It seems the backlash has begun, as leading Tories from the Free Enterprise Group of Conservative MP’s yesterday came under fire from members of the public, as they issued a statement to cap benefits to £20,000.
This came as reports emerged that the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, who has a personal estimated wealth of around £4.5 million, claimed in a recent expenses application, 5p for a single paperclip.
The influential group stated that, in their opinion, no one should be allowed to claim more than £20,000 a year in benefits. But at a time when most people are struggling to heat their houses, and have to hear reports in the news that MPs are receiving fuel allowances of, on average, £5,000 each, the news has stirred up anger and ill feeling.
The group qualified their statement by saying that the money raised from the benefit caps could help to pay for tax cuts for middle class families.
Tory MP Dominic Raab said: “We’ve done a good job lifting the lowest paid out of tax, but the middle classes have been hit for six.” It is thought that breaks aimed at helping the middle classes could include abolishing stamp duty on all homes worth less than £500,000, scrapping Air Passenger Duty and raising the starting point for paying 40 per cent tax from £41,450 to £50,000. But they also want to send out a powerful message to the unemployed that it is always better to work.
Tory MP Brooks Newmark came to the figure of £20,000 as it is the average UK salary of £26,000 after tax. Mr Newmark said: “Many hard-working people in my constituency do not understand why we have a welfare cap that allows people to get £26,000 effectively post-tax. That is equal to an income of £35,000 pre-tax. If we want tax cuts elsewhere we should lower the welfare cap to something more reasonable. For people who are fit and able to work they should be able to get no more than the equivalent of £26,000 post-tax.”
And the Tories have done their research, having carried out a private poll for the government, which showed that 80% of the public supported a benefit cap. Tory David Ruffley confirmed the results: “Most people think it is way too high – we should cut it to £20,000.”
It is possible that most Conservative voters think that there should be a benefit cap, but there have been a lot of controversy in recent months about the amount of millionaires who are in the Tory cabinet. In fact only last week, ex Tory Prime Minister John Majors lamented the amount of elite cabinet members in parliament. For instance, Prime Minister David Cameron owns property worth £2.7 million, and is said to be the sole heir of his parents £30 million empire; Chancellor George Osborne is worth more than £4.6million, The Secretary of State for Transport Phillip Hammond has amassed a personal wealth of more than 6 million pounds, whilst William Hague, appointed as the Secretary of State for Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs, has a personal wealth of around £2.5 million.