I am pleased to have one hour and 23 minutes for this debate, having arrived in the House earlier today to be told by the Whips Office that I would do well to have the debate today, as opposed to early tomorrow morning. I take that as an early Valentine’s gift from the Government, and perhaps they will go further by addressing the series of asks that I and other hon. Members have for them.
The Minister will have briefed himself on the folly of the jobcentre closure programme, particularly in the city of Glasgow, where the Government wished to reduce the provision of jobcentres across the city from 16 to eight. Although I am immensely grateful, immensely proud and pleased that the one jobcentre the Government removed from the programme is the Castlemilk jobcentre in my constituency, for which I pay tribute to the trade unions, local campaigners and anybody who signed a petition on the various campaign days we had to save the two jobcentres in my constituency—I pay tribute to everybody who took part in that campaign—the Government, however, continued with the closure of Langside jobcentre, to which I will return later in my remarks.
I will remind the House how this all began. It began with a story in the Daily Record, which is how Members of Parliament representing Glasgow constituencies found out that the Government wished to slash the city’s jobcentre provision in half. That was followed the next day with a letter from the then Minister—now the Education Secretary—to Members of Parliament representing constituencies in which jobcentres were set to be closed.
It is worth remembering that, where Ministers were keen to send jobcentre users to alternative jobcentres, they relied on Google Maps to tell them which bus services people could use to move around the city to get to those jobcentres, despite the fact that Google Maps tells people to use bus routes that no longer exist and have not done for some time. Even after that was pointed out to senior managers at the Department for Work and Pensions and even after it was raised by myself and a number of colleagues in this Chamber, in Westminster Hall and in written questions—even after all that—still no effective transport study was carried out. I believe that it was my hon. Friend Alison Thewliss who said that if a school or a nursery were to close, the local authority would be duty-bound to carry out some form of transport analysis to determine how people would use the service they then had to use instead of the original service they relied on. Government by Google cannot be the way this is done.
We pressed Ministers on several occasions to contact directly every person who would be affected by the closures, but they did not do so. Of course, Ministers know all the people who would be affected, because, as you will know in your role as a constituency Member of Parliament, Mr Deputy Speaker, when someone goes to the jobcentre to sign up for whatever support they are seeking, they do not get to leave that jobcentre until they have given the Government every single detail of their life. So I cannot understand why the Government did not take it upon themselves to contact people directly, instead relying on a couple of posters thrown up in the jobcentre, which many people would pass by.