Welfare reform plans get partial support

08/12/2011

Partial support was given to the legislative consent memorandum on the Welfare Reform Bill (UK Parliament) today in a report published by the Health and Sport Committee.

The committee gave its support to two of the five areas of the Bill that would require consent from the Scottish Parliament. These are data sharing and industrial injuries disablement benefit.

On the other areas, the committee heard strong criticisms from witnesses centred on UK Government proposals for Universal Credit and Personal Independence Payments. Instead of consenting to these areas the committee believes it would be more appropriate for the Scottish Government to introduce a Bill that would allow the Scottish Parliament to consider the implications of the forthcoming welfare reforms.

The committee invites the Scottish Government to consider whether this is a practical alternative that would allow enough time for scrutiny by the Scottish Parliament to ensure the Scottish statute book reflects the changes introduced by the Welfare Reform Bill prior to their implementation.

Committee Convener Duncan McNeil MSP said: “Many of the witnesses we heard from voiced serious concerns and strong criticism about the changes to the UK benefits system proposed in the Welfare Reform Bill.

"While many of these arise due to lack of detailed information about the forthcoming changes they cannot be ignored, which is why we have asked the Scottish Government how tenable it would be to bring forward legislation to address them.”

Deputy Convener Bob Doris MSP commented: “The committee doesn’t underestimate the challenge which the £2.5 billion cut to welfare benefits in Scotland presents.

"Many vulnerable people will turn to local authorities, voluntary organisations and their local citizens advice bureaux for advice and support when they don’t know where else to turn.

"The committee believes that the UK Government should provide additional resources for these advice and advocacy services.”

For Information

The Health and Sport Committee is clear that voting against a motion which seeks legislative consent for the provisions of the Bill which fall within the competence of the Scottish Parliament would not prevent the Welfare Reform Bill from completing its passage at Westminster and receiving Royal Assent.

The Health and Sport Committee was designated the lead committee in consideration of the wider policy issues on the Legislative Consent Memorandum on the Welfare Reform Bill. The Local Government and Regeneration Committee and the Infrastructure and Capital Investment Committee were the secondary committees. Their reports have also been published today.

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