Tory MSP says people who do not work ‘cannot have as many children as they like’

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A Scottish Conservative MSP has defended welfare reforms, claiming those who do not work “cannot have as many children as they like”.

Michelle Ballantyne also told the Scottish Parliament’s chamber that Universal Credit was a “key part of reducing inequality in this country”.

She said the six-in-one benefit payment was “working for the many”, with any issues “almost wholly operational”.

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon described its roll-out as an “unfolding disaster”.

Universal Credit was introduced as part of the UK Government’s overhaul of the welfare system.

However critics say cuts to payments and widespread problems with its implementation have led to many people falling into hardship or dropping out of the benefit system altogether.

The introduction of the two-child benefit cap, limiting tax credits and Universal Credit to a family’s first two children has also been attacked.

Ms Ballantyne said: “The two-child limit is about fairness. It is fair that people on benefit cannot have as many children as they like while people who work and pay their way and don’t claim benefits have to make decisions about the number of children they can have.

“Universal Credit may have its flaws, but the thinking behind the system is sound.

“It is about making it better to be in work than not to be in work.

“Regardless of what others may say, its a fact that universal credit is working for the many, as are many UK Government employment policies.

“Actually, I am proud to be associated with a welfare change which is genuinely designed to tackle poverty and inequality.”

SNP MSP Tom Arthur said it was one of the “most disgraceful speeches I have ever heard” in his time at Holyrood.

“Six minutes of pompous Victorian moralising that would have been better suited to the pages of a Dickens novel,” he said.

“And to suggest that poverty should be a barrier to a family, that people who are poor are not entitled to any more than two children – what an absolutely disgraceful position.

“And she should be utterly, utterly ashamed of herself.”

Responding to the Tory MSP, Alison Johnstone of the Greens said “the two-child limit is not fair, and it’s certainly not fair to the third child in a family”.

Earlier in the debate, Scottish Labour MSP Elaine Smith said: “There is no clearer illustration of (the UK Government’s) contempt for those in need of a hand than the way in which Universal Credit has been rolled out across the country.

“Case after case demonstrates the devastating impact of the punitive way in which Universal Credit has been introduced.”

Meanwhile, addressing a meeting of Holyrood’s committee conveners, Ms Sturgeon said the roll-out was “an unfolding disaster, that is bringing and will continue to bring misery to an awful lot of families across the country”.

She stressed her concerns about UK ministers’ plans for a “transitional protection” scheme, aimed at ensuring existing claimants do not lose money when they are transferred onto the new benefit.

She said: “We’ve got real concerns about the process for migration and transition in particular.

“I honestly can’t stress strongly enough how concerned I am about Universal Credit.

“Glasgow is obviously about to go through the full roll-out, and the impact of this on already vulnerable people is going to be severe.

“I think the sooner this whole system gets stopped in its tracks, the better.”

A spokeswoman for the Department for Work and Pensions said: “Universal Credit replaces an out-of-date, complex benefits system with cliff edges that often trapped people in unemployment.

“Under UC, evidence shows people are moving into work faster and staying in work longer.

“We brought in improvements which include increasing advances to 100%, removing the seven-day waiting period and paying people’s Housing Benefit for two weeks while they wait for the first UC payment.”

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