My hon. Friend Gavin Newlands covered many key issues, and my hon. Friend Stewart Hosie gave a forensic critique of the statement’s flaws earlier, so I intend to confine my remarks to what was said, or rather what was not said, about universal credit in the Budget.
The Chancellor opened by saying that he wanted to produce something that was for “women in work” and for people “feeling the squeeze”, and “an economy that works for everyone.” Well, those words ring particularly hollow for people in my constituency who are at the sharp end of the universal credit full service roll-out. My constituency has been one of the first to deal with the roll-out.
People are going months without money, and there is little help in the Budget for them. There is nothing on investment to sort out the system boorach. Highland Council reports that the average housing arrears accrued to date by someone on universal credit is now around £900 and rising. Imagine, they are forced into debt through no fault of their own, and not many landlords are patient with folk who are three months in arrears because of universal credit. Failure to address that today is symptomatic of a failed austerity agenda, a failure to listen and a failure to comprehend the pain that ideological Tory austerity is inflicting. It is causing stress that is impossible to imagine and is leaving families without money for months.