Universal Credit: Benefit increase only 'temporary', says Raab

SharenocloseShare pagelinkCopy linkAbout sharingimage copyrightGetty ImagesA decision on whether the £20 weekly rise in Universal Credit will be kept in place is unlikely before March’s Budget, ministers have signalled. Campaigners say the uplift, worth more than £1,000 a year, has been a lifeline for the vulnerable during the pandemic.Labour will use a Commons debate on Monday to add pressure on ministers to agree now to extend it beyond 31 March.But Dominic Raab told the BBC it was a “temporary measure” and the Budget would spell out support “in the round”. The foreign secretary’s comments follow reports that Conservative MPs will be told to abstain in Monday’s debate, meaning Labour’s “opposition day” motion is likely to be approved.While this will not be binding on the government, the BBC’s Ben Wright said allowing Tory MPs to abstain was an attempt by the government to “neutralise” the issue.It showed, he added, how concerned ministers were about the prospect of a rebellion by MPs – many of whom want ministers to put an end to the uncertainty – and the symbolic damage that a defeat could cause. Ministers urged to extend lockdown benefit ‘boost’Families ‘face period of destitution’ during CovidThe standard Universal Credit allowance, which is claimed by more than 5.5 million households, was increased by £20 a week in April 2020 as part of Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s early Covid economic response. While it was designed as a temporary response to help those unable to work or struggling due to the lockdown, opposition parties and charities say failing to extend will cause real hardship for hundreds of thousands of people.Hardship warningThe Joseph Rowntree Foundation has suggested about 16 million people will be directly affected, with millions of households facing an income loss equivalent to £1,040 a year.They say 700,000 more people will be driven into poverty, including 300,000 children, while a further 500,000 of those already in poverty will find themselves in even worse hardship. Asked whether the government should act now, Mr Raab said Monday’s debate was a “political” move by the opposition and not about the government’s overall financial support during the pandemic.He promised to “look at everything in the round” to make sure support for the most vulnerable was available. “Obviously in March there will be a Budget where again that holistic approach can be taken by the chancellor, but we’ve put that support in place to make sure that the most vulnerable communities can be protected at this very difficult time,” he told Andrew Marr.The government says it has injected an extra £7bn into the welfare system during the pandemic, including boosting Working Tax Credits by more than £1,000 a year for a 12-month period. Labour has urged the government to “see sense” on Universal Credit, saying that it would be both morally and economically wrong to “take £1,000 a year from Britain’s families” at the peak of the unemployment crisis.

Covid-19: UK increases border checks for travellers to keep new cases and variants out

The foreign secretary has announced increased border checks in a bid to stop new coronavirus cases and further variants of the virus getting into the UK.Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Dominic Raab said quarantine along with pre-departure negative tests and the work of Border Force was the “most effective” measure if done correctly.He admitted there had been challenges around enforcement of post-travel quarantine, adding calls from Public Health England to check people were isolating would be ramped up.