South Shields MP comes out fighting after welfare bill attack

South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck.
South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck.

South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck has defended herself from criticism for abstaining in this week’s Welfare Reform Bill in Parliament.

A majority of MPs backed government plans for £12billion in welfare cuts.

Matthew Giles.

Matthew Giles.

Forty-eight Labour MPs defied their temporary leader Harriet Harman’s order to abstain and instead voted against the Bill, which includes plans to limit 
child tax credit to two children.

Among those who abstained were Mrs Lewell-Buck and her Jarrow Labour counterpart Stephen Hepburn.

That angered Matthew Giles, a Green Party candidate who stood unsuccessfully at May’s Local Elections in Hebburn North, who questioned the MP’s loyalties.

In response, Mrs Lewell-Buck said Mr Giles had “misunderstood” the passage of the legislation through the Commons.

And as a member of the Parliamentary all-party Work and Pensions Committee she pledged she would be “fighting to get rid of the Tories’ welfare cuts”.

Mr Giles said: “I praise the 48 Labour MPs for voting against this attempt by the Tories at social cleansing by limiting child benefit to a family’s first two children.

“I’m especially saddened at the decisions of both South Tyneside MPs, given the child poverty rate in Jarrow and South Shields respectively. 
 “If this bill comes into law, it will plunge 333,000 more children into poverty.

“The question is, where do our local representatives loyalties lie? With the party, or the issues and the people it is supposed to represent?”

 Mrs Lewell-Buck said: “This story is more complex than has been reported. I do oppose the Government’s welfare plans, which would drive families in to poverty and deny disabled people vital support.

 “Mr Giles seems to have misunderstood how legislation goes through the House.

 “Monday’s vote was a vote on the entire Bill, and while I did not want to support the Government’s welfare changes, I also did not want to oppose other sections of the Bill that support 
apprenticeships and reduce rents for social housing tenants.

 “I abstained so that the Bill could move to committee stage, where MPs can debate specific parts of the Bill and where Labour will be fighting to get rid of the Tories’ welfare cuts.

 “I did not choose to abstain because of party politics, but because I believe it was the right thing to do to fix this broken Bill.”

 Mr Hepburn said: “I am completely opposed to this unfair bill which is a vicious attack on the welfare state.

 “I am pleased that Andy Burnham, who I am supporting to lead our party, has pledged 
to fight this bill and in the coming months I will be joining him in voting to block these vindictive measures becoming rotten laws.”