British welfare minister resigns over disability cuts plan

18th March 2016, Comments 0 comments

Britain's welfare minister Iain Duncan Smith resigned on Friday over planned reductions in welfare payments for people with disabilities unveiled by the finance minister this week.

"Changes to benefits to the disabled and the context in which they've been made are a compromise too far," he wrote in a letter following uproar against the plans, including from lawmakers in his own governing Conservative Party.

"While they are defensible in narrow terms, given the continuing deficit, they are not defensible in the way they were placed within a budget that benefits higher-earning taxpayers," said Duncan Smith, a former party leader and one of six senior ministers supporting a vote for Britain to leave the EU.

Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne told parliament on Wednesday the planned changes would cut around £1.3 billion (1.7 billion euros, $1.9 billion) a year off the bill for so-called Personal Independence Payments (PIP), which aim to help people with long-term ill health or disabilities with extra costs.

The main opposition Labour party has criticised the proposals as "appalling" and a government source on Friday said they would be "kicked into the long grass".

"We need to take time and get reforms right and that will mean looking again at these proposals," the sources.

Prime Minister David Cameron said: "We are going to discuss what we've put forward with the disability charities and others."

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn earlier said that 200,000 of the 640,000 people affected by the proposed changes would lose out altogether as a result.

Duncan Smith was one of six cabinet ministers who last month broke ranks with the rest of Cameron's government and said they would support a "Leave" vote in Britain's EU membership referendum on June 23.

He was head of the Conservative Party between 2001 and 2003.


© 2016 AFP

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