**Iain Duncan Smith resigns from Cabinet over disability cuts
Smith has resigned from the Cabinet in protest over the disability benefits cuts in the Budget.
The Work and Pensions secretary has called the latest cuts “a compromise too far”, and “distinctly political” rather than necessary for economic reasons.**
His resignation letter told the Prime Minister: “You are aware that I believe the cuts would have been even fairer to younger families and people of working age if we had been willing to reduce some of the benefits given to better-off pensioners, but I have attempted to work within the constraints that you and the Chancellor set.”
**He says the cuts to the Personal Independence Payment were “not defensible in the way they were placed with a budget that benefits higher-earning taxpayers”
In a direct swipe at George Osborne, his resignation letter ends: “I hope as the government goes forward you can look again, however, at the balance of cuts you have insisted on, and wondered if enough has been done to ensure we ‘are all in this together’.”**
The resignation is particularly surprising given that, just hours earlier, the Treasury shelved the proposed cuts to PIP - following threats of a Tory backbench rebellion.
As the chancellor delivered his speech on Wednesday, former Labour minister Yvette Cooper was one of the first to spot that the biggest revenue raiser was the £4bn taken from PIP (personal independence payments). These are intended to help disabled people with daily life - tasks such as washing, dressing and taking medicine. There is another component which helps with mobility.
Throughout Thursday, it was notable that Conservative MPs were reluctant to tour the broadcasters to defend the decision. On Question Time, education minister Nicky Morgan suggested the cut to PIP was merely a “suggestion”.
Three Tory MPs - including mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith - were also asked to resign as patrons of disability charities over their support for welfare cuts.
The last straw seems to have been a threatened backbench rebellion, an alarming prospect for a government with a majority of just 12. Labour and the SNP had already indicated they would oppose the PIP changes.**
Osborne has long seen the welfare budget as a source of significant savings, but this is hampered by the fact that the majority of its departmental spending goes on pensions, which are ringfenced.
But previous cuts have been accompanied by endless paragraphs about the country’s dire economic prospects, the deficit and the need to make savings. Instead, Wednesday’s Budget was characterised by giveaways in other areas - cuts to corporation tax, and an 8pt fall in capital gains tax, for example. The threshold at which employees begin to pay the higher 40p tax rate was also lifted by the largest amount since the 1980s.
In such circumstances, even loyal Tories were finding it difficult to defend taking money away from the disabled - particularly since many of those who receive PIP are in work, and in fact some rely on it to stay in work.