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 Tommy Sheppard Tommy Sheppard Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Cabinet Office) 3:45 pm, 30th June 2015

We are considering a lot of amendments, and some of them cover quite technically detailed matters, but I think that the context of the debate is about big ideas; it is about big differences between this side of the House and the Government side of the House. I think that there can be no bigger difference than how we view our society with regard to welfare provision. On the Opposition Benches we see welfare as a means of social insurance whereby we work together to protect each other through periods of illness and disability and in old age, and also to protect people who are casualties of economic circumstances as they move from one period of employment to another. It is something we should do with kindness and generosity and in the spirit of co-operation. I fear that the attitude of Government Members is founded on prejudice and parsimony. It is about a welfare state that grudgingly gives to people as a means of last resort. It is because of that difference in opinion that this debate matters so much.

We want to transfer these powers to the Scottish Government to begin the task of creating a welfare system in Scotland that reflects the priorities and ambition of the people who live in Scotland. I have no difficulty whatever in accepting that we remain part of the United Kingdom and that a minimum standard should apply for universal credit. I must say to the Government that they have not set the minimum standard bar too high, so it will not be too difficult to cross it.

In order to get beyond that, however, we will need to work together, and new clauses 45 and 46 provide a mechanism by which the Scottish and the UK Governments can work together to look at how universal credit can be implemented in Scotland and at how additional measures that the Scottish Government may choose to bring in can be implemented in that context. It offers an opportunity within the United Kingdom—within the settlement agreed in the referendum and post-Smith—for the Governments to work together and do something constructive that will meet the aspirations of the Scottish people.

That is important because we want to move away from what is happening to welfare in this country.