Scotland Says “NO!” : Welfare Reform Debate (Transcript) – Scottish Parliament October 5th 2011

Welfare Reform

The Presiding Officer (Tricia Marwick): The next item of business is a debate on motion S4M-01008, in the name of Nicola Sturgeon, on welfare reform. I will allow a few seconds for members to change places. I call Nicola Sturgeon to speak to and move the motion. You have 13 minutes, Ms Sturgeon.

 

The result of the division was: For 104, Against 16, Abstentions 0.

Motion, as amended, agreed to,

That the Parliament notes the Welfare Reform Bill that is currently being considered by the UK Parliament; regrets that the far-reaching proposals contained in the bill are being pursued against the backdrop of substantial cuts to welfare benefits announced in the June and October 2010 UK budgets; further regrets the impact that these cuts will have on some of the most vulnerable individuals and families in society and on the local authority and third-sector organisations committed to supporting vulnerable people, and calls on the UK Government to pursue a welfare system that is properly financed, simple to understand, lifts people out of poverty and makes work pay, and is otherwise minded, subject to consideration by the appropriate committees, to oppose the forthcoming legislative consent motion pertaining to the Welfare Reform Bill.

The Debate:

15:04

The Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Health, Wellbeing and Cities Strategy (Nicola Sturgeon): I welcome the opportunity to open the debate this afternoon. I think that we all agree on what we want from our welfare system—a system that works well and is fair to all—[Interruption.]

The Presiding Officer: Could you sit down for a moment, please, cabinet secretary? Can we clear the gallery as quickly as possible, please, as there is a debate going on?

My apologies, cabinet secretary. Perhaps you would like to resume.

Nicola Sturgeon: As I said, I welcome the opportunity to open the debate. We all agree that we want a welfare system that works well and is fair to all. However, that is not what we have now.

Members know from their postbags and local surgeries that our welfare system is complicated, is unfair and disconnects people from the prospect of making a meaningful economic contribution. The stated aim of the Welfare Reform Bill is to simplify the system, make it more accessible and—most important—make work pay. The Scottish Government and, I suspect, many members of the Parliament support those principles; the key question is how they translate into practice.

I thank the many organisations that sent briefings in advance of the debate. In particular, I mention the paper from the Scottish campaign on welfare reform, which represents around 60 organisations. We will give careful consideration to the five key points that are directed to the Scottish Government in that briefing, but I will address specifically the legislative consent motion that will come before the Parliament in due course.

First, it is important to point out that welfare is a reserved matter. Let me be clear that that is not the choice of Scottish National Party members. Our view is that the Scottish Parliament, not the United Kingdom Parliament, should decide on welfare policy for Scotland; our view is that Scotland should be independent. However, the fact is that welfare is reserved. That means that, unfortunately, the UK Government does not need this Parliament’s consent for the substance of its proposals and that an LCM on the universal credit and the personal independence payment would be largely technical.

However, welfare policy has a huge impact on a range of devolved responsibilities, such as health, social care, employability and services for vulnerable people. Therefore, it is reasonable to expect that, when we lodge the LCM and the supplementary memorandum that will accompany it, we are able to advise the Parliament what the impact of the reforms will be. We do not yet have that detail and, as the bill is largely an enabling bill, members should make no mistake that the devil will be in the detail of the regulations.

Therefore, we have asked for an amendment to be made to the bill to require the Scottish Government’s consent to regulations that will apply in Scotland. That would help to ensure that the reforms are consistent with good governance, are sensitive to Scotland’s delivery environment and align with our devolved policies and services. We have not yet had the UK Government’s response to that request.

We have sought to work constructively with the UK Government and will continue to do so, but we feel increasingly frustrated in our duties to this Parliament by the lack of detail. Therefore, I wrote to Iain Duncan Smith again today asking for additional details and for an amendment to be made to the bill to require our consent to regulations.

Patrick Harvie (Glasgow) (Green): Is the cabinet secretary saying that, if the UK Government does not agree to such an amendment, the Scottish Government will oppose the bill and not lodge an LCM?

Nicola Sturgeon: I was coming on to that point, so that was a timely intervention from Patrick Harvie.

I have made it clear that our final position on an LCM will take account of the UK Government’s response to those requests. It will also, of course, be informed by parliamentary scrutiny in this Parliament. However, I have also made it clear that, as things stand, I could not recommend that the Parliament support a legislative consent motion. For that reason, we will support Jackie Baillie’s amendment.

Mary Scanlon (Highlands and Islands) (Con): This week, the bill is in the House of Lords. It still faces more amendment in the House of Commons and must come back for a third reading, so we are at the beginning of the process. I hope that it will not be judged on its current form, rather on the one that we have in the end.

Nicola Sturgeon: That is a fair point and it is why I said that, as things stand, I could not recommend to Parliament that it support an LCM. I cannot answer many of the questions that many of the organisations that will be represented in the public gallery are asking about the impact of the bill.

Many organisations with an interest in welfare have been encouraging us to look beyond the specific and very narrow matters relevant to legislative consent. Yesterday, at the Scotland Bill Committee, we heard evidence from Citizens Advice Scotland, the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, the Wise Group and the Poverty Alliance, all of which gave us the same message: the reforms, as proposed, will have a significant impact on many aspects of devolved policy, on services that are provided by our local authorities and the third sector and on the most vulnerable in our society.

The committee heard about some of the opportunities that a change in our constitutional arrangements could provide. There is a growing sense that we could, here in Scotland, take a different approach. I have already mentioned this Government’s commitment to further devolution in this area, particularly in respect of housing benefit and the administrative functions of Jobcentre Plus.

Although some of the principles behind the current reforms are to be welcomed—I think that we could agree on that across the chamber—the deep and damaging cuts to welfare spending that were announced by the chancellor in both June and October last year will hurt the poorest.

David McLetchie (Lothian) (Con): Given that, in an independent Scotland, our share of the current deficit would be at least £12 billion per annum, how does the cabinet secretary propose, in her wonderful welfare system, to sustain even the current level of expenditure on welfare benefits?

Nicola Sturgeon: I thought that the Tories were meant to be moving away from the position that “We’re too poor, too wee and too weak to be independent.” As David McLetchie well knows, we contribute more to the UK Treasury than we get in return. Perhaps it is not a change of name that the Scottish Conservatives need but a change of attitude towards Scotland.

What is being billed as a progressive reform programme is being undermined by a Treasury-determined starting point that attacks the vulnerable. First, the change from the retail prices index to the consumer prices index for the uprating of benefits hits the poorest: it takes money out of their pockets, out of our communities and out of our economy at a time when we need it most. It also hits them for the long term and does damage that will not be undone when times get better.

Another issue is housing costs, to which Alex Neil will no doubt return in his summing up. We will see an ever-increasing gap between the rents that are charged and the benefits that are paid to cover them. We estimate that 60,000 tenants in Scotland face the prospect of losing an average of £40 per month through changes introduced this year.

Mary Scanlon: Will the cabinet secretary give way?

Nicola Sturgeon: This is the last intervention that I will take.

Mary Scanlon: The highest rate of housing benefit is currently £2,000 per week and the proposal is to reduce it to £500 per week. I think that that is reasonable.

Nicola Sturgeon: Mary Scanlon should listen to what I am saying. Penalties imposed from 2013 onwards will mean that working-age people living in larger families will be hit to the tune of £11 per week. The changes will have an adverse impact on our Government’s efforts to meet the 2012 homelessness target and to sustain the momentum that we need to sustain. Historically, we have been doing much to reduce the need for people to be unintentionally homeless.

Lastly, we need to consider the plight of the disabled under the reforms. Members will be aware of the significant anxiety felt by many disabled people and their carers who, fresh from the experience of migration from incapacity benefit on to employment and support allowance, now face further reassessments following the abolition of disability living allowance and the introduction of personal independence payments. That comes at a cost, too: a 20 per cent cut in funding for disabled people’s support.

Like mine, the constituency mailbag of every member in this chamber will be full and getting fuller with letters and e-mails from distressed and seriously ill benefit claimants who have been found fit for work under the ESA changes. Those people will need further attention as the changes take effect. We believe in supporting all those with a health condition who are able to work into work, but we must recognise that, for some, that is not an option and they should be entitled to an acceptable quality of life on benefits. That is also the case for those who have caring responsibilities in the home.

We are concerned about the implications of the new conditionality regime for single parents, who will be faced with the prospect of losing benefit or being forced into low-paid employment with the associated childcare costs.

We know that there will be winners and losers under the universal credit. Modelling by the Institute for Fiscal Studies suggests that couples who have children will benefit more than couples who do not. Lone parents will be, on average, worse off in the long term under universal credit. The freezing of universal child benefit affects all families, but the greatest impact will be felt by those who are on the lowest incomes as benefit falls as a proportion of income.

Successive Scottish Governments have been committed to eradicating poverty, and child poverty in particular, from our very vocabulary. Poverty has fallen substantially in Scotland in relative terms since 1994.

Although welfare is a reserved matter, the reform programme will impact on the nature and scale of demand for devolved services. The reforms have an underpinning principle of localism that is attractive to this Government, but there are fears that it will come at a cost to the Scottish block and that the Scottish Government and other agencies in Scotland will be left to deal with the consequences of any damage that is done. Such down-the-line pressures on childcare, skills and health budgets will come about as a result not of measures that have been introduced here, but of those that have been introduced elsewhere.

The third sector plays a strong and significant part in supporting vulnerable people. Some of that is Government funded, but much is driven by voluntary effort and a commitment to community. We know that service users are experiencing a great deal of worry at the prospect of reducing incomes and uncertainty as their circumstances change, and we recognise that the third sector will often be the first port of call.

It is a huge frustration to know that the impact of the reforms will be felt at a time of significant reductions in the resources that are available to the Parliament. Their impact on local services and budgets is difficult to measure because the UK Government has so far been silent about much of the detail that will guide the final operating arrangements of its programme. It has been silent on the regulations, on the assessment criteria and on the costs.

The Parliament cannot be silent on the issue. We have a responsibility to speak up for the vulnerable and disadvantaged members of our society. We all recognise that the system is broken but we need to ensure that it is reformed in a fundamentally fair way that does not simply pass responsibility on to somewhere else in the system. I look forward to the debate and, in the meantime, I have much pleasure in moving the motion in my name.

I move,

That the Parliament notes the Welfare Reform Bill that is currently being considered by the UK Parliament; regrets that the far-reaching proposals contained in the bill are being pursued against the backdrop of substantial cuts to welfare benefits announced in the June and October 2010 UK budgets; further regrets the impact that these cuts will have on some of the most vulnerable individuals and families in society and on the local authority and third-sector organisations committed to supporting vulnerable people, and calls on the UK Government to pursue a welfare system that is properly financed, simple to understand, lifts people out of poverty and makes work pay.

15:18

Jackie Baillie (Dumbarton) (Lab): I welcome the opportunity to debate welfare reform and I congratulate the Government on finally bringing the matter to the chamber. Given the significance of the issues that are at stake, I am slightly surprised that it took so long for the Government to act, but I do not want to be churlish to start off.

We in the Labour Party support the simplification of the welfare system and the use of benefits to ensure a smooth transition to employment. However, what we are currently witnessing has little to do with that or, for that matter, with fairness or social justice. It amounts to the single most significant attack on the welfare state in my generation; it is nothing short of a cover for cuts. A total of £18 billion has already been cut from out-of-work benefits and tax credits. In Scotland, the Fraser of Allander Institute suggests that the benefit cuts will amount to £2 billion, which will have a direct impact on household spend and growth.

“It’s fair those with broader shoulders should bear a greater load”.

So said David Cameron to the Tory conference last year. Yet, in October 2010 the coalition Government announced public sector cuts of £81 billion, including £18 billion cuts to benefits. While the most affluent avoid paying £120 billion in taxes and bankers continue to award themselves huge bonuses, disabled people are facing the biggest attack on their rights in my lifetime.

In the reality of the new Tory Britain, the broadest shouldered are the poor, the disabled, the sick and the elderly.

David McLetchie: Are these tax avoiders who Jackie Baillie mentions the same people who avoided taxes during the 13 years of Labour Government and whom, I presume, Gordon Brown did nothing about?

Jackie Baillie: That is a very weak justification for continuing to consider tax avoidance as somehow acceptable. Clearly, this is the new brand of Conservative compassion combined with Liberal love. Beveridge would be ashamed to see the modern-day Liberal Democrat party cosying up with the Tories to attack the poorest and most vulnerable in our society.

With regard to the practical effects of the new Welfare Reform Bill, I note, first of all, that there will be a new universal credit encompassing a myriad other benefits including income support, jobseekers allowance, child tax credit and working tax credit. However, what is unclear is the amount of benefit that will be paid; how childcare costs will be included; and the taper for withdrawing benefit as earnings increase. All that will be left to secondary legislation, so we are unable to scrutinise the detail. However, we know that eligibility will tighten, which means that fewer people will qualify. Will there be more or fewer people in income poverty as a consequence of the bill? The answer is less than clear.

Secondly, disability living allowance will be replaced by a PIP—or personal independence payment. It all sounds good and empowering, but the reality is very different. Given that PIPs will start life with a 20 per cent cut in budget, it is perhaps more a case of empowering people to manage with less.

I have warned the chamber many times of the perfect storm that we face in charging for social care. If local authorities are charging for services based on disability benefits, what happens if those disability benefits are reduced? Who will pay? Are people to be abandoned and left to struggle at home when their care service is withdrawn? What estimates have been made of the costs that local authorities might now have to pick up?

There will be an impact on devolved policies and devolved services across the board—and nowhere is that more evident than in the proposed changes to council tax benefit and housing benefit. Yes, council tax benefit is to be devolved, but—guess what—with a 10 per cent cut. How will local authorities, with their increasingly constrained resources and with demand rising, cope with that?

Housing benefit will be centralised, but it will be subject to a range of new conditions that directly interfere with our housing and homelessness policy direction in Scotland. If that is not bad enough, it will also have practical adverse consequences for tenants. Changes to housing benefit for private sector tenants that have already been introduced have resulted in reductions in allowances and have forced tenants out of their homes as they can no longer afford the rent.

Now we have the proposed changes to housing benefit for those in the social rented sector. The removal of direct payments to social landlords—in the name of choice—will increase rent arrears and in many cases will lead to court action. It is difficult to manage budgets at the best of times, but people who are on low incomes often make immediate choices that might be more important than keeping money for the rent. Because they are unable to cope, more people might well fall into debt and consequently end up homeless. The criterion for underoccupation also needs urgent revision because we simply do not have the housing stock to allow people to move into smaller accommodation.

