Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Another crucial Day for Welfare Reform

Today, Peers will return to the House of Lords to debate the Welfare Reform Bill.
As you know, the Commons rejected all amendments out of hand, using Financial Privilege as the reason. After much investigation, it would seem that the "rejected out of hand" bit is the crucial point, not so much the use of financial privilege.

Yesterday, we sent the following briefing to peers, laying out the constitutional, conventional and fiscal implications. You can see it here. Feel free to use all or any part. http://twitdoc.com/view.asp?id=37254&sid=SQU&ext=PDF&lcl=Briefing-for-Peers-re-Welfare-Reform-Bill-14-February-2012.pdf&usr=LabourLordsUK&doc=81565766&key=key-pev0i5fiy6kml5w3qku

Today, peers will debate "Amendments in Lieu" of the original amendments peers voted through. You can see them here. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/bills/lbill/2010-2012/0126/amend/ml126-i.5-10.html With just a few hours to go, I'm not even going to try to "translate" them here. Protocol insists that new amendments are weaker than the originals or certainly not as costly. We do however appear to have a full house - every amendment we won has an alternative today and will face a vote. If anyone wants to have a go at clarifying the situation for others, please leave comments below. 

From my point of view, the amendments we won were already hopelessly modest. Watering down amendments that are already so limited will leave us with little to cheer. Nonetheless, this is the process we have and we appear to be at a stage where posturing is more symbolic than anything.

I believe the crucial thing today will be the tone of the debate. Just how concerned are peers by the effective neutering of the second chamber? Just how much do they want to assert themselves? How much do they really care about the amendments and the bill itself? How much do they care about us and what will happen to us? How much do they care about their own position as a revising chamber designed to scrutinise and improve legislation?

All of those questions will only be answered when the debate starts. The amendments may be weak, but how hard will peers fight for them? If there is a will to continue, to keep fighting, I believe we will be able to tell today. Even weakened amendments must go back to the commons and another bout of arrogant dismissal may be the final straw.

What would I say to Peers today if I had the chance? I would remind them of

"The awful daring of a moment's surrender
Which an age of prudence can never retract…" TS Elliott

We have reached a tipping point, a moment in time which will mark us - all of us involved - forever. The good work of generations may be undone. The safeguards and dignities sick and disabled people have fought so hard for hang in the balance. For all the arguments for and against this bill, the Government have not convinced. They have not won the argument. They have simply used their majority to get their own way. This is no way to run democracy, no way to design policy.

The utter determination of the coalition to deny any fault with this bill should concern us all. If experts, charities, disabled groups, campaigners, academics, researchers and sick and disabled people themselves can have no impact, no say, then we can trample on any group or all. We can ignore reason, ignore evidence and push that insistence to the point of harm.

At some point we must say "enough". At some point, we have to accept that we have a broken system, broken procedures and that "majority rule" is not enough. If we have no checks and balances, no way to influence outcomes or mitigate harm, then the Commons is effectively a dictatorship - once elected free to wreak havoc wherever they see fit. Nothing in a manifesto, no hint of things to come, just a majority, cobbled together to deny process.

I beg - yes beg at this stage - any peer concerned by either the bill itself or the increasing irrelevance of the second chamber to attend the debate today. To stand for democracy, to defend the "minority". Please attend and vote with your consciences not the party line.

If not today, then when? If not over this most social of bills then when? If not to protect the "most vulnerable" then when?




**As ever, you can watch the session from about 2.30pm in the Lords here : http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Main/Player.aspx?meetingId=10091

The Crossbenchers and Liberal Democrats will again be crucial to any votes, so if you would like to help, then last minute appeals to attend the debate and vote might be helpful. 


35 comments:

  1. Acceptance of this bill will mean the Lords accept they can only make amendments that are so ineffective as to be meaningless, making their participation meaningless itself. If they're going to put up with nonsense like this they might as well stop bothering to turn up. Any time they make a genuine difference they'll be overuled. Either they fight and they win or it's the end of even any pretence of democracy.

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  2. I'm so not religious, but here's something for us all:

    If I am not for myself, who will be for me?
    If I am for myself only, what am I?
    If not now, when?

    Hillel was #spartacus - I hope that today, the Lords will be too.

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    1. I'm not religious either, but certainly a person of faith, and don't give a bugger if people think less of me for it. Following has gone to the Bishops;

      My Lord Bishops,
      I have addressed you previously concerning the Welfare Reform Bill and was delighted to see the strength of support that was gained in the Lords in challenging this pernicious piece of wickedness.

