Ministers are braced for a clash with the House of Lords over the Government’s attempts to cap benefits at £500 a week.
Church of England bishops and rebel Liberal Democrats are threatening to derail Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith’s flagship benefit reforms when peers vote on the measure later.
The controversial plans to limit the total payments any household can receive to £26,000 a year have been met with fierce criticism. An estimated 50,000 famlies would be affected.
Labour won’t be voting against the benefits cap because we support the principles and the responsibility to take a job if you can work.
Former Lib Dem leader Lord Ashdown is the most high-profile figure to speak out against the reforms, denouncing them as “completely unacceptable” as they stand.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said that while there was scope to look at the “transitional arrangements” for introducing the benefits cap, he fully supported the principles behind it.
He flatly rejected an amendment tabled by the Bishop of Ripon and Leeds, the Rt Rev John Packer, which would exclude child benefit payments from the changes.
Ministers appear determined to ride out the opposition, believing there is strong public support for their plans, to curb the benefits dependency culture and “make work pay”.
But the vote poses a dilemma for Labour who have to decide whether they want to try to inflict a damaging defeat on the Government, even if it means taking the blame for blocking a measure that is popular with much of the public.
Party officials have been tight-lipped on whether they would back the bishop’s amendment, saying they would be focusing on their own compromise amendment designed to protect families facing losing their homes.
“Labour won’t be voting against the benefits cap because we support the principles and the responsibility to take a job if you can work,” a spokesman said.
“But we will be seeking to amend the Bill, to bring a compromise between the bishops and the Government because we don’t think council taxpayers should be hit with a massive bill for homelessness.”