Belfast Telegraph

DUP abstain in vote on Universal Credit - 55p helpline charge to be scrapped

The DUP will not support a Labour-backed motion to pause the roll-out of Universal Credit.

Speaking in the House of Commons during a debate on the controversial change to benefit payments, DUP MP Sammy Wilson confirmed that his party would be abstaining from the 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 difference between ourselves and the government," he said.

"There have been times when they’ve tried to exploit that.

"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 vote is non-binding on the government and Conservative MPs have been ordered to abstain.

Despite this, prior to the vote PM Theresa May held private meetings with MPs from her own party who it is understood were considering supporting the Labour motion.

Universal Credit payments combine six working-age benefits into a single payment.

While it aims to create a system where no one would be better off claiming benefits than working, its introduction has been opposed, with many claimants having to face a six-week wait to receive their first payment - something that has caused some benefit recipients to go into rent arrears.

There had also been controversy around a 55p-a-minute charge to call the Universal Credit helpline.

Appearing before a Commons committee, Work and Pensions Secretary David Gauke said the helpline would be switched over to a freephone number next month.

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