Government may face double Budget rebellion on disabled welfare and 'Tampon Tax'

Conservative MP for Brigg and Goole, Andrew Percy
Conservative MP for Brigg and Goole, Andrew Percy
Have your say

UNREST over George Osborne’s Budget is growing among Conservative MPs as tentative signs of a double rebellion have begun to emerge in Westminster.

More than 12 Conservative MPs have signed a letter over disability welfare cuts which will leave 640,000 people worse off while Eurosceptic MPs are flocking to back Labour proposals to scrap the so-called Tampon Tax.

Paula Sherriff, MP for Dewsbury

Paula Sherriff, MP for Dewsbury

As the Chancellor faced criticism he had failed to meet his own fiscal rules on lowering the debt and deficit as a share of GDP and returning a surplus, Conservative MP for Brigg and Goole said cuts to Personal Independent Payments would impact people with ‘considerable need’.

Mr Percy, who has penned the group letter to the Chancellor, said: “Many colleagues are expressing similar concerns as the changes will impact disabled people, many of whom have considerable needs. They also send the wrong, and wholly unjustified, message that disabled benefits are bearing the brunt of reductions, when in fact the total bill for disability benefits is actually rising.

“These remain proposals at this stage and that is why I will continue to argue that they should not progress any further.”

"The Government has a very small majority so you don't need very many for this to be a problem of parliamentary arithmetic.

"It is fair to say the numbers on this who have expressed concern are very significant indeed."

While some of the arguments used to justify the cut had merit, politically the issue for politicians on the doorstep was "the message it sends and the numbers it will affect", he said.

He is yet to decide whether he will take the protest further by tabling an official amendment to the Government’s Finance Bill.

But with the Government enjoying only a slim majority in the Commons, Mr Percy may have already amassed enough rebels to cause serious concern for the Chancellor.

Downing Street said discussions would continue with MPs and disability groups but the change was about ensuring that taxpayers' money goes to those most in need.

Asked what David Cameron's message to Tory rebels would be, the Prime Minister's official spokeswoman said: "He would say to them this is about how we ensure that taxpayers' money is going to those most vulnerable, most in need, so that we can focus support on those who need it."

She added: "We consulted last year on how best to support the most vulnerable. We have published our response and we are now taking this forward, continuing discussions with MPs across the House and with disability groups."

Business Secretary Sajid Javid has said that overall, the Government is spending more on disabled people.

Meanwhile Eurosceptic Tories have turned their attentions to a cross-party motion on scrapping the EU’s ‘Tampon Tax’ - the 5% VAT rate slapped on sanitary products as they are categorised as luxury items.

Labour MP Paula Sherriff, who is leading the motion, said the Eurosceptic hi-jack of her long-stastanding campaign doesn’t matter, so long as they help remove a tax she claims is ‘unfair on women’.

George Osborne believes he is on the verge of getting the EU to drop the tax.