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House of Commons Hansard
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10 February 2016
Volume 605
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4. What recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions on the effects of the Government’s welfare programme on social and economic inequalities in Scotland. [903488]

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9. What recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions on the effects of the Government’s welfare programme on social and economic inequalities in Scotland. [903493]

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On behalf of the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, I meet the Secretary of State for Scotland on a regular basis to discuss the devolution of welfare programmes to the Scottish Government; at a meeting just yesterday we discussed the ever-improving labour market in Scotland. I also have regular meetings with my counterparts from the Scottish Government and we have a joint ministerial working group. I will be speaking tomorrow to the Scottish Ministers with responsibility for fair work, and for children and young people.

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The Smith agreement devolved employability funding and services to Scotland, but then the autumn statement cut funding for it by an eye-watering 87%, so that the Scottish Government now have only £7 million with which to deliver those services. Notwithstanding the general acceptance that this was a politically motivated decision, what does the Minister have to say to my constituents, who live in one of the areas of highest deprivation in the whole of the United Kingdom and are, after all, the people this will have the largest impact on?

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I start by hoping that the hon. Lady will welcome the fact that in her constituency the claimant count has decreased by 49% since 2010. We have record levels of employment in Scotland. There will be greater devolution for the Scottish Government in welfare, and we would be particularly happy to have discussions with them on employment programmes. Many of those will look at how we take these programmes further to support those who are out of work in Scotland but desperately want to work.

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As a result of the changes from disability living allowance to the personal independence payment, thousands of Scots are losing their rights to Motability vehicles. That is particularly devastating in rural areas, where accessible public transport may be limited. Will the Minister end this iniquitous policy?

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As I have said, there will be new powers under the devolution deal, which will also include top-up payments; this is still very much based on welfare payments as well. It will be down to the Scottish Government in particular to get on and start making some of these decisions. They have got the powers coming to them so they will have to start deciding how they want to use them.

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It was thanks to Labour peers that the Government’s initial cack-handed and unfair cuts to tax credits were brought to an abrupt end, but we now know that the Government want to introduce new changes to income disregard which will leave 800,000 people on tax credits across the United Kingdom worse off come April. Can the Minister tell the House how many people in Scotland will be affected?

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I will say, as I have previously said when the House has discussed the issues of welfare reform and welfare changes, that we have the Bill going through the other place right now and the changes we are making are to bring fairness and stability to the welfare bill in this country. We know, and we have made it clear, that despite the figures that the hon. Gentleman and the Labour party leverage constantly, people will not be affected and the right kind of transitional support will be put in place.