Former Tory Cabinet minister calls for universal credit uplift to be reinstated

Tory former Cabinet minister Lord Forsyth pictured in the House of Lords in 2019. Credit: PA

A former Tory Cabinet minister has called on new Prime Minister Liz Truss to reinstate the £20-a-week universal credit uplift that was brought in to support people during the Covid-19 lockdown.

Lord Forsyth, who served in John Major’s Cabinet, argued that circumstances are “considerably worse” now with rising fuel costs than they were at the height of the pandemic.

He asked in the House of Lords: “If it was right to pay an extra £20 on universal credit in lockdown when circumstances were bad, they’re considerably worse now, and, therefore, should we not look to increase payments on a temporary basis on universal credit?”

The £20-a-week boost to universal credit and working tax credits was initially introduced in March 2020 in response to the coronavirus pandemic and resultant lockdown.

The uplift lasted for 18 months, before being scrapped in October 2021.

Lord Callanan, parliamentary under-secretary for Business, Energy and Corporate Responsibility, said it was a “powerful point” and that he was “sure the new PM will want to bear in mind his words”.

Lord Forsyth’s comment came after Lord Wood of Anfield, who was an adviser to Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband, asked the government what further support they plan to provide for low-income families who do not pay income tax, to help meet their rising energy costs.

He argued that Ms Truss’s promise to cut income tax would not help the 43% of adults who do not pay income tax.

The minister urged peers to be “patient” and wait for the new prime minister and her government to present their plans going forward.

He said: “The noble Lord is commenting on proposals that he has not yet seen.

“The House will not have long to wait, a lot of options have been worked on over the summer, as well as putting the preparations in place for the Energy Bills Support Scheme, which I remind the House is going to be rolled out from 1st October in a series of monthly payments.”

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