Published On: Tue, Jan 19th, 2021

Barely a handful of Tories vote against Universal Credit cut – despite many claiming it would be ‘devastating’

Just six Conservative MPs joined Labour and opposition MPs to oppose a £20 a week cut to Universal Credit on Monday night – despite much grandstanding from backbenchers beforehand.

The PM is planning to slash the monthly benefits allowance by £85.05 on April 12th, in a move that will hit around six million families. Nearly 40% of those are in work.

On Monday the Government abstained on a motion to keep the £20 a week increase to Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit, refusing to change course.

Despite significant cross-party support for keeping this lifeline in place, 6.2 million families will face a £1,040 a year cut to their incomes in April.

65 Conservatives make up the so-called Northern Research Group, who said on Sunday that scrapping the increase would be “devastating” for families.

Yet just six Tory MPs voted with the opposition to challenge the cut. They include Stephen Crabb, the former Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.

Liverpool Labour MP Ian Byrne told LFF: “I’m struggling to find words for the Tory MPs who failed to support to keep the uplift. We have 14.5 million living in poverty and we have a government in the time of a worldwide pandemic push over 700,000 further into poverty.This cannot go on.”

Recent polling from the Health Foundation found that 59% of the public support making this £20 a week UC increase permanent beyond April.

And the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s latest modelling shows that if this cut goes ahead as planned:

  • 500,000 more people will be pulled into poverty, including 200,000 children.
  • Around 6 in 10 of all single parent families, and 3 in 10 couple parent families are set to be hit by the £1,040 cut to their incomes.
  • Over half of families losing out contain someone who is disabled and a fifth are BAME families, meaning these groups are disproportionately affected.

Tony, who lives in Yorkshire and receives Universal Credit alongside working in a self-employed capacity, said: “When the uplift in Universal Credit was first introduced it was a very welcome relief as we were finally able to clear a couple of household bills which were falling into arrears. It also meant that the impact of the various lockdowns on us mentally were not as damaging as they would have been otherwise.

“The withdrawal of the Universal Credit uplift would be unnecessarily harsh on the most vulnerable in our society.”

Responding to the result of the vote on Labour’s Universal Credit Opposition Day debate, Jonathan Reynolds MP, Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, said: “It is disappointing that the Conservative Government refused to vote with Labour to provide families with certainty and secure our economy. They can still do the right thing and drop their plans to cut Universal Credit.

“Britain is facing the worst recession of any major economy because of the Government’s incompetence and indecision. Families cannot be made to pay the price.”

The Cabinet Minister who is most ‘hardline’ in wanting to end the UC increase brought in during the first wave of the pandemic is Chancellor Rishi Sunak, several Whitehall officials told Politico’s Playbook on Monday. 

While Opposition Day votes are largely symbolic, this was a chance for those Tories who issued press releases slamming the ‘devastating’ cut to put their words into action.

It looks like when push came to shove, they didn’t have the stomach to stand up to the PM. Cabinet Ministers opposed to the cut will soon have to succeed – or take a public stand and leave.

Josiah Mortimer is co-editor of Left Foot Forward.

Left Foot Forward: Leading the UK’s progressive debate

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