It is a pleasure to be able to set out the Scottish National party’s position.
You will not be surprised, Madam Deputy Speaker, if I am rather critical this evening, because I have been speaking about the matters covered by the social security order since my election nearly three years ago. Like the annual review of social security payments, the order covers everything from pensions to maternity allowances, but for many people, there is no annual review, because a number of social security benefits are automatically frozen, regardless of the impact on people who need that support to get by, regardless of the rise in household costs, and regardless of widespread opposition to the continuation of the freeze. Jobseeker’s allowance, child and working tax credit, local housing allowance, income support, child benefit, and the work-related activity group element of employment and support allowance have all been frozen. That means that people who are desperately seeking work, families with children, parents who are working hard but receiving poverty pay, and sick or disabled people will see their support frozen, although their household costs have risen significantly in the past year.
In December, the consumer prices index hit 3%, which means that families in and out of work who need the support of the social security system to get by will need to find extra money just to stand still. The Resolution Foundation has calculated that working families with two children will lose £315 a year as a result of the benefit freeze, and the Institute for Fiscal Studies has said that as a result of higher CPI rates, benefit entitlements will be reduced by an average of £450 per year by 2019-20. We know that this is the worst decade for wage growth in 210 years, and that as a result people who are in work but also in receipt of social security support have had their chances cut off at both ends. As costs rise, they cannot rely on work or social security to help them to keep up.