UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson faces widespread criticism on Monday for refusing to commit to renewing a temporary welfare benefit increase brought in last year to help people on low incomes through the coronavirus pandemic.
PM has ordered his lawmakers to abstain on a vote in parliament later on Monday, putting a new focus on the government’s willingness to support people worst affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
Parliament voted 278 to 0 in favour of keeping the top-up payment of 20 pounds ($27) a week, but the vote was symbolic and does not force the government to act, reports Reuters.
The opposition Labour Party called for the increase to the Universal Credit welfare benefits to be extended beyond April when it is due to expire.
“We all know, families are looking at us, wondering what we will do to help make getting through this crisis that little bit easier,” said Labour lawmaker Jonathan Reynolds. “What they don’t expect is the government making it even harder.”
Speaking ahead of the debate, Johnson was asked four times whether the top-up would continue but did not give a definitive answer.”What we’ve said is that we will put our arms around the whole of the country,” he said.
The government says no decision has been made yet and accuses Labour of staging a political stunt with the vote.
Britain has announced emergency help for the economy worth 280 billion pounds, including a massive job protection scheme. It is running its largest peacetime deficit to try to soften the blow of the pandemic.
Universal Credit is Britain’s primary method of supporting those out of work, in low-income jobs, or eligible for welfare based on sickness or disability.