As another UK Minister refuses to give evidence in public, Holyrood debates a year of welfare reform

13.03.2014

“Insulting” is the view of the Scottish Parliament’s Welfare Reform Committee Convener Michael McMahon MSP following the refusal to give evidence in public to the Committee by UK Minister for Employment, Esther McVey MP. His comments come on the day the Committee is leading a debate on the impact of the welfare reforms a year on from their introduction.

Committee Convener Michael McMahon MSP said:

“UK Ministers from other policy areas have been to Holyrood and assisted the work of the Scottish Parliament. It seems the exception to this positive relationship is welfare reform, since Esther McVey has sadly chosen to join Iain Duncan Smith and Lord Freud in refusing to give evidence to us in public. The UK Government is consistent in its inconsistency on this policy matter.

“Worse than this though, her refusal is insulting to the individuals who have taken the time to come here and talk to us about the details of their daily struggles, often at the expense of their own health. We still have an invitation out to the Secretary of State for Scotland Alastair Carmichael MP. Perhaps he will be able to speak to us publicly about the policy impacting negatively on so many Scots.”

Letters between the Convener and Ms McVey MP where the UK Minister declines the invitation of the Committee to give evidence and assist its scrutiny of the impact in Scotland of the revised benefit sanction regime have today been published on the Welfare Reform Committee webpages.

Deputy Committee Convener Jamie Hepburn MSP said:

“Like Mr Duncan Smith, I notice the Minister has time to address an expensive conference in a four star Edinburgh hotel on the subject, yet feels there is no imperative for her to give evidence to our Committee. In the past few months, the Secretary of State for Scotland Alastair Carmichael MP has given evidence to the Health and Sport Committee on child poverty and Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander MP has given evidence to our Finance Committee and Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee. All in public.

“It seems the UK Government is happy to give evidence on the record at Holyrood unless it is about welfare reform. That silence speaks volumes. I can only hope she takes the time to watch our debate today; to hear about the impact of the reforms on the ground that MSPs are dealing with every day in their constituencies.”

The Committee’s debate will be broadcast live on the Parliament’s webpage: www.scottish.parliament.uk/tv

The motion being debated states: “That the Parliament notes that many provisions of the Welfare Reform Act 2012 came into force almost one year ago, on 1 April 2013, and that the Welfare Reform Committee has, over the past year, examined the impact of these, including the under-occupancy charge (commonly referred to as the bedroom tax), passported benefits and the Scottish Welfare Fund, and is committed to examining the role of foodbanks and increased sanctions, as well as the introduction of personal independence payments and universal credit.”

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