Senior Tories call on the Government to end ‘immoral’ benefits freeze
The Government must scrap the freeze on welfare benefits or risk being punished by voters at the next election, senior Conservatives have warned.
The benefits cap, brought in by former Chancellor George Osborne in 2015 and set to continue until 2020, means a real-terms cut in payments for low-income families across the country.
Top Tory MPs, including five former Cabinet ministers, told The Times that the policy is incompatible with a rise in the cost of living and called on Theresa May to increase the payments in line with inflation.
Treasury Committee chair Nicky Morgan said benefits and wages should be linked when there had been increases in public sector pay, adding: “We always have to be wary as a party of being seen to know the cost of everything and the value of nothing.”
Other Tory committee chairs to have raised concerns include Tom Tugendhat, Rob Halfon, Sarah Wollaston, Bob Neill and Damian Collins.
And former Brexit Secretary David Davis said the policy contradicted "the basic Tory notion of having a robust safety net and an effective ladder out of poverty”.
The powerful interventions follow analysis showing that the planned roll-out of Universal Credit will see more claimants lose money than gain.
Former Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, who devised the Universal Credit system welcomed extra money for it announced in the Budget, but said that it was not enough and insisted he would be “very happy” if the freeze was scrapped.
“It was a step in the right direction but there will need to be more,” he said.
Former Education Secretary Justine Greening, said the “system has to protect the most vulnerable”.
“The problem with a continued benefits freeze is it does not sit alongside recognition by ministers on public sector pay caps being lifted because of the need to keep pace with inflation," she said.
Heidi Allen, a Tory MP and member of the Work and Pensions Select Committee, said it was wrong to “give with one hand on work allowances and take with the other on the benefits freeze”.
She said: “The benefit freeze has gone on for too long; it does not make logical or moral sense to say that everybody else’s cost of living is increasing but people on benefits — often in work — that their cost of living isn’t increasing."
A Government spokesman told the paper: “Tackling poverty is one of our fundamental goals and with this government’s changes there are now one million fewer people living in absolute poverty compared with 2010, including 300,000 fewer children.
“We know the best route out of poverty is through work, and universal credit is supporting people into work faster and helping them stay in work longer. Last week we announced that 2.4 million households would be £630 better off a year as a result of raising the work allowance.
“Since 2010 we’ve seen 1,000 people move into work each and every day and the increase to the national living wage has given the lowest earners a significant pay rise.”