Watch: Tory MP says Universal Credit rise should be scrapped
A Tory MP has insisted that the uplift to Universal Credit brought in during the coronavirus pandemic should be scrapped as “some people don’t need an extra £20”.
Six former Conservative work and pension secretaries have spoken with “one voice” to urge chancellor Rishi Sunak to make the uplift – which is due to end on 1 October – permanent.
Tory backbencher Andrew Rosindell opposed the plan, telling BBC’s Politics Live: “I think there are people that quite like getting the extra £20 but maybe they don't need it.”
He added that the extra cash is not “sustainable”, and argued that the government “has an overall responsibility to deal with the national finances as well”.
Labour’s Carolyn Harris hit back, saying the £20 would be taken away from “people who can least afford to lose it”.
She added: “£20 is food for a week. £20 is a lifeline for people on Universal Credit.”
The extra cash for benefit claimants was brought in as an emergency spending measure during the COVID crisis and was already extended for six months at the March Budget.
Former Tory leader and instigator of Universal Credit Sir Iain Duncan Smith, along with five of his successors – Stephen Crabb, Damian Green, David Gauke, Esther McVey and Amber Rudd – have penned a letter in a bid to persuade Sunak to stick with the £5 billion benefits investment.
Sir Ian warned that a failure to keep the uplift in place permanently would “damage living standards, health and opportunities” for those that “need our support most as we emerge from the pandemic”.
The Treasury said it was “right” that financial support was “wound down” as COVID measures are eased.
The current work and pensions secretary, Therese Coffey, told MPs today that the government does not have its “head in the sand” as she confirmed the Universal Credit uplift will be removed in autumn.
Coffey said the temporary uplift would start to be “phased out” from late September.
She said the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will be contacting claimants so they are aware that their payments will change and they will be directed to support for things like budgeting.
Coffey said a collective decision was made to “shift the focus strongly into getting people into work” as the economy opens up.
This will be helped when the country moves to Step 4 of the coronavirus road map and more opportunities are created, she told the Work and Pensions Committee.
Coffey said that the government was replacing the payment with an “investment in people”.
Alison Garnham, chief executive of the Child Poverty Action Group, said the uplift has made the difference “between coping or not” for millions of families.
She said: “It makes no sense to cut support just as furlough is wound down and unemployment is expected to rise. Three hundred thousand more children will be pushed into poverty if the cut happens.
“Ministers should heed the calls from right across the political spectrum not to make this cut.”
Jonathan Reynolds, Labour’s shadow secretary of state for work and pensions, added: “There is near universal opposition to this cut, including from prominent Conservatives.
“It is time the government saw sense, backed struggling families and cancelled their cut to Universal Credit.”
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