I must confess that I am left wondering what dialogue or consultation has taken place between the two Governments. How often has the UK Government spoken to the cabinet secretary and how often has the cabinet secretary met her counterpart to push Scotland’s case?

The Scottish Government is not known for its reticence. However, I am slightly troubled. The Government has been remarkably slow in coming forward with this debate, never mind lodging a legislative consent motion that would afford time for scrutiny. We are in danger of sleepwalking through this bill. I am told that there has been a lot of analysis of the scale of the problem—which is indeed helpful—but little has been done about the solutions that are fast becoming urgent. We on these benches stand ready to help with the process in any way we can. It is appropriate for the chamber to ask about the posture that will be adopted by the Scottish Government in its negotiations with the UK Government. Are we suggesting a compromise—and, if so, what is it? Are we seeking changes—and if so, what are they? What will the deal breaker be? I would welcome it if, in his summing up, the Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure and Capital Investment could say something about the approach that is being taken.

There has been little indication—

Nicola Sturgeon: Will the member give way?

Jackie Baillie: I am sorry—I need to make progress.

There has been little indication of what the SNP wants to do about council tax benefits, which are soon to be devolved. Moreover, there has been little, if any, indication of what will happen to community care grants and crisis loans, both of which, too, will be devolved. Who will run the scheme of grants and loans in the future? Who will benefit? Will there be national eligibility criteria and will they have statutory underpinning? The SNP has not yet provided any answers, and I encourage it to do so.

What about entitlement to passported benefits, such as free school meals, clothing grants and the energy assistance package, all of which will be affected by the changes? We have no indication of what will happen in Scotland. I have lodged numerous parliamentary questions, none of which has received a substantive response, even though those are decisions for the Scottish Government and the Parliament.

Nicola Sturgeon: Will the member take an intervention?

Jackie Baillie: No, I cannot. I do not have sufficient time.

Members: Aw.

Jackie Baillie: Listen, the cabinet secretary has had months to answer questions and bring forward proposals, but she has not done so. Some of this is devolved to the Scottish Government and it has to assume responsibility.

If people who are on lower rate DLA lose their benefit, as they will, will the SNP continue to make them eligible for concessionary transport?

I have a confession to make—I am sad enough to have read all 500-odd pages of the budget document. I could not find a single line, figure, word or reference to the welfare reform proposals that we are discussing today, but they have huge financial implications for the Parliament.

Nicola Sturgeon rose—

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Elaine Smith): The member is in her final minute.

Jackie Baillie: Just as there is little detail from the SNP, there is little detail underpinning the Welfare Reform Bill at Westminster. Too much is unknown; too much is consigned to secondary legislation. We should resist attempts to railroad this through without being able to see all the detail, either in draft regulations or—preferably—on the face of the bill. We should demand that of the UK Government.

I will stand shoulder to shoulder with any party or group to challenge the UK Government’s welfare reform agenda, which attacks the very poorest members of our society but, equally, I will challenge the SNP to meet its responsibilities, too. Nicola Sturgeon talked about the SNP’s aspirations for independence. For a party that believes in independence and wants control over the welfare state not to have a view on how that would be organised, when key aspects are to be devolved to Scotland, is simply baffling.

The Deputy Presiding Officer: Ms Baillie, you need to finish.

Jackie Baillie: This is my final sentence, Presiding Officer.

Others more cynical than I might suggest that that is so that the SNP can blame Westminster or local government if things go wrong.

I urge members to support the Labour amendment. Let us leave the UK Government in no doubt about the views of the Scottish Parliament. We will oppose the legislative consent motion if substantial changes are not made to the Welfare Reform Bill.

I move amendment S4M-01008.1, to insert at end:

“and is otherwise minded, subject to consideration by the appropriate committees, to oppose the forthcoming legislative consent motion pertaining to the Welfare Reform Bill.”

The Deputy Presiding Officer: I call Mary Scanlon to speak to and move amendment S4M-01008.2. You have a very tight six minutes.

15:27

Mary Scanlon (Highlands and Islands) (Con): The Welfare Reform Bill is an extensive piece of legislation that cannot be fully covered in the tight six minutes that I have.

Our amendment recognises the need to reform the welfare system, become a fairer society and bring an end to the penalising of hard-working families. Although we can all disagree on the detail, I would have thought that every responsible parliamentarian would support the bill’s general principles.

It is worth mentioning that the legislative consent motion will come to the Health and Sport Committee only in seven weeks’ time, before going to the Local Government and Regeneration Committee and another committee, so we are at the start of the process.

I cannot understand why the Labour Party is opposed to the reforms, given that spending on working-age welfare rocketed by 50 per cent in real terms under Labour before the recession. A system that was originally designed to support the poorest in society is now trapping them in the very condition that it was supposed to alleviate. In Scotland, almost 500,000 people of working age are on out-of-work benefits.

The former Labour pensions secretary Lord John Hutton pointed out, when he undertook his review, that

“nine out of 10 people who come on to incapacity benefit expect to get back into work. Yet … if they have been on incapacity benefit for more than two years, they are more likely to retire or die than ever to get another job.”—[Official Report, House of Commons, 24 July 2006; Vol 449, c 621.]

The former Labour welfare minister Frank Field is quoted as saying that Labour’s flagship welfare policy was an expensive failure and that it had to be acknowledged that the Government’s new deal and making work pay strategies had failed to get many unemployed people back into work, even at the height of the boom.

In The Times on 9 November 2010, James Purnell, Labour’s former Secretary of State for Work and Pensions stated:

“the plan to merge many current benefits into one … is a good reform … Before I resigned from the Cabinet, I proposed a similar plan to Mr Brown.”

I find it astonishing that Labour here in Scotland is opposed to helping people get back to work.

The universal credit will be introduced in 2013 with full migration by 2017. The credit combines into one payment jobseekers allowance, housing benefit, child tax credit, working tax credit, income support, and employment and support allowance, making it easier for people to see that they will be consistently and transparently better off for each hour they work and every pound they earn. Surely simplifying the system, removing the bureaucracy and making it easier for people to receive the support that they need has to be a good thing.

The personal independence allowance will replace DLA and will introduce a new assessment system to assess individuals more accurately and consistently to determine who will benefit most from additional support. More than two thirds of people on disability living allowance have an indefinite award and are left for years with no reassessment.

The current system is a mess of multiple benefits paid at varying rates and is open to widespread abuse. The result of massive error and fraud costs the taxpayer more than £5 billion every year.

Mark McDonald (North East Scotland) (SNP): Will the member give way?

Mary Scanlon: I am sorry; I have a very tight six minutes.

Given that the maximum housing benefit award has now reached £2,000 a week—I do not think that even any of us here could afford to spend £2,000 a week on accommodation—it is not unreasonable to cap the benefit at £500 a week for couples and £350 for single adults. Most hard-working families could not even dream of renting a property at £2,000 a week.

According to the Department for Work and Pensions, on the introduction of the new work capability assessment 36 per cent of people withdrew their claim, deciding themselves that they no longer needed to claim benefits. [Interruption.] Some members may laugh, but this is a responsible debate and I would have hoped that the SNP would take it seriously. Some 39 per cent were considered fit for work, 17 per cent were placed in work-related activity, and 7 per cent were rated unfit to work and given the highest rate of support. Some 37 per cent of claimants appealed, of which 39 per cent were successful, resulting in an overall 14 per cent success rate for appeals.

Mark McDonald: Will the member give way on that point?

Mary Scanlon: The member will have his chance; I have just a very short time.

Those were the figures on 26 July this year. Following that, the Harrington review was brought forward and many changes are being made to the system, including to take account of fluctuating conditions such as ME, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s and mental health issues. It will no longer be acceptable for the national health service to ignore the 47 per cent of claimants for incapacity benefit who have a mental health problem—everyone who spoke in the debate last week made that point.

Another important point is that, under previous work programmes, providers were given 53 per cent of the fee up front to get people into work. Now they get 5 per cent of the fee, and the rest is paid over two years to ensure that the support continues.

How can it be right that we ask the unemployed to move from benefit into work when they face losing more than 95p for every additional £1 they earn? As a result of that poverty trap, the poor are being taxed at a rate that far exceeds the wealthy.

The Deputy Presiding Officer: Ms Scanlon, you need to come to a conclusion.

Mary Scanlon: I am just finishing.

The Welfare Reform Bill is halfway through the Lords. It will then go back to the Commons to be amended. I hope that this Parliament will play a positive role in scrutinising it. I move the amendment in my name, and we also support the very sensible Lib Dem amendment.

I move amendment S4M-01008.2, to leave out from first “regrets” to end and insert:

“recognises the requirement to reform the welfare system to meet the demand for a fairer society and to bring to an end a system that penalises hard-working families and rewards those who refuse to take on paid employment despite being able to do so; commends the UK Government’s aims to simplify the entire benefits system through the introduction of the universal credit system; commends the UK Government for placing work at the heart of the reforms and for providing ongoing support for those in paid employment, and supports the UK Government in its pursuit of a fairer welfare system.”

The Deputy Presiding Officer: I call Liam McArthur to speak to and move amendment S4M-01008.3. He has a strict six minutes.

15:34

Liam McArthur (Orkney Islands) (LD): I welcome the opportunity to speak in the debate this afternoon. Welfare reform is clearly an area of policy that arouses considerable interest and about which there are strongly held views, as evidenced—as the cabinet secretary suggested—by the sheer volume of briefings that members have received in recent days.

In many instances, I have no difficulty with the concerns that have been raised with respect to the Welfare Reform Bill or the way in which they have been conveyed. In some cases, however, the assertions depart from reality by quite some distance. I simply do not accept, for instance, that the bill represents the “dismantling” of the welfare state, as some have suggested.

That is not to say that there will not be profound implications in what I fully accept is set to be the most radical overhaul of the benefits system in a generation, but it is now widely accepted—certainly, it was by the previous UK Labour Government, and it is implicit in the Scottish National Party’s Government’s otherwise unrevealing motion—that the current system is in need of reform.

The cabinet secretary spoke of a need for a system that is simple to understand, and she is right to point to the problems that are created by the bewildering complexity of the current welfare arrangements. That is why proposals have been brought forward to simplify and streamline the welfare benefits under the universal credit—an approach that has, in the past, enjoyed cross-party support, but which I agree will not be straightforward to achieve.

Another driver for reform is to ensure that work always pays, by removing barriers and disincentives to moving off benefits and into employment.

Christina McKelvie (Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse) (SNP): Will the member give way?

Liam McArthur: I do not have time. I am sorry.

Nicola Sturgeon and Jackie Baillie seemed to support that aim, although both are disappointingly vague about how they would achieve it, if not through the proposals in the bill.

Drew Smith (Glasgow) (Lab): Will the member give way?

Liam McArthur: I cannot—I am sorry.

I hope that the principle of ensuring that changes in circumstances are reflected in benefits levels in real time—in order to tackle the problem of overpayments and rebates while encouraging job-market participation—also commands widespread support. The delivery of a system that incentivises work for all and which addresses the shameful numbers of people who are trapped on out-of-work benefits; of a system that is simpler, fairer and more transparent; and of a system that maintains a genuine safety net for the most vulnerable people in our society, is a prize that is worth pursuing. Far from representing a dismantling of the welfare state, I think that that is an approach that is in keeping with Beveridge’s original reforms.

The reality is that the current system too often provides the wrong incentives and acts for too many people as an obstacle to work. That is unfair to claimants, but is also unfair to working families on low incomes, who have to pay for a system that is not working.

Over the past decade, for most of which time there was relentless growth in our economy, the welfare budget rose by more than 40 per cent in real terms. That makes no sense and shows that although a strategy for job creation is essential, it is simply not the whole answer.

In the UK, we have five million people trapped on out-of-work benefits, one of the highest rates of workless households in Europe and almost two million children living in homes in which no one has a job. In those circumstances, I cannot see how another exercise in tinkering around the edges would suffice.

I appreciate that there are concerns about the impacts on specific groups, about the way in which the reforms might play out alongside areas of devolved policy responsibility, such as health and housing, and about the roles of local government and the voluntary sector. I certainly do not underestimate the potential complexity of trying to address those concerns, but does that not simply make the case for direct, detailed and sustained engagement between governments and others north and south of the border? As I understand it, the Scottish Government and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities are members of the senior stakeholder board that is overseeing the universal credit programme. There is also on-going dialogue between the UCP and the Scottish Government led welfare reform scrutiny group. Other fora exist and one imagines that part of the purpose of today’s debate is to give members an opportunity to put on the record concerns that they wish to be addressed.

Already changes have been made to initially poorly thought-out proposals in relation to the treatment of people who have disabilities. I am pleased that the recommendations by Professor Harrington have been accepted. Likewise, as COSLA has pointed out, amendments are being proposed in relation to the housing provisions, including some that have been suggested by my colleague Lord Kirkwood, and those seem to make considerable sense.

However, I struggle with the notion that has been posited by some witnesses to the Scotland Bill Committee this week and by the Labour amendment today, that we should somehow remove ourselves from the debate, as if the need for welfare reform does not exist in Scotland. That cannot be what the SNP or Labour is arguing, but we have seen little detail of changes that either would propose in order to manage a budget that, as I pointed out, ballooned during what have largely been good times, and which quite demonstrably provides perverse disincentives to encourage and support people into work. To say, “We are in favour of reforms—just not these reforms”, is an unsatisfactory defence, and is as vacuous as the slogan, “Too deep and too fast”.

We were told this week that any reform of the welfare system would need to await the outcome of the SNP’s referendum on independence, but that that does not mean that the First Minister is under any obligation to consider holding his referendum before 2014. We cannot simply go on talking about the need for creating a welfare system that is simple to understand, that lifts people out of poverty, that makes work pay and that provides a proper and effective safety net for those who need it. We need to take action.

It is right that we continue to press for appropriate safeguards and assurances, beyond those that have already been given. However, claiming to be in favour of reform but holding the view that any cuts to any benefits or any tightening of any of the demands that are placed on recipients are automatically unfair is no longer credible.

I urge the Government, members across this chamber and the people who have e-mailed us in large numbers over recent days to continue making the case for changes, where it is felt that they are needed, and not to lose sight of the pressing need for a radical overhaul of the current system.

I move amendment S4M-01008.3, to leave out from first “regrets” to end and insert:

“recognises that these fundamental reforms will deliver a system that incentivises work, is simplified and streamlined and maintains a safety net for those vulnerable individuals who cannot work; further recognises that there are almost half a million people on out-of-work benefits in Scotland and that approximately 15% of Scottish children live in workless households, and believes that this radical reform of the current welfare system is required in order to support people back into work and ensure that work always pays.”

