GIL SLAMS WELFARE BILL

Gil Paterson the SNP candidate for the Clydebank and Milngavie constituency as his victory is announced at the count in Clydebank during the Scottish Parliamentary Elections. Friday, May 6 2011.(Photo/Chris Clark) ? Chris Clark
Gil Paterson the SNP candidate for the Clydebank and Milngavie constituency as his victory is announced at the count in Clydebank during the Scottish Parliamentary Elections. Friday, May 6 2011.(Photo/Chris Clark) ? Chris Clark

MSP Gil Paterson has criticised the UK Government over its Welfare Reform Bill which could ‘effectively evict’ those on incapacity benefit.

Milngavie’s man in Holyrood slammed his Westminster counterparts who reserve the right to legislate on welfare policy.

The Welfare Reform Bill is part of the Coalition Government’s wholesale overhaul of the benefit system.

Among other revisions, the proposed Bill could see disabled people on incapacity housing benefits subject to a review on under-occupancy.

Those deemed to be living in a home too big for them could then be moved out at the behest of the Department of Work and Pensions.

Mr Paterson spoke out during a debate in the Scottish Parliament where he branded the Westminster plans as ‘callous policy’ and questioned its fiscal prudence.

He also aired his fears that the new legislation will hit the most vulnerable people in East Dunbartonshire who could face unnecessary upheaval.

Mr Paterson said: “Given the current jobs climate and a very poor housing stock, I am extremely concerned about how the housing benefit changes will impact on disabled people in East Dunbartonshire.

“Does anyone have any research evidence on potential cost savings or additional costs from moving disabled people from one property to another? Who will pick up the tab for this?

“We must take into account that local authorities have been funded to provide adaptations for disabled people over a number of years.”

The UK government believe the Welfare Reform Bill, due to come into effect in 2013, will save £7billion from the National Budget and encourage those currently on benefits to get back into work.

However, Mr Paterson argues that the measures could spread among disabled people who are not in a position to secure employment.

He added: “This ill thought out and callous policy would be a disaster. We are not talking about workshy people — we are talking about people who are physically incapable of working.

“I have asked the UK ministers concerned to come up with a proper costing analysis and clearly constructed plan to enable me to understand it further.”

Inclusion Scotland, an organisation fighting to safeguard the rights of disabled people, warned the welfare changes could cost disabled Scots more £500million.

However, the reform proposals have been supported by MSP David McLetchie, former leader of the Scottish Conservatives.

Mr McLetchie claims only such a large-scale reassessment could counteract the legacy of ‘entrenched poverty’ inherited from a ‘profligate’ Labour administration.

He said: “The Welfare Reform Bill has at its core the key principle that work should always pay and that individual responsibility should be at the heart of our benefit system.”