The Tories are expected to abstain in two key votes on the government’s support for families – which includes scrapping a £1,000 a year cut in Universal Credit and the extension of free school meals – with Boris Johnson claiming the party is “playing politics” with the vote.
Johnson will come under intense pressure to extend the £20-a-week uplift to Universal Credit when Labour forces a Commons vote on the planned cut, after Sir Keir Starmer warned that millions of families will be £1,000 a year worse off if the government scraps the increase.
He will also face calls to extend the uplift from Tory MPs as the Northern Research Group (NRG) said ending it now would be “devastating”.
In a statement issued on behalf of the 65 MPs in the group, Carlisle MP John Stevenson said it had been a “life-saver” for people through the pandemic.
The statement added: “That is why the NRG are once again calling on the Chancellor to extend the Universal Credit uplift until restrictions are lifted, to ensure that individuals and families who have been worst affected by this pandemic are supported through our recovery with the security they need.”
The government temporarily increased the benefit to help families through the Covid crisis, but the uplift is due to expire in April, potentially hitting the incomes of six million families.
Labour will use its opposition day debate in the Commons on Monday afternoon to force a vote on the plans.
But Conservative MPs are expected to abstain.
In a statement released by the Conservatives, Coffey said Labour would “scrap Universal Credit” and “leave millions of people with an uncertain future”.
“This Conservative government has consistently stepped up to support low-income families and the most vulnerable in society throughout this pandemic and will continue to do so,” she added.
Johnson sent a WhatsApp message to Tory MPs warning against voting against the motion – as well as one proposing an extension to the free school meals programme – claiming such votes leave the government “misrepresented”.
He accused Labour of “playing politics” and of “inciting the worst kind of hatred and bullying (of a kind seen sadly across the Atlantic)”.
He said: “But after the shameful way in which they used their army of momentum trolls last time to misrepresent the outcome and to lie about its meaning and frankly to intimidate and threaten colleagues – especially female colleagues – I have decided not to give them that opportunity”.