In March this year, Her Majesty the Queen gave Royal Assent to the Scotland Act 2016, marking an important milestone in fulfilling the UK Government’s commitment to make the Scottish Parliament one of the most powerful devolved parliaments in the world.
On 23 May, two months since Royal Assent, a number of important provisions in the Act came into force. These included new powers in relation to consumer advocacy and advice, gaming machines, equalities and transport, and marked an important milestone in the devolution of powers to the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Government.
The Joint Ministerial Working Group on Welfare met in June to take forward discussions on commencement of the welfare sections of the Act. This was the first meeting of the group since the Scotland Act 2016 gained Royal Assent and since the new Scottish Parliament was elected. The UK and Scottish Governments both agreed an approach to commencing the welfare and employment support powers set out in the Act. This approach included bringing into force 11 welfare sections of the Scotland Act 2016.
I can today inform the House that, with the agreement of the Scottish Government, we will now commence the following sections of the Scotland Act 2016:
Section number: section title
24: Discretionary payments: top-ups of reserved benefits
25: Discretionary Housing Payments
26: Discretionary payments and assistance
28: Powers to create other new benefits;
29: Universal credit: costs of claimants who rent accommodation
30: Universal credit: persons to whom, and time when, paid
31: Employment support
32: Functions exercisable within devolved competence
33: Social Security Advisory Committee and Industrial Injuries Advisory Council
35: Extension of unauthorised disclosure offence
Commencing these powers brings into force substantial new levers which will allow the Scottish Government to design a welfare system tailored to local needs, while maintaining our social union and the benefits of being part of the United Kingdom. For example, these regulations bring into force the power for the Scottish Parliament to create its own new benefits in any area of devolved responsibility.
The UK and Scottish Governments have been working together constructively to enable this and will continue to do so. We recognise the importance of ensuring the safe and secure transition of powers. Work is continuing on the remaining welfare sections of the Act and both Governments are committed to reaching an agreed approach on how they should be commenced. A further meeting of the Joint Ministerial Group on Welfare is expected to take place in the autumn.
I am pleased that the commencement regulations also include section 65 of the Scotland Act which enables Scottish Ministers to appoint a member to the Ofcom board. The section also requires Scottish Ministers to lay Ofcom’s annual report and accounts before the Scottish Parliament and underlines my commitment to implementing the Scotland Act 2016 and the Smith Commission agreement.
The commencement regulations I have made today represent another milestone in making the Scottish Parliament one of the most powerful devolved Parliaments in the world.