Tories and Labour pressed on two-child benefit cap

Debate participants
Rhun ap Iorwerth, Jane Dodds, Vaughan Gething, David TC Davies and Oliver Lewis took part in the BBC Wales Election Debate [BBC]

The Plaid Cymru and Welsh Liberal Democrat leaders have urged the next UK government to scrap the two-child welfare benefit limit.

They made the call in an at times bad-tempered BBC Wales TV general election debate.

Lib Dem Jane Dodds said the next Conservative or Labour government should abolish the benefits cap “because that is making families poorer".

Plaid’s Rhun ap Iorwerth said Sir Keir Starmer will be the next prime minister and he should lift the “cruel” policy.

Welsh Labour leader Vaughan Gething said Sir Keir would “review” the benefits system and, for the Conservatives, Welsh Secretary David TC Davies said the welfare bill had “to come down”.

Reform UK’s Oliver Lewis said his party "won't cut welfare".

The two-child cap, which was introduced in 2017, restricts child tax credit and universal credit to the first two children in most households.

It means families cannot claim about £3,200 a year per extra child, the Resolution Foundation think tank has said.

Jane Dodds is leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, and their sole Senedd member.

She told the studio audience, in Cardiff, that the price of fuel and food had gone up “twenty-five per cent in the last two years".

“One of the big factors is that here in Wales, 29% of our children are poor, 29% child poverty.

"And my challenge to the Conservatives and to Labour, if they're in power, is will you abolish the two child cap on our benefits because that is making our families poorer?"

“That is shameful in 2024,” she added.

Vaughan Gething, First Minister and Welsh Labour leader, said that if Labour wins on 4 July it would review the benefits system, “to understand all of the different policies that have been visited on us, because we want a fairer deal for people”.

“I am convinced that we’ll have a fairer benefits system that will help to support families into work and that will help to lift families out of poverty,” he said.

“The last UK Labour government lifted over half a million children out of poverty. That's our record. That's our ambition."

Vaughan Gething and David TC looking animated during the debate
There were lively exchanges between Vaughan Gething and David TC Davies [BBC]

Plaid Cymru leader Rhun ap Iorwerth accused the first minister of "refusing to engage with that most fundamental of changes that I think we need to see happening, which is the lifting of the cruel two-child benefits limit".

He said the cap had been "imposed by the Conservatives and for some reason, given the principles that Labour used to stand for, promising to be continued by Labour".

Reform UK’s Oliver Lewis said his party "won't cut welfare" but he was concerned that there was what he called a "culture of benefit dependency”.

He said “people need to work we need to offer a vibrant economy”.

David TC Davies is a cabinet minister in Rishi Sunak’s government.

As Welsh secretary he is the most senior Conservative politician in Wales, and he defended his party's plans to cut £12bn from the UK's welfare bill.

Mr Davies said there were “many people” who claimed sickness benefit who were capable of working.

“They are not trying to deliberately milk the system” but he said “the vast majority” of them could be supported into employment.

Blue general election 2024 banner

Live: Follow the latest news about the UK general election

Key takeaways from BBC Question Time election special

Poll tracker: How do parties compare?

Compare all the election manifestos and policies

General election 2024: All BBC stories and analysis

Election betting claims

Four people linked to the prime minister are being looked into over allegations of betting on the date of the election, including the Conservative Party’s director of campaigning Tony Lee and a police officer in Mr Sunak's close protection team.

Two Tory election candidates - Laura Saunders and Craig Williams - have confirmed they were being looked into by the Gambling Commission.

Mr Williams is a Welsh Conservative and candidate in the Montgomeryshire and Glyndwr constituency – he has apologised for what he has called “an error of judgment”.

In Friday's television debate, Mr Davies said he was “furious” about the election bets and insisted that he had not “made any bets whatsoever, and have not done for years”.

He said that when he took over the Wales Office "I realised there was a lot of unhappiness about general standards".

Mr Davies said he had ditched "the ministerial car" and stopped any alcohol being consumed or served on the premises.

Pressed by Jane Dodds on whether the two candidates should be suspended, Mr Davies said: "It's not my role to suspend people."

"This isn’t the sort of question I want, but you are right to ask it," he added.

'Digging his heels in'

Both Rhun ap Iorwerth and David TC Davies referred to the row surrounding Vaughan Gething’s £200,000 acceptance of a Labour leadership campaign donation.

During the contest to become first minister, Mr Gething took £200,000 from a company owned by a man twice convicted of environmental offences.

Asked if he wished to apologise for what had happened, Mr Gething replied: "I followed all the rules but I recognise there's real concern."

Mr ap Iorwerth said Mr Gething should admit he had made “a mistake” but he was “digging his heels in, and we deserve better in Wales”.

You can find out who all the general election candidates are in your area and through the UK here.