TORY former minister Edward Leigh warned the government yesterday not to ignore a unanimous Commons vote opposing the universal credit roll-out.
Mr Leigh said ministers were setting dangerous precedent because the “road to tyranny is paved by executives ignoring parliaments.”
He urged Work and Pensions Secretary David Gauke to make a statement “full of meat” after a Labour-led motion to halt the expansion of the scheme — so that its problems affecting claimants could be fixed — was passed by 299 votes to zero on Wednesday night.
Tory MPs were instructed to abstain from voting on the non-binding motion but a number of them have spoken out against the welfare reform that forces households to wait six weeks for first payment. One Tory MP, Sarah Wollaston, defied the whips and voted with Labour.
Mr Leigh said: “What happens then if a future Labour government says: ‘I’m sorry, you set the precedent, it is only an expression of opinion, we’re going to ignore Parliament’?”
Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom told MPs that Mr Gauke had already made concessions on the scheme — mainly abolishing the 55p-per-minute charge for the benefit helpline after it was demanded by Labour.
Shadow work and pensions secretary Debbie Abrahams told MPs that Wednesday’s vote was a “major defeat for the government.”
She said Conservative whips and PM Theresa May had “spent the day strong-arming MPs to vote against a pause of the roll-out.”
The newly free helpline is a “panicked attempt to appease Tory MPs who know that the [universal credit] policy is not fit for purpose,” she added.