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MP's abstention decision in Universal Credit vote branded 'disappointing' 

High Peak MP Robert Largan's decision to abstain in a vote on extending a £20-a-week Universal Credit increase has been described as 'disappointing' by a local Labour group.

Labour brought a non-binding motion to Parliament on Monday (18 January), pressing the government to maintain the top-up for around 5.7 million families beyond the end of March. 

The motion, which will not automatically lead to a change in policy, was approved by 278 votes to zero.

But although six Tory MPs - Robert Halfon, Stephen Crabb, Peter Aldous, Jason McCartney, Anne Marie Morris and Matthew Offord - defied the party whip to vote in favour of the motion, the other 359 Conservative MPs abstained - including Mr Largan. 

Describing the vote as 'pointless', the local MP accused Labour of 'simply playing politics in the middle of a pandemic'. 

Mr Largan (pictured) said: "At the start of the pandemic, the Chancellor introduced a temporary increase to universal credit of £20 per week. This was just one measure in a package of support that represents an injection of £7.4 billion into the welfare system. That temporary increase is due to be reviewed as part of the Budget in March. If the public health crisis is still acute at that point, I believe the temporary support measures will need to be extended. 

"Labour tabled a non-binding motion on this issue and then forced a pointless vote by objecting to their own motion. At no point did they offer any practical or costed proposals. They were simply playing politics in the middle of a pandemic."

Glossopdale Labour said Mr Largan's decision to abstain was 'all the more disappointing' in light of the number of people currently relying on Universal Credit during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Councillor Damien Greenhalgh, Deputy Leader of High Peak Borough Council, said: "More and more people have been pushed into the category of 'just about managing'. More and more people are now using Universal Credit than ever before so cancelling this cut will make such a big difference.

"So it's all the more disappointing Mr Largan followed the Conservative Party whip again to abstain on such an important matter for High Peak families when some of his fellow Northern Conservative colleagues felt able to."

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is under mounting pressure to reverse plans to slash the monthly benefits allowance on 12 April and instead continue the increase, which is worth £1,040 a year to families who receive it. 

Mr Johnson said the government had provided £280 billion worth of support during the pandemic but all measures would be kept under "constant review".

Universal credit is a single payment replacing old benefits such as housing benefit and child tax credits, which can be claimed by people who are on a low income or out of work. 

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