Universal Basic Income rejected in UK by influential group after Tory MPs vote it down

The Commons Work and Pensions Committee has ruled Universal Basic Income is not ‘the right way forward’ for the UK – but only after a spat between Opposition and government MPs

By: Dan Bloom

An influential group of MPs has rejected the idea of a £60-a-week payment for all Brits after Tory MPs voted down a bid to show support.

The Commons Work and Pensions Committee ruled “we are not convinced” a Universal Basic Income would be the right way forward for the UK.

The body added the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) should instead focus on making existing benefits “sufficient to meet claimants’ basic needs”.

But the committee was publicly split over the issue, with four Labour and SNP MPs trying unsuccessfully to get a report to support trials of UBI.

An original draft of the committee report said “no pilot” of UBI has been carried out in the UK, so there is a “lack of empirical evidence about how it might work in practice.”

The draft added: “We recommend that DWP should support local authorities and devolved governments who want to carry out their own feasibility study of UBI.” But six Tory members of the committee voted to remove that reference.

After a to and fro in which Labour and SNP members tried to reject the report altogether, the final report recommended against UBI.

It said UBI would be “extremely expensive, and would not target support at people who need it most. Instead, it risks diverting resources away from the existing social security system and other vital public services.

“We are not convinced that it would be the right way forward for social security in the UK.”

Furious SNP MP Chris Stephens said: “The refusal to look seriously at options that could lift people out of poverty and eradicate inequalities is sheer arrogance from the Tories.

“They themselves have agreed that it is vital for people who find themselves out of work to have access to a robust safety net, and have acknowledged that the UK does not have that right now.

“Yet they will readily shut down options that could rectify this or allow devolved nations to rectify this.”

Supporters say UBI would bring down benefit spending and safeguard the future against the rise of machine work – but critics say it would hand rich people government cash and cost a vast sum.

The report notes that there is no single agreed figure for a Universal Basic Income, but Compass has modelled a system in which adults would receive £60 a week, children get £40 and over-65s get £175.

Other models suggest paying different amounts to different groups of people, the report notes. It said a trial of UBI in Finland, in which 2,000 unemployed people got a monthly payment of €560, had no “notable impact” on job prospects but “did have a positive impact on their overall wellbeing”.

The Welsh government intends to pilot UBI while Scotland’s government is nudging towards the idea. Tory ministers in the UK government have flatly ruled it out.

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