MP rebels to back call for Universal Credit increase extension

Waveney MP Peter Aldous

Waveney MP Peter Aldous backed the Labour motion calling for the retention of the £20 a week Universal Credit increase. - Credit: House of Commons

Waveney MP Peter Aldous has rebelled against his own party by supporting an opposition call for a £20 a week benefit increase to continue amid the Covid-19 crisis.

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 in Monday night's vote, which cannot be used to change any laws. 

But Mr Aldous was one of six Conservatives MPs who defied the government whip.

"I looked at the motion and there was nothing there that I could disagree with," said Mr Aldous. 

"And given everything I have said about this over the last year, I did not think there was any way I could not support it."

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He felt the Universal Credit increase had been very successful in getting extra support to families in need - and that they should know as soon as possible that it was being retained.

He said: "My intuition is that the increase will be retained and the announcement will come in the Budget.

"I think there will be changes to things like furlough and business support and sadly this will lead to more people losing their jobs.

"Foodbanks have been very busy over recent months and I think that will continue and they will become busier - and this is one form of support that we can see has worked. 

"For all those reasons, there really was no question in my mind that I should support this motion."

Among the six Conservative rebels was former work and pensions secretary Stephen Crabb and Harlow MP Robert Halfon, chairman of the education select committee.

Mr Aldous does not expect punishment from the whips - in fact, his proxy vote in favour of the motion was actually cast by a junior whip, because like most MPs he is working from home at present.

He said: "It was rather an unusual situation - for a government whip to have to cast a vote that was not in line with what the government wanted!"

Mr Aldous' decision to back the motion was welcomed by councillor Jack Abbott, Labour’s spokesman for education at Suffolk County Council.

He said: "Credit to Peter Aldous, who defied Boris Johnson's orders and voted to cancel the cut to Universal Credit.

"However, it’s so incredibly disappointing that the rest of his Conservative colleagues in Suffolk consistently put the interests of a deadbeat prime minister before the needs of their constituents.

“They’ve gone missing again while more than 40,000 households in Suffolk face a £1,000 cut.

"The Conservatives' chronic mismanagement of the pandemic response has caused Britain to suffer the worst recession of any major economy - now they are forcing families to bear the burden.”

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