Today I watched the second reading of the Welfare Reform Bill in the House of Lords. The debate lasted more than seven hours; I was not able to follow all of it (After all, I’m not fit for work!) but I did manage to listen to most of it and also to tweet the key points that I heard, as did a few others. See the hashtag #wrb to catch up on that.
A few things of note:
- Of 55 speakers, only a handful gave their outright support for the bill.
- Nearly every speaker expressed concern about various aspects of the bill, ranging from mild caution up to wild predictions of doom.
- Many of the Lords and Ladies asked for parts of the bill to be significantly amended at the committee stage.
- Many of the speakers noted that they had received a large amount of lobbying, letters and emails concerned about the bill.
The bill sailed through the second reading but this was not unexpected. The next step for this bill is the committee stage. During this stage the Lords will examine every clause in the bill, examining issues raised during the debate and amending the bill where necessary. The committee stage normally starts at least two weeks after the second reading. After the committee stage the bill goes to the report stage and the third reading, so any objections have to be raised before the committee stage. I believe it is still worth contacting a lord in the next two weeks to register your objections.
Some points to raise include:
- The benefit cap which will badly affect children of large families.
- Under occupancy rules that will uproot families and remove people from support networks.
- The time-limiting of ESA which will leave many people without support before they are well enough to work.
- The arbitrary 20% reduction of the budget for PIP compared to DLA.
- The problems with the Work Capability Assessment, which definitely should not be replicated with PIP assessments.
- The unnecessary stress of testing some people repeatedly in spite of permanent or worsening health problems.
- The removal of the mobility component of DLA from people in care homes.
- The loss of the severe disability premium.
- Lots more, but I’m half dead and can’t remember! Please add your own points in the comments.
You can adopt a peer on this handy website which will help you pick someone and contact them. (After you have written a letter about the welfare reform bill, please also write something about the health and social care bill, which is what that website is really aimed at.)
You can follow the progress of the Welfare Reform Bill and sign up for email updates at the parliament website.
If you want to know more about how legislation passes through parliament, read all about that on the parliament website too.