Tory Rebels Denied Chance To Put Pressure On Ministers Over Universal Credit Cut

Conservative rebels have failed in a last-ditch bid to persuade the Government to keep the £20-a-week boost to Universal Credit.

Former party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith urged the Government to review “very quickly” the decision to phase out the uplift from the end of September.

He insisted changes are required to ensure working-age people get the support they need.

Sir Iain and Tory colleague Damian Green, both former work and pensions secretaries, had sought to put pressure on the Government via an amendment to decline the Social Security (Uprating Of Benefits) Bill a second reading.

They argued the Bill should be blocked as it reduced spending on the state pension by £4.5 billion in 2022/23 “without diverting that saving towards maintaining the £20 uplift in Universal Credit, which according to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions would cost £5 billion for one year”.

But Deputy Speaker Nigel Evans confirmed the amendment was not selected for debate.

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The Government has argued the £20 Universal Credit uplift was a temporary measure to assist people during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Bill as a whole enables the Government to abandon a manifesto commitment on increases to the state pension because of concerns over the potential cost.

The triple-lock guarantees that pensions grow in line with whichever is highest out of earnings, inflation or 2.5%.

But the Bill suspends the earnings element for 2022/23 because the impact of the coronavirus crisis on wages could have led to an unaffordable rise.

Instead, next year’s pension increase will be based on either 2.5% or inflation.

Speaking in the Commons, Sir Iain said he supported changes to the triple-lock before adding: “I do feel that it is necessary for us to re-examine, therefore, the investment levels in Universal Credit.”

He said: “The point of the amendment that I tried to make, which wasn’t selected, is to ensure that those who are of working-age who are receiving social security support and benefit from this Government actually get the right level of support.”

He added: “One of the problems we’ve got with the result of that is that those of working-age are going to have to pick up a bigger burden and that’s why this uplift to Universal Credit itself, I think, should be reviewed and reviewed very quickly.

Sir Iain went on: “They do need to make sure that those in Universal Credit are able to move through Universal Credit faster, and therefore investment in the tapers in this regard would benefit both the Treasury and those who are themselves seeking to get work by making that pathway easier.”

Conservative MP Nigel Mills, a member of the Work and Pensions Committee, said he would have had “some sympathy” for Sir Iain’s amendment if it had been selected.

He added: “I do believe the Government should be retaining the UC increase at least for the next six months until we can be sure the pandemic has finished.”

Stephen Timms, Labour chairman of the Work and Pensions Committee, said: “This cannot be the right time to take £20-a-week away from everyone receiving Universal Credit.

Read more: 1.7 million households face £153 energy bill increase in the same month as Universal Credit cut

“We heard evidence recently of people having to skip meals before the uplift was introduced. Well, their position is going to be a good deal worse if it’s taken away in a couple of weeks because the prices they face are so much higher.”

Earlier in the debate, Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey said the double-lock system for pensions will be used temporarily to account for the way the coronavirus pandemic has distorted wages.

She said: “The triple-lock policy will be applied in the usual way from next year for the remainder of Parliament.”

For Labour, shadow work and pensions minister Matt Rodda said: “We have been clear that the Government cannot be allowed to use the current crisis as a smokescreen to break their word to pensioners and abolish the triple lock by the back door.”

A Liberal Democrat amendment seeking to block the Bill as it “represents a broken manifesto commitment” for the Government on pensions and it fails to make permanent the Universal Credit uplift was defeated by 303 votes to 59, majority 244.

The Bill then received a second reading by 300 votes to 55, majority 245.

It later received a third reading by 303 votes to 52, majority 251, and will undergo further scrutiny in the Lords at a later date.

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Source : https://www.devonlive.com/news/uk-world-news/tory-rebels-denied-chance-put-5944601

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