Clause 24 — Universal credit: costs of claimants who rent accommodation

Part of Scotland Bill – in the House of Commons at 3:00 pm on 30th June 2015.

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Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Conservative, Wokingham 3:00 pm, 30th June 2015

I think that welfare has quite a lot to do with austerity, and I think that we agree. I think that the policies that have been forced on Greece have been too austere. It is quite wrong to make the Greeks cut public spending when they cannot expand their money supply, expand credit or expand the private sector to create the jobs that they clearly need to create in order to make some success out of the cuts imposed on the public sector.

When, after 2010, we conducted policy as a coalition to bring about recovery in Britain—including Scotland—it worked very well, and it was private sector led. We were able to do that because we had a full range of powers over interest rates, money creation, credit and banking, which a nation that has joined a currency union does not have. That is the Greek tragedy. The Greeks are able to carry out only the public sector part of the EU fix, which is the bit that is austere. They are not able to carry out the private sector-led recovery.

Of course, we are not here to talk about Greece; we are here to talk about our currency union. However, I wanted to make that point because, whereas Greece is having to move away from a position in which it shared only currency and is now discovering that it needs to share a great many other policies with the European Union in order to achieve success, in Scotland things are going in the opposite direction.

We have a currency union—a perfectly good currency union, which is supported on all sides. I believe that Members of the SNP are great fans of the currency union and do not wish Scotland to have an independent currency, but they need to consider this: if they do not want proper independence in the sense of having their own currency, and if the currency is to work in the way in which it has worked in the past, there will have to be some basic standards of welfare that are common across the country, and there will have to be agreed systems of transferring money from rich areas to poor ones. There are rich towns and cities in both Scotland and in England. The rule of our system is that those in areas of high income or relative success pay more tax, and those in, say, towns or counties with a lot of poverty benefit from big transfers.