Means Testing

Question Time — Scottish Executive – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:30 pm on 26th June 2003.

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Photo of John Swinburne John Swinburne SSCUP 2:30 pm, 26th June 2003

To ask the Scottish Executive whether it has any plans to phase out and eliminate the use of means testing. (S2O-271)

Photo of Malcolm Chisholm Malcolm Chisholm Labour

The Executive decides whether means testing is appropriate on a case-by-case basis.

Photo of John Swinburne John Swinburne SSCUP

In 2001, in reply to a question to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Ian McCartney stated:

"The link between the intrusive and complex nature of means testing and non take-up of the minimum income guarantee by some pensioners has been established."—[Official Report, House of Commons, 25 June 2001; Vol 370, c 34W.]

Because new Labour has clung to that obscene method of squeezing money from the elderly—

Photo of George Reid George Reid None

You must put a question.

Photo of John Swinburne John Swinburne SSCUP

—many of my generation are suffering in a needless cycle of poverty.

Photo of George Reid George Reid None

You must put a question, Mr Swinburne.

Photo of John Swinburne John Swinburne SSCUP

Does the minister agree that means testing is the most unjust tool in the tax system, as it is used to withhold meagre benefits from the elderly?

Photo of Malcolm Chisholm Malcolm Chisholm Labour

The whole of that question deals with matters that are for the Westminster Parliament. We need to have a balance. We cannot deliver all benefits and services on the universal principle or through means testing; neither of those is a credible or realistic option. The health service, for which I am responsible, is the best example of a universal service and the Scottish Parliament can take pride in the fact that it extended that principle in its first session to deal with personal care for the elderly. That was a major extension of universal benefits, but it does not follow that because we decided that that was appropriate, every service and benefit should be universal. It is simply not realistic to run a government in that way.