It seems like forever since our attempt to get a judicial review over PIP and the fraudulent consultation. Well, that attempt has come to fruition at last. The case against the DWP will be heard in Birmingham on the 9th and 10th of July.
This specific case is about the decision to slash support from those who can walk less than fifty metres, to only those who can walk less than twenty. The drastic reduction in the eligible distance means that some 500,000 people will be left without support even though they can walk less than 50m without some kind of assistance. This change has been made purely to cut costs, as was admitted by the DWP in their response when we forced them to re-open their consultation.
It has actually been quite difficult to bring a case against an opponent that can change the rules to suit its own agenda however the court has agreed to hear arguments surrounding the consultation and the fact that the DWP did not mention the slashing of support until after the consultation was complete.
I will provide more details here on the specific arguments we will make as soon as I can clear them with my solicitor.
Even if you don’t believe that it is wrong to send people to work unpaid for large profit-making companies under threat of loss of benefits, the idea that the government can change the law in the past should terrify you. Human rights law includes the idea that a person cannot be punished for something that was not illegal until after the act, although no doubt the department of work and pensions will claim that sanctions that remove benefit are not punishment despite the name “sanctions”. A government that will change the law in the past at will is a government that is out of control and has no limits on the damage that it can do.
“The Government considers that Article 6 is not engaged at all since the claim to entitlement to benefit, and any dispute regarding a benefit decision thereon which would require access to the courts, remains hypothetical.”
Strangely, despite considering article 6, the right to a fair trial, the government don’t even mention article 7, which guarantees rights against retroactive punishment. They could try to argue, as quoted above, that entitlement to benefit is hypothetical and therefore sanctions are withdrawal not punishment.
It is an affront to democracy and justice too to rush a bill through in one day so as to apply it without proper scrutiny before any appeal reaches the court and the government required to repay those who were subject to illegal sanctions.
To change the law for the future is one thing, but to try to reverse a lawful decision by the court against the government for the sake of £130 million, a drop in the ocean for welfare, looks like a childish hissy fit by the work and pensions secretary. His action undermines the rule of law and destroys what little respect people may have left for MPs.
The government rushed through the second reading, committee stage (no ammendments) and third reading in one afternoon. The final vote passed the bill by 263 to 52. Labour’s official policy was to abstain, although about forty Labour MPs voted against it. There were some very impassioned speeches in particular from Iain Lavery and John McDonnell who even recommended looking at the Boycott Workfare website.I have uploaded videos of those speeches and included them here. They’re worth a watch.
The Sunday Express has reported that Iain Duncan Smith claimed disabled staff “sit around drinking coffee all day” and said that former Remploy staff should “get a proper job”. The Express continues:
In a tirade campaigners later branded “unbelievable arrogance”, he stormed: “Is it a kindness to stick people in some factory where they are not doing any work at all? Just making cups of coffee?
“I promise you this is better. Taking this decision was a balance between how much do I want to spend keeping a number of people in Remploy factories not producing stuff versus getting people into proper jobs.”
To be honest, IDS’s hateful words don’t surprise me much. He seems to think that disabled people are lazy, or that their jobs at Remploy are somehow fake because they are subsidised. How he can think this when Remploy produce all sorts of things including DWP computer systems, I don’t know.
If IDS represents the mythical “Compassionate Conservative” then I don’t think he has a very good idea of what compassion actually is. His concepts of how poor, sick or disabled people live and what their motivations are is rooted in the security of a privileged wealthy background and is entirely detached from reality. Most people who receive benefits don’t want to be dependant on them. They would much rather have a job, with their own earned income, free from the stigma and the interference by the state and able to make their own choices. The staff at Remploy are not somehow faking their jobs and lazing around making coffee, they have real jobs producing real products and services.
It’s not as though there are jobs for the taking anyway, even those who are not disabled cannot find work. There are millions of unemployed people who don’t have prejudice against their disability keeping them out of most of the jobs that are available anyway.
Iain Duncan Smith has no excuse for his words. His background may have led to his disablist prejudist views but he has lived long enough and been told often enough to know that his views are wrong. When even the Express can see that what he has said is wrong and offensive, Iain Duncan Smith should resign and apologise.