A disabled peer has launched a furious attack on MPs, after he was forced to admit defeat in the battle to prevent the government cutting out-of-work disability benefits for tens of thousands of claimants by £1, 500 a year.The decision, which will mean a loss of about £30 a week for new employment and support allowance (ESA) claimants placed in the work-related activity group (WRAG) from April 2017, has angered disabled peers, disabled activists, and disability organisations.The government measure was described this week by campaigners and peers as “drastic and without justification”, “harsh”, “dreadful”, “punitive” and “counter-productive”.MPs had twice blocked attempts by peers to throw out or delay the cuts, but the Lords finally had to admit defeat this week because parliamentary convention means MPs have the final say on matters that have financial implications for the government.Lord [Colin] Low (pictured during the debate), who has led attempts in the Lords to defeat the WRAG measure, said: “The Commons have spoken decisively and we must bow to their wishes, but we do so under protest.“Do not let anyone kid you that this is democracy in action. There is more to democracy than just being elected.”He said the House of Lords was “much more democratic” than the Commons because it was more representative of the population, more accessible, more open and more responsive.He said: “Organisations representing the needs of poor and dispossessed people find it much easier to get their point across and have it taken on board in the House of Lords than in the House of Commons.”And he said that Tory whips – whose job it is to enforce the government’s wishes among its MPs – had been “working overtime” before the measure was voted on last week, and he accused them of “handing out bribes and blandishments like there was no tomorrow”.Lord Low said he and his colleagues in the Lords had listened to disabled people, while the House of Commons had “preferred to listen to the government”, which failed to provide “any convincing reason” for their decision to cut WRAG payments.He said the WRAG cut was “emblematic of the way in which this Conservative government have chosen to treat disabled people”. He said: “The fact is that ministers are looking for large savings at the expense of the poorest and most vulnerable.“That was not made clear in the general election campaign; then, the prime minister said that disabled people would be protected.“By this action, the government have betrayed the trust of disabled people and they should not be surprised if they forfeit it for the rest of their time in office.”His fellow disabled crossbench peer, Baroness [Jane] Campbell, told her fellow peers: “The minister is asking us to have faith again today, but I hope and pray that we do not look back on this day as the moment when we pushed some of the most severely disabled people in Britain over the edge.”She said she found it “very difficult when the niceties of parliamentary protocol trump the lives of disabled people”.Baroness Campbell said that words had failed her last week when she heard the arguments made by ministers in favour of the WRAG cut.She said: “In my view, our arguments were pretty indisputable, especially with regard to the absence of evidence that cutting severely disabled people’s employment and support allowance would incentivise them to work.” A third disabled crossbencher, Baroness [Tanni] Grey-Thompson, said she was “deeply disappointed” at what had happened.She said: “I and others spent a great deal of time last week working through every possibility of tabling another amendment to send this dreadful and punitive part of the bill back to the other place.“Unfortunately, because of parliamentary procedure, that was not possible.”She added: “I apologise to the people affected by this bill that, at this point, we could not do any more.“This may be the end of the legislative process, but it is the start of the negative impact the bill will have on thousands of people’s lives.”Lord Freud, the welfare reform minister, paid tribute to the three disabled peers who he said had “argued so passionately against the changes that we are introducing”.He said their concerns would be “right at the forefront of our minds—certainly of my mind” as the government finalises its forthcoming white paper on employment support for disabled people.The bill has now cleared all of its parliamentary hurdles and only has to receive royal assent before it becomes law.After the debate, Disability Rights UK said in a blog that the cut was “drastic and without justification”, was “terrible news” for disabled people, and “will do nothing to incentivise employment – quite the opposite”, while the government was “profoundly wrong to make this harsh and counter-productive cut”.The charity added: “The risk that we are clearly facing is that from 2017, many disabled people will just be worse off – when already disabled people are so disproportionately affected by poverty.”
