Pensions Minister Steve Webb has been secretly recorded by newspaper reporters posing as constituents saying he had privately written to the Chancellor to complain about the details of the child benefit cut.
Today’s Daily Telegraph reports Webb (pictured) was one of three Liberal Democrat ministers recorded criticising the cut in child benefit which they had backed in public.
The report says: “Steve Webb, the pensions minister, disclosed he had written privately to the Chancellor to complain about the policy because “the details aren’t right”.”
The others were business minister Ed Davey who said he had been “gobsmacked” by the announcement which he claims was “dreamt up out of the blue”, and Scottish Secretary Michael Moore who said the policy was “blatantly not a consistent and fair thing to do”.
The policy was announced at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham in October and was criticised for leaving a couple who earn £80,000 from their two jobs receiving child benefit, while a couple with only one parent working and earning £50,000 would lose it.
Davey also told the reporters the Government’s change to housing benefit would “put people on the breadline” while Webb said the coalition “looks a bit too cosy”.
The report comes a day after Vince Cable had his role in the decision over NewsCorp’s takeover attempt of BSkyB removed after he told Daily Telegraph reporters posing as constituents that he had “declared war on Rupert Murdoch”.
Cable was publicly rebuked by the Prime Minister David Cameron who said Cable had “every reason to be embarrassed” by his comments.
Cable said: “I don’t know if you have been following what has been happening with the Murdoch press, where I have declared war on Mr Murdoch and I think we are going to win.”
Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp is currently trying to increase its 39 per cent stake in BSkyB and Cable has referred the proposal to Ofcom.
In the past Cable had stressed the need to be politically impartial.
Cable would have had the final say in the decision but all media related decisions will now be taken by Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt.
News Corp says it is “shocked and dismayed” at Cable’s comments and that they raise serious questions about fairness and due process.
The Daily Telegraph article quoted Cable as saying: “Can I be very frank with you and I am not expecting you to quote this outside. I have a nuclear option; it is like fighting a war. They know I have nuclear weapons, but I don’t have any conventional weapons. If they push me too far then I can walk out and bring the Government down and they know that.”