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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Meeting of the Parliament (Hybrid) 23 March 2022

Agenda: Portfolio Question Time, Ferguson Marine (Port Glasgow) Holdings Limited, Ferries, Business Motions, Parliamentary Bureau Motions, Decision Time, Colleges (Industrial Relations)


Contents


Parliamentary Bureau Motions

The next item of business is consideration of Parliamentary Bureau motion S6M-03750, on approval of a Scottish statutory instrument.

Motion moved,

That the Parliament agrees that the Social Security Up-rating (Scotland) Order 2022 [draft] be approved.—[George Adam]

17:42  

The instrument will see the Scottish Government raise disability benefits by just 3.1 per cent, in lock step with the Department for Work and Pensions. That is 3 per cent less than the figure for inflation that was announced this morning, and is potentially 5 per cent less than the inflation figure that experts are predicting. That will hit people directly in their pockets.

People with disabilities often have equipment such as electric wheelchairs and mobility scooters that gobble up electricity. With fuel prices soaring, those people face real hardship. The decision will push more people into poverty.

We have called for the United Kingdom Government to raise disability benefits, but it is not good enough for the Scottish National Party and Green Government to say that it has to move with the UK Government on this. People were promised a better system seven years ago. I argued for more powers for the Parliament. All parties supported devolution of social security powers, which are worth £4 billion. However, Scottish ministers continue to ask the DWP to run the system under its agency agreement because the Scottish Government is still not ready. That is a failure, on the Scottish Government’s part, to use the full powers of devolution, and it has left people with the DWP for years and years. The result is that for people who are at the sharp end of the cost of living crisis, support is dropping potentially 5 points behind inflation.

I am glad that the Scottish Government is lifting a number of devolved benefits by 6 per cent. I only wish that the Scottish and UK Governments were doing the same for the disability benefits that thousands of people rely on. For that reason, Scottish Liberal Democrats cannot vote in favour of the motion on the instrument.

17:44  

I am sure that Mr Rennie will welcome the launch of the first pilot phase of the adult disability payment on Monday, and that he will appreciate the position as we launch that disability benefit after having successfully launched the child disability benefit.

We are also currently undertaking, in a safe and secure way, transfer to Social Security Scotland of cases of people in Scotland who receive disability benefits from the UK Government’s Department for Work and Pensions. While that process is being undertaken, we cannot create a two-tier system in which people who are paid by Social Security Scotland are paid more than clients whose cases have not yet been transferred to the Scottish system. That transfer will be undertaken as quickly, but also as safely and securely, as possible.

The order that is under consideration will uprate benefits for which we have executive competence, but which are currently administered on behalf of the Scottish ministers by the DWP under agency agreement, as we undertake safe and secure transfer. Those benefits include the attendance allowance, the disability living allowance, the carers allowance, industrial injuries scheme benefits, the personal independence payment and the severe disablement allowance.

We have no discretion over the level by which we increase those benefits. The agency agreements that are in place with the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, which allow the DWP to deliver those benefits on behalf of the Scottish ministers, mean that we are committed to uprating them at the same rate at which the DWP uprates them. Therefore, they are being uprated by 3.1 per cent, in line with the September consumer prices index. It is for the Scottish ministers to make an order to effect the uprate—that is the order that is before Parliament today.

As other members were, I was disappointed that the Chancellor of the Exchequer did not take the opportunity to further increase benefits to support people who need it most to deal with rising living costs. In contrast, the Scottish Government is acting to help households. On the Scottish benefits in which we have discretion to go further, we are acting urgently in response to the growing cost of living pressures. We will provide additional support by further increasing several forms of devolved social security benefits and assistance by 6 per cent, rather than by 3.1 per cent, in separate regulations that will go before the Social Justice and Social Security Committee on 31 March.

The question on the motion will be put at decision time.

The next item of business is consideration of three more Parliamentary Bureau motions. I ask George Adam, on behalf of the Parliamentary Bureau, to move motions S6M-03747 to S6M-03749, on approval of Scottish statutory instruments.

Motions moved,

That the Parliament agrees that the Local Authority (Capital Finance and Accounting) (Scotland) (Coronavirus) Amendment Regulations 2022 [draft] be approved.

That the Parliament agrees that the Budget (Scotland) Act 2021 Amendment Regulations 2022 [draft] be approved.

That the Parliament agrees that the Non-Domestic Rates (Valuation Roll) (Modification) (Scotland) Regulations 2022 [draft] be approved.—[George Adam]

The questions on those motions will be put at decision time.