Granada Debate: Is the government right to end the Universal credit boost?

MPs Mark Hendrick and Scott Benton join political correspondent Lise McNally on September's installment of The Granada Debate.

On this episode of the Granada Debate, the panel discuss calls to cancel the £20 Universal Credit cut, the resettlement scheme for Afghan refugees, and whether MPs need to smarten up.

On the panel for September's edition of The Granada Debate:

  • Scott Benton, the Conservative MP for Blackpool South.

  • Sir Mark Hendrick, the Labour and Co-operative Member of Parliament for Preston.

Calls to cancel the cut - is the government right to end the Universal credit boost?

In less than a month, three quarters of families living in the North West will lose £20 a week from their household budget in what's been branded the biggest overnight cut to social security since the Second World War.

The government introduced the top-up at the start of the first lockdown, insisting it was a temporary measure to help those hit hardest by the pandemic. But has the crisis really gone away?

Speaking on Granada Debate, MP Scott Benton said the money the Government has spent on helping people through the pandemic has "gone an awful long way" but says "now society and the economy is opening up again, it's absolutely key that we now refocus that support..."

He continued: "In my constituency, there are thousands of job vacancies for people to go into so, as I said, the emphasis needs to be on getting people into work."

However, Mark Hendrick argues the cut to Universal Credit is 'inhumane' and says 50% of the people workers in his constituency, who claim UC, are still struggling.

He said: "The economy might be opening up again but the economic conditions and the living standards of many people are still just as bad, if not worse, than when the pandemic started.

"To do this, I think, is totally inhumane and the government having spent millions of pounds on things like duff PPE given to companies owned by their friends shouldn't be considering a cut of £20 to some of the poorest people in this country."

As the North West welcomes the first Afghan refugees - can our councils cope?

The first of thousands of Afghan refugees have started to make their new lives in the North West after being rescued when the Taliban took control of the country.

But Home Office data shows the region is already hosting more than 9,000 asylum seekers - compared with the general population, that is more than double that of London and 10 times more than the South East.

Charities and councils across the North West say they are ready to play their part in a huge operation to provide housing, food and clothing. But will the government make sure other parts of the country play their part too?

Mark Hendrick says the amount of refugees the UK is taking in is 'pitiful' and said councils shouldn't be given the choice whether or not to take in asylum seekers.

He said: "There's a duty on this country to actually look after those people."

Mr Benton agrees with Mr Hendrick's views that the government should fairly distribute asylum seekers across the country but says the number of people the UK is taking in is 'not pitiful'.

Are scruffy politicians letting down sartorial standards in the House of Commons?

MPs can now only turn up for a debate in person, in the House of Commons, ending months of video links and unreliable internet connections.

But the Speaker of the house, Chorley's Sir Lindsay Hoyle, had to remind members of parliament to dress smartly in the Commons - jeans, T-shirts, trainers and sleeveless tops are all not appropriate.

Members who do not respect the house will not be called to speak.

Mark Hendrick says the standards have dropped and says the focus is predominantly on men, but thinks women's' dress needs to be taken seriously as well.

He said: "I had a colleague, I won't name names, who came in the chamber on her first day after being elected in what looked like a boiler suit to me."

Scott says members of parliament are in a "privileged position" and says its their "duty to demonstrate our privilege to our constituents"

Catch up with previous episodes of Granada Debate here.