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Wed, 27 May 2020

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Budget 2018: Tory MPs pile fresh pressure on Philip Hammond to reverse Universal Credit cuts

Budget 2018: Tory MPs pile fresh pressure on Philip Hammond to reverse Universal Credit cuts
3 min read

Philip Hammond is facing renewed Tory calls to "do the right thing" and pump billions back into the beleaguered Universal Credit scheme in tomorrow's Budget.


More than 20 Conservative backbenchers have teamed up to urge the Chancellor to reverse cuts to the welfare overhaul made by Mr Hammond's predecessor George Osborne.

The eve-of-Budget push came as ex-Brexit Secretary David Davis - who quit the Cabinet over the Summer - said cuts to the scheme had "gone too far".

Universal Credit aims to bring six existing benefits into one payment in a bid to simplify the system and ease the return to work for those on social security.

But it has been hit by delays and IT problems, while a 2015 decision to remove cash from the system to fund a u-turn on tax credit cuts has reduced the money available to claimants.

A joint statement led by Conservative MP Heidi Allen calls on the Chancellor to funnel money back into the system and reduce the five-week wait period for those shifting to the benefit.

That wait period has already been reduced from six weeks after an outcry by Tory backbenchers.

The statement, seen by the Sunday Telegraph, says: "Unless we make this transformative investment, 3.2 million working families are expected to be worse off."

It adds: "We must review the 5-week initial wait for the most vulnerable. Expecting families with nothing, to wait for 5 weeks, does not fit with compassionate Conservative values."

Other MPs signing the statement include former attorney general Domninic Grieve and Plymouth Moor View's Johnny Mercer.

The newspaper also reports that ex-education secretary Justine Greening and former culture minister Ed Vaizey are supportive of the call.

Former Brexit Secretary David Davis meanwhile heaped pressure on Mr Hammond to change course.

Writing in the same paper, he said: "Because of the parlous state of the economy after Gordon Brown, the Coalition started on a tough programme of cost reduction, and this inevitably bit into the welfare budget. This has now gone too far.

"The Chancellor has to put at least £2 billion back into Universal Credit, or risk crippling one of the most necessary reforms in modern Britain."

'WOEFULLY INADEQUATE'

The mounting Conservative pressure over Universal Credit came as the cross-party Work and Pensions Committee called for a halt to the mass roll-out of the welfare overhaul.

The group of MPs warned that the “universal support” system designed to help claimants switch to Universal Credit remained “woefully inadequate".

They have urged the Department for Work and Pensions to come up with a new "flexible, discretionary approach to debt management" before the scheme is fully launched next year.

Committee chairman Frank Field said: “DWP must not push one more claimant on to Universal Credit until it can show that it will not push them over the edge.”

But a DWP spokesperson said: "We are committed to delivering Universal Credit in a safe and secure way and getting universal support right is a key part of this.

"We have listened to our stakeholders, as part of our ‘test and learn’ approach and have acted on their feedback.

"This new partnership is to ensure the delivery of high-quality and consistent universal support. We will continue to listen and learn, adapt and act where necessary."

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