Politics

Tory anger at Govt ‘tyranny’ over benefits vote

Angry backbench Tory MPs have accused the Government of "tyranny" after being forced to skip a parliamentary vote on flagship welfare reforms.

Leader of the House of Commons Andrea Leadsom faced irritation from senior Conservatives after they were given a three-line whip to abstain on Wednesday night's Labour motion calling for a pause in the roll-out of Universal Credit.

The opposition motion passed by 299 votes to zero, with Sarah Wollaston the only Tory MP to vote as she backed Labour's position.

The non-binding vote was a symbolic victory for Jeremy Corbyn's party and comes after previous Labour motions on tuition fees and NHS pay were passed without Government resistance.

On Thursday, Ms Leadsom was challenged by the Government's decision to abstain on recent opposition motions, prompted by Theresa May's lack of Commons majority and the threat of Tory rebellions.

Commons Speaker John Bercow has reacted angrily to the Government's position on non-binding votes.

Veteran Conservative Sir Edward Leigh urged the Cabinet minister to take a "long-term point of view" over the prospect of the Tories one day facing a Labour minority administration.

Calling for a minister to come to Parliament to respond to the Universal Credit vote, he said: "Frankly, the road to tyranny is paved with executives ignoring Parliament."

Video:Bercow lambasts Tory MPs for vote no-show

Fellow Tory Peter Bone also called for the Government to formally respond to the defeat by explaining what action will be taken on the implementation of benefits changes, which have been criticised by MPs from all parties.

"On rare occasions, I have been in trouble with the whips for not voting for Government policy," he said.

"Yesterday would have been the first time that had I voted for Government policy, I would have been in trouble.

"We cannot ignore the will of the House."

Also speaking during the session of business questions, the SNP's Pete Wishart described "an anti-democratic shambles" and an "utter embarrassment" for Parliament.

Valerie Vaz, Labour's shadow leader of the House of Commons, attacked a "disorganised Government who are disrespectful to the House".

In response to the criticism, Ms Leadsom insisted there is "no precedent being set" while she assured the House that ministers from the Department for Work and Pensions will update MPs on the progress of the Universal Credit roll-out.

She added concerns about the benefits shake-up are "absolutely being listened to" and acted on.

Labour will try and force a fresh defeat on the Government during next Wednesday's opposition day debate on social care funding.

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