Fri, 24 May 2024

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By Baroness Smith of Llanfaes
Press releases

Tory MPs 'expecting major Universal Credit climbdown'

Emilio Casalicchio

2 min read

The Government is thought to be on the verge of a major U-turn on its flagship Universal Credit programme amid fears of a revolt among Conservative MPs, it has been reported.

A controversial waiting time of six weeks for new claimants to receive their first payment could be reduced, according to a number of news sources.

Tory backbenchers have urged ministers to reduce it to four weeks to prevent rising debts and rent arrears among claimants, with one MP insisting a solution on the issue is “very, very close”.

The controversy has burst to the fore in recent weeks, with senior Tories, including former Prime Minister John Major, joining opposition parties to demand a pause in the rollout of Universal Credit.

Backbencher Stephen McPartland said Work and Pensions Secretary David Gauke was finding it increasingly difficult to justify the six-week waiting list and pushed for a reduction to four.

“We would like to see it set down to four weeks which is what you would have when you went into work and got a salary,” the Stevenage MP told BBC 4’s Week in Westminster.

"On that particular issue I think we are very, very close to getting a resolution.

"I think the Secretary of State has found it very difficult to justify inside the parliamentary party why they need to defend a six-week wait, so I'm quite pleased about that."

Ministers were this week forced to scrap charges to the helpline for the benefit service – which in some cases could be as high as 55p a minute.

Just four days ago Theresa May insisted Universal Credit “is a system that is working” and the Government has told people not to expect a change anytime soon.

But Ministers suffered a symbolic defeat of 299-0 in the Commons this week after they ordered MPs to abstain on a motion to pause the rollout.

A Government spokesman said: “The Government remains determined to ensure that people joining Universal Credit don’t face hardship, which is why we recently announced significant improvements to the system of advance payments that people can get as soon as they get into the system.

“We will continue to monitor and take any actions if necessary. But no decisions or announcements on any further actions are imminent.”    

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