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

Part of Scotland Bill – in the House of Commons at 3:45 pm on 30th June 2015.

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Photo of Patricia Gibson Patricia Gibson Scottish National Party, North Ayrshire and Arran 3:45 pm, 30th June 2015

We will be proud to take responsibility for investing in the growth of Scotland’s economy, in our infrastructure and in the people of Scotland.

Make no mistake: the devolution of the welfare powers in the Bill is supported by Citizens Advice Scotland, Barnardo’s Scotland, the Child Poverty Action Group, the Church of Scotland, Oxfam Scotland, the Poverty Alliance, the Scottish Trades Union Congress—I could go on, but I think I have made my point.

We on the SNP Benches are seeking to protect those we represent in Scotland from the worst excesses of this Government. We speak with the clear democratic mandate of the people of Scotland, and behind that we have the increasingly raised voices of Scotland’s third sector and civic society. We must not balance the books on the backs of the poor. It is time that the Government listened to a valued and equal partner in this Union—Scotland—in the spirit of the respect agenda.

For the record, and for the avoidance of any doubt, the SNP set out unequivocally in our manifesto, as part of our welfare priorities, that there should be an immediate scrapping of the bedroom tax and a halt to the roll-out of universal credit and PIP payments. As far as working-age benefits go, the Bill does not meet what was set out in the Smith agreement.

The Secretary of State has argued that there is no effective UK Government veto over the powers in the Bill relating to welfare arrangements, limited as they are, yet there is a clear requirement for the Scottish Government to

“have consulted the Secretary of State about the practicability of implementing the regulations”.

The Secretary of State would then have to give

“his or her agreement as to when any change made by the regulations is to start to have effect, such agreement not to be unreasonably withheld.”

Is it likely that the current Secretary of State and the Scottish people would ever agree on a definition of what is unreasonable? For example, the people of Scotland believe that it is unreasonable that a party that has a far weaker mandate in Scotland than at any time during any of the years when it last led a majority Government now pontificates over what powers Scotland should have while reneging on the all-party agreements arrived at in Smith. The Secretary of State clearly thinks that this situation is entirely reasonable and presides over the Dispatch Box like a colossal Governor-General, with no shame, taking on the elected and legitimate representatives of the huge majority of the Scottish people.

For the sake of social justice in Scotland, for the sake of our most vulnerable, who are being crushed beneath the weight of the illogical and misguided attempts to punish those who require assistance from the state, for the sake of what was promised in Smith, for the sake of Scotland’s position as a “valued and equal partner” in this Union, for the sake of the wisdom of Scotland’s civic society, and for the sake of the SNP’s democratic mandate, I urge the Committee to support amendment 118 and new clause 45.