SNP leader Ian Blackford and Tory Minister David Lidington whose row over Scottish pensions was interupted by Speaker John Bercow.
By Lizzie Healey
A debate on pensions for Scots descended into uproar in the House of Commons on Wednesday.
SNP leader Ian Blackford accused the London government of “sneaking through” a cut in pensions “that will leave through a cut in pension credit that will see some couples £7,000 a year worse off”.
The MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber said: “While the chaos of the UK Government’s shambolic Brexit negotiations has dominated the headlines, this Government have sneaked through a cut in pension credit that will see some couples up to £7,000 a year worse off.
“An estimated 300,000 more pensioners are now living in poverty than in 2012. Does the Minister agree that his Government need to change course and, instead of robbing pensioners, start supporting them?”
David Lidington, who was standing in for PM Theresa May, hit back: “I think that you are talking about the situation of mixed-age couples with one person over pensionable age and receiving a pension and the other of working age.
“What the Government have done—indeed, what this House voted for some years ago—is perfectly logical and in line with the intention of the benefits system.”
But Ian Blackford was not appeased in any way by that answer.
He said: “We certainly did not vote for that. What we have seen from this Government is that they continue to put their hands into the pockets of the poorest in our society.
“In fact, this Tory Government are allowing a proposal to take free TV licences from pensioners.
“It is this Conservative Government who are denying women born in the 1950s their full rights to state pensions.
“It is this Tory Government who preside over the lowest state pension in any developed country—quite shameful.
“Pensioner poverty is not a myth; it is a reality. With Scottish pensioners being short-changed by the UK Government, the Minister must agree that the only way to end pensioner poverty in Scotland is to put fairness back into our pension system and give older people the dignity that they deserve in retirement—for pension reform to be taken on by the Scottish Government in an independent Scotland, where we take our responsibilities seriously.”
Mr Lidington was not shy about coming forward with an answer, accusing the SNP leader of having “some nerve here.
“He knows that it is in the power of the Scottish Government, under devolution legislation, to top up social security benefits if they choose to do so.”
There was shouting and Mr Blackford was interrupted, necessitating Speaker John Bercow to intervene: “Order. There is a lot of wild gesticulation and very animated expressions, and people looking at me pleadingly. It is very difficult to hear what is being said. I was trying to listen to the erudition of the Minister, but there is too much noise—let’s hear the fella.”
Mr Lidington made a final, withering comment on the matter when he told MPs: “He [Mr Blackford] knows that he and his party have voted against this Government’s Budgets even though those Budgets have reduced tax upon the lowest-paid in every part of the United Kingdom.
“He knows that the budget set by the SNP in the Scottish Parliament last week has led to Scots being more highly taxed than people in any other part of the United Kingdom—and that in a year when the Scottish Government’s block grant as a result of the Chancellor’s Budget decisions was increased by £950 million.
“The SNP has squandered that Union dividend. The message that we get is that if you have an SNP Government, Scottish people pay more and get less.”