The Deputy Presiding Officer: We come to the open debate, with speeches of six minutes, but if members could make their points in less time, that would be helpful.

15:39

Bob Doris (Glasgow) (SNP): Unfortunately, that is not normally how I conduct myself, Presiding Officer, but I shall do my best.

This debate is a vital one in which we all have a moral duty to speak out, even if this Parliament does not yet have the full legislative power to act on the issue. A legislative consent motion will come to the Health and Sport Committee—of which I am deputy convener—as lead committee on the bill. I very much welcome the cabinet secretary’s view that the Welfare Reform Bill is not fit for purpose and would be rejected.

I want to highlight some of the potentially devastating harmful consequences of the benefit reforms that the UK Government is bringing to Scotland. In doing so, I thank the many voluntary sector organisations whose excellent briefings have been helpful. The Citizens Advice Bureaux Scotland briefing provided case studies, one of which is the example of a 40-year-old man in Glasgow who is claiming incapacity benefit and disability living allowance at the lower rate and is in receipt of housing benefit for a social tenancy. If that man is considered fit for work following reassessment and is also affected by housing benefit cuts, he could lose anywhere between £60 and £120 every week, which is not small change in any one’s book.

The reforms will have absolutely horrific consequences if they go through as they stand. There are over 190,000 incapacity benefit recipients in Scotland, who have every right to be worried by the reforms. The UK Government is introducing a cocktail of cuts with its Welfare Reform Bill, and its ingredients amount to a savage attack on many of the most vulnerable groups in our society. We must do all that we can as a Parliament to fend off those cuts in Scotland, although in reality this Parliament is not fully equipped to do so. The Welfare Reform Bill started from a UK Government position of cutting cash at any cost, and the attack on the most vulnerable in our society was a price worth paying for it. Let me be clear: it is not a price worth paying for the SNP or for Scotland.

To base any reform of disability benefit on a view that there should be an automatic cut of 20 per cent in that budget is not even a remotely subtle way of disguising the cuts as reforms—it just does not wash. As disability benefit is changed to personal independence payments, a combination of a 20 per cent cut and the removal of entitlement from those on lower-rate DLA is estimated to mean that 75,000 people—one in three working-age claimants—will lose their entitlement. That figure was provided by Inclusion Scotland, which is particularly worried about the damage—

Mary Fee (West Scotland) (Lab): Will the member take an intervention?

Bob Doris: I am sorry, but we are tight for time.

Another aspect of the reforms that worries me greatly is the reform of housing benefit. The under-occupancy penalty that is proposed for someone renting in the social rented sector and which will mean a cut in their housing benefit if they have an empty bedroom will affect as many as 95,000 households in Scotland and see between £27 and £65 a month lost to them. Some may say that an unoccupied bedroom is not an efficient use of resources, and that reducing housing benefit is a way to encourage tenants to find a more suitable home, but I fundamentally disagree with that. That imposed benefit cut from Westminster takes no account, for instance, of the fact that 44 per cent of tenants in the social rented sector require a one-bedroom house but only 24 per cent actually stay in one because the housing stock does not actually exist. The figures just do not stack up.

The proposed reforms could, for example, force a long-standing tenant in Springburn with a disability to move out of their home and seek a smaller property, perhaps in Castlemilk at the other end of Glasgow. That is just not satisfactory. They would lose their spare room, in which perhaps a carer would stay to provide support. They would also lose their entire support network of family and friends and would face social isolation. That is, of course, if alternative accommodation even existed. As has been clearly stated, it just does not.

Housing benefit reforms will mean that disabled people and others will have to use a greater chunk of shrinking benefits to pay for rent—that is not an acceptable choice. It will leave social housing providers in the invidious and horrible position of either dropping their rents, which they would not be able to afford to do, or pursuing vulnerable tenants for rent arrears, which is not a position that anyone should be in. However, the UK welfare reforms will bring that position to Scotland. We must prevent that.

I am delighted that we will give robust scrutiny to the LCM at the Health and Sport Committee, although I wish that we did not have to do so. Such is the detail of scrutiny that is needed that perhaps, as voluntary sector organisations have suggested, we need an ad hoc committee of the Scottish Parliament to be set up, in order that we have an adequate vehicle for scrutiny of the devastating proposals. We will have to wait and see, but we certainly have a moral duty to speak out against the UK benefit reforms and the direct impact on Scotland of changes to housing benefit, council tax benefit, the social fund and the use of passported benefits to gain access to devolved entitlements. The matter is complex and should be dealt with by the Scottish Parliament.

My heart sinks when I think that however much Scottish Parliament committees scrutinise the proposals and say how wrong they are, we will have no power to stand against them. That is something that we must change. We can do so only through Scottish independence.

15:45

Margaret McCulloch (Central Scotland) (Lab): Members of all parties can agree on the value of work and on the importance of the welfare state to people who are out of work or are unable to work, for whatever reason.

As the Department for Work and Pensions takes forward its programme of reform, it must bear in mind that a comprehensive system of benefits and entitlements is not a sign of weakness, a failed economy and a broken Britain, but is an essential component of a caring, compassionate and civilised society. The welfare system in this country is by no means perfect, but we should all take time to remember that the welfare state has great capacity to change lives and support people who are in need.

I am concerned about the UK Government’s anti-welfare tone. It is deeply misguided to suggest that the cause of unemployment is unemployment benefit, or that the cause of incapacity is incapacity benefit. I am more than willing to support welfare reforms that are fair, balanced and evidence based, but the scale of the claimant count in the UK is symptomatic of, and not the cause of, the problems in our society. Many of our social ills are products of the mass inequality of the 1980s, from which we have yet to recover. Because inequality is intergenerational, so too are unemployment, poverty and poor public health. That is a lesson that every Government in every part of the United Kingdom should bear in mind before embarking on a series of reforms that will affect many people, especially people who are among the most excluded and vulnerable groups in society.

I hope that the UK Government can be made to realise the profound ramifications of the Welfare Reform Bill. I hope that it will acknowledge the need for safeguards to protect people who play by the rules and who seek nothing more from the state than help to support themselves and their dependants in a time of need.

The bill will hit families by reducing overall entitlement. It will hit the sick and the disabled. It will hit job seekers by dampening incentives to work and it will hit savers by capping payments to the people who save the most.

The universal credit system, which the bill will introduce, will condense a range of gateway benefits into a single benefit, but it is not clear what the new gateway will be. How will the Scottish Government or local authorities determine who is eligible for tax concessions or money off their council tax? How will it decide which families are entitled to extra help with childcare? How will it support families who fall through the cracks? We should remember that after four years of an SNP Government we still use the UK benefits system to decide which children are eligible for free school meals.

If council tax benefit is to be replaced by grants to local authorities, what will the implications be for the Scottish budget and for Scottish councils? There is no reference to the proposals in the draft budget and I fear that the Scottish Government might have produced its spending review without taking account of the serious financial consequences of welfare reform.

Those concerns are shared by the Scottish campaign on welfare reform. It notes that the UK Government’s green paper and the bill contain proposals on childcare and skills support, but the Scottish Government has not indicated how it will respond. The finance secretary knew that the Welfare Reform Bill was going through the UK Parliament when he planned his draft budget, and he has known about the content of the UK Government’s spending review for months. Where in the budget does he set out his response to welfare reforms or welfare cuts?

Kevin Stewart (Aberdeen Central) (SNP): Will the member give way?

Margaret McCulloch: No. I am sorry, but I have no time.

When the Government lodged its draft memorandum for the as-yet unpublished LCM earlier this year, it accepted that there would be financial implications, but it has yet to publish its assessment of the costs and to budget for them. The UK Government is making transitional funding available, but as the Scottish Government has said in a memorandum, it is not clear what costs the DWP will cover. There has been no obvious consideration of the impact that changes might have on childcare, training and public services as a direct—or even indirect—consequence of the Welfare Reform Bill. The Scottish Government will have to respond to those points.

Our immediate concern is that the Welfare Reform Bill could receive royal assent in a matter of weeks, and it appears that the Scottish Government is unprepared. We must stand up now for the people who will be affected, and we as a Parliament must speak with one voice against the bill, the motion and the cuts.

We may not agree with the UK Government’s welfare reforms, but change is coming. We must do all that we can to ensure that no one in Scotland falls through the cracks. Labour’s amendment, in the name of Jackie Baillie, sets us on the right track and I urge members to give it their full support.

The Deputy Presiding Officer: Before I call Mark McDonald, I reiterate the need for speeches of a maximum of six minutes, otherwise members will fall out of the debate.

15:52

Mark McDonald (North East Scotland) (SNP): I will do what I can to assist the Presiding Officer in that regard. I declare an interest as a member of Aberdeen City Council.

The notion appears to be that reform is needed and that we must therefore back these reforms, as it is not good enough simply to say that the reforms are not suitable. In the past few days, however, we have had a range of briefings from a variety of organisations throughout the voluntary sector, which have made sensible suggestions for ways in which the bill could be changed to better reflect the needs of vulnerable people in society. I suggest that it might be worth the UK Government’s while to take the time to reflect on those submissions and to take on board some of the sensible suggestions that voluntary groups and organisations—which are dealing directly with the very people who will be affected by the changes—have made.

It is unfortunate that Liam McArthur tried to insinuate that there is not a different way to do this. There is always a different way to do things; the question is whether one has the political will to do it. It might be worth the Liberal Democrats’ while to choose this moment to exercise the much talked-about, but little-seen, civilising influence that they claim to have over their Conservative counterparts. Now is the time and now is the hour, Mr McArthur: let us have some of it.

Neil Findlay (Lothian) (Lab): Will the member give way?

Mark McDonald: No. I want to get through my speech as quickly as possible to assist the Presiding Officer.

Let us consider the impact on local authority budgets. Aberdeen City Council has received a range of reports to its social care and wellbeing committee and its housing and environment committee that focus on the impact that the reforms would have. Those reports clearly show that there would be a reduction in housing benefit because of the change to the excess, and they highlight the potential for increased council tax and rent arrears, which would impact directly on local authority budgets.

Beyond that, the stresses and strains that are placed on people who find themselves in detrimental positions will likely lead to the outcome of increased demand on social care services resulting from the impact on individuals’ mental health and wellbeing as they go through the process.

Mary Scanlon did not accept my interventions, but I fully accept that she was pushed for time, so I will use my speech as an opportunity to retort to some of her points. She said that 40 per cent of ESA decisions that were made under the work capability assessment and which were challenged were overturned. That is correct, but when the appellants were represented at their appeals, the figure rose to more than 60 per cent. To me, the entire process appears to be starting from the wrong position, if more than 60 per cent of appeals are being overturned when appropriate representation is given to appellants. I suggest that that needs to be looked at and thought through.

Mary Scanlon: Will the member give way?

Mark McDonald: Mary Scanlon is pushing it in asking me to accept an intervention when she did not accept any of mine.

Mary Scanlon also spoke about error. I looked this up. At the moment, £3.3 billion is lost annually through fraud and error—one third through fraud, one third through claimant error and one third through official error. What does the UK Government propose to do about it? It proposes to introduce a £50 fine for claimant error but has no proposal to increase official accountability. Beyond that, it proposes to remove the right of appeal against clawback of overpayments due to official error. So, the mantra is that if it is the individual’s mistake, the individual will be punished and, if it is the UK Government’s mistake, the individual will be punished. Frankly, Sir Humphrey Appleby could not have made that policy up, and it is abhorrent that it is even being considered in the legislation. That is one change that the UK Government could make that would make a positive difference.

We must do all that we can to ensure that the bill does not impact detrimentally on the most vulnerable people in society.

Neil Findlay: I am glad that Mark McDonald has come to that conclusion. However, I cannot help but observe—and, this time, welcome—the rank hypocrisy in the SNP. Why has the SNP decided to oppose the legislative consent motion only when Jackie Baillie has lodged an amendment?

Mark McDonald: It is good that the Labour Party welcomes the consensual approach that we are taking in accepting the Labour amendment. I worry about the tone that would have been struck had we said that we were not going to support the amendment. If ever the phrase “grudging support” needed definition, we just heard it. I say gently to Mr Findlay that he is treading on shaky ground in talking about “rank hypocrisy” after the Labour Party had 13 years in which to make appropriate reforms to the welfare system and to introduce something better than what we have—there is general acceptance across the chamber that what we currently have is not fit for purpose—which would have prevented the wrack and ruin that the Conservative Party is seeking to be brought upon the poorest people in society. I am sorry, but Labour left the door open for the Conservative Party to drive a coach and horses through it, so Mr Findlay must accept his party’s culpability.

We must ensure that the reforms are tailored to prevent hardship from being brought on the poorest and most vulnerable in society. That is why, at decision time, we should support the motion in the name of the cabinet secretary as amended by the Labour Party. I give you 30 seconds, Presiding Officer.

The Deputy Presiding Officer: Thank you very much. It is much appreciated.

15:57

Margaret Burgess (Cunninghame South) (SNP): Like other members, I welcome the opportunity to discuss the Welfare Reform Bill. It may be a devolved matter, but it will have lasting and detrimental consequences for many individuals, services and families throughout Scotland. It is therefore important that we discuss it today.

A lot has been said about people not wanting to work, deliberately not working and faking illness. However, I worked in the advice sector for 25 years and rarely saw that. Most people want to work, but the programmes were not put together to allow them to do so by successive Labour and Conservative Governments, which did not create an environment for job creation or help those who needed support into work—that support did not exist. Now, the UK Government is saying that people simply do not want to work, but that is not true.

Mary Scanlon: Will the member give way?

Margaret Burgess: No, I will not, because Mary Scanlon refused to give way when she spoke.

We must recognise that many of our citizens are unable to work and need to be protected on an income that keeps them out of poverty and gives them a reasonable standard of living. That is fundamental to any welfare system, and that should remain in any system. However, there is no clarity about how the Westminster bill will contribute to making work pay, to reducing child poverty or to protecting vulnerable groups. As some of my colleagues have said, the bill is simply about saving money: that was the starting point. The Tory-Lib Dem Government looked at Labour’s proposed welfare reforms and thought, “Gosh! We can go even further.” It took Labour’s proposals and added its ideology of giving up the welfare state.

Drew Smith: Given Margaret Burgess’s strong view that the Welfare Reform Bill has been awful from the start, was she surprised that the Scottish Government did not mention the legislative consent motion in its motion for the debate?

