News In Focus
Social Security Bill passes first Holyrood stage
The Social Security (Scotland) Bill passed its first stage at Holyrood yesterday, without opposition but with some MSPs calling for it to set out a clearer framework of rights.
Ministers intend the bill to deliver "a rights-based social security system that is founded on the principles of dignity, fairness and respect", Social Security Minister Jeane Freeman told the chamber on opening the debate. Eleven benefits affecting 1.4m people in Scotland will be covered, but the bill provides a framework capable of underpinning all social security in Scotland, should the Parliament acquire further powers.
Among other things the bill provides for a duty to prepare and publish a social security charter to set out how the principles in the bill should be applied.
For the Conservatives, AdamTomkins complained that "All rules about eligibility and about the value of each form of assistance are to be set in statutory instruments that are to be made under the bill. That gets the balance between primary and secondary legislation wrong. It reserves to the Scottish ministers much more power than UK ministers have under reserved social security law and it cuts Parliament out of the picture to an unacceptable degree."
Ms Freeman responded in winding up: "In my view, putting eligibility criteria on the face of the bill will not best serve the interests of the people who receive benefits. It will not give us enough time to consult, via experience panels, the expert group or any other means, as we have consistently committed to doing."
She undertook to bring forward amendments to introduce a "superaffirmative procedure" in an attempt to provide sufficient independent scrutiny of regulations. "I want a duty on ministers – unlike at the UK level – to consult on any regulations or changes in social security that they want to introduce before those are introduced, with no exemptions and no fast tracking."
Further consideration would also be given to how an individual could seek redress in terms of the charter.
Click here to access the official report of the debate.