Labour will use an opposition day debate on Wednesday to force a vote on the government’s plan to cut the £20-per-week uplift to Universal Credit and Working Tax Credits, which ministers have insisted they will press ahead with.
Commenting on the withdrawal of the uplift, which will see over five million households lose more than £1,000 a year, Jonathan Reynolds declared that the opposition party is “giving Conservative MPs the chance to do the right thing”.
“They must choose between their blind loyalty to the Prime Minister and looking after their constituents. This cut will be a hammer blow to working families and will dampen our economic recovery,” the Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary said.
“Labour is on the side of working people while the government wants to cut incomes and raise taxes. Now is the time for the government to see sense, back struggling families, and cancel their cut to Universal Credit.”
The uplift was introduced during the first wave of the pandemic, raising the standard rate for a single, over-25 claimant from £317.82 to £409.89 a month. Theresa Coffey confirmed in July that it would not be extended beyond the autumn.
Ministers have suggested that the withdrawal is part of a push to get people into work, despite the latest Department for Work and Pensions figures showing that almost 40% of people on the benefit are in employment.
The non-binding motion is the second attempt by Labour, in just over a week, to force a vote on the issue. The government cancelled an opposition day last week so that MPs could vote on a rise in National Insurance contributions instead.
Labour has urged against cutting the uplift repeatedly and described the decision, combined with the move to increase National Insurance contributions to fund the NHS and social care, as a “double whammy” for households on low incomes.
Boris Johnson announced his long-awaited plan for social care last week, which involves raising a £12bn-a-year levy with a 1.25 percentage-point increase in National Insurance. The government has said the cash will be used to tackle the healthcare backlog caused by Covid before the rest is directed towards social care.
Starmer has stated his preference for additional funding for the NHS and social care to be raised through income from assets, saying that Labour would raise the cash in a “broader way where those with the broadest shoulders pay their fair share”.
The health and social care levy completed the legislative stages in the Commons on Tuesday evening. 307 MPs backed the bill at third reading last night, compared to 251 who voted against the tax increase.
Below is the full text of the opposition day debate motion.
Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit
That this House calls on the government to cancel its planned cut to Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit which from the end of September 2021 will reduce support for many hardworking families by £1,040 a year.