HC Deb 11 March 2003 vol 401 cc143-5
1. Mr. David Marshall (Glasgow, Shettleston)

What plans she has to meet the Scottish Executive to discuss the Scottish index of multiple deprivation report; and if she will make a statement. [101095]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mrs. Anne McGuire)

Both the Government and the Scottish Executive are committed to the fight against poverty. Publication of the index and other indicators reflects our determination to measure the impact of our policies and the progress achieved.

Mr. Marshall

I thank the Minister for her reply. Is she aware that 16 of the 20 most deprived areas in Scotland are in the city of Glasgow? Does she agree that the only way in which Glasgow's deprivation and poverty problems can be tackled successfully is if the United Kingdom Government and the Scottish Executive get together, agree that Glasgow is indeed a special case and allocate resources accordingly? Will she and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State do all that they can to ensure that that comes to pass?

Mrs. McGuire

There is a great deal of collective working in Glasgow through social inclusion partnerships and the better neighbourhood services fund. UK Departments contribute to, and are involved in, some aspects of that work. The Scottish Executive have certainly contributed to a city growth fund of £40 million for better neighbourhood services in Glasgow and, as I said, the social inclusion partnership. My hon. Friend may well have ideas about more collective and cohesive working, and I would certainly be pleased to discuss that with him afterwards with a view to giving information to UK Ministries and colleagues in the Scottish Executive.

Annabelle Ewing (Perth)

Can the Minister explain to the people of Scotland why, after nearly six years of a Labour Government in London and four years of a Labour Government in Edinburgh one in three children in Scotland are being brought up in poverty, and one in four of our pensioners are living in poverty?

Mrs. McGuire

That is rather a myopic question. The hon. Lady has failed to take into account the impact on poverty of the national minimum wage, the working families tax credit and children's credits. Before she bandies figures around in the House, she would do well to look at the actual figures on the proportion of Scottish children in low-income households which, using the absolute measure, fell by 21 per cent. in 2001–13 percentage points better than in 1997 and significantly better than it would be if we had to deal with a £4.5 billion hole in Scottish finances because we had divorced from the United Kingdom.

John Thurso (Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross)

The Minister will know that the income deprivation indices for the economy are largely made up of figures on benefit take-up, including working families tax credit. The Government have not released any figures, but is she aware that the Library estimates that approximately 100,000 people in Scotland who are eligible for working families tax credit have not taken up their entitlement? With the introduction of the new regime in three weeks, what will the Government do to ensure that that inadequate take-up is improved?

Mrs. McGuire

I share the hon. Gentleman's views on the importance of take-up. It is Government policy to try to encourage people to take up tax credits, and I encourage hon. Members to promote those tax credits, as they have access to local media and community groups, which could do much to promote the beneficial aspects of Government policy on which most of us in the House agree.

Mr. Ian Davidson (Glasgow, Pollok)

May I bring to the Minister's attention the concentration of poverty and deprivation in, Glasgow? While considerable cuts in unemployment in Glasgow have gone a great way towards alleviating deprivation, does she accept that there is a substantial need for additional funding for the city? Those of us who are city Members do not want to call for independence for Glasgow, but we want additional resources for the city, both from Westminster and the Scottish Executive. Does my hon. Friend agree that partnership working is undoubtedly the way forward in the city, but it must be fully funded and must involve elected representatives at all levels?

Mrs. McGuire

I agree that partnership working is important, and I am pleased that my hon. Friend also recognised the importance of the drop in unemployment and, by implication, all the measures that we put in place to alleviate poverty. In view of the fact that two of my colleagues from Glasgow have highlighted specific issues relating to the city, I would be delighted to meet them and discuss some of those issues further as we have only a short time this morning.

Sir Archy Kirkwood (Roxburgh and Berwickshire)

May I tell the Government that we welcome the fact that the indices are much better than they were? With those better figures, policy makers are better armed to deal with some of the problems. However, there are still problems concerning rurality, as some parts of the country face depopulation, which is not reflected in the indices as currently cast. If the Minister is generously offering to meet Members to discuss what, I accept, are real problems in Glasgow will she extend the favour to those of us who represent rural areas?

Mrs. McGuire

As a Member from a rural area, I offer to meet myself and any other rural Members who wish to meet me, in both capacities.

Mrs. Jacqui Lait (Beckenham)

As the hon. Lady has—rather plaintively, I thought—invited us to sell the child tax credit to our constituents, and as she has said that she is prepared to talk to UK Ministers, will she take up the issue of the simplification of means-tested benefits, so that the many people, including pensioners, who are entitled to them can find their way through the benefit forms and claim them?

Mrs. McGuire

The Government are constantly looking at ways in which to improve the form-filling involved, but the message that I am giving today is that I hope that hon. Members recognise that these benefits are of great value to our constituents and that they really ought to exercise just a little leadership in going out and making people aware of what they are entitled to.

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