The Secretary of State for Scotland and I are in regular contact with the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions on a range of issues concerning implementation of universal credit in Scotland.
In Scotland, the public sector accounts for about 50% of gross domestic product. If we are to succeed in making the country less dependent on the public sector, we need to ensure that the private sector has access to the personnel that it needs to grow. Does the Minister agree that universal credit will help to make work pay, and that it will contribute to the rebalancing of the economy of Scotland and the UK?
I do indeed agree with my hon. Friend, who will be pleased to note that already during the incapacity benefit reassessment trial taking place in Aberdeen, a large number of people who not only want to work, but also want the support to help them to work, have been identified and have found opportunities to work in the private sector.
Will the proposed universal credit in Scotland be affected by the Chancellor’s proposed changes in tax and national insurance, particularly in relation to the tax proposals in the Scotland Bill?
The hon. Gentleman has followed the progress of the Scotland Bill in detail, but he will know that in relation to the core aspects of universal credit and benefits, the Government have given an undertaking that no one will be worse off in cash terms when universal credit is introduced.
Does my hon. Friend agree that the current complexity of the benefits system means that too many Scottish claimants do not receive the benefits to which they are entitled, and that universal credit will help to target the right support on the right people?
I certainly agree with my hon. Friend. The amount of benefit that goes unclaimed in Scotland is a national disgrace. The system of universal credit will simplify the benefits system, as well as making work pay and combating worklessness and poverty. That is something that hon. Members on both sides of the House should welcome; it is a marked change from the 13 years of inaction from the previous Government.