On Monday the 18th January the Labour Party took control of the Commons for Opposition Day. One of their motions urged the Government to continue the £20-a-week uplift in Universal Credit and the basic element in Working Tax Credit which under current circumstances will be scrapped in April.
The motion read: “This house believes that the Government should stop the planned cut in Universal credit and Working Tax credit in April and give certainty today to the six million families for whom it is worth an extra £1,000 a year.”
In March 2020 the Government introduced the increase, which provides an over 25, single person in receipt of Universal Credit with approximately £1,040 of extra support per year. The uplift was implemented in view of the exceptional circumstances due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
In Oxfordshire, the most recent data (from October 2020) shows there are more than 16,000 claimants of Universal Credit. This constitutes an increase of almost 10,000 people from the data recorded in March 2020, before the first national lockdown. A majority of the people now claiming Universal Credit in Oxfordshire therefore required help within a seven-month period, coinciding with stringent national measures to combat the spread of the Covid-19 virus.
Labour MP for Oxford East and Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds called on Conservative MPs in a tweet to “do the right thing and vote with Labour to #CancelTheCut to Universal Credit”. Alongside Layla Moran, Lib-Dem MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, she voted in favour of the motion.
As expected, the Conservative Party representatives for Oxfordshire constituencies abstained. Banbury MP Victoria Prentis, Henley MP John Howell, Wantage MP David Johnston and Witney MP Robert Courts did not join six of their party colleagues in the Commons to vote in support of the motion.
There were only two ‘No’ votes, with 278 MP’s voting ‘Aye’.
Speaking to the Oxford Mail Anneliese Dodds said: “There are around 7590 households on Universal Credit in Oxford East. It was disappointing that the Conservative Government refused to vote with Labour to provide families with certainty and secure our economy. They can still do the right thing and drop their plans to cut Universal Credit.”
When contacted for a comment Layla Moran criticised “Tory MPs who blindly backed the Government and abstained on this vital motion” who “now need to explain themselves to the 16,000 people in Oxfordshire who will be significantly affected by this cut.” Furthermore, she said: “During a pandemic it’s appalling that a government would remove financial certainty from millions of households across the country. I voted to support the hardest hit, and the Liberal Democrats also pushed for a much-needed amendment to the motion to also award the increase to unpaid carers and others on legacy benefits too. Frankly it’s the least we can do.”
All aforementioned Oxfordshire MPs have been contacted for comment.
Image Credits: Deniz Fuchidzhiev on Unsplash