Backbench Business

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:47 pm on 16th March 2017.

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Photo of Stewart McDonald Stewart McDonald Scottish National Party, Glasgow South 3:47 pm, 16th March 2017

It is always a pleasure to see you in the Chair, Mr Walker. I congratulate and thank my constituency neighbour and hon. Friend Chris Stephens for securing this debate. After many—possibly more than 100—written questions, urgent questions, debates in Westminster Hall and points of order that are not really points of order, I salute his indefatigability in pursuing this issue.

I also thank the PCS Scotland union for the excellent job that it has done assisting Members of Parliament throughout the country, and particularly in Glasgow, where we heard the rather unwelcome news just before Christmas that the Government intend to reduce the jobcentre estate by half, from 16 jobcentres to eight, two of which—the Castlemilk and Langside jobcentres—are in my constituency.

I hate to say it, but having spoken in the two previous debates, met the Minister along with colleagues and taken part in the urgent questions, there is not much new for me to say. However, as you will know, Mr Walker, the Speaker reminds us that repetition is not a vice in this House, so I will repeat some of it. The Castlemilk jobcentre serves a community that was once more populous than the city of Perth and has some of the most deprived neighbourhoods anywhere in the United Kingdom. It sits in the Braes shopping centre in the centre of Castlemilk, and it is, I think, the only serious anchor tenant there. If the jobcentre goes, it will create big problems.

However, that should not be the only reason for it to stay. The other reason is that closure will have an impact on those who use the jobcentre. I hate to say it, but to return to the point made earlier by Louise Haigh, this plan has been designed by Google Maps. Like John Woodcock, I do not want to mention civil servants on the public record, but when we met senior civil servants from the Department for Work and Pensions in Glasgow before Christmas, I jokingly asked if they had worked it out using Google Maps, expecting the answer to be, “Don’t be so ridiculous, Mr McDonald; we would never do such a thing.” However, the response I got was, “Yes, we’ve used Google Maps,” which has bus services that no longer exist and does not take into account travel times as far as traffic goes.

Langside jobcentre serves the second most densely populated council ward anywhere in Scotland, and it serves a population of people who live in private lets and who often have quite precarious working conditions, in temporary jobs, on zero-hours contracts and with relatively low pay, and whose employment is in many cases anything but secure.

I would ask the Minister why, despite several genuine and friendly invitations, he has not taken any time at all to visit any of the jobcentres in Glasgow that he wishes to close. I do not know what he thinks will happen to him if he comes, but I can assure him that either I or one of my hon. Friends from the city of Glasgow will look after him. He will be okay. Even at this late stage, I implore him to visit a jobcentre in Glasgow to hear what the staff and the users have to say.