A Tory MP today blasted his own party’s “foolish and unfair” £20-a-week cut to Universal Credit for millions of Brits.
Nigel Mills warned the Conservatives risk looking “cruel and harsh” and “leaving people in an impossible situation” as the brutal cut kicks in from next week.
The cut will formally begin tomorrow – just as Boris Johnson addresses the Tory conference – and hit payments arriving between October 13 and November 12.
Some 5.8million people plus more than 3million children will be affected.
Yet the cruel Prime Minister defended the cut today by claiming it was wrong for taxpayers to “subsidise” low wages. The benefit system has done this for decades and 40% of claimants are in work.
Tory MP Nigel Mills, who sits on the Commons Work and Pensions Committee, told a conference fringe event in Manchester: “I think the government are being a little bit foolish I think politically and they’re being unfair on people by taking that away.
“I sense by the end of October the government may have realised that probably wasn’t the…having spent months wanting the government to stand up and not back down every time something got difficult, I think they’ve picked the wrong issue to start with.
“No doubt we will see in a few weeks with the rising cost of living how bad a decision that is.”
Mr Mills slammed the new Household Support Fund, saying if ministers had £500m to spend on “creating very complicated funds” people have to apply for, spending money on the benefit itself would be a better use of money.
Speaking to the Bright Blue fringe, Mr Mills said unlike a decade ago, “I don’t think there’s the same political concern that welfare’s too high and it’s too easy. I think we should be very careful we’re not playing the politics of a decade ago when there was a problem to fix. Now there actually isn’t one.
Tory conference 2021
“And we actually may end up going so far that we look cruel and harsh and leaving people in an impossible situation that no one wants to see – everybody has grandchildren or friends who will end up in this situation.”
Tory MP Peter Aldous said it was “wrong” to be taking away the £20-a-week now when Britain had just seen its worst economic shock in a century.
He warned costs are “cascading in” on families, telling the fringe event: “The idea we just switch on the light and go back to normal is not going to happen.
“Covid is going to have a very long tail and we’ve seen that in the last 10 days with the crisis in the energy sector, there are challenges with regard to food, housing costs and rents.”
Mr Aldous said many claimants are “not in a position now” to take up vacancies.
He added: “It’s probably not consistent with the levelling up agenda. The levelling up agenda has a lot of focus quite rightly on infrastructure.
Daily Mirror/Andy Stenning)
“But actually equipping and providing people with the skills to take up those jobs, and as Conservatives provide a fair benefits system, a safety net that provides you with some degree of security…. I think we have made a mistake.”
Boris Johnson earlier defended the £20-a-week cut to Universal Credit that will plunge hundreds of thousands of families into poverty.
The Prime Minister argued that businesses should put up wages rather than taxpayers subsidising them through the welfare system.
But low-income families face the triple whammy of rising prices and energy bills along with falling income support this winter.
In a round of broadcast interviews, Mr Johnson said: “I understand that people feel times are difficult at the moment because we have got an economy that’s coming out of a very tough period with the Covid pandemic.”
He added: “What we won’t do is take more money in tax to subsidise low pay through the welfare system.”
The Government has been in an escalating row with Labour, unions, landlords, debt charities and Tory MPs, including former welfare secretaries, who want it to cancel the cut.
But ministers claim the plan is the “right way to help people” by focusing on those in work, even though 40% of claimants already have a job.