Tory backbenchers poised for stand-off with Theresa May over delaying disability benefit cuts

Theresa May is facing open Commons dissent from more than a dozen Tory MPs who are preparing to join Scottish nationalists in calling for a delay to disability benefit cuts.

The MPs are concerned about reforms to the Employment and Support Allowance that they say will reduce payments for sick and disabled people by £29 a week.

They will back SNP calls for a backbench debate to air concerns and put pressure on the government in a revolt that is likely to provide a significant test for the Prime Minister.

George Osborne, the former Chancellor, was forced to retreat over a billions of pounds worth of cuts to benefits following a revolt by Tory MPs because of the Government’s small majority.

David Burrowes, a Conservative MP, said that “tens” of Conservatives were unhappy with the plans.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I want to see by the time we get to the Budget next year we have delivered for these most vulnerable people, otherwise we have finance bills, we have opportunities in terms of legislation to be able to put forward amendments and make sure we deliver for these people.”

George Osborne
George Osborne was forced to retreat on benefit cuts CREDIT: DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP 

The SNP’s Neil Gray, who is applying for the backbench debate, told the BBC: “I hope the debate can be heard ahead of the Autumn Statement.

“It will be an opportunity for the Government to listen to MPs from across the chamber and to the organisations representing sick and disabled people who want to see these cuts halted.”

Heidi Allen, another Conservative MP, told Today: “There is no other piece of legislation or change that I have seen more regret on my side.”

Phil Reynolds, policy and campaigns adviser at Parkinson’s UK, said: “We welcome this cross-party recognition that the planned cut in payments from April 2017, for those who are too unwell to work and who are placed in the ‘back-to-work’ group, need to be reconsidered.

“We have said time and again that it is simply not possible to force people with degenerative conditions into work by making them poorer.

“Having Parkinson’s can leave people struggling to walk, talk and sleep. ESA is a lifeline when they can no longer work.

“It has been clearly pointed out by many, including the House of Lords, that there is absolutely no evidence to support the planned cuts, or any analysis into the impact they will have on people with Parkinson’s and other long-term conditions.

“This Government urgently needs to listen to common sense and reverse these damaging cuts.”