Boris Johnson just made an extraordinary PMQs admission about the DWP’s most controversial benefit

Boris Johnson and Mhairi Black
Emily Apple

As The Canary has extensively documented, Universal Credit is one of the Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) most controversial benefits.

But while the government normally defends the benefit to the hilt, Boris Johnson made an extraordinary admission during Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) on 26 February. In response to a question from SNP MP Mhairi Black about whether one of her constituents had enough to live on, Johnson conceded:

The answer to her question, in a word, is no.

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The question

Black set out the circumstances her constituent is currently in:

I have a pregnant constituent with her due date in a couple of weeks. She is currently on Universal Credit. And after deductions, including an advance, she is left with a grand sum of £111 a month to feed herself, to heat her home and to prepare for her child…. But I want to ask him, in principle, as the prime minister, does he think that £111 a month is enough for anyone to live on?

She also said that she’d supply details of the case to Johnson, who agreed he’d look at it. Johnson initially responded to the question with the usual waffle about how the benefit is supposedly helping people. But in a weird diversion from normal practice at PMQs, when the PM doesn’t answer the actual question, Johnson did. And in doing so, he made an explosive admission that his government’s flagship benefit is failing people.

An “incredible admission”

As the Guardian‘s Kate Proctor tweeted, his response is an “incredible admission”:

And Full Fact pointed out that even his claim about the number of people the benefit has helped is “incorrect”. In fact, the 200,000 people Johnson claimed had been helped into work by Universal Credit represented “the government’s estimate of what Universal Credit would do by 2024/5”:

Not just an isolated case

This isn’t an isolated case. Universal Credit is causing misery for people up and down the country. As Steve Topple reported for The Canary on 24 February, in one town, two thirds of claimants are in rent arrears.

Meanwhile, the Trussell Trust said that – in 2018/19 – over three million food parcels were given out by all UK foodbanks. Around 2% of households in the UK received a parcel. Moreover, the Trussell Trust alone gave out more than 800,000 food parcels between April and September 2019. This was a 23% rise on 2018.

And it also says that foodbank use has increased in areas where the DWP has rolled out Universal Credit, with over 60% of people referred to foodbanks having had “problematic experiences with the benefit system”.

Given Johnson’s comment, it’s clear that even the government is admitting this horrendous system isn’t working. Any decent government would view this as an urgent reason why the benefit needs scrapping. Unfortunately, with Johnson in charge, this is very unlikely to happen.

Featured image via Twitter – BBC Politics

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  • Show Comments
    1. When the riots come then amongst the first places burnt down will be the Jobcentres.

      Back in the late-90s when the abysmal Blair was still riding high I got turned down for a loan for bedding for my new flat, the excuse being I’d spent my last wage of £440. The fact I’d spent it to secure the flat @ £200 deposit and £240 one-month rent in advance made no difference. “You spent it”, the idiot at the DHSS kept telling me. At that same time Prince Charles’ apartments at the Queen Mother’s Clarence House was having £4 million of public money spent on refurbishments…all while I had to sleep under old curtains and got bit on the nose by something within, giving me a big ugly spot for the next two weeks.

      For revenge I bummed a small tin of paint and paintbrush off a friend to paint two big swastikas on the side doors of the DHSS which those Nazis used away from the main doors. I saw the reflection of one woman approach then turn away, saying nothing. So they’ve known for years what they are.

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