Six Tory former welfare secretaries think that the pandemic benefits increase should stay. The prime minister should listen to them
An argument around the cabinet table in the spring ended in compromise: the £20 a week added to universal credit at the start of the pandemic would neither be withdrawn nor made permanent. It would be extended until September. With just two weeks to go until the end of the parliamentary session, time is running out for the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, to remove the threat hanging over 5.6 million claimants: after the summer they will be more than £80 a month poorer.
Six former work and pensions secretaries including Amber Rudd and Sir Iain Duncan Smith wrote to Mr Sunak at the weekend, arguing for the uplift to be retained. This also reflects the view of the current incumbent, Thérèse Coffey, and the Tory peer who helped design universal credit, Lord Freud. But so far the Treasury appears determined to rebuff all advances and stick to its callous claim that reducing weekly payments to £74.59 will contribute to getting people “back into work”.