WATCH: Tory MP moved to tears as Frank Field tells of trying to talk constituent out of suicide

Posted On: 
5th December 2017

Tory MP Heidi Allen was moved to tears after Labour's Frank Field told of a constituent who came to him on the verge of killing himself because of the impact of Universal Credit.

Heidi Allen said she was "humbled" by the words of Frank Field
BBC Parliament

The move to bring all benefits into one has been hit by a series of controversies, including a six-week waiting time for claimants, which have reportedly led to a rise in indebtedness and destitution.

Mr Fiels, the Labour MP for Birkenhead and chair of the Work and Pensions Committee, said that “for the first time” since he was first elected to Parliament in 1979 he was in the position of talking a man out of taking his life.

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"I’ve done surgeries for 38 years. On my last surgery, Friday, a gentleman rose after we’d spoken, I tried to persuade him not to commit suicide. Such was the desperateness that he saw the future for himself," he told the Commons.

"I realised that the hand that shook my hand was wet. He had been crying. And the hand that shook my hand was the hand that wiped away those tears."

The MP for Birkenhead also told of a family who visited one of his surgeries alongside their child who was “crying with hunger”.

He spoke of how the father regarded the circumstances as a “lucky week for them” after they had been invited to a funeral to finish left over food.

“This is the background of growing destitution that I see in my constituency and in which we have to judge Universal Credit and the debate we are having today,” he added.

His intervention came as MPs debated a Labour motion calling for ministers to release a series of assessments on the roll-out of the benefit.

As the debate began however, Work and Pensions David Gauke conceded that redacted versions of the document would be made available to the committee.

In response, an emotional Ms Allen, who has long been a critic of the policy said she was “humbled by the words” of her “good friend” Mr Field.

“No government is perfect, no benefits system is perfect, no debate, no motion is perfect, but by God we’ll work together and make this better," she said.

Mr Field added that he was as “affected as she is” by the harrowing encounters and that this had been the first time he was able to tell such stories without “weeping”.


Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Debbie Abrahams said Mr Gauke’s concession, which was forced by Labour using the same tactic that resulted in the release of the Brexit impact papers, represented a “climbdown”.

"This should give greater insight into the scale of their implementation and design failures during the mismanagement of the programme and must be published unredacted and unedited," she said.

“Too many families have been pushed into poverty by the Tories’ disastrous mishandling of Universal Credit’s roll out and it is only set to get worse, with thousands facing a miserable Christmas.

“It is time we knew the true extent of the Government’s failures with Universal Credit in order to fix the multitude of problems."