Margaret Burgess: No, I was not because, as the Government said today, the proposals will be discussed and scrutinised in committee and we will consider every way in which they could suit Scotland. It was said that dialogue has taken place to try to secure the best deal for Scotland. I tell members that if I have to choose who will get the best deal for Scotland, I will go with the Scottish Government.

The bill will increase unemployment. The former Labour Government introduced employment and support allowance and the work capability assessment, which has never been fit for purpose. We have taken people off that allowance and put them on the unemployed register without any support, or assistance to obtain support. It is reckoned that the number of people who look for every job will increase by five in North Ayrshire, where 23 people already apply for every job.

Labour wanted a reduction to three in the child’s age at which lone parents would come off income support and register for work, but it did not get away with that. It cannot turn around and blame all that on the Tories. The maintenance reforms that are to be introduced will increase child poverty, as will benefit caps.

My colleague Bob Doris spoke well about how the proposed housing benefit changes will increase homelessness and affect the housing strategies of many local authorities up and down the country.

The most vulnerable and disadvantaged are the people who are sick and unable to work; they feel that they are being persecuted. That happens every time welfare benefits change. The view is, “Let’s get the most vulnerable.” DLA will be removed and replaced by the personal independence payment. We have no idea how that will be assessed, but we know that 20 per cent fewer people will receive that payment, whether or not 20 per cent fewer people will need it. That is wrong.

In the mental health debate last week, I talked about the impact of benefits changes on people who are mentally ill. I have seen that—I have seen people being driven back into hospital simply because of how the benefits system has treated them. The work capability assessment was not designed for people with mental health problems and some people have been pushed from pillar to post. I have seen people being taken off employment and support allowance and told to claim jobseekers allowance. When they claim JSA, they are told that they are not fit to work and that they should go back to claim ESA. People go round and round in that circle—it is still happening—and they receive no money. That affects people’s mental health, so that must be examined.

It is clear that demand for the services of local authorities and voluntary organisations will increase, and we must deal with that. Exceptional pressure will be put on organisations that provide advice and assistance to the vulnerable groups and we must ensure that they are properly funded to deliver the service that is asked of them.

I make a plea for a separate committee to scrutinise welfare reform, because of its importance. The reforms will affect people in all our constituencies, so I hope that such a committee will be considered.

16:03

Siobhan McMahon (Central Scotland) (Lab): If members type my name into Google—which I am sure they all do daily—they will see that the second most popular search response is “Siobhan McMahon disability”. That gives some insight into the curiosity that disability arouses.

I will set the record straight. I have spastic hemiparesis, which is a form of cerebral palsy. I have lived with that disability all my life and I take many of its consequences for granted. Every so often, however, I pause to consider its implications. I cannot drive a car without adaptation. I cannot tie my own shoelaces. I cannot chop an onion unsupervised.

It is surprising how easy it is to forget one’s inability to perform such basic tasks, but I am thankful for that ease. My problems are nothing to what many disabled people are forced to contend with. On their behalf, I passionately object to the Welfare Reform Bill’s contents.

The Scottish campaign on welfare reform argues that we should make respect for human rights and dignity the cornerstone of our new welfare system. I would go further than that. I believe that the welfare system should be based on four pillars: respect for human rights, dignity, compassion and trust.

We all remember the Tories’ commitment to creating a compassionate society. The Welfare Reform Bill makes it perfectly clear that that commitment was not worth the Michelin-starred napkin it was scribbled on. With the full impact of the UK Government’s economic policy beginning to take hold, the Tories are desperate to root out the so-called cheats and benefits scroungers who haunt their dreams like so many sprites and goblins. In their eyes, and under the UK Government, the compassionate society has morphed into the suspicious society—full of dishonest, unscrupulous and lazy people who will fake disability at the drop of a hat and who would rather break their own arms than do an honest day’s work. That is not my experience. In my experience, disabled people are honest, hard working and a great deal more determined than most.

Those who live without a disability find it impossible to imagine a life without the free and total use of their mental and physical faculties, but that inability to imagine the constraints that are imposed on disabled people does not prevent us as a society from treating them with the courtesy, respect and compassion that they deserve. They are of equal worth and value. Unfortunately, judging by the contents of the bill, the Westminster Government does not share that belief.

In outlining its plans to replace the disability living allowance with the personal independence payment, the Tory-led coalition invoked the sacred political cows of efficiency and simplification. It talks about creating a welfare system that is affordable and sustainable. It may be affordable and sustainable for those people, but it will not be for the many disabled people who are plunged into poverty because of the Government’s determination to cut the disability living allowance by 20 per cent. A cut of 20 per cent will eventually amount to an annual sum of £2.1 billion being taken directly out of the pockets of disabled people. l do not know where that money will end up, but I doubt that it will go to more deserving people. It will most likely go to servicing the debt that is, thanks to the UK Government’s perverse economic policy, rapidly increasing.

What worries me most about the new proposals is that, at their core, there is a fundamental lack of trust and respect for the dignity of disabled people, who will be required to jump through even more bureaucratic hoops and will be subjected to ever-more humiliating and intrusive eligibility checks in order to receive money to which they are entitled. The new checks will operate as a process of exclusion. The 20 per cent cut to the disability living allowance will not be achieved without a significant cut in the number of claimants. Given that there are already more disabled people in the UK than the number who are currently claiming benefits, that is very worrying.

The Government hopes to save £1.45 billion of annual disability living allowance expenditure by 2014-15. The Scottish campaign on welfare reform has said:

“To put this figure in context; annual expenditure on all those currently in receipt of lowest rate care is approximately £900m”.

Therefore, in order to reach the target figure, all those people—along with a significant number of those on higher rates—would have to lose their care. It is telling that the personal independence payment makes no allowance for those who are currently on lower-rate care, as Bob Doris said. In Scotland, it has been estimated that in order to reduce the disability living allowance by 20 per cent, a fifth of the current 340,510 claimants will lose their entitlement in its entirety. That is 68,000 people. The combined annual loss of benefits would amount to £260 million. Moreover, if the new assessment tests are restricted to people who are of working age, a staggering one in three disabled people aged from 16 to 65 will lose all their current entitlement.

I have spent hours wading through the numerous briefings that I have been sent by charities and external organisations that are dismayed by the proposals. I know that the Scottish Government has received similar briefings, so I would be grateful if it responded to them and outlined its strategy for dealing with the increased financial and administrative burdens that will be placed on Scottish local authorities, social services and the NHS. Scotland will suffer disproportionately from the cuts, as we have more people with disabilities and long-term health issues.

There is already a lack of clarity in the bill. The SNP’s reluctance to state how it plans to deal with the proposals will only add to the anxiety and stress that are being felt by the thousands of disabled people who will feel the bill’s full and devastating impact. The SNP Government is justly critical of many Westminster policies and is forever eager to remind us that things would be different if more powers were devolved. I strongly oppose the bill, but at least it gives the Scottish Government a chance to show its mettle in the full gaze of the public eye. Does it have the courage of its convictions?

Scottish Labour stands for social justice. The bill is not just, but constitutes a vicious and unprecedented attack on the rights of disabled people. I call on members to reject the legislative consent motion when it comes before Parliament.

The Deputy Presiding Officer (John Scott): Fiona McLeod has a tight six minutes.

16:09

Fiona McLeod (Strathkelvin and Bearsden) (SNP): It is gratifying that most members are showing their concern about the draconian measures contained in the Welfare Reform Bill. It is not just members who have concerns; it is voluntary organisations and, above all, as we know from our postbags, it is the individuals who will be affected by the reforms. I am delighted and proud that my Government has been working long and hard with a coalition of experts and has been lobbying the UK Government to ensure that the worst effects of the reforms are mitigated in Scotland.

I will concentrate on the drastic effects that the reforms will have on those with mental health problems and those with developmental disorders such as Asperger’s. I thank the Scottish Association for Mental Health and Act Now for giving me the following figures: 42 per cent of those in Scotland who claim ESA do so because they have a mental illness; and 43 per cent of the decisions in Atos fitness-to-work assessments relating to those with mental health or developmental problems are overturned on appeal. Many members have already mentioned the fact that the Atos fitness-to-work assessment is completely inappropriate for those with mental health problems or developmental disorders.

Mary Scanlon: Will the member give way?

Fiona McLeod: No. I am sorry, but I will not.

When we talk about the idea that those who are on ESA or incapacity benefit should be out working, we should remember that only 12 per cent of adults with an Asperger’s syndrome diagnosis are in full-time employment. An issue for folk with Asperger’s is that it is almost impossible for them to achieve employment without a huge amount of support and preparation.

The position is made even worse when we consider that less than 40 per cent of employers in Scotland would employ someone with a mental illness. We cannot say that we are going to move folk from benefits into work unless we first provide them with the support that they need in order to meet the requirements of work. We cannot move into work those who are on ESA because they have a mental illness or a developmental disorder when employers are not offering them jobs.

No one says that the welfare system is perfect. However, the reform process seems to be driven by the sole objective of reducing costs—such as the 20 per cent reduction to be achieved in DLA and the removal of the lowest level of DLA completely, whether or not someone needs it. Like other members, I believe that all that such a reform process will do is undermine the effectiveness of the support that the current welfare system provides for the most vulnerable in our society.

As a member of the Health and Sport Committee, I look forward to scrutinising the LCM in the coming weeks. I also look forward to receiving more support and evidence from those in society who can inform us so much better. We cannot always make judgments based on our personal experiences or what we as MSPs get in our mailbags, although that helps to inform us. What we need is evidence to ensure that when we speak to Westminster we can tell it with a clear voice why we think that the Welfare Reform Bill is attacking the most vulnerable in our society.

I cannot help but reflect that it would be hard to envisage a Parliament in an independent Scotland ever putting so many people into such a state of fear and alarm. Many of us agree that the bill before Westminster is inappropriate and ineffective, and I hope that many of us also agree that it is with the devolution of responsibility for welfare support and, ultimately, with independence that we will be able to ensure that the most vulnerable in Scotland are truly and properly supported.

16:14

Annabelle Ewing (Mid Scotland and Fife) (SNP): I am pleased to speak in this important debate on welfare reform. As we have heard from other members, although the UK Government’s proposals are to be welcomed as far as the improvement of work incentives is concerned—particularly the universal credit approach—there are nonetheless significant concerns about the impact that the measures in the UK Government’s bill will have on the most vulnerable members of our society. In many important respects, the impact of the bill in Scotland will be devastating and disproportionate.

Significant concerns have been raised this afternoon about the UK Government’s failure to take into account the situation on the ground in Scotland as regards a number of devolved areas that will be affected by the bill. We have heard about housing benefit and the potential impact on passported benefits. There is also the role that mediation plays in our system of family law, the position of kinship carers and the position of social care policy in general. Many of those issues have been explored and they will require to be explored in great detail in the committee scrutiny that is to come.

In light of the time constraints in the debate, I will focus on the bill’s likely impact on the disabled. In looking at the bill, it is instructive to remind ourselves of what appears to be the main driver of the changes to disability benefit and support: the UK Government’s stated intention to reduce the costs of DLA by 20 per cent by 2013. That is the real agenda; it is not about any meaningful desire to make the system better for those who are entitled to some help and support as a result of their disability. I stress the word “entitled” in relation to disability support, because it is not a question of giving a handout to the workshy or a payment to those who seek to defraud the system; the payment of benefit is to assist with a disability, which is an entitlement in a civilised society.

What do we see when we look at the so-called reforms in the bill? We see that the lower-rate care component of DLA is to be taken away—a proposal that was made initially by the previous Labour Government at Westminster but was withdrawn ultimately because of the public backlash at the time. We also see that the mobility component is to be taken away from people in residential homes. Questions arise, not least about how the additional cost of transport is to be met to allow those people to participate in social life, educational and learning trips, day services and so forth. Surely not even the Tory-Liberal coalition in London is suggesting that those people should somehow be denuded of those opportunities and should remain indoors, with no other aspect to their lives. We need to hear more about that from the UK Government.

We also hear that new assessment tests are to be introduced for the new personal independence payment. There is very little optimism indeed that the lessons of the deeply flawed work capability assessment will be learned—another measure that was introduced by the previous Labour Government. It is important that we remember the 13-year record of the previous Labour Government on disability support.

Is the UK Government really saying that as far as the new assessment is concerned, general practitioners and specialists cannot be trusted to provide professional medical services? What about the Hippocratic oath, which members of the medical profession take? What staggering disrespect of the medical profession on the part of the UK Government.

We have also heard about the somewhat interesting underoccupancy rules. Disabled families might require extra rooms so that a carer has somewhere to stay overnight or for storage for medical equipment, such as oxygen tanks.

Mary Scanlon: Will the member give way?

Annabelle Ewing: I will not give way, because the member refused to take any interventions in her opening speech.

What kind of debate are we having in this, the 21st century? I find the basic foundation of the debate, certainly as far as disabled people are concerned, highly distasteful. That is not a comment on members’ speeches; rather, I am ashamed that disabled people are being put in an invidious position as a result of these so-called welfare reforms and feel that they are being treated as second-class citizens by the London Government. I say to the Liberal Democrats that there is no safety net in the proposals.

I stress that Scotland wishes to have a welfare system that is suitable for Scotland and, to achieve that, we need the powers to deliver it. To tackle Scotland’s social problems and ensure that the most vulnerable members of our society are treated fairly and with respect, we need to combine our economic, health and social policy objectives. We can do that only when we stop operating with one hand tied behind our backs. We need to reclaim the powers of a normal, independent country to ensure that we have a welfare system that is suitable for our citizens’ welfare.

16:20

Kezia Dugdale (Lothian) (Lab): Presiding Officer, there is

“no doubt that no other piece of UK legislation will have such a direct and indirect effect on the people of Scotland, particularly some of the poorest and most vulnerable families in our society, and on our capacity to run our own affairs in those areas which are devolved to Scottish control. It is vital that the Scottish Parliament devotes considerable energy and resources to considering and addressing this.”

Those are not my words; they are the words of five of Scotland’s biggest children’s charities. I welcome the fact that we are debating them.

Alongside Marco Biagi, I have taken on the role of convening the cross-party group on children and young people. We had a very productive meeting last week that focused specifically on welfare reform. A number of members who are in the chamber attended that meeting.

I will focus on the impacts of the Welfare Reform Bill on children and young people. I will list a few of them first and then focus on one aspect: child maintenance, on which Annabelle Ewing touched.

I welcome the opportunity to put to the ministers four key issues that came up at the cross-party group meeting. Action for Children Scotland expressed concerns that, under the bill, claimants with dependent children would face sanctions if they could not access appropriate childcare. One Parent Families Scotland highlighted the concern that lone parents with children over five years old would have problems seeking employment because of a rule change. Children in Scotland highlighted the point that childcare costs mean that, contrary to popular belief, work does not pay for most families in Scotland.

