By a Newsnet reporter
The Scottish National Party has said Labour are uniting with the Tories as it has been revealed that a future Labour government would keep child benefit cuts made by the coalition government.
Despite attacking the move in 2010 as unfair and ‘out of touch with hard-working families’, party leader Ed Miliband reportedly will say on Thursday say he supports capping the amount the next government will spend on welfare.
In 2010, in his first intervention in Parliament as Leader of the Opposition, Mr Miliband attacked the Coalition government for its decision to restrict child benefit, and called upon the Prime Minister to “think again”.
However it appears that it is Mr Miliband who has been thinking again, and the Labour leader is now set to do a U-turn on child benefit, and will not reverse the cuts made by the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.
At Prime Minister’s Questions in the Commons on Wednesday, Mr Miliband was repeatedly asked by Prime Minister David Cameron to set out his Labour’s position on child benefit and say whether the party now backed the coalition’s cuts. Mr Miliband would not be drawn and did not respond.
Earlier on Wednesday, during a disastrous interview on the BBC’s Politics Show, shadow Scotland Secretary Margaret Curran also refused confirm Labour’s traditional commitment to universality in benefits provision, saying only that Labour would “prefer universal benefits to be universal”.
However Ms Curran was forced to concede that if the party was re-elected in 2015, it would have to decide what its priorities were and would not be able to reverse the cuts the coalition government has imposed.
Labour has previously signalled that it would not reverse the bedroom tax introduced by the Conservative / Lib Dem coaltion. Meanwhile Labour in Scotland has promised a “review” of universal benefits including free prescription charges.
The news follows an announcement from Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls earlier this week that the party would cap winter fuel payments for pensioners and parts of the country with lower housing costs could face lower welfare caps, confirming the only way to safeguard the welfare state in Scotland is by voting Yes next September.
Despite denials from Labour, the move signals the party’s abandonment of the principle of universality in benefits, which has been a cornerstone of Labour policy since the Welfare State was introduced in the post-war period, and opens the door to the Conservatives to make further cuts to the benefits system.
Commenting, SNP Work and Pensions spokesperson Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP said:
“We already know that Labour and the Tories are cosy in the No campaign. Alistair Darling is launching an anti-independence event in London tonight with Treasury Chief Secretary Danny Alexander and Tory peer Lord Strathclyde, in support of Westminster deciding economic and welfare policy for Scotland – the same Mr Darling who says the Tory/Lib Dem coalition’s policies are causing ‘immeasurable damage’. And he is also expected to attend the Tory party conference in Stirling this weekend.
“And now Labour are adopting Tory policies hand-over-fist on austerity and welfare cuts. Continued Westminster government means continued austerity, and cuts and more cuts – a Yes vote next September is the only alternative.
“Just this week the Institute of Fiscal studies announced middle-income families will see their spending power cut by an average of £34 a week, or nearly £1,800 a year due to changes to benefits, with lowest earning families to be hardest hit over the next three years – and with Scotland the worst affected part of the UK.
“Already, a majority of people in Scotland believe that welfare and pensions policy should be decided by Holyrood not Westminster – and Labour converging on Tory ground at Westminster shows why having control in Scotland is essential. The only way to improve Scotland’s economy and protect the welfare state is with a Yes vote for independence next September.”