Bin the entire Welfare Reform Bill….
It is a sign of the poorly state of the House of Commons that last night it made the House of Lords look like a beacon of compassion and common sense. The Lords passed three amendments to the Welfare Reform Bill – reversing the bill’s plans to means test Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) for disabled people after a year, to time-limit ESA for those undergoing cancer treatment and to restrict access to ESA to young people with illness or disabilities.
The interesting thing about these measures is that they nail the central myth of the whole welfare reform agenda – namely, that these reforms are aimed at ‘helping people back into work.’ If that was the case, then you would be entitled to wonder why the government is cutting a lifeline for people who are actually in work but still need support. Furthermore, it should be obvious to anybody that cutting these kind of benefits is a disincentive to going to work, and therefore is completely counterproductive to achieving the governments stated aim.
We all know that helping people into work, helping and supporting people in general is not the aim of this government. It’s calculations on welfare reform are purely financial and so morally repugnant not even the Daily Telegraph can stomach them. However, unsurprisingly, Chris Grayling was totally unrepentant this morning and insisted the amendments made in the Lords would be overturned in the Commons.
Grayling said that the welfare state should be “focused on those with most need” – how he thinks cancer patients and the disabled are not in a large amount of need is actually beyond me. For ‘most need’ the reader should read ‘where the government thinks it can save the most cash’. In response, Labour has not, as reported, called for the withdrawal of the whole bill – instead Liam Byrne merely urged the government to drop those bits that the Lords amended out.
However, the whole bill should be withdrawn; these reforms have no moral or intellectual legitimacy and in continuing to pursue this the government is flying in the face of the “British decency” that Byrne mentions in his comments. Other issues, like the cap on housing benefit, which by the governments own admission could lead to as many as 20,000 being made homeless remain in-tact. Senseless elements like the ‘workfare’ programme also remain.
Last night the government lost any credibility in trying to continue with these reforms. We need to be stating clearly that they have to go back to the drawing board and entirely re-formulate all their proposals. The Welfare Reform Bill is the epitome of this governments barbarity and cruelty and the Lords deserve credit for playing their part in ripping the bill to pieces. Now we must make the case clearly and plainly that the entire agenda of welfare reform needs a radical re-think before it can even be considered, we should take the opportunity given to us by the Lords to oppose the entire bill and insist that the government go back to the drawing board.
Tags: Chris Graying
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