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 fully understand the arguments against the spare room subsidy, or the bedroom tax. I understand the politics of it only too well. I do not want to go into my private views now, but it is a matter to be settled within the Union Parliament, and by the Government of the Union, under current powers. It does not make good law to say that if there is a particular benefit that people in Scotland do not like very much, that is the one that we should be able to fix. We need to come up with a settlement for a longer-term period which takes account of the principles.

It is for that reason that I am presuming to spend just a few minutes reminding colleagues that very big principles are involved in this instance. We need to secure the right balance, one that enables Scotland to feel that it can make enough of its own decisions to meet the mood of the majority, but falls short of giving it so much power that the Union’s mechanisms for switching money around do not work. I find it very difficult to make decisions on this Bill without knowing what the financial settlement will be, because it will not work unless there is enough money to make it work, or if England does not think that it is fair to them. Scotland may well find that the financial settlement is not fair to them—I am sure our SNP colleagues will not be shy if that is the case—but England has delivered big majorities for me and many of my colleagues, so we have a mandate and a voice and we need to make sure that the financial settlement that emerges is fair to us. The range of powers that Scotland has will have a bearing on that settlement.