Welfare dependency is an invidious culture that I am proud this Government do not champion, or aspire to. The universal credit uplift was always temporary. It was part of the generous package from this Government to ensure that all parts of society were supported during the pandemic.
The better conversation and debate we should have been having today is about job creation and the Government’s £30 billion plan for jobs—helping people who have lost their job due to coronavirus to find new jobs, helping the over-50s bounce back quickly, helping young people into work, helping people to retrain and find new, well-paid jobs, and giving people the security of a regular income. After all, is that not the whole purpose of universal credit—giving people the means and support they need to get back into work? Never more is that important than now.
The Government are devoting more resources to this than any Government in recent history, and I challenge anyone to say otherwise. They have delivered £28 billion of support already, the furlough scheme, £1 billion in catch-up funding for schools and vulnerable children, a £500 million hardship fund, £117 million in support to tackle food poverty this winter and over £6 million in increases to welfare. At the beginning of the pandemic, the UK economy was in a good place. That is why the Chancellor is right to wait for more clarity on the national, economic and social picture before assessing the best way to support low-income families moving forward.
Those are the conversations that my constituents want to hear, not ones of political expediency or ambiguity. On the one hand, the Opposition call for this debate, as they think the universal credit uplift should be permanent, at a cost of approximately £6 billion a year, which would mean a 1% increase in income tax for 30 million taxpayers and a 5p increase in fuel duty. Where is the financial prudence in any of that? Bizarrely, the Leader of the Opposition calls to scrap universal credit, leaving people with no means of financial or practical support to get themselves back into work. Today’s debate smacks of political opportunism, with straplines that only serve to make headlines and do not help those most in need.
Where there is no ambiguity is in the simple fact that since 2010 this country has voted in all three successive elections for a Conservative leadership to lead this country, and there is a reason for that. It is in this Government that people can trust. This is a time to allow the Government to continue with that trust—a Government who will continue to stand behind families who need our support at the time of this country’s greatest need. Getting people back into work is what will see us lift this country out of this crisis, not political opportunism and not welfare dependency.