Is this some kind of bait-and-switch routine?
Are the Tories trying to get us looking in the wrong direction so they can slip a very nasty policy or two into the July Budget while we’re distracted?
This seems possible.
The prime minister, who confirmed to MPs that he stood by his commitment during the election campaign to maintain child benefit in its current form for the next five years, failed to give a similar commitment on disability payments.
Government sources suggested that the prime minister chose his words with care to appease Iain Duncan Smith, who was angered when the prime minister ruled out any changes to child benefit earlier in the week.
The work and pensions secretary believes that restricting child benefit, which could save £1bn a year, could help Osborne achieve his cuts rather than “cheese paring” all benefits. Downing Street has now ruled this out and is also understood to be wary of cutting disability benefits, possibly by taxing disability benefits.
This means the burden of welfare cuts may have to focus on tax credits and housing benefit, which help low paid workers. But government sources said they would no longer give a “running commentary” on possible welfare cuts ahead of the budget to avoid binding ministers’ hands.