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Universal Credit Roll-out

Volume 630: debated on Monday 23 October 2017

Application for emergency debate (Standing Order No. 24)

I rise to propose that the House should debate the specific and important matter of universal credit roll-out.

May I thank you, Mr Speaker, for allowing this important application, which arises, as you know, after a decisive vote on a motion to pause universal credit roll-out. It was supported by this House last week by 299 votes to zero.

That was the second such Government defeat on an Opposition day motion in 40 years. Since that debate last week we have heard nothing from the Government, despite the fact that, after the last time this happened, the Government made a statement within three and a half hours.

Worse still, in business questions on the day after the Government’s resounding defeat, the Leader of the House used a change to Government policy on the phone lines for universal credit, which was made before the vote last week, as a justification for refusing to inform the House on when we might expect a further statement on this matter.

I thank my right hon. and hon. Friends who have pressed the Government for a statement as well as the hon. Members for Gainsborough (Sir Edward Leigh) and for Wellingborough (Mr Bone) for their remarks on the constitutional issues to which the lack of a statement exposes the Government.

One of the few formal rights of Opposition parties is to decide the topic and motion for debate on 20 sitting days. All previous Governments have recognised that the failure to carry the House against an Opposition motion is a serious rebuke to the Government’s policy on an issue and has treated that accordingly. That is even more important when the House has spoken on an issue that could dramatically affect the lives of up to 7 million people, who will soon be subject to the flawed universal credit programme. I thank you once again, Mr Speaker, for considering this application.

I have listened carefully to the hon. Lady’s application, and I am satisfied that the matter raised is proper to be discussed under Standing Order No. 24. Has the hon. Lady the leave of the House?

Application agreed to (not fewer than 40 Members standing in support).

The hon. Lady has obtained the leave of the House. The debate will be held tomorrow, Tuesday 24 October, as the first item of public business. The debate will last for three hours and will arise on a motion that the House has considered the specified matter set out in the hon. Lady’s application.