A cut to Universal Credit should be restored “in the name of humanity” with the cost of living set to soar, a Tory former Cabinet minister has said.
As households face spiralling bills, Lord Forsyth of Drumlean urged the reinstatement of the £20-a-week uplift to the benefit for the country’s poorest families.
The Conservative grandee highlighted the increased revenue Chancellor Rishi Sunak would net from rapidly rising fuel prices.
The Government has argued the benefit increase was a temporary measure to assist people during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Six million people who are going to have to cope with these astonishing increases in bills, not just energy bills but bills across the piece.
“Surely, in the name of humanity if not in the interest of politics, we should look at this again, given that the Chancellor is getting increased revenue from the rising costs of petrol and other energy sources.”
Responding, work and pensions minister Baroness Stedman-Scott indicated she was sympathetic to Lord Forsyth’s call as she highlighted a move to compensate for some of the withdrawal.
This was a reference to the cut in taper rate, enabling claimants to keep more of the benefit as they earn more.
She added: “There are moments when I wish I was Chancellor.”
Labour frontbencher Baroness Sherlock said: “Inflation is running at record rates. The Bank of England forecasts that, next month, it will go up to 7.25%. That forecast was made before the war in Ukraine. Benefits are going to go up by 3%.
“Next month, the energy price cap will go up to £2,000. People are currently being offered £3,500 fixed-price tariffs. To put that in context, that is £67 a week.
“We give an adult on Universal Credit or JSA (Jobseeker’s Allowance) £75 a week to live on. How are they possibly meant to manage?”
Lady Stedman-Scott said: “Her explanation of the metrics is absolutely accurate.
“Inflation is gathering momentum, mainly because of pressures from rising energy prices and disruptions to global supply chains.
“We understand about the higher cost of living, but at the risk of repeating myself… there is no comment I can make about what the Government may or may not do about the situation.”