Labour secures emergency debate on Universal Credit roll-out

westminster-parliamentHouse of Commons Speaker John Bercow has approved a Labour request for an emergency debate today over the planned roll-out of Universal Credit.

Last week, the Commons backed Labour’s advisory motion calling for the controversial welfare changes to be put on hold by 299 votes to nil.

Though the result was not binding, shadow work and pensions secretary, Debbie Abrahams, won a rare three-hour emergency debate after arguing it was only the second such defeat in 40 years.

Ms Abrahams urged the UK government to respond to calls to “pause and fix” its beleaguered welfare reform.

She said: “The House has spoken on an issue that could dramatically affect the lives of up to seven million people, and they are the people who will be subject to the flawed Universal Credit programme.”

This morning’s debate will also not be binding.

Ministers have maintained that the next phase in the expansion of Universal Credit, which rolls six benefits into one, will not be paused despite concerns many recipients are waiting more than six weeks to get paid.

They insist that anyone struggling to make ends meet and pay bills can receive bridging payments within five days with same-day financial support for those in the most need.

Last week the government bowed to pressure by agreeing to introduce a free helpline for people seeking information.

It has now been reported that ministers are considering cutting the period that claimants have to wait for their first payment from six to four weeks, a move welcomed by landlords.

David Smith, policy director for the Residential Landlords Associations, which represents landlords in England and Wales, said: “The current six weeks delay before Universal Credit claimants receive any money causes many tenants to get into rent arrears causing problems for them and their landlords. Any move to reduce this waiting time is very welcome.

“A reduction to four weeks would be more reasonable and bring payment schedules into line with those in the world of work.”

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