Labour will use their opposition day debate today, to attempt and force Esther McVey and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to disclose any papers showing what impact Universal Credit will have on households currently on legacy benefits when they are moved to the new system next year.
The party plan to use their opposition day debate today, Wednesday, to present a humble address. This will request that parliament sees any briefings or papers that have been given to Work and Pensions Secretary Esther Mcvey regarding;
“the impact of the roll-out of Universal Credit on recipients’ and household income and on benefit debts.”
Labour successfully have used the rarely used parliamentary procedure; the humble address, before. Last year they forced the government to release their Brexit impact assessments, much to the displeasure of David Davis at the the time.
If the motion is passed, a humble address is considered binding on the government. This fact itself was only realised when the Speaker had to clarify it for the government on the previous occasion.
Labour apply pressure on crumbling system
The Labour Party have sprung into action after Esther McVey revealed last week that some legacy benefit claimants will be up to £200 a month worse off when they are transferred to Universal Credit in 2019.
McVey made the admission in a TV interview after it was leaked that she had informed the cabinet of the further bad news related to the under fire benefit. There is growing unease amongst Tory MPs regarding Universal Credit. This is because they’re seeing more and more cases related to their so-called flagship reform at the constituency surgeries.
It was reported that half of single parents and two thirds of families with children will be £200 a month worse off when they are migrated to Universal Credit from legacy benefits such as Income Support and Working tax Credits.
The DWP attempted to save face by saying claimants would be offered transitional protection however, it then emerged only 20% of claimants would qualify for it.
Should Labour be successful this would deal a double blow to the government as, it was reported today that the roll-out of Universal Credit is to be slowed down.
Responding to a urgent question from Frank Field who is currently sitting as an Independent MP, Employment Minister Alok Sharma confirmed the changes would happen in a “slow and measured” way.
Sharma said no more than 10,000 people would be moved over from other benefits during 2019 this a huge difference from the large scale migrations that were expected to begin next year.
Esther McVey has previously preened over the speed at which Universal Credit was being rolled out across the UK, this will come as an embarrassment.
However, it’s not the major win everyone is claiming. While claimants on legacy benefits can breathe a sigh of relief for now, the timetable for full implementation has only changed by a mere 9 months.
What claimants really need is for the benefit to be scrapped completely. Labour are currently in limbo over what to do with Universal Credit should they be elected. One week you have the Shadow Chancellor saying he’d scrap it, the next a spokesperson says the Party will commit to a “root and branch review.” A phrase I’m starting to grow tired of.
Regardless of Labour’s stance on what they’ll do with Universal Credit, should they succeed in passing tomorrows motion it could provide real insight to what is going to happen.
Also, as last week’s news about claimants losing £200 per month only came out as it was leaked, what else can we expect to see in these papers? Moreover, what don’t they want us to know?
Social Media users takes action
I put a call out on social media for people to contact their MP asking them to attend and vote in favour of the motion. I received over 100 responses from people saying that their MP would be attending, not just Labour MP’s either.
Shadow Scottish Secretary Ian Murray even took time to reply to a comment on my Facebook page confirming his attendance.
I did however receive an email from one Conservative MP who confirmed that himself and two other MPs in his party would not be attending the debate or vote, as they suspect they’d be whipped by the party to vote against the motion.
While they still believe Universal Credit can be successful, they do think that “there needs to be a drastic rethink on how it is implemented” and that “income levels for all legacy benefit claimants should not decrease in any circumstances.”
Despite this internal Tory opposition, I cannot see Esther McVey capitulating in any circumstances. She doesn’t know how to.
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