Boris Johnson has declined to explain how Universal Credit claimants should compensate for the £20 per week cut in payments, as he called criticism of the move “absurd”.
In fierce skirmishes in the Commons, the prime minister was challenged to determine how many hours of extra work would be needed – after a cabinet minister wrongly claimed it was just 2.
But Mr Johnson declined to say whether the true figure is higher or lower – after experts concluded the answer is up to 9 – and instead criticized putting taxes “at a profit”.
Keir Starmer, speaking ahead of the Commons vote on the controversy, said that single parents on minimum wage would have to find an extra 9 hours a week “just to get back the money the prime minister took away from them”.
“Why is the prime minister choosing to make the already loaded tax system more unfair against the working people?” The labor leader wanted to know.
The £20 a week cut – which begins next month – is projected to plunge half a million more people, including 200,000 children, into poverty.
Labor is staging a Commons vote but is set to lose and even the cuts have been criticized by Conservative MPs, who are going ahead and resigning for it.
Downing Street later said that Tory lawmakers would be asked to abstain from Labor’s proposal to scrap the cuts, meaning it would pass – but would have no effect, as it is non-binding. .
The Prime Minister’s press secretary said: “As a general rule we do not vote on the opposition’s debate of the day”.
The Secretary for Work and Pensions, Therese Coffey, got her amount horribly wrong when she said that claimants should get more work because “£20 a week is about two hours of extra work”.
It was quickly pointed out that Universal Credit is intentionally “diluted”, so a large portion of the payments are withdrawn as an increase in earnings.
The respected Resolution Foundation think-tank said claimants take home as little as £2.24 per hour for every hour worked at the national minimum wage of £8.91, after travel and childcare costs.
They would be required to work an additional six hours a week in support of the £20 cut – increased to nine hours if they pay taxes and national insurance, it found.
Sir Keir said: “The truth is that these low-paid workers cannot work longer hours to get back the money the prime minister is deducting from them.”
“The reason for this is: why would they have to work an extra nine hours a full day every week to get the £20 back because of their broken tax system.
But Mr Johnson responded: “What I can tell them is that wages are rising for the first time in decades under this government.”
He continued: “Of course, what they want to do is continue to take money in taxation and put it to profit. We don’t think that’s the right way. We want to encourage higher pay and higher skills.”
Credit: www.independent.co.uk /