      On its return, the issue is not just about the bill itself but concerns the purpose of The House of Lords itself. As the commons appears determined to force through this legislation, it cannot but bring into question the existence of the Lords as a secondary chamber of legislature. Jeff King of UCLA has written a brief and concise paper on 'mission creep' in the commons use of the financial privilege, which I would commend for your consideration, which may be accessed via the link below. Members must consider that legislation of significance will invariably have financial implication even though its matter be social and if the Lords is to maintain meaning then it must stand against the misuse of the commons privilege at the earliest opportunity, to prevent precedence becoming policy.

      I have over Christmas passed, studied the autobiography and writings of a former Bishop of Durham and been taken aback by the similarity of issues he was engaged with in the nineteen-twenties, and our current social stress. A staunch defender of establishment for forty-four years of ordained ministry, in 1930 he publicly announced that he could no longer defend that position. This was no easy thing for him to do, I believe, but his courage in doing so is admirable and reminds all who profess faith that there comes a time when we have to counted not just numerically in the division, but reckoned against the debits of our failure to speak for those who have no voice.

      "Whether disestablishment by consent be attainable or not, the establishment as it now exists is morally discredited beyond recovery. It cannot permanently continue. If, indeed, the Church of England were, under whatever self-deluding pretences, , to acquiesce in such bondage to Parliament as now we know to be integral to its established position, that church might continue to be, in the astonishing description of the Archbishop of York, ' utterly, completely, provokingly, adorably English,' but it would have ceased forever to be either recognisably Catholic or adequately Christian."

      Bishop of Durham, Herbert Hensley Henson, Address to the English Church Union, 3rd July 1930

      Yours faithfully,

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  3. I will, again, email a selection of the Lords. But I have a feeling that they - and perhaps I - have given up. This Government is an evil force, bulldozing all before it. And we have no democracy anymore - I think recent events have proved that.

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  4. I found this website about the future of the British society and the nasty plans of the government on welfare, housing, health, social services and disability (they try to stop welfare by 2020 - and we can see it on the changes from IB to ESA SG, from ESA SG to ESA WRAG, from ESA WRAG to JSA...) Using the media to turn the people against us like we are parasites, slowly slowly they have managed to make everyone agree on the welfare reforms and limit our benefits/ livelihood. It is shocking to realise the politics behind - it is not about cutting the deficit. It is pure eugenics and discrimination just like the Nazis did.

    www.cpexposed.com

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  5. cpexposed.com are not your friends - it is the work of fascist crank Brian Gerrish, who would happily see your benefits stopped faster than you can say knife. Steer clear.

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  6. Those who would push through such reforms, to take us back to a Dickensian society, would do well to read Orwell's Down and Out in London and Paris, plus the later Road to Wigan Pier.

    You push people until they have nowhere to turn. Except, that is, a radical turn: Revolution.

    The disabled may-well not be able to visit Marie Antoinette's fate upon the once-percenters driving policies such as this, but by god! the rest of us will.

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  7. From my point of view DLA was the biggest issue in the long term.

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    1. Yeah fine but what about those who dont get that...has thier divide and rule ruse worked on you...seems so

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  8. I hope all these blogs and posts are printed on paper and lots of copies made. A physical record of this needs to be made as yes if this record can be wiped I'm sure it will be. Democracy must prevail.

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  9. What next? tent cites like the U.S.A? seems cameron wants the American way I say no way!!

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  10. Well said Sue we indeed have a broken system which is not a democracy.

    I have written to the UN. Might be worth us all doing so, the more e-mail they get the more someone may take notice. A long shot maybe but worth a try.

    Concerning the government's welfare reforms.

    It is possible that the government’s Welfare reforms are a violation of articles 8, 9, and 25 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights  and articles 19 and 28 of the United Nations  Convention of the Rights of Persons with disabilities , the first major human rights instrument of the 21st century.

    There may be other contraventions, I am no expert on the matter.

    Also the government's enforced work schemes, Work experience programmes, are in violation of the UK's own human rights act Human Rights Act 1998 Article 4 . “Prohibition of slavery and forced labour. 2)No one shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labour.” The Human Rights Act 1998 is an Act of Parliament of the United Kingdom. Its aim is to "give further effect" in UK law to the rights contained in the European Convention on Human Rights.

    Besides this being an outrage of in justice to young people even if they are not disabled, this could very well apply to sick and disabled people who end up of JSA.

    I wrote a few days ago and received a reply, which was delayed as it turned up in my spam box, so do check there if you decide to write and you do not get a reply.

    The first e-mail address I included here a few days ago was incorrect . In the reply, they gave me a link to more information and a different e-mail address to send your enquiry.

