Today, at 12.30pm the welfare reform bill will return to the House of Commons.
Let's be very clear - it is a dangerous, incomplete bill based on flawed evidence and unpleasant ideals. It is vast and impenetrable - most of the ministers arguing for it have very little understanding of the detail within it. Yes, that's right, they don't understand the details or effects of their own policies.
The welfare reform bill will affect every one of us, not just the "feckless scroungers" the government have led you to believe. Child benefit will be cut, tax credits for "hard working families" will be cut, tax credits for disabled children, NI credits for disabled children, we will all eventually be transferred onto Universal Credit where both parents will be expected to be in full time work when their children reach the age of 12. Everyone will face sanctions.
Make no mistake - this bill fatally erodes the already inadequate social security provision we have in the UK. For all the big numbers the government like to toss around, we have the lowest levels of benefits and the toughest sanctions of any developed nation. This bill is the tipping point. People are going to die and we've done everything - and more - that we possible could to highlight the most dangerous areas.
The House of Lords is described as:
"A forum of expertise, making laws and providing scrutiny of Government"
And so we've found them to be. The Lords is packed full of ex-CEOs of charities, disabled members and those who have enjoyed full and varied careers before becoming peers. They analysed every line of this bill carefully and thoughtfully. They were concerned by the same areas that concerned campaigners and charities alike - the dangerous parts. In fact, they were concerned by many, many more aspects of this bill and only the most disgusting, pointless, cruel clauses have been overturned. Many amendments were argued for passionately yet withdrawn after reassurances from the minister.
And we are still left with a dangerous bill. It may just be slightly less dangerous than it was.
-What has been amended? Well, if you fall desperately ill, you will now have at least 2 years to recover instead of 1. Frankly, that's pathetic, you are just as likely to be ill with Parkinson's or MS after two years as you are after 1, but it's something. (Time Limiting contributory ESA)
-The most disabled children, who will never work will keep an entitlement to NI credits if the Lords amendments stand. This makes the difference between a degree of independence in adulthood or total dependency for the rest of their lives.
-Tax credits for disabled children would not be halved if the Lords amendments stand.
-Cancer patients would not have to look for work while suffering through chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
-Single parents would not be fined £100 to gain access to the Child Support Agency.
-Child benefit would be excluded from the Universal Credit benefit cap so that children are not penalised for the decisions of their parents.
Do you see how pathetically modest these changes are??? Can you believe we're even arguing about whether to send cancer patients to the jobcentre or not? Does that not tell you everything you need to know about this bill?
If even that doesn't convince you, then remember, the entire disabled community are united against this bill. Not just a few campaigners, but every national charity, every campaign group every church group, every poverty group, everyone who actually knows the details of it. They represent an electorate of millions and every MP going in to vote today will have received thousands of pleas not to overturn these amendments. The Government claim to be working with disabled people. They are not. They are meeting with disabled people, their groups and charities, and then ignoring them. Scope, Mind, Mencap, Macmillan, Sense, Papworth Trust, RNIB, The Disability Alliance, the Disability Benefits Consortium... the list goes on and on and on. No-one with any real knowledge supports this bill.
The crossbenchers in the Lords are not political. They heard the "evidence" presented by the government and they heard our evidence and overwhelmingly, on every issue that was overturned, they voted with us.
So what sickening arrogance is it that says "We don't care and we will do exactly what we like"? What kind of people believe that in a bill of over 175 pages there is no room for improvement at all? Most disgustingly, what kind of people look at the very modest changes above and believe that "We can't afford it" is a valid argument? Seriously? What kind of people? What kind of brains are so weak, so unimaginative, so mis-guided and dull that they cannot think of anywhere but cancer patients and profoundly disabled children to save a few pounds??? Should we not have looked everywhere else first? Should ministers not be refusing their bloody salaries before they take money from disabled children??
Yet today, the DWP expects Conservative and LibDem ministers to saunter into the house of commons, without having heard any of these arguments and vote as they are told to. To vote with a few misguided DWP ministers against the will of the entire sick and disabled community. Against sense, against reason, against safety. The painstaking work of 18 months of reasoned argument all undone in an afternoon - if they're lucky they might even get away for a quick 9 holes before supper!!!
It disgusts me.
This is not democracy, this is utter cowardice. This is not sane it is utter madness. This is not safe.
And so, as you might expect, I implore MPs to vote with their consciences. Not to follow the party whip but to think of loved ones who have suffered terrible illness and ask themselves if that loved one could certainly have returned to work within a year? To ask themselves whether or not they could look for work if they had a child so profoundly disabled that they needed 24 hour care? Do not inflict on us what you would not accept for yourselves or your families, please.
I promise you, now, today, that this bill will be an utter disaster. It is like watching a slow car crash. By the next election, hundreds of thousands of the most vulnerable people are going to be affected by it and the headlines will be unremitting. At the very least, those of you who vote to keep the Lord's amendments today will have gone some very small way to making it less of a disaster.
And those that don't? Well shame on you.