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Universal Credit

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:28 pm on 17th October 2018.

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Photo of Neil Gray Neil Gray Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Work and Pensions) 1:28 pm, 17th October 2018

I absolutely take what the hon. Lady has said, and I think she is absolutely right. At the weekend, the UK Health Secretary claimed that he had not received any correspondence on universal credit, only—three hours later—for the Mirror’s Dan Bloom to prove that was inaccurate as he had received an email from a constituent in West Suffolk just three days earlier. I will take with a lorry load of salt Conservative Members saying that they have had no problems with universal credit in their areas.

Let us be clear: even if the rumours are true, just delaying the roll-out will do nothing to sort out the problems people are facing with universal credit right now, such as those in Airdrie and Shotts; it will only delay the inevitable for others. It will not solve the misery that is soon to be thrust on people in Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow. The only way to sort out those problems is by accepting that a significant investment needs to be made in universal credit at the Budget so that radical change can follow.

The biggest problem with universal credit is that, for years, it has been an all-consuming cash cow for Treasury cuts to social security. George Osborne’s 2015 Budget and the subsequent Welfare Reform and Work Act 2016 cut universal credit to ribbons. Everyone’s memory of the Budget in 2015 was George Osborne’s U-turn on tax credits, but as we and others warned then, that U-turn did not cover universal credit and the cuts were engrained but to be seen another day. For the many Tory MPs who thought George Osborne’s U-turn was enough, that day of reckoning is soon to arrive.