    I was referred to the experts at the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities for an answer to my questions: Please visit

    http://www.ohchr.org/en/hrbodies/crpd/pages/crpdindex.aspx 

    and address  email: crpd@ohchr.org


    Hope I have not confused anyone. Today I have a headache and it is going to be a difficult day for me in one way or another and I simply cannot think straight to express myself too well in writing.

    The main point is the details I posted a few days ago are incorrect. Please write using the above e-mail address. I am not sure about a postal address as I am really not up to exploring the above in any detail today.

    Looking at the UN Disability webpage it does looks complex, these things always are aren't they, nevertheless it can't hurt to write. Don't be put off. The more people who write the better.

    It needs someone with more experience than me to write though.


    If I receive a reply I will let you know here. There is quite a bit of information on the webpage above about disability rights in two e-books which you can download.

    I have written a long letter detailing as much information about the reforms as I could including a file attachment of the Spartacus report and reports by the Citizens advice Bureau


    Christine

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    1. I too have emailed the UN and a week later i am still awaiting a reply...

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    2. I hope they at least reply, please let us know if they do. I intend to re-send if I have not received a reply in a couple of weeks or so. Failing that I will send a letter. I managed to find the postal address and other contact details:

      Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)
      Human Rights Treaties Division (HRTD)
      Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
      Palais Wilson - 52, rue des Pâquis
      CH-1201 Geneva (Switzerland)
      Mailing address
      UNOG-OHCHR
      CH-1211 Geneva 10 (Switzerland)
      Tel.: +41 22 917 97 03
      Fax: +41 22 917 90 08
      E-mail: "mailto:crpd@ohchr.org"
      Christine

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  11. Any avenue that can be taken to stop these changes is worth considering so its worth contacting the UN(I suppose)but if we are going down the US route as it appears, I assume some people will have contacted the UN from there about changes to welfare and sadly it does not seem to be making any difference to those affected in the US...

    I hope that I am wrong.

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    1. The US is in the process of forcing austerity measures on itself via the robber baron bankers but the populace just doesnt realise it yet but make no mistake it will get worse there soon.

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  12. epipsychidion8614 February 2012 14:03

    Thank you Sue, for all your efforts. They're always appreciated.

    I sent the following email to the crossbenchers: wish I'd had time to source a list of Lib Dem peers too, although I doubt it would have made much difference to them:

    "Dear Noble Member,

    I write with regard to the upcoming debate on the Welfare Reform Bill. I am sure that by now you know all about the substantive issues disabled and ill people, their families and their carers have with the Bill. We appreciate so much that the Lords fought for and won even the relatively modest amendments that came from the last reading. So I'm sure you can appreciate what a blow it was for the House of Commons to reject those amendments with an arrogant and unconstitutional appeal to financial privilege, while simultaneously telling genuinely ill and disabled people that their problems were a 'lifestyle choice'.

    I write simily to implore you to stand up against these tactics in whatever way you can. I appreciate your collective position, and that few if any fresh amendments to the Bill will be possible. But please do not let the government act this way - against those most vulnerable and least able to stand up for themselves - without making things difficult for them. Please don't let yourselves in the Lords be overruled and, frankly, bullied, on this of all issues. There are so many people to whom even a fight in the Lords would mean so much, and for whom capitulation would hurt so desperately.

    Thank you for reading this far. I hope you will understand why I have felt it necessary to write to you this afternoon.

    Yours faithfully..."

    It was all I could do not to quote Burke at the end: 'All that is needed for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing.'

    I just hope a fair number of peers will go into the chamber this afternoon as chained lions rather than tame mice...

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  13. I WISH the Lords have the guts to reject the Bill in its entirety, which they are entitled to do, that would send the most powerful message of all to the Commons that they do not rule all as they wish.

    I HOPE the Lords realise that if they don't stand their ground and send the message, then they have already surrendered to the 4th Reichs and they might as well all go home now, as nothing will then stop Herr Kameron (let's face it, he already is dangerously out of control)from doing as he wants when he wants.

    I FEAR that the Lords will just knuckle under, in that well-established British of "upper stiff lip" and "mustn't rock the boat".

    We shall see...

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  14. Please follow up on the UN thing. The UK government will be very embarrassed indeed if it is shown to be failing under the UN Convention.

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    1. You have to contact them too as the more who do the more chance we have of them listening.Under article 25 of the human rights convention we are being failed in that by camclegg and they must realise that....

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  15. Just wanted to add, that briefing is flipping fantastic. Assuming it gets read, it will make a difference.

