Essential “How To” Guides to Tory Britain – No.2 – How to do “Welfare Reform” (not)

Today marks the second reading of this new Tory governments’ Welfare Reform and Work Bill. It is a pernicious piece of (prospective) legislation.

The Welfare Reform Act of 2012 contains a recurring phrase throughout, attached to most of the clauses within – to wit: the clauses can be subject to amendments as and when the Secretary of State chooses. Now, that was bad enough, as George “I-made-my-name-up-to-sound-posher”  Iain Duncan Smith could fiddle about with the rules to his stony hearts’ content…..but the new Bill goes much further, so much so that a separate Memorandum has been published to explain what powers have been “delegated” to the Secretary of State. Those delegated powers are not subject to any Parliamentary procedure.

Amongst many other delegated powers, IDS can change the level of the total benefit cap to whatever suits him; he can make it much less in different parts of the country if he chooses – in fact, he could set one level for one town and another for the town a few miles down the road. He can also fiddle about with how the cap is calculated – it will no longer be set with reference to average earnings, so he can reduce it to minimum earnings if he wants to. Or less.

Another – he is no longer required to meet child poverty targets as set in the Child Poverty Act 2010, and he can define child poverty any way he likes. Another – all registered providers of social housing must cut their rents by 1% a year, irrespective of rising costs for maintenance or new building.

These delegated powers are also applicable to: removal of the WRAG component of ESA, which will put many sick people into deeper poverty, ignoring the fact that even by DWP’s warped standards all those people are currently judged as incapable of work; removal of mortgage interest relief for homeowner claimants, often cheaper than the Housing Benefit they’d have to claim if they lost their homes, to be replaced with an interest-bearing loan; cutting child tax credits and Universal Credit child elements for more than two children after 2016…….and plenty more.

Harriet Harman has said that Labour will not oppose this Bill. Kate Green thinks that converting mortgage interest relief to a loan is a good thing. Rachel Reeves has yet to tell us what she thinks about removing essential benefits from people too sick to work. I wonder if they will accept their £7,000 a year pay rise? After all, it’s not much, is it? It’s only double what any WRAG claimant will get in a year when the new rules come in. I am pondering if they’ll also be happy to take their nice new retirement bonus of up to £50,000 (should they decide to leave their £74,000 PA jobs plus expenses). That would take care of 10 peoples’ Support Group payments for a year.

This Bill will pass. It will become law. Sick people will suffer even more than they do now. Child poverty will increase more than it has already. Working people will lose more than they did before. There will be more evictions, more homelessness, more hunger, more food bank use – and more untoward deaths due to sick people being unable to afford what they need to recover or live with a life-limiting illness, working parents unable to pay their rent or buy decent food for themselves and their children, and all over the UK people who need any support from this vicious and spiteful administration can expect to be told that a new benefit cap applies to them and it is a lot less than they need.

“£20 Billion in cuts in the last Parliament” says Cameron. Yeah, Dave, and just £2 Billion saved. “The WRAG component is a perverse incentive” says Osborne. Yeah, Gideon, rendering the sick destitute will make ’em work, won’t it? IDS pumps his fists in joyous celebration of the new National Living Wage – an unedifying spectacle that made me cringe with embarrassment – knowing too well that it is effectively no more than NMW in real terms and is actually a lot less than it needs to be when the cuts to everything else are accounted for.

Cut the desperately needed support to our poorest and most vulnerable. Cut £12 Billion off the budget, make savings of nil, and kill people. Jolly good. But continue with Universal Credit, costing £16 Billion at the last count; continue with the worse-than-doing-nothing Work Programme so providers can buy castles, and waste another £7 Billion. Give Maximus £18 Million a week to attempt to deny benefits that get restored after appeals costing £60 million a year. Yep, we can afford all that, but we can’t afford food for our sick or our children.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is how NOT to do “welfare” reform.

This Bill and its’ Memorandum is a free pass for IDS to do what the fuck he likes. This Bill will leave many people, already living lives of quiet desperation behind closed doors in homes they can no longer afford, in very serious trouble and coroners will be reporting more suicides attributable to benefit cuts. These are the sort of people that the media chooses to ignore in favour of unsympathetic characters they can manufacture outrage about, the scroungers who are actually as rare as rocking-horse shit and who are totally unrepresentative of the vast majority of people who have no option other than to ask for support that they have paid for and are now finding that their insurance fund will not pay out.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is what Labour will not oppose. The job of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition is to oppose – and they won’t do it. The truth is that they are afraid of upsetting the electorate, they are afraid of the media, they are afraid of standing up to Tory hegemony even though Cameron’s working majority is so small that a concerted effort could block this Bill.

It took a 20-year-old new SNP MP, Mhairi Black, with little experience in politics and no experience in Parliament, to say what Labour should have been saying. A young woman, whose peers will not be supported by this government whether in work or not, shamed the rest of the Commons by saying what needed to be said and calling for a united opposition to this nasty mendacious government.

Shame on Cameron, Osborne, IDS, and their henchmen. Shame on Reeves, Green, Harman, Field, and Labour for failing to do what we pay them for.