The Scottish Child Law centre also made an interesting point. It highlighted the possible impact of the reforms on the minute of agreement for separating couples, which is unique to Scotland. It is a formal, signed agreement on the division of assets and custody. The bill seems to threaten it.

One of the most important aspects of the bill is the proposed changes to the child maintenance system. I have worked closely on that issue with Sheila Gilmore, the member of Parliament for Edinburgh East. She is also the chair of the all-party group on welfare reform at Westminster and is in the gallery listening to the debate so that she can use it in her work in Westminster.

With its child maintenance proposals, the Tory-led Government is trying to encourage people to make their own arrangements with their ex-partner for the care of their child. If the lone parent needs the state to intervene, they will have to pay for it. That is about the Tory Government putting the taxpayer’s welfare before the child’s, and it is absolutely disgusting.

There will be a one-off fee of £100 for the use of the state system, although the fee will be £50 for someone on benefits—a small concession. The state will also charge the non-caring parent an additional 15 to 20 per cent of each monthly maintenance sum. As if that was not enough, for the privilege of state intervention, the caring parent will also have to surrender to the Government between 7 and 12 per cent of the money that they receive monthly.

If the Tory Government cares about the big picture, why on earth does it seek to profit from broken marriages? It must realise that, if parenting is everything, the environment that it creates to help families to stay together and to cope when they do not is critical.

There is a specifically Scottish dimension to the matter as well: the bill requires the new child maintenance system to be implemented through sure start centres, which simply do not exist in Scotland. Therefore, the Scottish Government will have to come up with an alternative way of dealing with implementation.

In June, I lodged a parliamentary question to ask whether any work was being done to assess the impact of the changes on child maintenance. In her answer, Roseanna Cunningham said that no work had been done. I then wrote to her to ask whether she would model the impact on Scotland to decide what could be done to address it. She wrote back saying that she had no plans to model the impact of the changes.

What does that tell us? I suggest that it tells us that the Scottish Government is taking a very relaxed, perhaps even complacent, approach to the distinct areas that it has the power to address now. That view is shared by One Parent Families Scotland, which was, in its words “very disappointed” with the response that Roseanna Cunningham gave me, which, naturally, I shared with it.

I am pleased that the Government will back Labour’s amendment to vote down the forthcoming legislative consent motion, recognising that much more scrutiny needs to take place.

I will give the Presiding Officer a minute of his time back, but I will first focus on the issue of child poverty for a second. Nicola Sturgeon made a comment in her opening speech about how child poverty in Scotland had come down since 1994. However, she will also be aware that little or no progress has been made since 2005, on her watch and on the SNP Government’s watch. I refer her to her own child poverty strategy, which states:

“The Scottish Government will encourage individuals and organisations to share emerging analysis of local and national impacts as they become known. This analysis will help to inform Scottish Ministers as well as other organisations seeking to secure positive change in the lives of the people of Scotland.”

In the light of that reference to welfare reform in her child poverty strategy, will she back Save the Children’s call today to publish information about the impact of the bill on tackling child poverty and take steps to mitigate the impact of the changes on child poverty in Scotland?

The Deputy Presiding Officer: I thank the member for finishing early. I regret that Christina McKelvie has just over four minutes.

16:26

Christina McKelvie (Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse) (SNP): Sometimes more is not better, Presiding Officer. I will try my best.

As the cabinet secretary has pointed out, the SNP is certainly not opposed to welfare reform in principle—far from it. The UK benefits system is needlessly complex and has for years failed the key tests: does it lift individuals out of poverty, and does it ensure that people are better off in work than out of it?

Now that the Tory-led coalition is embarking on its version of welfare reform, it is right to say that the system needs overhauled. This is something that I do not say often, but it was hard to disagree with Iain Duncan Smith when he told the Tory conference earlier this week that the system as it is now stands “treats symptoms, not causes” and leaves too many people “entrenched” within it.

As Mary Scanlon would not take my intervention, I will ask a question of David McLetchie, who will—I hope—answer it in his summing up. If work is really at the heart of these reforms, why has the Wise Group—a Scottish social enterprise with a proven record of getting vulnerable people into employment—been shut out of the employability programme in Scotland in favour of a profit-making private company whose director came straight from the Department for Work and Pensions? How is that prioritising work for jobless Scots?

As usual, the Tories are reverting to type. Any impressive rhetoric is immediately cancelled out by a reality of harsh cuts, which will punish individuals and families on the lowest incomes and hit the most vulnerable the hardest. Instead of lifting people out of poverty, the Tories will—as they have before—plunge many into it, so deeply and immovably that it could have a generations-long impact. That the Liberal Democrats are their cheerleaders for that agenda—in the Scottish Parliament as well as in Westminster—should be a source of shame.

There is, of course, an alternative approach to welfare, and it is the one that the Scottish Government is taking: protecting the incomes not only of the poorest households, but of those who, as a result of the economic crisis, are at risk of dropping into the poorer income brackets. Even if the drops in income are not huge, they can prove to be catastrophic for some families.

The difference between struggling and getting by on one hand and tipping into real poverty on the other is very narrow. That is why measures such as the council tax freeze, the living wage, free personal care, free prescription charges and the maintenance of the concessionary travel scheme are so important. Those measures make the crucial difference to the incomes of many households that might otherwise find themselves in real trouble.

With the proper devolution of powers, Scotland’s Government could and would do even more to protect the vulnerable in this country than it is able to do at present. Instead of cutting and scrapping benefits, we could be genuine reformers by aligning the welfare system to match our policies to protect household incomes, create jobs, tackle inequalities and grow Scotland’s economy and to fit with the values of the social contract that the Scottish Government has pledged to the Scottish people.

I welcome Jackie Baillie’s comment that Labour stands “ready to help” the Scottish Government to find solutions. I make a plea to all members on the Labour benches to join the SNP in arguing for real powers over the welfare system to be included in the Scotland Bill. Martin Sime of SCVO was right when he told the Scotland Bill Committee yesterday that the Welfare Reform Bill renders much of the Scotland Bill virtually meaningless.

Let us not waste that opportunity. Let us give it some meaning. I urge all members to join us and fight for Scotland. Even if they stand opposed to the principle of greater sovereign powers for the Parliament, surely, faced with the Westminster Welfare Reform Bill, we can agree with the SCVO and Citizens Advice Scotland that vulnerable people who live in Scotland will be better protected and social justice will be better served if our benefits system is our own and is held in the nation of Scotland.

The Deputy Presiding Officer: Thank you, and thank you for finishing so timeously.

16:30

Liam McArthur: This has been an interesting debate, but it is difficult to know what it has achieved. At the outset, Nicola Sturgeon talked very eloquently about general principles that we would all support, but in the rest of the time that was available to her, she said absolutely nothing about how those principles would be achieved.

We then had an array of SNP back benchers talking about more powers for Scotland, but not even the most ardent supporter of independence would be able to identify what a proposal for welfare reform in Scotland would look like in an independent Scotland. If the cabinet secretary is to be believed, we would not even see a reduction in the budget.

Jackie Baillie then condemned the cabinet secretary for the lack of detail about what the Government is doing, and I join her in her hope that there will be a bit more detail in the winding-up speech. However, there was precious little detail in Jackie Baillie’s speech. Although welfare budget reductions would not be in Nicola Sturgeon’s proposals, we must assume that they would have at least been part of Labour’s solution, partly because of the proposals that Labour made when it was in government prior to May 2010—Mary Scanlon quoted James Purnell—but also because Douglas Alexander has been arguing that welfare must make its contribution to reducing the deficit.

Bob Doris gave us an entertaining cocktail of claims for more powers and responsibilities but was light on information about what those powers would be used to do. Indeed, it was not until Annabelle Ewing’s speech three quarters of the way through the debate that we heard confirmation that the SNP broadly welcomes the universal credit proposals.

Margaret McCulloch was quite right to say—she probably understated this—that the current system is by no means perfect. She was also right to say that unemployment and incapacity are not the result of unemployment and incapacity benefits. However, the need for welfare reform and for savings to be made has been accepted by Labour peers, MPs and former ministers.

It was then the turn of Mark McDonald to treat us to his usual fare. I do not think that anyone could ever accuse him of making a civilising contribution. He trumpeted

“Now is the time and now is the hour”

and went on to cite all the things that he and others do not like about the proposals. He said nothing about what he would like to see or whether he supports a budget reduction.

Annabelle Ewing: It would be instructive if, having failed to do so in his opening remarks, the member could explain in his closing remarks exactly where the safety net is that he is talking about, particularly where disability benefits are concerned.

Liam McArthur: I will come to the disability issue in a second.

We have heard a series of speeches from SNP and Labour members, all of whom castigated the current proposals and none of whom set out in detail what they envisage achieving.

There have also been some passionate and considered speeches. Fiona McLeod’s speech on mental health was—typically—very considered. However, I do not think that the proposals are driven by the desire to reduce budgets, even though budget reductions are to be achieved.

Siobhan McMahon exemplified some of the passion in the debate and I have sympathy for a lot of what she had to say. I have personal experience of the concern that has been caused around the specific DLA proposals, but as many of her colleagues at Westminster freely acknowledge, that is not an argument against reform; it is simply an argument about the way in which it is implemented.

Christina McKelvie gave us examples of how the Scottish Government is giving households a helping hand. I presume that she would include within that the council tax freeze, which David Bell, the adviser to the Finance Committee, has already pointed out benefits those who live in larger houses and are presumably rather better off than those who are on lower incomes.

The debate has been interesting. I can well understand why emotions have, at times, been riding high, although I think that some of the allegations and assertions that have been made are simply not true. There is an absolutely critical consensus with regard to on-going engagement and effective scrutiny of the proposals in the weeks and months ahead.

Mr McDonald was right to say that being against the proposals did not mean being against any reform of the system. However, those who are against them must outline their alternatives. Everyone who spoke in the debate has to some extent lent their support to the need for a system that incentivises work for all; that addresses the shameful number of people trapped on out-of-work benefits; that is simpler, fairer and more transparent; and that maintains a genuine safety net for the most vulnerable in our society. There has been fairly robust disagreement over the way in which that is achieved but, nevertheless, I have pleasure in pressing my amendment.

16:36

David McLetchie (Lothian) (Con): In what is the biggest shake-up of the UK’s welfare system in 60 years, the Welfare Reform Bill has at its core the key principle that work should always pay and that individual responsibility should be at the heart of our benefit system. Across Britain, 5 million people are trapped on out-of-work benefits and almost 2 million children are growing up in homes where nobody works; our own country accounts for at least 10 per cent of those figures. As Liam McArthur quite properly pointed out, tinkering around the edges of the system is not going to do the job. Only the root-and-branch reform that Her Majesty’s Government is endeavouring to put in place will suffice. If nothing else, I thank those members who were at least brave enough to give a general welcome to the principles of the universal credit and other principles behind the bill—even if that was the only element of consensus in the debate.

Worklessness and benefit dependency are costing us a fortune at a time when the country can least afford it and, thanks to the profligacy of a Labour Government, the benefits bill has in recent years been allowed to soar to unsustainable levels. Labour’s failed policies have served only to erect even bigger barriers to those who genuinely wish to escape from a life on benefits and enter the world of work. The entrenched poverty and worklessness that we see in far too many parts of our country are bad for people, bad for communities and bad for society because with them come high levels of debt, family breakdown, alcohol and drug addiction and crime.

Neil Findlay: I assume that Mr McLetchie will argue that the benefits system has to encourage people back into work. As we reach 3 million unemployed, can he advise us where these jobs might be found?

David McLetchie: I have just heard Scottish Government statistics for the last quarter that show that unemployment fell. Perhaps Mr Findlay missed those figures or he is simply unaware of them. Indeed, over the past 13 years and before we got into the financial crisis that was engendered in part by Mr Findlay’s Government, there were many employment opportunities that people in this country failed to take up.

Unfortunately, what we have seen in today’s debate is Labour and the SNP’s grand alliance of deficit denial. They complain that we are attempting to reform the system against a backdrop of cuts to benefits but have nothing to say about the structural deficits in public spending that have given rise to this situation.

Kevin Stewart: Will the member give way?

David McLetchie: No—I have only six minutes.

From both parties, we hear the mantra of, “Too far, too fast,” but when they have been asked time and again in the chamber what is not too far or too fast, they have consistently failed to tell us.

I find it astonishing that the SNP which, in a few years’ time, expects us to vote for independence, has nothing to say about how it would handle our £12 billion per annum share of revenue deficit and nothing to say about what a welfare system in an independent Scotland would look like or how it would sustain even the present level of expenditure on benefits without significant reform of the type that is bravely being undertaken by the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats at Westminster.

The fact of the matter is that Labour’s attempts at reform have failed miserably, as Mary Scanlon pointed out when she referred to the comments of Mr Blair—yes, he was once quite a successful Labour Prime Minister—Mr Purnell and Frank Field. Over the past 10 years, literally hundreds of thousands of people have come to Scotland and Britain from other European Union countries to work and have found work here, while far too many of our own people, who have had the same opportunities to work, have failed to take them, either through a lack of inclination or because, for them, work does not pay. That is not acceptable.

The proposal in Jackie Baillie’s amendment that the Parliament should decline to give its consent to the Welfare Reform Bill in so far as it impacts on matters within the Scottish Government’s competence is, frankly, political grandstanding of the most pathetic type, which ought to be treated with contempt; it should certainly not be supported by any responsible Government.

Kevin Stewart: Will Mr McLetchie give way on that point?

David McLetchie: No.

Let me give one illustration of that. Listen to these words:

“Our goal is to make responsibility the cornerstone of our welfare state. Housing Benefit will be reformed to ensure that we do not subsidise people to live in the private sector on rents that other ordinary working families could not afford. And we will continue to crack down on those who try to cheat the benefit system.”

Do they sound familiar to Ms Baillie and the rest? Well, they should, because they are from Labour’s 2010 general election manifesto. The Government at Westminster is implementing exactly what the Labour Party said it wanted to do, and would have done, had it been re-elected.

Far from rejecting a legislative consent motion, a responsible Government and Parliament should be focusing its attention on issues such as the localisation of council tax benefit, which the UK Government has said it wants to devolve—indeed, it awaits proposals from the Scottish Government on the subject. The Scottish Government should be engaging in discussion on the social fund and on the future of housing benefit, along with COSLA, as Her Majesty’s Government has invited it to do. It should be doing all those things.

The Deputy Presiding Officer: I would be grateful if you would close now, please.

