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Ministers Accused of Social Security Power Grab

Mark Griffin MSP, Scottish Labour's Spokesperson on Social Security, has branded the Scottish Government's Social Security Bill a ministerial power grab.

In a submission to the Social Security Committee’s call for the evidence on the Bill, Scottish Labour has outlined concerns about the Bill putting too much power into the hands of Scottish Ministers, and failing to guarantee key commitments in law such as:

  • A ban on private sector contractors.
  • Uprating payments in line with inflation.
  • A commitment to a universal winter fuel payment.
  • Ensuring everyone gets the payments to which they are entitled.

The Bill also fails to establish a legal framework for creating new benefits – a tool which could be used to protect WASPI women and reinstate Housing Benefits for 18-21 year olds.

Scottish Labour will seek to amend the Bill when as it progresses in Parliament to strengthen protections for the vulnerable and make the legislation more ambitious.

Mark said:

“Labour is signed up to make the new system a success, which is why we have repeatedly demanded that the delivery of a new social security system is progressed more swiftly. We are concerned that, for all the warm words we have heard so far, progress has been slow and, as a result, Scottish people who are disabled, poor, sick, or elderly, will continue to suffer.

“We also have more fundamental concerns about this Bill. The Scottish Government is seeking, substantial ministerial power, without adequate scrutiny or accountability mechanisms.

“While Scottish Labour shares the aspiration to deliver a fairer system built on the foundations of dignity and respect, we are disappointed that this Bill has failed to deliver what was meant to be landmark legislation.

“As a starting point the Bill fails to take the opportunity to guarantee key commitments – banning private sector companies from delivering disability assessments, preventing winter fuel payments from being means-tested, accepting government has a duty to maximise incomes, and uprating benefits in line with inflation – in legislation.

“On these points, Labour is clear it will seek to amend the Bill to make good these failings.

“The first Social Security Act of the Scottish Parliament should be a watershed moment in the progress of devolution. It should deliver for Scots who are being humiliated and mistreated by a UK Government which has cut £1.1 billion from social security payments, with another £1 billion to come, and for people with disabilities who are suffering “grave and systematic violations” of their rights.

“We want to see rights-based legislation with clear entitlements, that puts money in people’s pockets. This response does not intend to identify all the concerns we have about the Bill, but will set out key areas where we believe Committee is required to take action.”

The submission can be read in full here: http://www.parliament.scot/S5_Social_Security/Inquiries/081._Scottish_Labour_Party.pdf

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  • You can email me at mark.griffin.msp@scottish.
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  • You can also write to me at: Mark Griffin MSP, The Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh EH99 1SP.

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