Yesterday we had two important Opposition Day Debates in the Commons, one on the planned £20-per-week cut to Universal Credit (UC) and the other on free school meals and digital access. Although Tory MPs were keen to suggest on social media that my Labour colleagues and I use these debates purely to “weaponise emotive issues”, this was an important opportunity for us to outline the damage the Government is doing.
First, the planned cut to UC. At the beginning of the pandemic, the Government announced a 12-month, £20-per-week uplift to UC. Millions of people are relying on this extra money as unemployment continues to rise and household budgets are further squeezed.
The Trussell Trust estimates that cutting the uplift could increase already skyrocketing food bank use by a further 10% and the Resolution Foundation has shown it would see the poorest households lose 7% of their disposable income.
I’m pleased to confirm we won the vote last night after the Prime Minister instructed his MPs to abstain, and as I write there are rumours of a Government u-turn on this. For the sake of the 17,431 individuals in receipt of UC in Lewisham Deptford, I sincerely hope they’re right.
In the second debate, Labour called on the Government to guarantee that all eligible children receive the full value of free school meals during this academic year, including holidays. To enable this, we believe the Government should set up cash payments so parents can choose to spend the £15-per-week funding on the food and supplies that are right for their children.
Education is being further put at risk by the Government’s failure to provide the laptops and other technology needed for remote learning. Two weeks into lockdown, only 16.4% of the Government’s promised laptops have been delivered to children across London.
The Government again abstained when our motion was put to the vote. Whatever happens next, my Labour colleagues and I will continue to do all we can to ensure that schools and families receive the support they need. I have been in touch with all the schools in the constituency to offer my support and have also been raising the provision of suitable equipment with ministers.
 As of November 2020