Shame on them all,

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12 thoughts on “Essential “How To” Guides to Tory Britain – No.2 – How to do “Welfare Reform” (not)”

  1. I’m aware that it’s poor form to comment on my own blogpost, But I don’t care.

    Today we have found out precisely what Labour intends to do about this Bill.

    Harman, having been torn a new one by the PLP following a backbenchers’ submission of a Reasoned Amendment, has now been forced to table that amendment. If it passes, there will be some debate; if it doesn’t, there may be no further readings of the Bill and it could pass anyway.

    Burnham has decided to inform us that he will “fight, line by line” the contents of the Bill. In committee. Just in committee. Not in the House, not in public, not with passion or conviction or both. In effing committee. If the Bill gets to a third reading (unlikely) and he is Leader (not looking good) he will fight it. Otherwise, he’ll abstain.

    Cooper’s people have said she is “clearly opposed” to the Bill. Fabulous. So may we look forward to her impassioned speeches in the debate? Can we expect her to demand her party fights the Bill? Er, no. She will not, her aides inform us, brief on how she thinks the party she hopes to lead should vote.

    These two have now ben sitting on the fence for so long they’ve got splinters in their arses. Kendall’s just an arse.

    What they are doing is playing Parliamentary Procedural Poker with people’s lives. They are too scared to back the Bill, they are too scared not to back the Bill, they are scared of the media, and they are scared full stop.
    This is playing right into the hands of the Tories, who will mercilessly – and rightly, for once in their pampered existences – show the Labour leadership front-runners, Corbyn excepted, for what they are. Cowards.

    I am deeply unimpressed.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. With equal respect, A –
        It is my understanding that a reasoned amendment is not fully opposing a bill, it’s changing the words of the main question (not all the detail) and allows the members supporting it to give reasons why they oppose a second or third reading. If there is not sufficient support for it, as with the reasoned amendment proposed by some Labour MPs (but not supported by the party as a whole) or if the Speaker chooses not to have it read, it’s a waste of time in some respects.
        I agree that the nuts and bolts of the wording of the legislation will be thrashed out in committee – but it is my opinion that a gesture to signal opposition to Tory “welfare reform” would have gone a long way to inspire a bit of confidence in the leadership contenders that there would be at least more than token resistance to it. In allowing Harman to fudge and fart about, Burnham has, with her, done exactly the opposite of what was intended – ie. maintain party unity.
        As a result, Burnham has lost some credibility; if he’s not careful, Corbyn will romp home (not that I’d mind)
        I daresay it would have passed anyway – but a sterling opportunity to at least try to give the Tories a bloody nose was missed, IMHO. I suspect we won;t agree on this!
        Osborne, as ever, has been very cunning in that the bill’s wording would ensure that being against a bad thing would mean you are also against a good thing in the same clause. Cheap tricks, but effective.
        Thank you for the link.
        I picked it up on FTN and have had my say. As always with these “consultations” I expect it will not be acknowledged, but a girl can dream……

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  2. Really pleased that you have a blog -and the blog template is delightfully spare and a joy to read for those of us who have sight difficulties. Your comments on theguardian are full of facts and informative -and not short on astutely bring up sharpish those who fall foul of the truth. So thanks for writing good stuff here and allowing comments.
    Yes, many people are rightly very frightened of what is coming and with no one standing up for claimants, feeling isolated and abandoned as well. What I find very chilling is the Memorandum to the Bill; completely unable to manage his own department, the thought of him having carte blanche to impose that level of mismanagement on claimants lives is horrifying.
    In addition to preparing to literally setting the dog on disabled claimants, I am also stunned that the current government is going ahead with further and deeper cuts -after the UN review regarding the level of benefits to UK claimants. I don’t suppose that the UN has any teeth to sink into the issue, but I am aware that the government will have to reply to some of their criticisms by the middle of next year. I wonder if the rise in NMW was in preparation of making a case for justification of past, current and future cuts.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your comment, Sally.

      This blog isn’t mine, as such – it was set up by The Grim Squeaker, who is the technical brains behind it and who chose the design. I agree that it’s easy to read in terms of the template…..maybe not so easy to read in terms of content!

      He has kindly given me a place to blog away on this subject; so I’m grateful for that.

      I suspect that the UN will not be able to stop any of this “reform”, but what it can do is make life uncomfortable for the government. The time it takes for the rapporteurs to investigate fully and report their findings is indicative of the care they take to get their facts right; so if they say that what’s happening is a contravention of human rights then their view will be respected.

      If the UN is not content with the governments’ response, there may not be much they can do on a practical basis; and whilst they can’t force a signatory to UN conventions to do anything, they can make it known internationally that a particular country’s government is in breach of the convention.

      IDS wouldn’t give a flying wotsit, obviously; but it looks bad, and is embarrassing.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Eph-they agree with aspects of the reform,indeed Osborne nicked part of it from them.As I have said before both possible Governing parties are in a sort of collusion of self deception,particularly as regards sickness/disability/caring .Note the amendment on the exemption of carers in the cap-ONLY if not in the same house on the basis it will be “harder to work”-they are not even expected to seek work of course.I am a,Labour Party member but they certainly do not represent my view in this area.Not a left/right distinction.The most progression was made by Alf Morris,very much on the Right of the Party.

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