David McLetchie: I agree with at least some of the SNP motion. I agree that the UK Government should endeavour to sustain

“a welfare system that is properly financed, simple to understand, lifts people out of poverty and makes work pay.”

That is exactly what the UK Government is doing.

16:42

Drew Smith (Glasgow) (Lab): The debate has provided a welcome opportunity for us to begin discussing our attitude towards the UK Government’s Welfare Reform Bill, although it has taken the SNP some five months to bring the issue to Parliament and its motion makes no mention of the legislative consent motion that will allow the bill to affect devolved powers, budgets and services. Because of Labour’s amendment, the LCM is the key issue that the Parliament faces; from what I understand, it might have been the key issue at this afternoon’s SNP group meeting. When she opened for Labour, Jackie Baillie made it clear that Scottish Labour was supportive of many of the aims of welfare reform. It was interesting that Government front benchers said the same, whereas its back benchers seemed to have no desire for welfare reform at all.

We saw merit in simplifying the system of support that is available to those who are not able to work and started to ensure that those who could work were supported to do so. Universal credit could have been an opportunity to improve the welfare state rather than to threaten it.

In her intervention on Nicola Sturgeon at the beginning of the debate, Mary Scanlon pleaded with us not to judge the bill by what it says now. She felt that we were being premature. However, she offered no suggestion as to how the bill might be improved.

Mary Scanlon: Will the member give way?

Drew Smith: Sure.

Mary Scanlon: That is very kind of you.

The LCM does not even come to the Health and Sport Committee, which is the lead committee, for another seven weeks. Members will have the opportunity to scrutinise and change things then.

Drew Smith: That is the choice of the Scottish Government. I am happy to have taken Mary Scanlon’s intervention, as she has been so keen to get in for so long.

I see that Liam McArthur is back. It is interesting that there has been only one Lib Dem in the chamber for the entire debate. I do not know whether that is an indication of the Liberals’ lack of interest in welfare reform or their support for the UK Government’s welfare reform proposals.

We have heard very serious concerns about what the bill will do. Universal credit and the myriad reforms and cuts on which the whole agenda is predicated undermine many of the coalition’s stated objectives. As it is drafted, the bill will fail to incentivise many to work and will throw others into deep poverty and despair.

Many members have addressed various elements of the reforms and highlighted a number of reasons why they are wrong-headed. I pay particular tribute to Margaret McCulloch, who spoke eloquently, to Mark McDonald, who made an excellent contribution—at least for the first half of it—and to Siobhan McMahon, who spoke passionately. Labour as a UK party has scrutinised and highlighted many of the same inconsistencies, anomalies and downright unfairnesses.

Scotland has a higher proportion of claimants for every one of the benefits that will become the universal credit. The impact will be severe and long lasting and will result in a disproportionate hit on our economy. The reduction in spending power will devastate efforts to regrow the economy and will place demand on already overpressed and underfunded services such as housing and money advice.

The Scottish Government has rightly acknowledged—in the debate but not in the wording of its motion—the impact that the changes will have on many devolved benefits, where UK benefits are used as passports to particular services. Many members have highlighted those services, and I am thinking in particular of clothing grants, free school meals, childcare and concessionary bus travel.

The coalition is leaving too many of the most important details for secondary legislation, which is something that even I, a member of the Subordinate Legislation Committee, would agree results in inadequate scrutiny of major changes. We could not accept an LCM that did the same for the devolved aspects of the bill.

I appreciate that the Scottish Government has been as frustrated by the coalition’s approach as Labour at Westminster has been but, as Jackie Baillie said, the SNP approach has been uncharacteristically quieter—quieter than we would expect on issues that are perhaps closer to its political interests.

The finance secretary has set out his budget, and we are now engaged in scrutinising his proposals and assumptions. It would be foolhardy and short-sighted to continue to do that without much more debate and detail and much less denial about what is coming down the line on welfare reform.

Bob Doris mentioned changes to housing benefit. Those changes will have a greater impact on Scottish housing policy in this generation than any manifesto commitment that we could have on house building or on homelessness, which both Nicola Sturgeon and Jackie Baillie were in unusual agreement about today.

We are not attacking the SNP for a calamity that is being created by the coalition parties, but it has not listened enough to the welfare organisations, disability groups and anti-poverty campaigners who have been telling anyone who will listen that the Scottish Government is sleepwalking through the bill.

Annabelle Ewing: Will the member give way on that point?

Drew Smith: Sorry, I want to make a bit of progress.

It is only as a result of Labour’s amendment that we have an opportunity to state a view on legislative consent. The final decision on an LCM will follow committee examination, but the Government must return to the chamber with more information and more ideas about what it intends to do to mitigate the impact on services for which it is already responsible. The SNP does not need a new constitution or a new country to do that. It is the SNP’s challenge to identify the opportunities in the devolution that is already inherent in the bill to ensure that moneys that are transferred to Scotland are not used to plug gaps in its own budget, as has happened before.

We accept that the Scottish Government faces a tough challenge, but it is the self-same ability to rise to the challenges that we face for which my party fought the SNP in the election. Scottish Labour, with the convention partners, created this Parliament, and we argued in May that it could be used to protect people from unfair and unsound coalition policy. It was the SNP that won the election, and it must now face up to what is happening and propose its way forward. Jackie Baillie invited the Government to answer a number of specific questions in closing, which I hope Nicola Sturgeon takes the opportunity to do.

If the SNP engages with welfare reform in a way that meets the fairness test, which the bill itself has clearly failed to do, it will have our support. However, if the SNP members duck it—if they simply blame London and sit on their hands—they deserve to be hit by the train that is already hurtling towards them.

The bill will paralyse our Parliament on many issues on which we already have consensus. For devolved services, for local councils, for social landlords, for Scots who are unable to work, for those who want to work, for those who provide money advice services and for cancer patients who will lose their benefits before their treatment has even been given the chance to save their lives, the implications are stark and brutal.

We have made our position clear, and I understand that the SNP in local government is putting pressure on the Government to agree with us, too. It is up to the SNP to decide whether it wishes to stop the Tory train or to get on board.

16:49

The Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure and Capital Investment (Alex Neil): This debate is about welfare to work. In my experience, the best way to get people off welfare is to put them into work, so that they are not reliant on benefits. Speakers from all sides of the chamber have bandied about the figure of 2 million people who are trapped on out-of-work benefits. The reason why they are trapped on out-of-work benefits is not because the bulk of them are work-shy and do not want a job; it is because the jobs ain’t there. The reason why the jobs ain’t there is that capital spending was slashed under Alistair Darling and Gordon Brown, and is being slashed now by George Osborne and all the Tories’ Liberal Democrat poodles.

It is true: the best way to get people out of welfare and into work is to keep the capital spending budget going, create jobs and save money. For every individual who gets out of welfare and into work, we save £10,000 a year from the deficit in benefit savings and additional tax revenue. There is no other way to get people off welfare than putting them into work. That is why this Government is all about creating the conditions in Scotland for getting people into work. As the figures show, our strategy in Scotland, even with our limited resources and our very limited powers, is beginning to pay off.

David McLetchie: I agree entirely that the best way to get people off welfare is to get them into work, but Mr Neil tries to tell us that the jobs were not there. How come the jobs were there for the 50,000 Poles who have come to live in Scotland in the past few years? What jobs are they doing that were not available to our people?

Alex Neil: I think that that says it all about the modern, compassionate Conservatives. They are not modern; they are not compassionate; they are just conservative.

David McLetchie: Come on—answer. What are they doing?

Alex Neil: Mr McLetchie asks what the alternative strategy is. I will tell him. To reduce the deficit and get people off welfare and into work at the same time, we should stop wasting billions every year on Trident and other nuclear weapons and put that money to good use. We should collect the £35 billion in uncollected tax revenue, mainly due from the rich pals of Mr McLetchie and the others throughout the country. If the Conservatives want to help Scotland, they should give us our fossil fuel levy, so that we can use it to get people off welfare and into work.

It would be extremely unfair of me to pour all the blame on to the Tories. I notice that, when the Labour Party is in government, Labour members argue for Tory policies but, when they go into opposition, they argue against the same policies that they introduced. As Margaret Burgess said, and many others have pointed out, this right-wing welfare agenda was started under Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling. Remember the 75p rise for the pensioners. Remember when poor Malcolm Chisholm, who is not in the chamber, resigned after five minutes in the Scottish Office, because of what the Labour Government did to single parents. Remember the introduction of the employment support allowance, which Margaret Burgess mentioned, and the other measures that Labour took to do down disabled people in this country. Remember also the fiasco over the introduction of the 10p cut in tax for the low paid. We will not be taking any lessons from the Labour Party. It followed the Tory agenda and it is only now that it is in opposition that it opposes it.

I will say a word or two about the Liberals—[Laughter.] I apologise; I should have said the Liberal, as there is only one in the chamber. As we would expect, he is from the northern isles, a very great part of the country. When Mr Balfour was the Tory Prime Minister in an age that Mr McLetchie might remember but I do not, they used to describe the House of Lords, to where no doubt Mr McLetchie aspires, as Mr Balfour’s poodle. Here we are, over 100 years later and Mr Cameron now has a poodle called the Liberal Democrat Party and the chief poodle is Danny Alexander. We will not take any lessons from the Labour Party, the Tory party, the Liberal Democrat party or any other unionist organisation about the welfare system.

In a statement yesterday, Mr Cameron, who heads a coalition Cabinet of millionaires, told everybody that he wanted them to pay off their credit cards as soon as possible. Well, if you are a Tory toff from Oxford, you may have the money to pay off your credit card, but if you are a poor soul who has been made unemployed as a result of the Tory cuts, you cannot afford to pay off your credit card—in fact, the chances are that you may rely on a credit card to get by next week and the week after that.

I think that what most of us in the chamber are particularly critical of are the specifics of some of the welfare reforms. Nobody has said that they are opposed in principle to welfare reform. Of course there is a case for reforming the welfare system, but the purpose in reforming it is not to do down the people who are the most vulnerable members of our society. As Margaret Burgess said, the purpose of reform should be to make this a fairer society, not a more unequal society. The attack on disability living allowance is therefore particularly abhorrent and the housing benefit changes can be described only as inhumane.

Let me say right away—

Mary Scanlon: Will the cabinet secretary take an intervention?

Alex Neil: I am sorry, but I do not have time.

Let me say right away—[Interruption.] I hate my peroration being interrupted.

Let me say right away that, even though housing is a devolved matter, at no time has the Scottish Government been consulted about the changes to housing benefit or the impact that those changes will have. As the Cabinet Secretary for Health, Wellbeing and Cities Strategy spelled out, the changes will be devastating for people.

The Presiding Officer (Tricia Marwick): Cabinet secretary, your peroration has got one more minute.

Alex Neil: The Scottish Federation of Housing Associations says that one in five tenants will be adversely affected by the changes. The reality is that in 2013, when the rule about underoccupation comes in, an old body who has lived in a house for 40 or 50 years and who depends on housing benefit could be forced out of her lifetime home as a result of the inhumane measures that are being taken by the Tories.

The only people who can hold their heads up high when it comes to welfare to work are in the SNP Government and party because, unlike the unionist parties, we promote the welfare of the people and do not cut the welfare of the people, and our policies are putting people into work and not taking work away from them.

London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (Amendment) Bill

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The Presiding Officer (Tricia Marwick): The next item of business is consideration of motion S4M-01017, in the name of Shona Robison, on the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (Amendment) Bill, which is UK legislation.

Motion moved,

That the Parliament agrees that the relevant provisions of the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (Amendment) Bill, introduced in the House of Commons on 16 March 2011, relating to the advertising, street trading and ticket touting provisions, so far as these matters fall within the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament, should be considered by the UK Parliament.—[Shona Robison.]

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

Business Motion

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The Presiding Officer (Tricia Marwick): The next item of business is consideration of business motion S4M-01019, in the name of Bruce Crawford, on behalf of the Parliamentary Bureau, setting out a business programme.

Motion moved,

That the Parliament agrees the following programme of business—

Wednesday 26 October 2011

2.30 pm Time for Reflection

followed by Parliamentary Bureau Motions

followed by Scottish Government Debate: Winter Resilience

followed by Business Motion

followed by Parliamentary Bureau Motions

5.00 pm Decision Time

followed by Members’ Business

Thursday 27 October 2011

9.15 am Parliamentary Bureau Motions

followed by Scottish Government Debate: Raising Attainment and Ambition for all Scotland’s Young People

11.40 am General Question Time

12.00 pm First Minister’s Question Time

2.15 pm Themed Question Time

Culture and External Affairs;

Infrastructure and Capital Investment

2.55 pm Scottish Government Debate: Ensuring the Integrity of Scots Criminal Law

followed by Parliamentary Bureau Motions

5.00 pm Decision Time

followed by Members’ Business

Wednesday 2 November 2011

2.30 pm Time for Reflection

followed by Parliamentary Bureau Motions

followed by Scottish Government Business

followed by Business Motion

followed by Parliamentary Bureau Motions

5.00 pm Decision Time

followed by Members’ Business

Thursday 3 November 2011

9.15 am Parliamentary Bureau Motions

followed by Scottish Government Business

11.40 am General Question Time

12.00 pm First Minister’s Question Time

2.15 pm Themed Question Time

Education and Lifelong Learning

2.55 pm Scottish Government Business

followed by Parliamentary Bureau Motions

5.00 pm Decision Time

followed by Members’ Business—[Bruce Crawford.]

Motion agreed to.

Parliamentary Bureau Motions

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The Presiding Officer (Tricia Marwick): The next item of business is consideration of two Parliamentary Bureau motions on the approval of Scottish statutory instruments. I ask Bruce Crawford to move motion S4M-01020, on the approval of the Climate Change (Annual Targets) (Scotland) Order 2011, and motion S4M-01021, on the approval of the Public Services Reform (Scotland) Act 2010 (Consequential Modifications) (No 2) Order 2011.

Motions moved,

That the Parliament agrees that the Climate Change (Annual Targets) (Scotland) Order 2011 be approved.

That the Parliament agrees that the Public Services Reform (Scotland) Act 2010 (Consequential Modifications) (No.2) Order 2011 be approved.—[Bruce Crawford.]

The Presiding Officer: The questions on the motions will be put at decision time.

Decision Time

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The Presiding Officer (Tricia Marwick): There are seven questions to be put as a result of today’s business. In relation to the debate on welfare reform, I remind members that if the amendment in the name of Mary Scanlon is agreed to, the amendment in the name of Liam McArthur will fall.

