In a virtually-empty House of Commons, a handful of MPs stood up to oppose the cheap-work conservatives on the front bench, with a Labour Whip instructing party MPs to let the workfare bill pass, and cheat thousands of the poorest people in the UK out of the money the courts had ruled they were due.
The lonely Opposition in the House of Commons this afternoon:
Is it not the reality that this is a multi-billion pound failed flagship scheme, which was condemned by the Public Affairs Committee as extremely poor? Having lost a case and fearing that they will lose the appeal, the Government, instead of respecting our justice system, are abusing our emergency procedures to fix the consequences of losing? Does that show not a shocking disrespect both for our courts and for the principle that workers should be paid the minimum wage?
Read Seven Reasons Why You Should Stop Bitching About People On Benefits. Today’s debate – from Tory, LibDem, and Labour – was for the most part just bitching about people on benefits, who – sanctioned unlawfully of the money they were due – might be so impertinent as to want the money taken away from them unlawfully given back.
The idea that a day’s work deserves a day’s pay has become an ideal for radicals.
The idea that Labour ought to be the party of the left, standing in opposition against cheap-work conservatives, has … just gone, for a clear majority of Labour MPs.
A universal welfare state is the essential bedrock of a civilised country. A civilised country ensures that no one goes without healthcare because they can’t afford it, no one is treated as if worthless because they cannot work, and that anyone who loses their job needn’t fear destitution for themselves or for their family if they don’t find another job instantly. A civilised country ensures that no one needs to work when they are too young or too old or too disabled or too ill. This is not a system that can be replaced by random acts of charity: to become civilised, we pay taxes and national insurance and we all benefit.
Iain Duncan Smith became Secretary of State for Work and Pensions in May 2010 – a role he has held ever since, despite efforts by David Cameron to unseat him in the 2012 reshuffle. He has virtually no further-education qualifications and spent several months on the dole after leaving the Scots Guards in the recession of 1981. But the next year he married a very wealthy woman, the daughter of a very wealthy man, and he and his wife and four children still live in a house rented from his father-in-law on his wife’s father’s estate: he became an MP in 1992, inheriting Norman Tebbit’s safe constituency of Chingford. Whatever Iain Duncan Smith’s experience of unemployment thirty-two years ago, it’s safe to say that in thirty years he hasn’t had money worries – except when he became Leader of the Opposition and it was discovered he’d given his wife one of those plum “assistant” jobs which used to be a bonus for the spouse or child of an MP.
The court declared that the Department of Work & Pension’s workfare scheme was unlawful, because it was not being operated as described.
Iain Duncan Smith, Chris Grayling, Mark Hoban, Esther McVey – every Minister involved has claimed that there is no question of JSA claimants being forced to work for commercial organisations against their will by having their benefits sanctioned if they refuse a placement.
This was evidently not true – many people sent on workfare said it was not true, though only Cait Reilly and Jamieson Wilson so far have been brave enough to take the DWP to court.
The court decision yesterday proved the Ministerial and DWP claims untrue and therefore unlawful, and yet the Department of Work and Pensions claim they won (and also said they were going to ignore the court’s decision to deny them leave to appeal).
Another question that should be asked is: can it be shown that Iain Duncan Smith, Chris Grayling, Mark Hoban, or Esther McVey, have misled Parliament in giving evidence that has now been proved untrue?
So if the court found what they were doing to be unlawful, how could they have “won”? [As we find out in March: because they intend to pass legislation to make their unlawful actions retrospectively lawful.]
Things that will happen in 2013:
The Conservatives say:
We’re interested in what your[sic] think about benefits. That’s why we’re asking you whether or not you support two fundamental principles upon which our welfare policies are founded – many will say they don’t but many will also be in favour. Your responses will tell us what the majority think.
Go to their website, respond appropriately to their two leading questions (my answers were Yes and Yes because they so obviously want the answers No and No) and tell them what you think (300 characters maximum) in their open question:
- How do you think we could make the benefits system fairer?
