DOMINIC Raab has called for an end to the £20 raise for Universal Credit to help families avoid the “welfare trap” and find better paying jobs.
The deputy PM shrugged off fears that millions of Britons would have to choose between heating and eating once the weekly payments expire today.
He said the government could not effectively subsidize low wages by giving more benefits to Britons who were already working.
Mr Raab also stressed that this Christmas will be “absolutely” better than the last, despite warnings of a tough winter to come and potential shortages.
Boris Johnson was urged to maintain the £20 raise by senior figures in his own party, including former leader Sir Ian Duncan Smith.
But his deputy defended the move to repeal it, claiming it was part of the prime minister’s long-term plan to transform Britain into a high-wage, high-skill economy.
He added: “We need to transition. We don’t want to see people rely on the welfare net.”
Mr Raab said No 10 is determined to end Britain’s reliance on “cheap medicine for unskilled labor from abroad”.
The deputy PM said: “Our approach to the economy as we bounce back from this terrible pandemic, with employment rising, youth unemployment decreasing, is also to ensure that wages are rising.
“It is absolutely true that if we depend on cheap, unskilled labor from overseas for a long time, we are running into some big productivity issues that we have to address.”
He also said it was “clearly untenable long-term” to maintain pandemic funding and that the UC upsurge was “always going to be temporary”.
But Sir Ian said the prime minister “should have a rain check on this” as the Britons are facing a hard winter.
He said it would be wise for ministers to “give themselves four or five months” to see how to recover from the pandemic.
And he said Universal Credit is the “best mechanism” to help people get back to work.
to heat or eat
Ministers have said that keeping the £6bn a year scheme in place would require a penny on income tax and 3p on the cost of fuel.
The Resolution Foundation think tank warned that the cuts would cost 4.4m families, including 3.5 million children, £1,000 per year overnight.
But Mr Raab stressed that there are other government schemes available to help the poorest families in the winter months.
When told that families would now face a choice between heating and eating, he replied: “I don’t think that’s right.”
And he adds: “We’ve found the right balance between encouraging people to work who can, but also making sure the welfare net is in place for those who need it.”
He also reiterated the PM’s remarks that Christmas this year will be “absolutely” better than last year, despite warnings of a collapse of supply chains.
When given the risk of shortage, he replied: “I believe you will find your turkey.”
Mr Raab said the economy’s strong boom from Covid would help the country winter and “you can feel it on the high road”.