Tory MP accuses Labour of 'scaremongering' about Universal Credit

18 January 2021, 20:02

By Fiona Jones

Tory MP Ben Everitt has accused the Labour Party of 'scaremongering' about Universal Credit, as MPs backed a non-binding Commons motion calling for an extension of the £20-a-week increase in payments.

His claims came moments before MPs voted overwhelmingly in support of extending the £20-a-week increase to Universal Credit payments.

In a non-binding "political" move which ramps up pressure on the government to announce its plans, MPs voted by 278 to 0 to support extending the increase.

The opposition used the debate on Monday to pressurise No10 to maintain the Universal Credit uplift - worth more than £1,000 a year - beyond 31 March.

Mr Johnson had ordered his MPs to abstain on the vote, accusing Labour of trying to politicise the issue of increasing payment for the poorest.

Mr Everitt echoed this sentiment when talking to LBC's Iain Dale: "They're calling it a cut...we've had very worried constituents who are quite rightly worried this £20 a week is going to be taken away from them as a result of today's vote.

"That's not right, that's not the case at all. There's no decisions been made at all...whether it will be extended, whether it will be kept, whether it will be replaced with something else, there are no decisions on that.

"This opposition debate does not change the law...so framing this as a vote to cut Universal Credit is completely disingenuous. It is scaremongering and it is not right."

Shadow Schools Minister Wes Streeting responded to these accusations: "The fact is that the £20 uplift is making a real difference to families who would otherwise be struggling even more than they already are.

"If Ben thinks we're not doing an effective job as the opposition, we're happy to swap places. The Government is doing an effective job of protecting people's lives and livelihoods through this pandemic.

"I cannot for the life of me understand why Tory ministers won't just say this policy of the £20 uplift which we introduced is working so we're going to extend it. It makes obvious sense, nobody's benefits should be cut in the worst recession in 300 years.

"I don't understand why the Government is dragging its heels on this, I really don't."

Leader of the opposition Sir Keir Starmer had previously said families "needed certainty" that their incomes would be protected during the coronavirus pandemic.

However, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he wanted "to support people throughout the pandemic" and that the government had "already provided £280bn worth of support".