Watch: SNP MP Mhairi Black slams ‘callous’ Tory government in universal credit speech

Mhairi Black MP (Andrew Milligan/PA Wire)
Mhairi Black MP (Andrew Milligan/PA Wire)

SNP MP Mhairi Black dubbed the Tory government ‘pious loan sharks’ in a speech during an opposition day debate on universal credit.

The 23-year-old MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire South implored MPs to vote to ‘halt’ the roll-out of controversial benefits payment system.

Although Black said she agreed with the basic principles of the scheme, she said: “Like most Conservative policies, the minute we scratch beneath the surface, we see the harsh truth.”

Black mentioned the minimum 42-day wait for the first payment, and said figures from Citizens Advice show that one in four new claimants wait longer than six weeks to be paid

Black said this ‘25% failure rate’ was ‘staggeringly alarming.’

She added: “Benefit delays remain one of the primary reasons for an increase in foodbank usage.

“The progress with the roll-out of universal credit as it stands is callous at worst and arrogantly idiotic at best.”

Black then continued: “It’s almost like this government is starting to behave like some kind of pious loan shark, except that instead of coming through your front door they’re coming after your mental health, your physical well-being, your stability, your sense of security.

“That is what the experience is for all of our constituents.”

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“Plunging people into debt does not incentivise work.

“Forcing people into hunger does not incentivise work

“Causing anxiety and distress and even evicting some families from their homes does not incentivise work.”

“This government has absolutely no excuse for pushing ahead with this reform after today. Halt it, and halt it now.”

After the debate, MPS voted overwhelmingly to pause Universal Credit.

The Labour-led motion was passed by 299 votes to zero.

Following the vote, Labour’s Ms Debbie Abrahams said: “Yet again, the Prime Minister and the Tories cannot command a majority in the House of Commons.

“The Prime Minister is in office, but not in power.”