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  16. David Cameron wont care what the lords say my friend the baroness campball agrees with me in fact she has always agreed with me

    She says where doomed yes doomed she does have five carers thou so she stands to lose a lot of money as she is being capped

    sue your plying the best shot and always have done the lords should be very proud of you in fact the whole country should be as every day stalled is a life saved somewhere and we need to remember that fact
    I myself will fight the DWP as i always have at a local level SO NOTHING NEW THEIR OVER THE PAST 31 YEARS

    Sure i could do with a break but that ain't going to happen so only way to pull the government down is in the courts just like anywhere else in the world on the charges brought against it by those who have died
    it's very simple and always has been

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  17. Way to go Sue, just saw you on the BBC, you done brilliantly - proud of you - Gracie x

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  18. Just watching The Fraudster now and he is one slippery flannel merchant.....

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  19. They are going to give in to govt pressure on it all and give in to all amendments more or less on a promise of a review of the wrb in the future.....

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  20. there's not enough foul and abusive words in the English language to describe Lord Fraud - watching him now on tv and sick of his voice and sick of his inane grin - what a fool

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  21. The govt ministers are now saying THEY will push through THIER plans anyway so what next...

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  22. I received my ESA50 form today. Part of me feels like putting it in the bin, for two reasons.
    1) This whole fiasco is making my health worse.
    2) After a year, I probably won't get any money anyway.

    This, after working for over 30 years, paying tax and NI. I had no choice but to pay NI, and now it seems I have little, or no, chance of getting it back.

    I am fortunate enough, in that my husband has a reasonably well paid job, and our home is safe. But I really do worry, for those who's homes may be taken from them. When will the workhouses come back I wonder? The encampments have already started in the U.S.

    England voted in a Dictatorship. God help us all.

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  23. It makes me wonder..looking at the twitter updates on here,just why schadenfraud gave up on whatever amendments he had done.What does he know that we dont and will it be ,as the above but one post says,that the govt just disregards the lords and pushed through everything they had planned anyway.

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  24. Have I missed something?

    Has anyone in the Lords or Commons challenged the actual figure that is bandied about that seemingly everyone is receiving £26,000+ annually on benefits? Has any statistic been issued showing an exact figure of how many do get that?
    Does this include(I suspect that it doesn't)people in work who still need to top up their income from various handouts from the DWP?

    People I talk to when I get the chance know that the information in the media and what the Government are putting out is way off the mark but it still doesn't stop it happening.

    Also, it has not been questoned that single people will not get the £26,000 cap because whereas families will get £500(singles will only get £350)but it still costs the same to switch on the heating or lights but there is less money coming in.

    They talk of people on JSA and various other benefits affecting disabled being cut and changed and I assume coming under the cap of £26,000. What happens to those who at present are getting perhaps Carer's allowence or Attendence allowence are they to be affected with the new rules?

    The only good thing I have heard today is that once again the Lord's said no the idea that you lose £10 off your housing benefit if a spare room is not being used.
    But we all know "Sunny Dave" will go on until this is passed alongside all the other changes he and IDS want to push through.

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  25. Adrian Wait: February 15th 2012

    We’re off the Beach… consider the first 20mins of the film Saving Private Ryan – Pinned down, taking one helluva beating, tasting the bitterness of possible defeat with the odds overwhelmingly against us – and their have been casualties, but slowly, so slowly we held our ground. The government threw in the Welfare Reform Bill another powerful and deadly opponent – thus asking more of us and seeking to divert and weaken our resolve. But we, the ‘little’ people steadfastly, stubbornly, angrily held on when there appeared to be nothing to hold on too. We’re off the beach, for a time we can breathe again However, as we know from the heroes of D-Day…that was just the beginning - but hopefully it is the beginning of the end… there are some vicious battles ahead, there will be guerrilla attacks there will be a misuse of power for the forces behind both the NHS Reform & the Welfare Reform Bill are among the most powerful lobbyists in the world – The American Health Insurance Companies and they have there quisling supporters here in our Parliament. Yet, this morning take a good look in the mirror for you are looking at a courageous person who with many, many other ‘little-people’ fought for democracy, fought for the voiceless, the powerless fought for the vulnerable (despite being vulnerable themselves) fought for a way of life this Parliament is prepared to sell. God Bless You and Your contribution – Today we can see a glimmer of democracy – it is not dead yet! But, we're off the damn beach.

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  26. Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond puts disability/welfare cuts as one of his top contentions on the independence agenda in talks with U.K.Prime Minister David Cameron.

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  27. Cameron would do well to remember the first law of the jungle, never corner a wounded animal!

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