PM's spokesman won't say if Douglas Ross is fulfilling his duties

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Downing Street has refused to say whether Conservative MP Douglas Ross is performing his parliamentary duties by missing a debate on Universal Credit to referee a Champions League match in Spain.

Mr Ross will run the line at the Nou Camp in the Barcelona v Olympiakos match which kicks off at 7.45pm UK time, 45 minutes after debate on the roll out of the government’s controversial new benefit is due to end in the House of Commons.

A spokesman for Jeremy Corbyn said it was “completely unacceptable” for Mr Ross to miss a debate on an issue that would affect large numbers of his constituents.

Theresa May was challenged over Mr Ross’ absence during PMQs, with SNP MP John McNally brandishing a red card and asking: "What signal does she think this sends to hard working members of the public who are expected to turn up for their day jobs or face sanctions?"

Mrs May claimed Mr Ross's constituents were better off with a Conservative MP and said: “Scottish Conservative members are doing more for the interests of Scotland in this parliament than the Scottish Nationalists have ever done."

The Prime Minister’s spokesman later said whipping arrangements were not usually made public, but directed journalists to Mr Ross’ comments which suggest he “doesn’t believe this will affect the performance of his parliamentary duties.”

However, when asked if the Prime Minister backed Mr Ross’ view that missing debates for a second job did not interfere with his role as an MP, the spokesman did not comment.

The Prime Minister’s spokesman added that Conservative MPs have previously been told in relation to non-binding opposition day debates that they do not have to take part if they feel their “time can better be spent elsewhere”.

MPs will debate Labour calls to pause the roll out of Universal Credit over concerns that delays in payments are pushing claimants further into poverty.

A vote is not expected as the government has previously chosen not to contest non-binding opposition motions.

Mr Corbyn’s spokesman said: “[Universal Credit] is an extremely serious matter, acknowledged by the former Tory Prime Minister John Major, and a number of Tory backbenchers.

“It’s an obligation on Conservative MPs, if they recognise the reality for their own constituents, to take part in this debate.

“If you’re an MP, that’s your first obligation, not to attend to your second job.”