Boris Johnson urged to fix gaps in support schemes or risk ‘bitter winter’

Boris Johnson has been accused of repeatedly refusing to “lift a finger” to help families excluded from UK Government support schemes.

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford urged the Prime Minister to fix the “serious gaps” in the schemes or risk a “bitter winter” for millions of people.

Raising the issue at Prime Minister’s Questions, Mr Blackford also called for a permanent uplift in Universal Credit, as well as extending the uplift to legacy benefits.

He told the Commons: “The Office for National Statistics figures published yesterday demonstrate what the SNP have been warning about for months – that the UK faces a growing Tory unemployment crisis.

“It is now beyond doubt that the Chancellor’s last-minute furlough U-turn came far too late for thousands who’ve already lost their jobs as a result of Tory cuts and delays and the dither that took place.

“UK unemployment has now risen to 4.8%, redundancies are at a record high and nearly 800,000 fewer people are in employment.

“To support those who have lost their incomes, will the Prime Minister now commit to make the £20 uplift to Universal Credit permanent and extend it to legacy benefits so that no-one is left behind?”

Mr Johnson responded: “I’m delighted that (Mr Blackford) is now supporting Universal Credit because he was opposed to it at the last election.

“Yes of course that uplift continues until March and I’m delighted to say that the furlough scheme is being extended right the way through to March as well and that will support people across our whole United Kingdom, protecting jobs and livelihoods across the whole UK in exactly the way that he and I would both want.”

Mr Blackford said that the “forgotten millions” would be amongst those struggling to get by in the run-up to Christmas.

He told MPs: “Another group who’ve been left behind by this Prime Minister are the three million people who have been completely excluded from UK Government support.

“Since the start of this crisis, the Prime Minister has repeatedly refused to lift a finger to help these families.

“Can I say to him, in the run-up to Christmas, the forgotten millions will be amongst those who are struggling to get by and worried about their future.

“So can I ask the Prime Minister, will he finally fix the serious gaps in support schemes to help the excluded, or will he make it a bitter winter for millions of families across the United Kingdom?”

The Prime Minister responded: “(Mr Blackford) knows, I hope, that we’re not only continuing with the up-rating of Universal Credit until next year, we’ve invested £210 billion, as I say, in jobs and livelihoods.

“But we’ve also just brought forward a winter support package for the poorest and neediest, supporting people, young people, kids, who need school meals and supporting people throughout our society, throughout the tough period of Covid, as I think the entire country would expect.

“That is the right thing to do and we will continue to do it.”