UUP MLA backs pause in universal credit plan

Andy Allen was 'shocked' the DUP sided with the government
Andy Allen was 'shocked' the DUP sided with the government

The Ulster Unionist Party has expressed shock that the DUP decided to side with the government over the roll-out of universal credit, a controversial new benefit being gradually introduced in Northern Ireland and across the UK.

A Labour Party motion which called for ministers to “pause and fix” the roll-out of the welfare payment was backed by 299 MPs to zero in Parliament on Wednesday night. The DUP, along with the Conservative Party, opted to abstain from the vote.

UUP communities spokesperson Andy Allen MLA said he was “shocked” by the DUP’s decision and spoke of the need for the introduction of universal credit to be delayed until it could be demonstrated “major flaws” in the roll-out of the welfare payment had been fixed.

Speaking in Parliament on Wednesday, however, DUP MP Sammy Wilson said he and his party colleagues had abstained “not because we don’t believe there are problems, but because we believe it is better to talk to the government to get solutions”.

Mr Allen said: “The roll-out of universal credit in Great Britain has been beset with complaints and it would surely be better to resolve these difficulties and not plunge claimants further into poverty. It is only right that the public should have confidence in the system, that it works and is fair. At the present time, that is not the case.

“Calls for the roll-out of UC to be suspended have been growing over recent weeks and therefore when the proposal was put to Parliament, many people had hoped the government would realise that the current situation is untenable.”

He added: “I was shocked that the DUP sided with the government.”