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 do not think that it would be necessary to go that far. At present, there is clearly a disproportion between the size of Scotland and that of the rest of the United Kingdom, and, as the hon. Gentleman’s budget figures show, a lot more money is collected elsewhere than in Scotland. That, however, is not the point at issue. [Interruption.] I am not asserting anything; I am just asking a question. We are engaging in a crucial debate on how much welfare power should go to Scotland. I am one of those who agree that some welfare power should go to Scotland in accordance with Smith, but we have to ask how far it goes, and what the consequences might be.

If countries have a common work area and a free movement area, and if they share a language, a labour market and a currency, that arrangement can bring benefits when it has settled down, because it is backed by political union. When we start to unpick the political union, we must ask ourselves at what point that unpicking of that union, or the welfare transfer union, will become damaging. A point will be reached when it does become damaging, because one part of the country will be too attractive, or too unattractive, compared with another part. A single currency area as big as the United Kingdom can work only if there are fair systems for raising money from the rich, wherever they may be in that big area, and giving enough to the poor, wherever they may be.