Mandate a living wage: end workfare & other anti-employment practices: build enough council houses for everyone to have somewhere to live: fund welfare programmes to support the unemployed, disabled, and ill – the basic infrastructure of a civilised state.
On 31st October, funding for my post at a charity where I had worked for eight years came to an end: I was facing redundancy.
In my last week at work, I went to have my hair cut. (This is a good plan before job interviews: plus, it made me feel better.) I told the hairdresser who was cutting my hair that I was being made redundant, and she pointed out “Well, you can always get temp work in the Christmas rush!” which was an excellent point (and it was a good haircut, too).
At least, I thought it was an excellent point. But there’s not necessarily going to be much paid temp work on offer this year:
High street names such as Tesco, Argos and Superdrug have taken on young people who work for free for six weeks while claiming their benefits.
And critics fear staff at Jobcentres are under pressure to put more people into the programmes – when they could have been given jobs – to meet strict Government targets.
Under Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith’s back-to-work programme, young people do up to 30 hours’ unpaid work a week. Placements can last up to eight weeks and they only receive travel expenses in addition to their £53-a-week jobseekers’ allowance.
If you’re a couple whose annual income is £125,000 a year after tax, even if you have five children (three more than Iain Duncan Smith will allow a low-income family, one more than he has himself), you’re richer than 95% of the UK population.
If you have the kind of money that lets you spend £125,000 on one meal, you’re one of the super-rich. In the class war, you’ve won. Ben Spalding has a victory feast for you:
Costing £125,000 for four people, or £31,250 per person, the menu for what will be the world’s most expensive Christmas dinner menu has been devised by London chef Ben Spalding, who has completed residencies at restaurants including The Fat Duck in Bray, Gordon Ramsay’s Royal Hospital Road and Per Se in New York.
In 2011, analysts at Credit Suisse found that 29,000 people globally – nearly all of them men – own net assets worth more than $100m. As Chrystia Freeland, author of Plutocrats and former editor of the Financial Times, discovered in researching her book about the global super-rich, they are different and they are almost all men, and if they are married
these women are managing the households of their wealthy husbands – often a complex task – and pursuing philanthropic ventures. Not many are doing a job of their own despite being highly-educated themselves. In 2005, according to the book, just over a quarter of taxpayers in the top 0.1pc had a working spouse. Continue reading
Today, people who are sick or disabled become eligible for mandatory workfare placements.
Mark Hoban, Minister for Employment, says that forcing people to work for no pay is “a very good way to increase someone’s confidence” and claimed that
“People on sickness benefits who do all they can to improve their chances of moving back into a job have nothing to worry about.
“They will get their benefits and we will do all we can to help. But in the small number of cases where people refuse to stick to their part of the bargain, it’s only right there are consequences.”
The consequences are an open-ended sanction – benefits-cut – for someone who, from the perspective of the Work Programme, has been declared fit for work but refuses to do a “work placement”. The open-ended period during which a “fit for work” client must do without benefits will end when “the claimant meets the requirements” – agrees to go work for their benefits, but the open-ended sanction is followed by “a short fixed period of 1, 2 or 4 weeks”.
So for the first week (or first four weeks) of the unpaid and indefinite work placement, the client will still have their benefits cut. After they’ve worked for a week or more for no money, they can get their benefits back – assuming they’re still alive.
Government departments and their ministers, reshuffled
We’re in a recession heading for a depression, and George Osborne is Chancellor of the Exchequer. Osborne believes that the right thing to do when the economy is failing is to cut government spending and to make large numbers of people unemployed. Even economists who thought this theoretically might work realise it’s long since proved to be not working (Martin Wolf of the Financial Times was recommending in May that the government announce a change of plan): Nobel Prize winning economists Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz, turn out – strangely enough – to know more about the economy than a man whose main qualification for being Chancellor is that he was in the Bullingdon Club with David Cameron.
Yet Osborne is set to continue cutting till May 2015. And short of revolution, we can’t get rid of him.