Did the government ignore a vote in parliament on Universal Credit?

20 October 2017

"Yesterday they were given an opportunity to work with us, to pause this scheme and work with us to fix it, so that it could benefit people and not cause that real hardship. And not only did they refuse to do that, but they didn't even bother to turn up to defend their policy.”

Lisa Nandy MP, 19 October 2017

“The government was there, we had ministers speaking in the debate, we had backbenchers speaking in the debate. Simply choosing not to vote against a Labour opposition day motion, which is not a binding motion, does not mean we failed to turn up.”

Chris Grayling MP, 19 October 2017

On Wednesday MPs debated a Labour proposal to call “on the Government to pause the roll-out of Universal Credit full service”.  Universal Credit aims to merge lots of different benefits into one system but it has had serious difficulties.

Both the Secretary of State who is responsible for Universal Credit, and the Minister for employment, as well as 43 other Conservative MPs spoke in the debate.

At the end of the day 299 mainly Labour MPs voted for the pause.

Only one Conservative MP, Dr Sarah Wollaston, voted. She voted for the pause.

No MPs voted against the proposal.

Conservative MPs were instructed not to take part in the vote by their party, according to at least one MP’s undisputed account.

The Speaker of the House of Commons commented: “it is blindingly obvious that this is an unusual situation about which there is strong opinion, and I think it would be respectful to the House if a Minister, sooner rather than later, were to come to the House—perhaps after due consideration and collegiate exchange with other members of the Government—to give an indication of the Government’s thinking.”

The next day the government was questioned repeatedly by MPs about how it would respond to the vote. The Leader of the House, who represents the government to the House of Commons, argued that: “The debate yesterday specifically called for a pause in the roll-out of universal credit. I can reassure hon. Members that the roll-out schedule already includes a number of pauses. There has recently been one; the next is scheduled for January. The roll-out of universal credit is being done over a lengthy period.”

As yet there is no further statement from the government scheduled. The Leader of the House said: “I can also assure colleagues that DWP Ministers will come back to the House... As soon as there is more to tell the House about the achievements that have been put in place.”

You can find out who your MP is here, and see if they took part in the debate here.

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