Debate on cut to Universal Credit is 'premature', MP argues

South Suffolk MP James Cartlidge

South Suffolk MP James Cartlidge insisted the government was right to urge MPs to abstain on the Labour motion. - Credit: Office of James Cartlidge

A Suffolk MP has said it is right to abstain on a parliamentary vote to extend a £20 a week benefit increase to help the least well off during the pandemic. 

Chancellor Rishi Sunak increased Universal Credit as part of support measures when the Covid crisis broke last March – but the uptick was always designed for a limited time period. 

The rise is due to be removed in April, but Labour forced a vote on the issue in the House of Commons calling for it to be extended. 

Conservative whips have told their MPs to abstain on the vote, which cannot be used to change any laws. 

South Suffolk MP James Cartlidge said it was premature to raise the matter when the government is still reviewing what support measures will be included in this year’s Budget. 

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Mr Cartlidge, who is parliamentary private secretary to Mr Sunak, is abstaining in the vote, along with other Conservative MPs. 

“We have seen what happens in opposition votes like this,” he said.  

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“Emotions are stirred up and MPs end up being trolled quite viciously. That is difficult for new MPs, particularly for new female MPs. 

"Whatever happens today, nothing will happen until the end of the financial year at the start of April.  

“And the chancellor is looking at all of financial support the government is providing in the budget at the beginning of March." 

Suffolk's Labour leaders have called on the county's MPs, who are all Conservatives, to back the opposition motion. 

Jack Abbott, Labour’s spokesman for education at Suffolk County Council, said: “This pandemic continues to put families under huge financial pressure, with thousands losing their jobs and many more seeing their income drop significantly.  

“It would be a horrific decision to slash over £1,000 of family support now - the government must cancel the cut. 

“Suffolk’s MPs can also make some amends for refusing to extend Free School Meals over October half-term by guaranteeing that children will receive the full value of free school meals support during future school holidays.  

“They must belatedly complete the roll-out of laptops and other IT equipment too and ensure no child is missing out on their education. 

“We’ve got to do everything we can to support families through this time of need - though they are of a different political party, I hope Suffolk’s Conservative MPs will do the right thing when voting.” 

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