Hughes draws a line in the sand

By Ian Dunt

Simon Hughes has drawn a line in the sand on the row over the spending review, saying Lib Dems would vote against changes to housing benefit unless there are major changes.

The deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats has developed a reputation for defending the interests of the Lib Dem membership as the party leadership works with the Tories in government.

Speaking on Channel 4 news last night, Mr Hughes insisted the spending review was fair but that the 10% cut to the housing benefit budget was “harsh and draconian”.

The move would mean that those on jobseekers’ allowance for over a year would have housing benefit cut by ten per cent from 2013.

“My message to the government is I don’t think you will get Parliamentary approval for your current plans,” he said.

“I think government understands there have to be negotiations.

“The current proposals are not the best set of proposals, whatever the financial constraints. There are better ways of doing it and we need to achieve them.

“I am making sure the message from me and many colleagues is being communicated loud and clear to government.”

Labour’s work and pensions secretary, Douglas Alexander, quickly offered to work with Mr Hughes to fight the proposal.