It is significant that Iain Duncan Smith wouldn’t resist further cuts to the welfare budget in the 2015/16 spending review. This makes him one of the supporters of the National Union of Ministers movement. The Times reports that he has prepared a package of additional cuts, although I understand this doesn’t involve new ideas such as a freeze on welfare payments, but ideas trailed extensively pre-Autumn Statement such as the removal of housing benefit for the under-25s, and a limit on child benefit to two children for new families. The question is more whether the Liberal Democrats would look at these cuts again, when they made their opposition very clear in the autumn.
The Independent splashes on David Cameron pushing those NUM members on cutting spending in their own departments rather than resorting to fiscal nimbyism. But it seems Duncan Smith doesn’t believe that the other departments should take the strain exclusively.
This is a strong show of support for Philip Hammond after the Defence Secretary placed the welfare budget in his crosshairs at the weekend. Previously Duncan Smith said the welfare budget had seen enough cuts – and that was in April last year, long before the Welfare Uprating Bill appeared on the table. But now the main opposition to welfare cuts comes from the Liberal Democrats. And as pensioner benefits are off the table because of the Prime Minister’s ‘read my lips’ pledge, they have few supporters on the Conservative side of the table.
I also hear on the Tory grapevine that those gunning for Home Secretary Theresa May to position herself for a post-2015 leadership contest (and it is well worth reading Paul Goodman’s post on the significance of the NUM in this) include Edward Timpson, George Hollingberry, Caroline Spelman and Cheryl Gillan.Tags: 2015/16 spending review, Iain Duncan Smith, Liberal Democrats, National Union of Ministers, UK politics, Welfare