Boris Johnson would expose an “absence of basic humanity and moral compass” if he goes ahead with a cut to Universal Credit, Nicola Sturgeon has said.
The UK Government plans to end a £20 uplift to the benefit introduced at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, a decision described as a “deeply cruel cut”.
The First Minister of Scotland questioned how the Prime Minister’s conscience could allow him to implement the “biggest overnight reduction” in social security payments since the 1930s, and suggested Mr Johnson “has no shame”.
Addressing the SNP conference, Ms Sturgeon warned that the cut would risk pushing 60,000 people – including 20,000 children – into poverty.
“The loss of more than £1,000 a year will be utterly devastating, it will quite literally take food out of children’s mouths,” she said.
“It will drive people into debt and, in some cases, to destitution and despair – and the Tories know all of this.”
The SNP leader said: “To even contemplate a cut like this displays a lack of basic understanding of the reality of life for those on the breadline – or maybe it’s actually a lack of care.
“But to go ahead and implement this cut would expose an absence of basic humanity and moral compass.
“Now, it’s no secret that I’m not Boris Johnson’s biggest fan – and no doubt the feeling is mutual – but I really struggle to believe that anyone’s conscience would allow them to proceed with this.
“So if this deeply cruel cut does happen, the only conclusion it will be possible to reach is that Boris Johnson simply has no shame.”
Addressing Mr Johnson directly, she added: “Please, Prime Minister – for the sake of millions of desperate people across the country, do not let that be history’s verdict upon you.”
The UK Government has repeatedly insisted that the £20 uplift was always intended to be temporary and ministers have indicated it will end as planned next month.
Speaking to broadcasters on Thursday morning, the Prime Minister said: “My strong preference is for people to see their wages rise through their efforts rather than through taxation of other people put into their pay packets.”
This morning, Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey suggested people should work extra hours to make up for the loss of the £20 per week.
Ms Coffey told BBC Breakfast: “I’m conscious that £20 a week is about two hours’ extra work every week – we will be seeing what we can do to help people perhaps secure those extra hours, but ideally also to make sure they’re also in a place to get better paid jobs as well.”
But Labour’s deputy labour leader Angela Rayner argued that Universal Credit’s taper means a £20 cut for a claimant would mean they need to do more than £50 worth of work as she struck out at Ms Coffey’s comments.
“This is a lie and the Work and Pensions Secretary either knows she’s lying or shouldn’t be in the job,” Ms Rayner tweeted.
“An additional £20 for a UC claimant isn’t 2 hours work, that’s not how the taper works. An extra £20 would require £50+ worth of hours, that is how the UC system works.”
Published: by Radio NewsHub