Wearside MPs back rethink on Universal Credit roll-out

Work and Pensions secretary David Gauke addresses the Work and Pensions Committee at the House of Commons in London.
Work and Pensions secretary David Gauke addresses the Work and Pensions Committee at the House of Commons in London.

Two Wearside MPs have urged the Government to halt the roll-out of the controversial new benefit Universal Credit.

Labour this week won a House of Commons vote calling for a pause in the introduction of the flagship benefit reform by 299-0 after Prime Minister Theresa May ordered her MPs to abstain.

I support the principle that work should always pay, but this reform has been fatally undermined by a toxic cocktail of poor policymaking, savage funding cuts and disastrous implementation.

Bridget Phillipson

But she made it clear there would be no delay in rollout the changes to the national benefits system.

Commons Speaker John Bercow said the Tories could not “suddenly say we didn’t lose” after Labour’s 299-0 victory just because they did not take part.

Houghton and Sunderland South MP Bridget Phillipson said: “The vote in Parliament was a significant defeat for the Government over its shambolic roll-out of Universal Credit.

“I support the principle that work should always pay, but this reform has been fatally undermined by a toxic cocktail of poor policymaking, savage funding cuts and disastrous implementation.

“Thousands of families are now suffering as a result, with one in four new claims not being paid within the six-week period that the Government has needlessly imposed.

“This delay is driving up debt, arrears and even evictions, yet claimants who are struggling have been left without significant help and support from the DWP.

“It’s clear that more time is needed to fix this deeply-flawed policy, which is why Labour successfully passed a motion yesterday calling on the Government to pause the roll-out.

“It’s now up to ministers to respect that vote and take urgent action before matters get any worse.

“In the meantime, I will continue to do all I can to protect the most vulnerable in our society from the chaos at the heart of Theresa May’s weak Government.”

Her Washington and Sunderland West colleague Sharon Hodgson added: “The Government are clearly ignoring the concerns growing around Universal Credit which is a flawed policy that is pushing people into poverty and homelessness.

“What we need is a pause and fix of the roll-out of Universal Credit.”

The result is a fresh sign of the minority Government’s vulnerability to protests from a relatively small number of MPs and its tactics caused disquiet among so-called “constitutional Tories”.

Several Tory MPs used the opposition day debate to highlight problems with Universal Credit, such as claimants having to wait six weeks for payments, which has been linked to rent arrears and other debts.

But only Sarah Wollaston was the only Conservative to vote with Labour, after warning ministers they need to address the “fundamental flaw” of the six-week wait.