Boris Johnson has dismissed calls to increase benefits, telling the SNP he does not believe “it is the duty of the taxpayer” to pay for further welfare rises.
The comments came in response to SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford, who urged the prime minister to tackle child poverty by making the £20 uplift to Universal Credit permanent.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the uplift last March to help families deal with the financial pressures brought on by the pandemic.
But the Treasury has so far refused to commit to continuing the uplift beyond April.
Mr Blackford, speaking at prime minister’s questions, said: “New research from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and the baby bank charity, Little Village, has revealed that 1.3 million children under five are living in poverty in the United Kingdom.
“This is a truly shocking figure that should make this Tory Government utterly ashamed. The Scottish National Party has repeatedly called for a financial package to boost household incomes and reverse this Tory child poverty crisis.
“The prime minister has the power to tackle child poverty right now by making the £20 uplift to Universal Credit permanent and by extending it to legacy benefits.
“Will the prime minister finally act or will he leave millions of children out in the cold?”
Government ‘bitterly laments’ poverty
Mr Johnson responded: “I think that the whole House and this country should be proud of the way we’ve tried to look after people, the poorest and neediest families, throughout the country, not just with Universal Credit but by helping vulnerable people with their food and their heating bills, the £170 million winter grant scheme, looking after people with the free school meal vouchers.
“And as I’ve said before, we will put our arms around the people of this entire country throughout the pandemic.”
Pressed again on whether he would extend the uplift, Mr Johnson said his government “bitterly laments” the poverty that some families suffer, before adding: “I must say to Mr Blackford, there is a profound philosophical difference between him and me.
“The Scottish Nationalist (sic) Party is morphing into an evermore left-wing party that believes fundamentally that it is the duty of the taxpayer to pay for more and more and more.”