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

Part of Scotland Bill – in the House of Commons at 4:30 pm on 30th June 2015.

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Photo of David Mundell David Mundell The Secretary of State for Scotland 4:30 pm, 30th June 2015

I think that the hon. Gentleman has got the order of the statements in the letter wrong. Mr Swinney says that if the process did not take place, the undertaking would obviously not be valid. That is of course correct, but my approach to the Bill is to proceed with it on the basis that it fully reflects the Smith commission proposals, and that it takes account of the issues and concerns that have been raised.

SNP Members have tabled a number of amendments with which I do not agree, but which I think might be described as Smith-plus. We are listening to the points being made about the amendments, but we are also listening to what everyone is saying about the Bill in its current form and how it reflects Smith. I have appeared before the Devolution (Further Powers) Committee, and we have had a lengthy discussion about the clauses that we have debated today. I expect to have further discussions with the Committee, and there will, of course, be further parliamentary debate.

Much of what is being said is predicated on the view that the Scottish Government and the United Kingdom Government are always at odds. That is simply not the case, and it should not be given common currency.

On 90% of issues, the two Governments work together very closely for the benefit of the people of Scotland. They are working together closely on very serious ongoing issues at this moment, and there are absolutely no problems and no need to resort to external review processes. The Smith process established a shared response for welfare, and I think that it shows that we must adopt a new mindset. That, to me, is what the spirit of the Smith commission is about: working together in a shared space. A commitment to doing that is as important as anything in the Bill.

Dr Whiteford is always extremely passionate about these issues. I generally consider her to be a reasonable person until she stands up to speak in the Chamber. The way she has portrayed the relationship between the two Governments is simply not correct. We have established a joint ministerial working group on welfare, and last Thursday I met Alex Neil—no doubt there will be a letter about that meeting—to discuss the transitional arrangements and the next meeting of the joint ministerial group. Our discussions have been very productive and have led to a great deal of good work on the transition of powers and the establishment of processes in Scotland. I see no reason to believe that that cannot continue. That is what people in Scotland want: they want the two Parliaments and Governments to work together. They do not want to see constant bickering and I am making a determined effort to ensure that that does not happen and that we can deliver a process.

I am conscious of, and respect and take into account, the views of charities and voluntary organisations.