The first question is, that amendment S4M-01008.1, in the name of Jackie Baillie, which seeks to amend motion S4M-01008, in the name of Nicola Sturgeon, on welfare reform, be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members: No.

The Presiding Officer: There will be a division.

For

Adam, Brian (Aberdeen Donside) (SNP)

Adam, George (Paisley) (SNP)

Adamson, Clare (Central Scotland) (SNP)

Allan, Dr Alasdair (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) (SNP)

Baillie, Jackie (Dumbarton) (Lab)

Baker, Claire (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)

Baker, Richard (North East Scotland) (Lab)

Beamish, Claudia (South Scotland) (Lab)

Beattie, Colin (Midlothian North and Musselburgh) (SNP)

Biagi, Marco (Edinburgh Central) (SNP)

Bibby, Neil (West Scotland) (Lab)

Boyack, Sarah (Lothian) (Lab)

Brodie, Chic (South Scotland) (SNP)

Brown, Keith (Clackmannanshire and Dunblane) (SNP)

Burgess, Margaret (Cunninghame South) (SNP)

Campbell, Aileen (Clydesdale) (SNP)

Campbell, Roderick (North East Fife) (SNP)

Chisholm, Malcolm (Edinburgh Northern and Leith) (Lab)

Coffey, Willie (Kilmarnock and Irvine Valley) (SNP)

Constance, Angela (Almond Valley) (SNP)

Crawford, Bruce (Stirling) (SNP)

Cunningham, Roseanna (Perthshire South and Kinross-shire) (SNP)

Dey, Graeme (Angus South) (SNP)

Don, Nigel (Angus North and Mearns) (SNP)

Doris, Bob (Glasgow) (SNP)

Dornan, James (Glasgow Cathcart) (SNP)

Dugdale, Kezia (Lothian) (Lab)

Eadie, Helen (Cowdenbeath) (Lab)

Eadie, Jim (Edinburgh Southern) (SNP)

Ewing, Annabelle (Mid Scotland and Fife) (SNP)

Ewing, Fergus (Inverness and Nairn) (SNP)

Fabiani, Linda (East Kilbride) (SNP)

Fee, Mary (West Scotland) (Lab)

Ferguson, Patricia (Glasgow Maryhill and Springburn) (Lab)

Findlay, Neil (Lothian) (Lab)

Finnie, John (Highlands and Islands) (SNP)

FitzPatrick, Joe (Dundee City West) (SNP)

Gibson, Kenneth (Cunninghame North) (SNP)

Gibson, Rob (Caithness, Sutherland and Ross) (SNP)

Grahame, Christine (Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale) (SNP)

Grant, Rhoda (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)

Gray, Iain (East Lothian) (Lab)

Griffin, Mark (Central Scotland) (Lab)

Harvie, Patrick (Glasgow) (Green)

Henry, Hugh (Renfrewshire South) (Lab)

Hepburn, Jamie (Cumbernauld and Kilsyth) (SNP)

Ingram, Adam (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley) (SNP)

Johnstone, Alison (Lothian) (Green)

Keir, Colin (Edinburgh Western) (SNP)

Kelly, James (Rutherglen) (Lab)

Kidd, Bill (Glasgow Anniesland) (SNP)

Lamont, Johann (Glasgow Pollok) (Lab)

Lochhead, Richard (Moray) (SNP)

Lyle, Richard (Central Scotland) (SNP)

MacAskill, Kenny (Edinburgh Eastern) (SNP)

MacDonald, Gordon (Edinburgh Pentlands) (SNP)

Macdonald, Lewis (North East Scotland) (Lab)

Macintosh, Ken (Eastwood) (Lab)

Mackay, Derek (Renfrewshire North and West) (SNP)

Mackenzie, Mike (Highlands and Islands) (SNP)

Malik, Hanzala (Glasgow) (Lab)

Marra, Jenny (North East Scotland) (Lab)

Martin, Paul (Glasgow Provan) (Lab)

Mason, John (Glasgow Shettleston) (SNP)

Matheson, Michael (Falkirk West) (SNP)

Maxwell, Stewart (West Scotland) (SNP)

McAlpine, Joan (South Scotland) (SNP)

McCulloch, Margaret (Central Scotland) (Lab)

McDonald, Mark (North East Scotland) (SNP)

McDougall, Margaret (West Scotland) (Lab)

McKelvie, Christina (Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse) (SNP)

McLeod, Aileen (South Scotland) (SNP)

McLeod, Fiona (Strathkelvin and Bearsden) (SNP)

McMahon, Michael (Uddingston and Bellshill) (Lab)

McMahon, Siobhan (Central Scotland) (Lab)

McMillan, Stuart (West Scotland) (SNP)

McNeil, Duncan (Greenock and Inverclyde) (Lab)

McTaggart, Anne (Glasgow) (Lab)

Murray, Elaine (Dumfriesshire) (Lab)

Neil, Alex (Airdrie and Shotts) (SNP)

Park, John (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)

Paterson, Gil (Clydebank and Milngavie) (SNP)

Pearson, Graeme (South Scotland) (Lab)

Pentland, John (Motherwell and Wishaw) (Lab)

Robertson, Dennis (Aberdeenshire West) (SNP)

Robison, Shona (Dundee City East) (SNP)

Russell, Michael (Argyll and Bute) (SNP)

Simpson, Dr Richard (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)

Smith, Drew (Glasgow) (Lab)

Smith, Elaine (Coatbridge and Chryston) (Lab)

Stevenson, Stewart (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP)

Stewart, David (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)

Stewart, Kevin (Aberdeen Central) (SNP)

Sturgeon, Nicola (Glasgow Southside) (SNP)

Swinney, John (Perthshire North) (SNP)

Thompson, Dave (Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch) (SNP)

Torrance, David (Kirkcaldy) (SNP)

Urquhart, Jean (Highlands and Islands) (SNP)

Walker, Bill (Dunfermline) (SNP)

Watt, Maureen (Aberdeen South and North Kincardine) (SNP)

Wheelhouse, Paul (South Scotland) (SNP)

White, Sandra (Glasgow Kelvin) (SNP)

Wilson, John (Central Scotland) (SNP)

Yousaf, Humza (Glasgow) (SNP)

Against

Carlaw, Jackson (West Scotland) (Con)

Fergusson, Alex (Galloway and West Dumfries) (Con)

Fraser, Murdo (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)

Goldie, Annabel (West Scotland) (Con)

Hume, Jim (South Scotland) (LD)

Johnstone, Alex (North East Scotland) (Con)

Lamont, John (Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire) (Con)

McArthur, Liam (Orkney Islands) (LD)

McGrigor, Jamie (Highlands and Islands) (Con)

McInnes, Alison (North East Scotland) (LD)

McLetchie, David (Lothian) (Con)

Milne, Nanette (North East Scotland) (Con)

Rennie, Willie (Mid Scotland and Fife) (LD)

Scanlon, Mary (Highlands and Islands) (Con)

Scott, John (Ayr) (Con)

Smith, Liz (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)

The Presiding Officer: The result of the division is: For 104, Against 16, Abstentions 0.

Amendment agreed to.

The Presiding Officer: The next question is, that amendment S4M-01008.2, in the name of Mary Scanlon, which seeks to amend motion S4M-01008, in the name of Nicola Sturgeon, on welfare reform, be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members: No.

The Presiding Officer: There will be a division.

For

Carlaw, Jackson (West Scotland) (Con)

Fergusson, Alex (Galloway and West Dumfries) (Con)

Fraser, Murdo (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)

Goldie, Annabel (West Scotland) (Con)

Johnstone, Alex (North East Scotland) (Con)

Lamont, John (Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire) (Con)

McGrigor, Jamie (Highlands and Islands) (Con)

McLetchie, David (Lothian) (Con)

Milne, Nanette (North East Scotland) (Con)

Scanlon, Mary (Highlands and Islands) (Con)

Scott, John (Ayr) (Con)

Smith, Liz (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)

Against

Adam, Brian (Aberdeen Donside) (SNP)

Adam, George (Paisley) (SNP)

Adamson, Clare (Central Scotland) (SNP)

Allan, Dr Alasdair (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) (SNP)

Baillie, Jackie (Dumbarton) (Lab)

Baker, Claire (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)

Baker, Richard (North East Scotland) (Lab)

Beamish, Claudia (South Scotland) (Lab)

Beattie, Colin (Midlothian North and Musselburgh) (SNP)

Biagi, Marco (Edinburgh Central) (SNP)

Bibby, Neil (West Scotland) (Lab)

Boyack, Sarah (Lothian) (Lab)

Brodie, Chic (South Scotland) (SNP)

Brown, Keith (Clackmannanshire and Dunblane) (SNP)

Burgess, Margaret (Cunninghame South) (SNP)

Campbell, Aileen (Clydesdale) (SNP)

Campbell, Roderick (North East Fife) (SNP)

Chisholm, Malcolm (Edinburgh Northern and Leith) (Lab)

Coffey, Willie (Kilmarnock and Irvine Valley) (SNP)

Constance, Angela (Almond Valley) (SNP)

Crawford, Bruce (Stirling) (SNP)

Cunningham, Roseanna (Perthshire South and Kinross-shire) (SNP)

Dey, Graeme (Angus South) (SNP)

Don, Nigel (Angus North and Mearns) (SNP)

Doris, Bob (Glasgow) (SNP)

Dornan, James (Glasgow Cathcart) (SNP)

Dugdale, Kezia (Lothian) (Lab)

Eadie, Helen (Cowdenbeath) (Lab)

Eadie, Jim (Edinburgh Southern) (SNP)

Ewing, Annabelle (Mid Scotland and Fife) (SNP)

Ewing, Fergus (Inverness and Nairn) (SNP)

Fabiani, Linda (East Kilbride) (SNP)

Fee, Mary (West Scotland) (Lab)

Ferguson, Patricia (Glasgow Maryhill and Springburn) (Lab)

Findlay, Neil (Lothian) (Lab)

Finnie, John (Highlands and Islands) (SNP)

FitzPatrick, Joe (Dundee City West) (SNP)

Gibson, Kenneth (Cunninghame North) (SNP)

Gibson, Rob (Caithness, Sutherland and Ross) (SNP)

Grahame, Christine (Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale) (SNP)

Grant, Rhoda (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)

Gray, Iain (East Lothian) (Lab)

Griffin, Mark (Central Scotland) (Lab)

Harvie, Patrick (Glasgow) (Green)

Henry, Hugh (Renfrewshire South) (Lab)

Hepburn, Jamie (Cumbernauld and Kilsyth) (SNP)

Hume, Jim (South Scotland) (LD)

Ingram, Adam (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley) (SNP)

Johnstone, Alison (Lothian) (Green)

Keir, Colin (Edinburgh Western) (SNP)

Kelly, James (Rutherglen) (Lab)

Kidd, Bill (Glasgow Anniesland) (SNP)

Lamont, Johann (Glasgow Pollok) (Lab)

Lochhead, Richard (Moray) (SNP)

Lyle, Richard (Central Scotland) (SNP)

MacAskill, Kenny (Edinburgh Eastern) (SNP)

MacDonald, Gordon (Edinburgh Pentlands) (SNP)

Macdonald, Lewis (North East Scotland) (Lab)

Macintosh, Ken (Eastwood) (Lab)

Mackay, Derek (Renfrewshire North and West) (SNP)

Mackenzie, Mike (Highlands and Islands) (SNP)

Malik, Hanzala (Glasgow) (Lab)

Marra, Jenny (North East Scotland) (Lab)

Martin, Paul (Glasgow Provan) (Lab)

Mason, John (Glasgow Shettleston) (SNP)

Matheson, Michael (Falkirk West) (SNP)

Maxwell, Stewart (West Scotland) (SNP)

McAlpine, Joan (South Scotland) (SNP)

McArthur, Liam (Orkney Islands) (LD)

McCulloch, Margaret (Central Scotland) (Lab)

McDonald, Mark (North East Scotland) (SNP)

McDougall, Margaret (West Scotland) (Lab)

McInnes, Alison (North East Scotland) (LD)

McKelvie, Christina (Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse) (SNP)

McLeod, Aileen (South Scotland) (SNP)

McLeod, Fiona (Strathkelvin and Bearsden) (SNP)

McMahon, Michael (Uddingston and Bellshill) (Lab)

McMahon, Siobhan (Central Scotland) (Lab)

McMillan, Stuart (West Scotland) (SNP)

McNeil, Duncan (Greenock and Inverclyde) (Lab)

McTaggart, Anne (Glasgow) (Lab)

Murray, Elaine (Dumfriesshire) (Lab)

Neil, Alex (Airdrie and Shotts) (SNP)

Park, John (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)

Paterson, Gil (Clydebank and Milngavie) (SNP)

Pearson, Graeme (South Scotland) (Lab)

Pentland, John (Motherwell and Wishaw) (Lab)

Rennie, Willie (Mid Scotland and Fife) (LD)

Robertson, Dennis (Aberdeenshire West) (SNP)

Robison, Shona (Dundee City East) (SNP)

Russell, Michael (Argyll and Bute) (SNP)

Simpson, Dr Richard (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)

Smith, Drew (Glasgow) (Lab)

Smith, Elaine (Coatbridge and Chryston) (Lab)

Stevenson, Stewart (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP)

Stewart, David (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)

Stewart, Kevin (Aberdeen Central) (SNP)

Sturgeon, Nicola (Glasgow Southside) (SNP) 

Swinney, John (Perthshire North) (SNP)

Thompson, Dave (Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch) (SNP)

Torrance, David (Kirkcaldy) (SNP)

Urquhart, Jean (Highlands and Islands) (SNP)

Walker, Bill (Dunfermline) (SNP)

Watt, Maureen (Aberdeen South and North Kincardine) (SNP)

Wheelhouse, Paul (South Scotland) (SNP)

White, Sandra (Glasgow Kelvin) (SNP)

Wilson, John (Central Scotland) (SNP)

Yousaf, Humza (Glasgow) (SNP)

The Presiding Officer: The result of the division is: For 12, Against 108, Abstentions 0.

Amendment disagreed to.

The Presiding Officer: The next question is, that amendment S4M-01008.3, in the name of Liam McArthur, which seeks to amend motion S4M-01008, in the name of Nicola Sturgeon, on welfare reform, be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members: No.

The Presiding Officer: There will be a division.

