Scotland politics

Smith Commission 'dropped welfare proposals'

smith commission report Image copyright Smith commission

Plans to give Holyrood more extensive welfare powers appear to have been struck out of the Smith Commission's report in the final days of negotiations.

The BBC has seen a draft of the Commission's recommendations which included devolving the power to vary Universal Credit.

The draft was from 11:00 on Tuesday.

The proposal did not make it into the final version, although some other welfare provisions survived.

Some benefits, including Disability Living Allowance, Attendance Allowance and Carer's Allowance, are to be devolved under the Smith proposals.

Key elements

MSPs will also have the power to create new benefits and top up others, if the proposals are implemented.

But the draft version of the Commission's report from Tuesday morning was more radical.

It included devolving the power to vary all the key elements of Universal Credit, which supporters believe would have enabled Holyrood to design its own welfare system.

Only the power to vary the housing element made it into the final report.

This will allow MSPs to cancel the under occupancy charge, which has been dubbed the "bedroom tax" by its critics.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption John Swinney wanted greater devolution of welfare but Annabel Goldie said Universal Credit could not be unpicked

Universal Credit is replacing six benefits including Jobseeker's Allowance, Housing Benefit and Income Support as well as Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit and Employment and Support Allowance.

The Conservative MSP, Annabel Goldie, said Universal Credit would operate universally across the UK and "couldn't be unpicked".

But the Deputy First Minister, John Swinney, said it was clear there was scope to devolve a "great deal more flexibility" on welfare.

But Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie called on the SNP to work with other parties to deliver the Smith package on more powers instead of criticising it.

He added: "The agreement creates a Scottish welfare system for the first time. This is bold. All sides of the debate signed up to this package. We need to see all the parties help deliver this historic agreement, not pick it apart. "

UK cabinet

The draft recommendations included a paragraph which said: "The Scottish Parliament will have the power to vary the personal allowance, the carer element, the child element, including the disabled child addition, the childcare costs element, the limited capability for work and work-related element and work allowance of UC".

Tuesday's draft also made reference to devolving "Child Benefit & Guardian's Allowance and Maternity Allowance" and "the operations of Jobcentre Plus in Scotland, including the responsibility for designing and implementing the policies it applies".

These recommendations appear to have been removed on the day the UK cabinet was briefed on the Smith Commission.

It is understood that concerns were raised around the Cabinet table about a range of the proposals under consideration.

But a UK government source said he would be "surprised" if this had any substantial impact on the Smith Commission agreement.

Meanwhile, Labour leader Ed Miliband repeated his pledge to implement the Smith Commission's recommendations as he addressed an audience of Labour supporters in Glasgow on Friday morning.

Mr Miliband said: "A vow was signed during the referendum campaign. It was sealed by the votes of the Scottish people. It was delivered by the Smith Commission.

"It has been signed. It has been sealed. It has been delivered. Elect a Labour Government in May and we will implement the Smith Commission in our first Queen's Speech. This is my promise to the people of Scotland."

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