Borders MP rubbishes claim that universal credit is to blame for people foraging for food in bins

Hawick councillor Davie Paterson in a vennel off Howegate.
Hawick councillor Davie Paterson in a vennel off Howegate.

Borders MP John Lamont has launched a verbal broadside at a Hawick councillor over claims the rollout of universal credit could be forcing Teries to rake through bins for food.

Those claims were made by Hawick and Hermitage councillor Davie Paterson after a resident reported seeing people delving in bins for food at the town’s Howegate.

Borders MP John Lamont.

Borders MP John Lamont.

That assertion has been rubbished by Mr Lamont, MP for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk, however.

He said Mr Paterson had made the exact same claims three years ago, well before universal credit was introduced.

The Conservative MP has called on Mr Paterson, an independent, to apologise for his “unfounded claims” and for “trying to make a cheap political point”, adding: “Sadly, there have been cases of people begging or looking for discarded food long before universal credit existed, and any examples of this are deeply concerning.

“However, even by Mr Paterson’s standards, these comments are shoddy.

“Either he has conveniently forgotten that three years ago, he commented on exactly the same issue, or he is trying to make a cheap political point out of struggling Teries?

“As Mr Paterson himself said three years ago, help is available for people who are struggling.

“Anyone facing a delay to their universal credit payment is eligible to emergency payments, which can be fast-tracked to the same day in the most serious cases.

“The one thing I agree with Mr Paterson about is that any case of people raking through a bin is terrible.

“Rather than trying to make cheap political points out of other people’s plight, I’m focused on improving the lives of Teries who are struggling.

“That is why I support universal credit, because it will simplify the benefits system and make work pay.”

An unrepentant Mr Paterson responded: “I certainly don’t need any lectures from a Tory that is so out of touch with reality.

“Mr Lamont had his chance last week to vote against universal credit but refused.”