Maternity pay in spending cap: PM

Maternity and paternity pay will not be protected from the benefits cap announced in the Autumn Statement, David Cameron has confirmed.

David Cameron speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons.

The Prime Minister said the only spending exempt from a new welfare spending cap would be the state pension as Labour accused him of not being family friendly.

Chancellor George Osborne announced a cap on total benefits spending would start from 2015 after the precise limit is set out in spring next year.

Mr Osborne revealed in last week's Autumn Statement that the chancellor would set the limit at the beginning of each parliament and if it was breached would have to explain it and then allow MPs a vote.

Mr Cameron said it was important to distribute benefits held within the cap "properly".

During Prime Minister's questions, Labour's Fiona O'Donnell (East Lothian) asked : "While the Prime Minister is trying to come over all family friendly can you confirm if maternity and paternity pay will be included in the benefits cap announced in the Autumn Statement?"

Mr Cameron replied: "As the Chancellor announced at the time what is out of the benefit cap is the basic state pension, I think that's important. On all other welfare spending what we have to do is make sure we are distributing properly between the different sorts of welfare."

Asked whether a baby boom could result in cuts to maternity pay because of the cap, the Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "The point about the welfare cap is to be able to consider the pressures that there are across the welfare system to ensure that it is always affordable."

He added: "The parts of the welfare budget that are not in the welfare cap are the ones around the automatic stabilisers."

When he announced details of the cap in the Autumn Statement, Mr Osborne said it would exclude "the most cyclical" jobseekers' benefits.

The cap "obliges the Government and future governments to look across the board at welfare pressures to ensure that there is fairness on taxpayers", the Prime Minister's spokesman said.