MPs have voted against plans to cut Universal Credit by £20-a-week in April - but the Government is refusing to be bound by the decision.

Labour MPs voted for a Commons motion, introduced by the party leadership, which called on the Government to stop the planned cut in Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit. Prime Minister Boris Johnson told Conservative MPs to abstain on the vote, allowing Labour's motion to pass with 278 MPs voting in favour and none voting against.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak last year introduced the £20-a-week increase as a temporary measure to last 12 months, and it is due to end in April. But Labour, and some Conservative backbenchers, say cutting the benefit now would cause hardship for families as the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown continue.

The Government made it clear it would not be bound by the vote, and launched an outspoken attack on Labour. Conservative MPs claimed Labour was "playing politics" and had called the vote in an effort to encourage left-wing activists to abuse Tory MPs on social media and elsewhere.

Conservatives also attacked Labour leader Keir Starmer after he said he wanted to "abolish" Universal Credit. Labour says it would replace the current benefits system with a better one.

At the same time, the Government dropped heavy hints that it might announce some sort of change to its Universal Credit plans "in due course", suggesting an eventual u-turn or partial u-turn is likely.

MPs speaking in the debate included Grahame Morris, Labour MP for Easington. He urged the Chancellor and the rest of the Government to consider "the poverty and hardship that will be caused by failing to uprate Universal Credit".

Mr Morris predicted the Government would eventually agree to extend the £20-a-week increase or do something similar, but said in the meantime it was causing uncertainty for hundreds of thousands of people.

He said: "The Government are too busy making calculations, affecting the lives of over 10,000 in my constituency of Easington who are depending on Universal Credit."

Earlier, Mr Johnson messaged Conservative MPs to tell them to abstain from voting on the Opposition’s Universal Credit motion, accusing Labour of “inciting the worst kind of hatred and bullying”.

Downing Street earlier said no decision has been made about whether to keep the Universal Credit uplift. The Prime Minister’s press secretary, Allegra Stratton, insisted: "We haven’t said whether or not we will continue. The Chancellor will be coming forward in due course."

Conservatives are correct that tonight's vote is not binding, although governments in the past have traditionally changed policy when they lost similar votes.

Ministers are reportedly concerned that extending the £20-a-week increase would make it permanent. An option ministers are reported to be considering is a £500 payment to Universal Credit recipients, which would provide immediate financial support and might appear generous , but would have the advantage of being very clearly a one-off payment.