PMQs: Johnson hits back at Blackford’s social care plan criticism
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SNP heavyweight Ian Blackford clashed with Boris Johnson during Prime Minister’s Questions after he attacked the incoming cuts in Universal Credit and the effect it will have on low-earners. Mr Blackford called for any Conservative “with a backbone” to stand up to the cuts and stated perhaps instead those who would oppose the cuts have already been promised top jobs amid a rumoured cabinet reshuffle. MPs groaned at Mr Blackford’s “poverty pandemic” quip but Boris Johnson was unfazed, taking to the dispatch box and telling the SNP to stick to campaigning about independence as they would be better off talking about that.
Speaking in the House of Commons, Mr Blackford noted the UK Government’s winter plans for Covid and attempted to make a quip.
The SNP MP noted the cut in Universal Credit would lead to a “poverty pandemic” which made many groan in the Commons.
Mr Blackford said: “If any Scottish Tories are in possession of a backbone now would be a good time to find it.
“Does the Prime Minister, expect any MPs from his Scottish branch office to stand against the colours cuts to Universal Credit or has the Prime Minister already bought them off with promises of jobs in his reshuffle?”
Mr Johnson listed off several figures including providing £5,000 bursaries for nurses, increasing pay and other measures that would help protect key workers who may be hit by the Universal Credit cut.
He added: “That is only possible because of the investment that we’re making, the package that we’re putting forward for health and social care.
“If he’s really saying that how the Scottish Nationalist Party are opposed to that investment.
“If he’s really saying he would send it back he would be better off banging on about a referendum as he would be better on that.”
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On October 6, the temporary Universal Credit uplift of £20-a-week will be scrapped despite calls to keep it in place for the poorest families.
In Scotland, the SNP have announced a Scottish Child Payment policy which will give £10-a-week to low-income parents for each child they have.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has been a staunch critic against the Universal Credit cuts with the child payment scheme seen to be in opposition to the UK Government’s cuts.
Despite this, the policy has been accused of being a “sticking plaster” by the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla) who say it does not address the deeper issues of poverty.
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Cosla resources spokeswoman Gail Macgregor said the payments had “helped to top up low income families and people who are very vulnerable”.
But she added while the cash could be “beneficial in the short term” for hard-up families, it was “not necessarily getting them the key support they require”.
Ms Macgregor insisted: “Simply giving people money is not going to fully assist them. It might help to get them over that particular week, or that particular month, but we need to get to the root cause of the inequality and ensure that that particular family absolutely has the support in place to ensure a better outcome going forward.”
She continued: “Money is a sticking plaster. It’s a very helpful sticking plaster, but it doesn’t get to the root cause of the inequality.
“We’re looking at health and wellbeing and supporting families. This links with quality of housing, education, employment, ensuring that families are assisted with services that will help to enrich their lives.
“I think the key message is whilst it is beneficial in the short term to perhaps give a family some additional income, it is not necessarily getting them the key support they require.”
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