28 Jan 2009

John Mason, the MP for Glasgow East and the SNP’s Work & Pensions spokesman, has contributed to a key parliamentary debate on the UK Government’s Welfare Reform Bill. Speaking yesterday (27 January) during an evening debate the East End MP said that, while he shared some of the Government’s objectives, he thought that the midst of a recession was the wrong time to launch a reform of the welfare system.

Speaking during the debate, Mr Mason referred to his visit to Parkhead Jobcentre Plus earlier this month, saying:

“During the recess, I spent a morning in a Jobcentre Plus in my constituency. I sat in on a couple of interviews, and I saw folk who were really desperate to get back to work. The question…however, is: are the jobs actually out there? This seems a strange time to introduce this legislation.”

Mr Mason went on to say that, while it is important to address the situation where some members of the younger generation have never known their parents to have a job, he has reservations about plans to cut benefits for some of those considered to be refusing work.

Speaking about the potential impact on jobseekers families, the Scottish National Party MP said:

“My particular concern is for children…in the system. I have already asked Ministers whether…dependent children will be taken into account before sanctions are enforced. Figures from the United States suggest that, when sanctions have been imposed, 60 per cent. of the children involved are at a higher risk of being underweight.”

Mr Mason called for the Government to look at making employment more attractive by considering an increase in the minimum wage. He then concluded by referring to the commitment that he made to Glasgow East on being sworn in as an MP.

“I promised my constituents that I would judge issues at Westminster by how they affected the gap between the rich and the poor in society. Now we are entering a recession, yet we see top bankers, who have virtually destroyed their banks and half the economy of this country…Those bankers are walking away with knighthoods and handsome pensions, and are perhaps even getting other good jobs as well. By contrast, we see people at the bottom of our society being squeezed more and more. I just think that there is something wrong with that.”