Labour to expose Tory divisions on Universal Credit with Commons vote


Labour will seek to expose Tory divisions over Universal Credit by calling a House of Commons vote on Wednesday to demand that controversial roll-out of the flagship benefit reform be paused.

Amid reports that up to 25 Tory MPs could be willing to rebel over criticism that people are waiting six weeks for any money and getting into debt, Labour will call on ministers to "pause and fix" the benefit.

On the eve of the vote, Theresa May held talks with would-be rebels in an effort to stave off an embarrassing revolt.

Work and Pensions Secretary David Gauke has insisted the roll-out of UC will continue, with the system tweaked so that claimants are offered advance payments upfront.

But he was accused by the Work and Pensions Select Committee chairman Frank Field of overseeing a department that has "no idea" about the operation of the policy.

After a dozen Tory MPs sent a letter to Mr Gauke urging him to pause the overhaul ahead of the Conservative Party conference earlier this month, Labour will hope to win a symbolic victory in an opposition day vote on Wednesday.

Work and Pensions Secretary David Gauke
Work and Pensions Secretary David Gauke has insisted the roll-out of UC will continue (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Last month, Labour received backing from the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which is propping up the minority Government, in opposition day votes on NHS pay and tuition fee increases, which forced the Tories to abstain on the non-binding motions.

The Prime Minister held talks with potential Tory rebels Heidi Allen, Sarah Wollaston and Johnny Mercer to listen to their concerns ahead of the vote.

The Government has insisted that it would consult with people to get the roll-out of the benefit right.

But shadow work and pensions secretary Debbie Abrahams said: "The Government has so far not listened to MPs' concerns about the mounting issues with their flagship social security programme. We must stand together to make our voices heard.

"I urge Conservative MPs to vote with their conscience and support our motion to pause the roll-out of Universal Credit."

We're calling on the Tories to urgently pause and #FixUniversalCredit.
Stand with us - sign & share our petition ?

-- The Labour Party (@UKLabour) October 17, 2017

Universal Credit combines a number of benefits such as housing benefit and tax credits into a single payment.

From October the pace of its roll-out was set to be ramped up, with 50 Jobcentres moving to the service every month.

Government figures showed 23% of new claimants do not receive their first full payment within six weeks, which has been linked to rent arrears and other debts for claimants.