend as saying the changes, which will see benefits capped at £500 a week from April next year, were “immoral” and had “no good intent”.

But the former children’s minister, who was axed from the government as part of the cabinet reshuffle in September, and did not vote on the controversial measures, has told the Times she was forced to “walk a tightrope between conscience and responsibility” when the bill was being passed through.

She said: “I worked extremely hard on this issue but as a minister I am bound by collective responsibility and was threatened with the sack repeatedly for not backing it.

“For me to vote against the changes would have been a breach of cabinet rules, so as a result I have to walk a tightrope between conscience and responsibility and decided not to vote.

“I would have had to leave the government if I had voted against, so I had to decide where I was best placed to influence it and try and lessen the effects, leaving government would have been futile.

“Originally the £500 cap was due to come into force in April of this year but we wanted people to have enough time, Nick Clegg and I asked for a delay.”

The hugely controversial measures could see some local authorities in London forced to move families outside of the capital if they struggle to make up shortfalls themselves and last week the Times exclusively revealed that Brent Council could be forced to send families to Coventry.

Miss Teather added: “I am now focusing on making sure every part of council is working together to ensure we coordinate services of support.

“The amount of people I have spoken to on this who are unaware is staggering; we have to focus energy to get people into work.

“We need the council and job centre to work together and be supportive because there is a limited window of opportunity.”

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