Labour has declared that the Universal Credit uplift of £20 per week introduced during the pandemic “should remain in place permanently” and that the government must not break the Tory manifesto promise to keep the triple lock on pensions.
It was confirmed on Wednesday that ministers had decided not to extend the increased rate beyond the end of September, despite pressure from charities and MPs including Tories who warned of the impact on living standards.
Jonathan Reynolds, Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, spoke about the planned social security cut on Times Radio today, saying: “It makes no sense at all. I could not be clearer: this cut is economically and morally wrong.
“And the reason for that is, first of all, there has been so much money that has been taken out of the social security system over the last ten years, the austerity, even when we had those tax credit rebellions in parliament from Conservative MPs as well as Labour ones, those costs were just rolled into Universal Credit. So the real value of this is very, very low.
“But the other point is, look at where this country is in terms of the recovery in the economy. Are we really saying we want to take out £1,000 a year from six million households, people who are in work already?
“That’s the bit I can’t forgive from what the Chancellor and the Prime Minister are saying. This is a means tested benefit, if people are in those higher paying jobs, they don’t qualify for Universal Credit.
“But this would be taking away a vital part of the support that people who are out of work and in low-income jobs require and to me it is completely wrong and the government just simply have to listen to it.
“The fact that they’re saying it’s temporary. Look how low the real level is of support for people in this country and actually look at the fact that, in terms of what we need going forward, frankly, this uplift should remain in place permanently.
“There are other problems with Universal Credit, that’s a longer conversation, but this should remain in place and it is the wrong thing to do for these households, and for the country overall.”
The shadow cabinet member also discussed the triple lock on state pensions, after Chancellor Rishi Sunak this morning hinted to the media that the government could temporarily break with the policy this year.
Although Sunak stated that the lock is government policy, he also described “people’s concerns” over it as “completely legitimate and fair”. The Conservative 2019 manifesto promised to keep the triple lock.
Reynolds said: “The triple lock is a manifesto pledge from the government, they’ve got to stick to their manifesto pledges. That’s how being the government works.
“The one thing I say about the conversation on the triple lock is, it’s often presented as an intergenerational fairness issue between people who are retired and people who are in work, but don’t forget the indexation of the state pension is also about what the real value of that state pension will be when people who aren’t retired will be retired in future.
“There’s not a choice between these two things. There are other ways to raise money within the economy, so I don’t want to see it presented as a fight between pensioners on low incomes and people in working low incomes. We can do the right thing for all of those people, but most of all, the government makes a manifesto pledge and gets elected, they’ve got to stick with that.”
The triple lock guarantees that state pensions do not lose their value in real terms, accounting for inflation, by either rising according to average earnings, to Consumer Prices Index (CPI) or by 2.5% – whichever is higher.