Wigan Labour leadership hopeful Nandy calls for scrapping of Universal Credit

Labour leadership candidate Lisa Nandy has urged the Government to scrap and rebuild Universal Credit - labelling the benefit a "failure".

Wednesday, 5th February 2020, 7:52 am
Updated Wednesday, 5th February 2020, 7:54 am
Lisa Nandy

The Wigan MP, who is seeking to replace Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the opposition, will call for a different approach as she addresses a party members' event in Sheffield on Tuesday night.

Her comments come after the Government announced on Monday that it would once again delay the full roll-out of the much-criticised flagship welfare reform.

It is now not expected to be fully introduced until September 2024, a fresh setback of an estimated nine months.

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Ms Nandy will say: "For too long the benefits system has been designed from the top-down and the Tories have shown little regard for the brutal reality facing those who need it.

"Too many people end up destitute and in despair at the hands of a system that is supposed to help them. Universal Credit should be scrapped and rebuilt with the people it should be supporting.

"Universal Credit is a failure yet the Tories can't bring themselves to admit that they are part of the problem. It is time for a different approach which allows the people who rely on the state for help, with the expertise of advocacy groups, to change it for the better."

She said she would use the "knowledge and ambition of people who rely on Universal Credit" to develop a new system through "participatory workshops".

"Then we'll campaign for it in our communities and in Parliament and use the power of a movement to build a more humane system everyone can believe in."

Labour announced ahead of the general election last year that it would scrap Universal Credit if the party entered government.

Will Quince was sent to defend Universal Credit in the face of criticism from MPs, and insisted no claimant has to wait five weeks for their initial payment, despite Tory and opposition concerns.

The work and pensions minister said the first payment can be made "on day one", but added "of course" there are improvements he would like to make to the new system.

Makerfield MP Yvonne Fovargue (Makerfield) also said: "There's overwhelming evidence from pilot areas like Wigan and debt charities like StepChange that the five-week wait is causing further debt problems."

But Mr Quince replied: "It's important to say that nobody has to wait five weeks for an initial payment, it can be done on day one, it's repayable over 12 months, as of next year that is extended to 16 months.

"Are there further improvements I'd like to make? Yes, of course there are. They would all require Treasury approval, Mr Speaker, but I'd be happy to work with Ms Fovargue to look at those in further detail."