MSPs will sit down with Work and Pensions Secretary later this month to discuss changes
Members of the Scottish Parliament’s Welfare Reform Committee will hold an ‘informal’ meeting with Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith later this month, Holyrood has learned.
The Chingford and Woodford Green MP has turned down repeated requests to appear before MSPs in connection with the imminent implementation of UK-wide welfare reforms.
Instead, Work and Pensions Minister, Lord Freud, participated in an informal briefing last November, with Duncan Smith pledging to do likewise this spring.
A note issued to MSPs ahead of tomorrow’s session by a clerk to the committee, marked private but published online, has revealed that meeting will take place in a little over three weeks time on March 27.
Members have been invited to consider seven elements of welfare reform, including the highly controversial ‘bedroom tax’, to focus questioning on, albeit are warned time available for the meeting is “likely to be limited”.
“In considering its approach, members may wish to note that it is unlikely that more than three or four areas could be explored with the Secretary of State in the time that is expected to be available for this meeting,” reads the note.
“Members may therefore wish to consider whether they wish to prioritise particular areas on which they would most like to ask questions of the Secretary of State.”
Other areas of interest listed are:
· Universal Credit payments
· Development of financial products
· Arrangements for implementation of Universal Credit in Northern Ireland against those in Scotland
· PIP assessments in Scotland
· Your Say witnesses’ questions
· Application of sanctions by Jobcentre Plus advisers
Subject to members’ agreement, questions expected to be asked of Duncan Smith include: why an exception to the rules in the case of under-occupancy deductions cannot be provided for disabled people using rooms for equipment storage and parents who have access arrangements; why different arrangements for the implementation of Universal Credit in Northern Ireland cannot be extended to Scotland; and why Personal Independence Payment (PIP) assessments in Scotland are understood to be sub-contracted out rather than done directly with the NHS.
A request from Michael McMahon, convener of the committee, for a formal session at Holyrood to answer questions on the implementation of welfare reforms in Scotland was issued for a fourth time on January 15.
It would appear a response has not been forthcoming with one yet to be published online under the list of correspondence between the committee and DWP ministers almost two months on.