Clear plan needed for transfer of social security powers, say MPs and MSPs

Sandra White MSP

Sandra White MSP

A joint letter issued today by Holyrood’s social security committee and Westminster’s Scottish affairs committee has called for a clear plan is needed for the successful transfer of welfare powers north of the Border.

The letter to the secretary of state for work and pensions, Damian Green, and the cabinet secretary for communities, social security and equalities, Angela Constance, follows the historic joint meetings of the two committees where they investigated how the devolution of social security was to be delivered.

The committees heard that not only was it vital that both governments had a clear plan for the transfer of powers but that the procedures for addressing any dispute between the two governments had to be strengthened.

Sandra White MSP, convener of the social security committee, said: “With an issue as important and complex as the transfer of social security powers, close working between the Scottish and UK Governments will be vital. There is clearly some great work taking place between officials and whilst there will always be political differences between the two governments, these cannot be at the expense of claimants. This is why we have today asked both governments to ensure they have a clear plan for how the transfer will done successfully.”

Pete Wishart MP, chair of the Scottish affairs committee, said: “Our session with Damian Green and Angela Constance showed that, while new powers are being devolved to Holyrood, the success of this devolution of powers in Scotland will rely on a good working relationship between ministers and departments. Where there are inevitable tensions over different approaches attached to the delivery of social security policy good working arrangements have developed amongst civil servants.

“It is clear that there have been sticking points, most notably the lack of communications over Jobcentre plus closures, housing benefit to 18-21 year olds and differences in opinion over the fundamental purpose of the benefits system. We have asked the ministers to be clearer about how they work together, in particular how they will solve further policy differences, and we look forward to their response.”