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Poverty and Inequality

Volume 737: debated on Wednesday 13 September 2023

4. What discussions he has held with Cabinet colleagues and the Scottish Government on the effectiveness of the steps being taken to reduce rates of (a) poverty and (b) inequality in Scotland. (906281)

The United Kingdom Government are committed to a sustainable approach to tackling poverty and supporting people on lower incomes. We have made substantial investment to help to mitigate the worst of the cost of living impacts, including welfare spending of around £276 billion. The best route out of poverty, of course, is through work. Therefore, our focus remains firmly on supporting people to move into and progress in work.

Scotland has the lowest rates of child poverty in the UK, with the game-changing Scottish child payment helping more than 300,000, and lifting 50,000 of them out of poverty. Why do the UK Government continue to refuse to follow such a successful example?

The UK Government have ensured that the cost of living challenges have been tackled by working in tandem with the Scottish Government and using reserved and devolved levers to get the best outcomes for everybody across Scotland. The benefit cap levels have been increased by 10.1% from 1 April. The national living wage has increased by 9.7% to £10.42 an hour for workers aged 23 years and over. Overall, this Government are working to deliver for the most vulnerable in society, and will do so in conjunction with our partners in the Scottish Government.

After 16 years of SNP Government and 13 years of the Tories, one in four children in Scotland lives in poverty. There are 40,000 more children in poverty compared with a decade ago, and this week it was revealed that three members of the Scottish Government’s own Poverty and Inequality Commission had resigned. Does the Minister agree that both the Scottish and the UK Governments should be working more urgently and more effectively to tackle child poverty?

I welcome the hon. Gentleman to his new position. The UK Government are committed to protecting the most vulnerable in our society and we have taken decisive steps to do that, including UK-wide additional spending of £137.5 billion in benefits for pensioners, £67.9 billion in benefits to support disabled people and people with health conditions and £114.3 billion in working-age benefits and child welfare. We have also uprated benefits and pension credit in line with inflation and have raised the national living wage to help to protect the most vulnerable. We will continue to keep the situation under review, but this Government have continually demonstrated our commitment to the most vulnerable across Scotland.