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

Part of Scotland Bill – in the House of Commons at 4:45 pm on 30th June 2015.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Eilidh Whiteford Eilidh Whiteford Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader (Social Justice and Welfare) 4:45 pm, 30th June 2015

I will not give way just at the moment, because I think we have talked quite enough about Greece. I want to make a couple of substantive points about the issues that were raised, however.

Whatever differences Scotland and Greece have, what we have in common, apart from our patron saint, is the fact that people in Scotland will feel great sympathy for their fellow European citizens in Greece and will have a sense of solidarity about the level of deprivation they are having to undergo. My hon. Friend Mr MacNeil, who is not in the Chamber at the moment, made the important point that the real morality tale from the Greek situation that is relevant to our discussions today is that austerity does not work and that we need the power to create alternatives to it.

The other salutary tale we heard this afternoon came from Mark Durkan who, with his usual eloquence, drew on his experiences in Northern Ireland to warn of the difficulties ahead if we fail to legislate clearly. He also warned of the dangers of what has been termed “karaoke legislation” in Northern Ireland, in which people have powers but not the power to enforce those powers.

My hon. Friend Ian Blackford made a powerful speech that highlighted some of the real differences between the challenges we face with welfare and pensions in Scotland and those in other parts of the UK, pointing out the low life expectancy and the poor value that Scottish pensioners get. Indeed, we have some of the lowest pensions in Europe and Scottish pensioners end up about £10,000 each worse off because of our pension arrangements. My hon. Friend Patricia Gibson drew attention to the issues with the work allowance, which is a really good example of what we might do with these powers to improve the support we give to lower paid workers.

Above all, we need to talk about the veto. My hon. Friend Tommy Sheppard, who is quickly becoming one of the stars of this Parliament, set out how new clauses 45 and 46 would enable constructive working between the UK and Scottish Governments. That means not just fine words about constructive working but fine working.

To move on to those who spoke from the Front Benches, I welcome the support from Ian Murray for our lead amendment and for amendment 119. I listened very carefully to the Secretary of State’s conclusion to the debate. I fully accept that there are constructive relationships through the joint ministerial working group and many other parts of the Scottish and UK Governments, but when there are genuine differences of opinion and of ideological direction as well as different policies and different circumstances, we need the mechanisms and the legislation that enables us to deal with them effectively. That is what we still do not see on the face of the Bill.

The problem is that the Bill, in its current form, does not cut the mustard. The Secretary of State’s position on this could probably be summed up by the old saying, “They’re aw oot o’ step but oor Jock.” There is a consensus in Scotland, among all the other Scottish MPs, among MSPs, including MSPs from the Secretary of State’s own party, and among civil society that the veto needs to be taken out of the Bill. I urge the Secretary of State to listen. Part of the problem in Scotland for too long has been that people have not listened, but the voices of the people of Scotland will not be silenced. If the Secretary of State thinks that these issues will go away, I can tell him that they will not. We have heard salutary lessons about why we need to have the legislation pinned down and secure.

Earlier in the debate, I should also have stated my intention to move new clauses 39 and 40 and I am grateful to the hon. Member for Edinburgh South for flagging up that omission. We will press—