Food Poverty: Scotland

Part of Delegated Legislation – in the House of Commons at 8:24 pm on 7th May 2019.

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Photo of Will Quince Will Quince The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions 8:24 pm, 7th May 2019

Thank you for your kind words, Mr Deputy Speaker.

I thank Hugh Gaffney for securing this debate on this important issue. He is a passionate campaigner on this issue, and he knows me well enough to know that I share his passion for reducing poverty, food insecurity and disadvantage.

I must confess that I have not yet, in the handful of weeks in which I have been in this post, had the opportunity to visit Scotland. I hope to correct that at the earliest available opportunity, perhaps even alongside the hon. Gentleman or a number of the other representatives from Scotland who are here. I am absolutely keen, new in post, to get out and about as much as possible, meeting DWP staff, charities, claimants, vulnerable groups, and, of course, Members of this House to gain a better understanding across the country of what is working well, what is working not so well, and, in the case of the latter, identifying what steps and interventions we need to put in place to tackle all forms of poverty and disadvantage.

I share the concern that has been expressed about what the latest statistics tell us about poverty levels in Scotland and in the UK as a whole. It is absolutely right that any Government are held properly to account for the effectiveness of their policies in tackling poverty and disadvantage. Underpinning this Government’s commitment to tackling all forms of poverty is our firm conviction that delivering a sustainable long-term solution means building a strong economy and having in place a benefits system that works with the tax system and the labour market to support employment and higher pay. We believe that this is the best way to achieve better long-term outcomes, particularly for disadvantaged children. We are proud, as a Government, of the progress we have made. We now have a record-breaking labour market with over 3.6 million more people in work across the UK compared with 2010. Unemployment is at its lowest rate since the 1970s, having fallen by more than half since 2010.

We are also delivering on our promise to get more people into work in Scotland. Since 2010, the employment level in Scotland has risen by about 250,000, with unemployment down by 126,000. In fact, Scotland has a lower rate of unemployment, at 3.3%, than the UK national average of 3.9%. Wages are now outstripping inflation—in fact, they are rising at the joint fastest rate in a decade—and about three quarters of the growth in employment since 2010 has been in full-time work, which evidence shows substantially reduces the risk of poverty.