AN SNP MP has urged UK ministers not to appeal a court ruling that declared the benefits cap unlawful, as new figures showed the Department for Work and Pensions’s legal bill for the case could rise to more than £100,000.

Alison Thewliss said it was “truly shocking” the DWP would go to the Court of Appeal after the High Court ruled the policy is unlawful and illegally discriminates against single parents with young children.

The MP for Glasgow Central told a Westminster Hall debate the cap, which limits the benefits paid to individual families, punishes parents for their circumstances and stunts the life chances of their children.

Work and pensions Minister Caroline Dinenage insisted the Government should appeal against the court’s decision, as work remained the best way to lift people out of poverty. The debate came as figures released to Parliament by Dinenage, in response to a written question, showed the DWP spent £67,690 def-ending the policy in the High Court.

DWP anticipates spending a further £25,000 to £40,000 appealing the case in the Court of Appeal, Dinenage added.

Thewliss said: “The DWP says that it intends to appeal this decision.

I find this truly shocking and I would urge the Minister here today to reconsider, unless she supports misery being caused for no good purpose.

“The Government has a choice, it does not have to spend, to waste, further money on appealing this. It has already wasted more than £500,000, I understand, at least in other court appeals to do with the bedroom tax and the carer’s allowance. It should not waste more public funds on appealing a case which has already been proven to be an injustice.

“They should put their hands up and say, ‘there is an injustice here and we will put this right in the interests of the children who are affected by this’.”

During the debate, Thewliss said 66,000 households were now subject to the cap, which limits benefit payments to households to £23,000 a year in London and £20,000 elsewhere. Of those, 72 per cent are single parent families, Thewliss said, most of which have at least one child under the age of five.

She added: “By taking the circumstances of parents, by punishing them, by not allowing them the means they need to feed their families, we are stunting the life chances of those children as they go through their life.

“We are punishing people for the circumstances they are in.”

Thewliss said many parents could not work enough hours due to childcare responsibilities, with free childcare not offered for under-twos.

Benefits charity Turn2Us said it has had an increase in people enquiring about whether they should proceed with a pregnancy as a result of the benefit cap, Thewliss added.

Dinenage told MPs the DWP had been spending £10 million on just 300 families before the cap was introduced. She claimed it has made the system fairer for those paying in as well as encouraging claimants to return to work.

The cap was set at a level equivalent to a salary of £25,000 outside London and £29,000 in the capital, she added.

Dinenage revealed the court costs in a written answer to SNP MP Marion Fellows (Motherwell and Wishaw). The minister said: “Legal fees of defending the case in the High Court are £67,690.

“This figure includes VAT where payable – for example, on counsel’s fees – and disbursements but does not include costs attributable to time spent by Government advisory lawyers, as time spent by such advisory lawyers is not recorded in a manner that allows it to be attributable to individual court cases. DWP has also paid £125,000 (plus VAT) towards the claimants’ costs.

“The DWP’s legal costs for appealing the case in the Court of Appeal are estimated to be between £25,000 and £40,000. This includes our best estimate of external counsel fees.”