By Charlie Kimber
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2914

Starmer’s Labour promises cash for generals, poverty for children

Keir Starmer deliberately refused to promise abolishing the two-child benefit cap
Issue 2914
A crowd short of Labour MPs illustrating an article about Labour and the two-child benefit cap

How many Labour MPs will rebel against the government over the child benefit cap? (Picture: Keir Starmer on Twitter/X)

Prime minister Keir Starmer said the king’s speech on Wednesday would be a “down ­payment for change”. But the announcements ahead of it made clear that it’s a down payment to the bosses—with a few crumbs for working class people.

The government was expected to bring forward over 30 bills, including one focusing on reassuring bosses that Labour will bring them economic stability by strengthening the Office for Budgetary Responsibility.

Another is the weakened workers’ rights bill that is supposed to crackdown on zero-hour contracts and fire and rehire practices. In reality, it will be full of caveats and compromises.

There will also be bills on a new publicly owned energy company, reform of the House of Lords and housing.

But Keir Starmer has repeatedly ruled-out abolishing the two-child benefit cap. The policy restricts child welfare payments to the first two children in most families. It means families with a third or more children born after April 2017 miss out on up to £3,500 per year per child.

And that means deeper poverty. The cap hit more than 1.6 million children this year. Starmer insists that there is no money for such changes.

But he has already said he will set out a “road map” to extra spending on the military—an early “unfunded” present to the generals and ­imperialist allies.

With Labour there’s cash for guns and missiles, but not to lift hundreds of thousands of children out of poverty.

The two-child limit is a product of the vile Tory idea that the poor are to blame for their hardship because they are “over-breeding”.

Senior figures from children’s charities—and even the Church of England—have called for the policy to be scrapped following the ­publication of the new figures.

Charity Save The Children said it is an “outrage” that the cap affects so many youngsters and called for immediate action. The Tories justified the limit by saying it means families on benefits are “forced to face the same financial choices as those in work”.

But data released last month showed that 81 percent of two-parent families affected by the limit have at least one working parent.

Rosie is a single mother of three children, whose benefit payments are reduced by this policy. She said, “I work, and still this cap is applied to my benefit payments.

“I am a single parent. There will only ever be one salary coming into my home, and still the cap is applied to my benefit payments.”

To show how “tough” Labour is—towards the poor—Starmer deliberately refused during the election campaign to say that his government would abolish the limit. He said he would not make “unfunded” spending commitments.

Labour has also announced a review into Universal Credit welfare payments. But it has not guaranteed it will abolish the benefit cap that deputy prime minister Angela Rayner said in 2020 was “obscene and inhumane”.

Torsten Bell, the former director of the Resolution Foundation, was elected as a Labour MP this month.

He described the two-child benefit cap as “immoral” this April, arguing that it came close to creating “a poverty guarantee”.

Removing the two-child cap would cost £3.4 billion a year, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies think tank. That’s small change in overall terms.

A 2 percent wealth tax on assets over £10 million could generate nearly £24 billion a year and affect just 0.04 percent of the population.

The Scottish National Party and left wing Labour MP Kim Johnson have said they’ll table amendments to the king’s speech calling for the government to lift the two-child benefit cap.

It will be an early test of every Labour MP to see whether they defy the Labour whip and stand up for ordinary people.

But the key is campaigning from below. Every union leader should be telling Labour to scrap the limit immediately as part of a strategy of fighting Starmer from day one.


Who does the two-child limit hit?
  • By the end of the parliament in 2029 more than half of children in large families will be living in relative poverty, defined as 60 percent of average household income. 
  • The Resolution Foundation think-tank projects that 750,000 families will be affected by 2035, when all children in families of three or more will be captured by the policy.
  • A fifth all households impacted by the two-child limit are families with at least one disabled child, that is just over 87,500 households.
  • A quarter of all families impacted by the two-child limit are single-parent households, with a child under three.
  • The limit disproportionately hits black and Asian families.

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