For

Carlaw, Jackson (West Scotland) (Con)

Fergusson, Alex (Galloway and West Dumfries) (Con)

Fraser, Murdo (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)

Goldie, Annabel (West Scotland) (Con)

Hume, Jim (South Scotland) (LD)

Johnstone, Alex (North East Scotland) (Con)

Lamont, John (Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire) (Con)

McArthur, Liam (Orkney Islands) (LD)

McGrigor, Jamie (Highlands and Islands) (Con)

McInnes, Alison (North East Scotland) (LD)

McLetchie, David (Lothian) (Con)

Milne, Nanette (North East Scotland) (Con)

Rennie, Willie (Mid Scotland and Fife) (LD)

Scanlon, Mary (Highlands and Islands) (Con)

Scott, John (Ayr) (Con)

Smith, Liz (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)

Against

Adam, Brian (Aberdeen Donside) (SNP)

Adam, George (Paisley) (SNP)

Adamson, Clare (Central Scotland) (SNP)

Allan, Dr Alasdair (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) (SNP)

Baillie, Jackie (Dumbarton) (Lab)

Baker, Claire (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)

Baker, Richard (North East Scotland) (Lab)

Beamish, Claudia (South Scotland) (Lab)

Beattie, Colin (Midlothian North and Musselburgh) (SNP)

Biagi, Marco (Edinburgh Central) (SNP)

Bibby, Neil (West Scotland) (Lab)

Boyack, Sarah (Lothian) (Lab)

Brodie, Chic (South Scotland) (SNP)

Brown, Keith (Clackmannanshire and Dunblane) (SNP)

Burgess, Margaret (Cunninghame South) (SNP)

Campbell, Aileen (Clydesdale) (SNP)

Campbell, Roderick (North East Fife) (SNP)

Chisholm, Malcolm (Edinburgh Northern and Leith) (Lab)

Coffey, Willie (Kilmarnock and Irvine Valley) (SNP)

Constance, Angela (Almond Valley) (SNP)

Crawford, Bruce (Stirling) (SNP)

Cunningham, Roseanna (Perthshire South and Kinross-shire) (SNP)

Dey, Graeme (Angus South) (SNP)

Don, Nigel (Angus North and Mearns) (SNP)

Doris, Bob (Glasgow) (SNP)

Dornan, James (Glasgow Cathcart) (SNP)

Dugdale, Kezia (Lothian) (Lab)

Eadie, Helen (Cowdenbeath) (Lab)

Eadie, Jim (Edinburgh Southern) (SNP)

Ewing, Annabelle (Mid Scotland and Fife) (SNP)

Ewing, Fergus (Inverness and Nairn) (SNP)

Fabiani, Linda (East Kilbride) (SNP)

Fee, Mary (West Scotland) (Lab)

Ferguson, Patricia (Glasgow Maryhill and Springburn) (Lab)

Findlay, Neil (Lothian) (Lab)

Finnie, John (Highlands and Islands) (SNP)

FitzPatrick, Joe (Dundee City West) (SNP)

Gibson, Kenneth (Cunninghame North) (SNP)

Gibson, Rob (Caithness, Sutherland and Ross) (SNP)

Grahame, Christine (Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale) (SNP)

Grant, Rhoda (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)

Gray, Iain (East Lothian) (Lab)

Griffin, Mark (Central Scotland) (Lab)

Harvie, Patrick (Glasgow) (Green)

Henry, Hugh (Renfrewshire South) (Lab)

Hepburn, Jamie (Cumbernauld and Kilsyth) (SNP)

Ingram, Adam (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley) (SNP)

Johnstone, Alison (Lothian) (Green)

Keir, Colin (Edinburgh Western) (SNP)

Kelly, James (Rutherglen) (Lab)

Kidd, Bill (Glasgow Anniesland) (SNP)

Lamont, Johann (Glasgow Pollok) (Lab)

Lochhead, Richard (Moray) (SNP)

Lyle, Richard (Central Scotland) (SNP)

MacAskill, Kenny (Edinburgh Eastern) (SNP)

MacDonald, Gordon (Edinburgh Pentlands) (SNP)

Macdonald, Lewis (North East Scotland) (Lab)

Macintosh, Ken (Eastwood) (Lab)

Mackay, Derek (Renfrewshire North and West) (SNP)

Mackenzie, Mike (Highlands and Islands) (SNP)

Malik, Hanzala (Glasgow) (Lab)

Marra, Jenny (North East Scotland) (Lab)

Martin, Paul (Glasgow Provan) (Lab)

Mason, John (Glasgow Shettleston) (SNP)

Matheson, Michael (Falkirk West) (SNP)

Maxwell, Stewart (West Scotland) (SNP)

McAlpine, Joan (South Scotland) (SNP)

McCulloch, Margaret (Central Scotland) (Lab)

McDonald, Mark (North East Scotland) (SNP)

McDougall, Margaret (West Scotland) (Lab)

McKelvie, Christina (Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse) (SNP)

McLeod, Aileen (South Scotland) (SNP)

McLeod, Fiona (Strathkelvin and Bearsden) (SNP)

McMahon, Michael (Uddingston and Bellshill) (Lab)

McMahon, Siobhan (Central Scotland) (Lab)

McMillan, Stuart (West Scotland) (SNP)

McNeil, Duncan (Greenock and Inverclyde) (Lab)

McTaggart, Anne (Glasgow) (Lab)

Murray, Elaine (Dumfriesshire) (Lab)

Neil, Alex (Airdrie and Shotts) (SNP)

Park, John (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)

Paterson, Gil (Clydebank and Milngavie) (SNP)

Pearson, Graeme (South Scotland) (Lab)

Pentland, John (Motherwell and Wishaw) (Lab)

Robertson, Dennis (Aberdeenshire West) (SNP)

Robison, Shona (Dundee City East) (SNP)

Russell, Michael (Argyll and Bute) (SNP)

Simpson, Dr Richard (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)

Smith, Drew (Glasgow) (Lab)

Smith, Elaine (Coatbridge and Chryston) (Lab)

Stevenson, Stewart (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP)

Stewart, David (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)

Stewart, Kevin (Aberdeen Central) (SNP)

Sturgeon, Nicola (Glasgow Southside) (SNP)

Swinney, John (Perthshire North) (SNP)

Thompson, Dave (Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch) (SNP)

Torrance, David (Kirkcaldy) (SNP)

Urquhart, Jean (Highlands and Islands) (SNP)

Walker, Bill (Dunfermline) (SNP)

Watt, Maureen (Aberdeen South and North Kincardine) (SNP)

Wheelhouse, Paul (South Scotland) (SNP)

White, Sandra (Glasgow Kelvin) (SNP)

Wilson, John (Central Scotland) (SNP)

Yousaf, Humza (Glasgow) (SNP)

The Presiding Officer: The result of the division is: For 16, Against 104, Abstentions 0.

Amendment disagreed to.

The Presiding Officer: The next question is, that motion S4M-01008, in the name of Nicola Sturgeon, on welfare reform, as amended, be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members: No.

The Presiding Officer: There will be a division.

For

Adam, Brian (Aberdeen Donside) (SNP)

Adam, George (Paisley) (SNP)

Adamson, Clare (Central Scotland) (SNP)

Allan, Dr Alasdair (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) (SNP)

Baillie, Jackie (Dumbarton) (Lab)

Baker, Claire (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)

Baker, Richard (North East Scotland) (Lab)

Beamish, Claudia (South Scotland) (Lab)

Beattie, Colin (Midlothian North and Musselburgh) (SNP)

Biagi, Marco (Edinburgh Central) (SNP)

Bibby, Neil (West Scotland) (Lab)

Boyack, Sarah (Lothian) (Lab)

Brodie, Chic (South Scotland) (SNP)

Brown, Keith (Clackmannanshire and Dunblane) (SNP)

Burgess, Margaret (Cunninghame South) (SNP)

Campbell, Aileen (Clydesdale) (SNP)

Campbell, Roderick (North East Fife) (SNP)

Chisholm, Malcolm (Edinburgh Northern and Leith) (Lab)

Coffey, Willie (Kilmarnock and Irvine Valley) (SNP)

Constance, Angela (Almond Valley) (SNP)

Crawford, Bruce (Stirling) (SNP)

Cunningham, Roseanna (Perthshire South and Kinross-shire) (SNP)

Dey, Graeme (Angus South) (SNP)

Don, Nigel (Angus North and Mearns) (SNP)

Doris, Bob (Glasgow) (SNP)

Dornan, James (Glasgow Cathcart) (SNP)

Dugdale, Kezia (Lothian) (Lab)

Eadie, Helen (Cowdenbeath) (Lab)

Eadie, Jim (Edinburgh Southern) (SNP)

Ewing, Annabelle (Mid Scotland and Fife) (SNP)

Ewing, Fergus (Inverness and Nairn) (SNP)

Fabiani, Linda (East Kilbride) (SNP)

Fee, Mary (West Scotland) (Lab)

Ferguson, Patricia (Glasgow Maryhill and Springburn) (Lab)

Findlay, Neil (Lothian) (Lab)

Finnie, John (Highlands and Islands) (SNP)

FitzPatrick, Joe (Dundee City West) (SNP)

Gibson, Kenneth (Cunninghame North) (SNP)

Gibson, Rob (Caithness, Sutherland and Ross) (SNP)

Grahame, Christine (Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale) (SNP)

Grant, Rhoda (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)

Gray, Iain (East Lothian) (Lab)

Griffin, Mark (Central Scotland) (Lab)

Harvie, Patrick (Glasgow) (Green)

Henry, Hugh (Renfrewshire South) (Lab)

Hepburn, Jamie (Cumbernauld and Kilsyth) (SNP)

Ingram, Adam (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley) (SNP)

Johnstone, Alison (Lothian) (Green)

Keir, Colin (Edinburgh Western) (SNP)

Kelly, James (Rutherglen) (Lab)

Kidd, Bill (Glasgow Anniesland) (SNP)

Lamont, Johann (Glasgow Pollok) (Lab)

Lochhead, Richard (Moray) (SNP)

Lyle, Richard (Central Scotland) (SNP)

MacAskill, Kenny (Edinburgh Eastern) (SNP)

MacDonald, Gordon (Edinburgh Pentlands) (SNP)

Macdonald, Lewis (North East Scotland) (Lab)

Macintosh, Ken (Eastwood) (Lab)

Mackay, Derek (Renfrewshire North and West) (SNP)

Mackenzie, Mike (Highlands and Islands) (SNP)

Malik, Hanzala (Glasgow) (Lab)

Marra, Jenny (North East Scotland) (Lab)

Martin, Paul (Glasgow Provan) (Lab)

Mason, John (Glasgow Shettleston) (SNP)

Matheson, Michael (Falkirk West) (SNP)

Maxwell, Stewart (West Scotland) (SNP)

McAlpine, Joan (South Scotland) (SNP)

McCulloch, Margaret (Central Scotland) (Lab)

McDonald, Mark (North East Scotland) (SNP)

McDougall, Margaret (West Scotland) (Lab)

McKelvie, Christina (Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse) (SNP)

McLeod, Aileen (South Scotland) (SNP)

McLeod, Fiona (Strathkelvin and Bearsden) (SNP)

McMahon, Michael (Uddingston and Bellshill) (Lab)

McMahon, Siobhan (Central Scotland) (Lab)

McMillan, Stuart (West Scotland) (SNP)

McNeil, Duncan (Greenock and Inverclyde) (Lab)

McTaggart, Anne (Glasgow) (Lab)

Murray, Elaine (Dumfriesshire) (Lab)

Neil, Alex (Airdrie and Shotts) (SNP)

Park, John (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)

Paterson, Gil (Clydebank and Milngavie) (SNP)

Pearson, Graeme (South Scotland) (Lab)

Pentland, John (Motherwell and Wishaw) (Lab)

Robertson, Dennis (Aberdeenshire West) (SNP)

Robison, Shona (Dundee City East) (SNP)

Russell, Michael (Argyll and Bute) (SNP)

Simpson, Dr Richard (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)

Smith, Drew (Glasgow) (Lab)

Smith, Elaine (Coatbridge and Chryston) (Lab)

Stevenson, Stewart (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP)

Stewart, David (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)

Stewart, Kevin (Aberdeen Central) (SNP)

Sturgeon, Nicola (Glasgow Southside) (SNP)

Swinney, John (Perthshire North) (SNP)

Thompson, Dave (Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch) (SNP)

Torrance, David (Kirkcaldy) (SNP)

Urquhart, Jean (Highlands and Islands) (SNP)

Walker, Bill (Dunfermline) (SNP)

Watt, Maureen (Aberdeen South and North Kincardine) (SNP)

Wheelhouse, Paul (South Scotland) (SNP)

White, Sandra (Glasgow Kelvin) (SNP)

Wilson, John (Central Scotland) (SNP)

Yousaf, Humza (Glasgow) (SNP)

Against

Carlaw, Jackson (West Scotland) (Con)

Fergusson, Alex (Galloway and West Dumfries) (Con)

Fraser, Murdo (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)

Goldie, Annabel (West Scotland) (Con)

Hume, Jim (South Scotland) (LD)

Johnstone, Alex (North East Scotland) (Con)

Lamont, John (Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire) (Con)

McArthur, Liam (Orkney Islands) (LD)

McGrigor, Jamie (Highlands and Islands) (Con)

McInnes, Alison (North East Scotland) (LD)

McLetchie, David (Lothian) (Con)

Milne, Nanette (North East Scotland) (Con)

Rennie, Willie (Mid Scotland and Fife) (LD)

Scanlon, Mary (Highlands and Islands) (Con)

Scott, John (Ayr) (Con)

Smith, Liz (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)

The Presiding Officer: The result of the division is: For 104, Against 16, Abstentions 0.

Motion, as amended, agreed to,

That the Parliament notes the Welfare Reform Bill that is currently being considered by the UK Parliament; regrets that the far-reaching proposals contained in the bill are being pursued against the backdrop of substantial cuts to welfare benefits announced in the June and October 2010 UK budgets; further regrets the impact that these cuts will have on some of the most vulnerable individuals and families in society and on the local authority and third-sector organisations committed to supporting vulnerable people, and calls on the UK Government to pursue a welfare system that is properly financed, simple to understand, lifts people out of poverty and makes work pay, and is otherwise minded, subject to consideration by the appropriate committees, to oppose the forthcoming legislative consent motion pertaining to the Welfare Reform Bill.

The Presiding Officer: The next question is, that motion S4M-01017, in the name of Shona Robison, on the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (Amendment) Bill, which is United Kingdom legislation, be agreed to.

Motion agreed to,

That the Parliament agrees that the relevant provisions of the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (Amendment) Bill, introduced in the House of Commons on 16 March 2011, relating to the advertising, street trading and ticket touting provisions, so far as these matters fall within the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament, should be considered by the UK Parliament.

http://www.scottish.parliament.uk

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