Election debate: Murphy accused of benefits ‘lie’

SCOTTISH Labour leader Jim Murphy has been accused by the Conservatives of peddling “an outright lie” about benefit sanctions for jobseekers.

The leaders at the Mansfield Traquair Centre in Edinburgh. Picture: PA
The leaders at the Mansfield Traquair Centre in Edinburgh. Picture: PA

Mr Murphy said there is a “deliberate policy” at the Jobcentre under the Conservatives to sanction benefit claimants no matter what they do.

He said one of his constituents was sanctioned “because he went for a job interview”, during a heated exchange with Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson in the final televised debate of the election campaign on BBC Scotland.

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SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon and Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie are also taking part in the debate.

Ms Davidson said that Mr Murphy is “peddling a falsehood that he knows is fictitious”.

She said: “I get quite angry in this debate that the other three people here say that we shouldn’t want to reduce our benefits bill, that we should want to leave people on benefits, not try and get them into work.

“With 174,000 more people in work, I don’t believe that no-one has potential. I don’t believe that anyone should be left on benefits.”

Mr Murphy said: “We have got to get the benefit bill under control, of course we do, but I don’t care that you are angry.

“I’m angry about the fact that under your government more and more people have had to go to foodbanks.

“I’m angry that your government, as a deliberate policy, has a target that no matter what your behaviour you will get sanctioned by the Jobcentre and won’t find out about it until you go to the hole in the wall to get your cash and find out that you have got no money.

“You then go to a high street money lender that you can’t afford, or you go to a foodbank when you can’t feed your kids.”

Ms Davidson said: “It’s not true - I have heard Jim use that line before.

“Now I love the cut and thrust of the debate, but I always try to be respectful and I always try to use parliamentary language so I am sorry that I am going to have to use unparliamentary language.

“That is an outright lie. It is a falsehood. It is made up. He is peddling a falsehood that he knows is fictitious.

“I went and checked when he first started talking about this before and it turns out it is utter nonsense.”

Mr Murphy said: “How dare you call me a liar? How dare you deal in that sort of way?

“Your government has sanctioned tens of thousands of Scots who are doing their best to find work.

“A man came to see me in my surgery who got his benefits stopped because he went for a job interview.”