£1bn benefits cut prompts calls for Holyrood to have own Welfare Committee

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By a Newsnet reporter
 
The UK Government’s proposals for welfare reform are not good enough for Scotland, according to a report by the Scottish Parliament’s health committee.
 
Holyrood’s health committee said the UK coalition’s Welfare Reform Bill could mean the most vulnerable people having their benefits cut with some charities claiming that Scotland could lose £1 billion.

The Committee also said Scottish Government ministers should have to consent to any further legislation on welfare reform.

Yesterday third sector organisations called for the Scottish Parliament to set up a committee to look at the welfare proposals, at any proposals from the Scottish Government and to scrutinise the implementation of UK reforms.

John Dalrymple, of Neighbourhood Networks said that MSP’s and the general public needed to be informed about the real impact of the UK Welfare Reform Bill.

He said: “Disabled people in Scotland are set to lose £1billion in welfare support in the next five years as a result of this Bill. Many of them are already struggling on very low incomes. These are not the actions of a fair society.”

Jim Elder-Woodward, of Independent Living in Scotland added:

“This millionaire UK government is making sure the rich and able within the City can carry on as if nothing has happened, whilst making damn sure the most poor and disabled outside, those who need the most support just to exist, are most affected in their efforts to deal with the mess originating from the rich and able of the City.”

The proposal for extra scrutiny was passed despite the three Labour committee members Mary Fee, Duncan McNeil and Dr Richard Simpson voting with Tory MSP Jackson Carlaw against the establishment of a Holyrood welfare and benefits committee in order to further scrutinise the UK coalition’s welfare plans.

Welcoming the committee report, SNP Deputy Convener of the Health committee Bob Doris said it was essential the Scottish Parliament had proper scrutiny of welfare proposals with a special welfare and benefits committee.

Mr Doris said

“The UK Government’s welfare reform proposals are simply not up to scratch for Scotland. 

“Thousands of people across Scotland would face severe and unjustified hardship as a result of these reforms.

“We can improve the welfare system without pursuing this draconian route.

“All the evidence shows the proposed reforms will have serious detrimental effects on poverty and welfare in Scotland, particularly the reforms on housing benefit, universal credit and personal independence plans which have simply not been thought through.

“It is essential the Scottish Parliament continues to scrutinise these reforms and looks closely at any proposals that come forward.  That is why a majority of the committee backed the calls from Scotland’s third sector for a parliamentary committee devoted to welfare and benefits issues, to keep an eye on the actions of the UK and on the impact in Scotland.

“This is the first time a committee has recommended rejecting a piece of Westminster legislation, a move that shows how out of touch the Tory/Lib Dem Government is with the concerns of the people of Scotland.”