DUP: We won’t let Labour exploit our differences

Sammy Wilson MP.
Sammy Wilson MP.

The DUP will not allow Labour to “exploit” differences between them and the Conservative Party, Sammy Wilson told the Commons last night before his party sided with the Tories in a vote on Universal Credit.

MPs secured a symbolic victory over Theresa May’s minority government after they backed a Labour-led motion to pause Universal Credit.

A vote was forced in the Commons against the backdrop of the Conservatives whipping their MPs to abstain, a move criticised by senior Tory Sarah Wollaston. The DUP also abstained in the vote.

Labour’s motion asking for the government to halt the roll-out of its flagship welfare reforms, which is non-binding on ministers, was approved by 299 votes to zero.

The vote came after more than five hours of debate which saw fierce criticism of UC’s roll-out from the opposition benches, including claims it has been a “shambles” and “idiotic”.

DUP MP Sammy Wilson, explaining his party’s reasons for siding with the government, said: “We will be abstaining in this vote.

“Not because we don’t believe there are problems, but because we believe it is better to talk to the government to get solutions, rather than being used.

“And let me just say this to the Labour Party... because they know there are differences between ourselves and the government, there will be times when they try to exploit that.

“But we will not be used for headline-grabbing defeats of government flagship policies, rather than solving and trying to find a way of resolving the issues which need to be addressed.”

The East Antrim MP said the old system of benefits also had problems, and that differences in the system in Northern Ireland could also be used across the UK.

He cited examples such as making payments every two weeks rather than monthly.

Mr Wilson also said Universal Credit was being rolled out gradually and that ministers had responded to calls for changes.

The DUP came in for criticism from left-leaning parties in Northern Ireland following the vote.

Green Party leader Steven Agnew MLA said: “There are 10 DUP (MPs) in Westminster, representing tens of thousands of families and people in Northern Ireland who will access Universal Credit in the future.

“Pausing the roll out across England could also bring relief for Northern Ireland claimants.”

He added: “However, it’s really unfortunate that these MPs have thumbed their noses at people in siding with the Tories.”

People Before Profit MLA Gerry Carroll said: “Their abstention on the Universal Credit vote is a cowardly act, designed to keep their grubby little deal with the Conservative Party in place.”