A note from the editor:Please consider making a voluntary financial contribution to support the work of DNS and allow it to continue producing independent, carefully-researched news stories that focus on the lives and rights of disabled people and their user-led organisations. Please do not contribute if you cannot afford to do so, and please note that DNS is not a charity. It is run and owned by disabled journalist John Pring and has been from its launch in April 2009. Thank you for anything you can do to support the work of DNS… The government is facing calls to halt the progress of its mental capacity bill through parliament because of its “shocking” failure to consult any disabled people’s organisations about the controversial legislation, in a clear breach of the UN disability convention.The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has admitted in a freedom of information response that it failed to consult any organisations led by disabled people while drawing up its mental capacity (amendment) bill.Instead, it resorted to discussions with big charities like Mencap and Sense, which are run and controlled by non-disabled people, a clear breach of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).It released the list of organisations it consulted in a freedom of information response to the disabled people’s organisation (DPO) Inclusion London.But DHSC this week admitted that it believed – wrongly – that consulting non-user-led charities like Mencap and Sense on disability-related legislation meant that it was complying with the convention.Inclusion London said it was “extremely disappointed but unfortunately not surprised” by the department’s “continued apparent inability to understand the difference” between disability charities and DPOs. And it said it was “outraged” by the failure to consult any DPOs about the bill “despite repeated requests from organisations of people with learning difficulties and self-advocacy groups”, while Inclusion London said the government had also failed to publish any accessible, easy read information about the bill.Inclusion London called on the government to halt the passage of the “hugely important bill” until it had carried out a “meaningful consultation” with DPOs.And it called on the government to take its duties under the convention seriously and start engaging directly with DPOs “as required by the UNCRPD”.Tracey Lazard (pictured), chief executive of Inclusion London, said the government appeared to be “deliberately and persistently misunderstanding the very real difference” between DPOs and those charities “that are run and controlled by non-disabled people that do not represent us or reflect our lived experience”.She said the evidence pointed to the government “deliberately choosing not to consult or engage” with DPOs, and she added: “This is quite simply unacceptable and goes against everything the UNCRPD stands for.”She said: “In any other circumstances there would be an outcry if a bill that focuses on a specific community then excludes that community from having any information, knowledge or say over that bill.”But she said this now appeared to be “standard government practice” where disabled people were concerned.Last week, DNS reported how more than 100,000 people had signed a petition – drawn up by a network of DPOs, including Inclusion London – demanding the government make major changes to the bill because of fears that it would make it easier for many disabled people to be deprived of their freedom.There are particular concerns about the powers that the bill – which will affect an estimated 300,000 people in England and Wales with impairments including dementia, learning difficulties and brain injuries – will grant care home managers, local authorities and NHS organisations.Some amendments to the bill have been made in the last few days, but they have not satisfied the concerns of disabled campaigners. The bill began its report stage in the Lords yesterday (Wednesday).The timing of DHSC’s admission is particularly embarrassing for the government, coming just days after a UN rapporteur delivered a stinging report on its efforts to address the extreme poverty experienced by disabled people and other disadvantaged groups.It is also little more than a year after the chair of a UN committee said the government’s cuts to social security and other support for disabled people had caused “a human catastrophe”.In the freedom of information response, DHSC listed 28 organisations that it consulted with about the bill between March 2017 and July 2018, including the General Medical Council, the Law Society, the National Autistic Society, Mencap, Sense, Rethink, the Care Providers Alliance, Age UK, the British Association of Social Workers and BUPA.It also said it consulted with representatives of local government, the social care sector and the NHS.But not one of the 28 organisations is led and controlled by disabled people.The UNCRPD makes it clear that, when developing laws and policies relating to disabled people, governments “must closely consult with and actively involve persons with disabilities, including children with disabilities, through their representative organizations”.It defines “representative organizations” as those that are “led, directed and governed by persons with disabilities”, a definition which the committee on the rights of persons with disabilities included in its “general comment number seven”, which was adopted in September.When Disability News Service (DNS) asked DHSC why it failed to consult any DPOs about the new legislation, and whether it accepted that this was a breach of the UN convention, a spokeswoman said there was no such breach “as we have consulted (and continue to consult) with ‘representative organisations’, as required”.She added: “The [UNCRPD] requires government to consult with ‘representative organisations’.“We have complied with this by consulting throughout the process with third sector organisations, such as Mencap and Sense, who represent disabled people and whose members have fed back their views.“We have also engaged directly with individuals with dementia and learning disabilities, and their carers, to ensure the bill delivers effective reform whilst strengthening safeguards.”When DNS pointed to the convention and general comment number seven, another DHSC spokeswoman declined to change the comment, and said: “We consider that we have complied with the convention by consulting throughout the process with third sector organisations, such as Mencap and Sense, who represent disabled people and whose members have fed back their views.”DHSC also says the bill is based on proposals from the Law Commission, which itself carried out four years of engagement with service-users, local government and service-providers.
The Andrew Marr ShowJeremy Corbyn refused to say that Labour would table a motion of no confidence in the government on Tuesday night or Wednesday morning, but said it would be “soon”. The leader denied being against free movement, but did not say it would be kept under a Labour Brexit deal. He also confirmed that Labour winning an election would mean Article 50 extension. Corbyn said he would “rather get a negotiated deal” than hold another EU referendum. Finally, he defended John Bercow.On a vote of no confidence in the government: “We will table a motion of no confidence in the government at a time of our choosing. It’s going to be soon, don’t worry about that… We’ll have the vote and then we’ll see what happens.”On Labour’s Brexit policy in its next manifesto, Corbyn explained how the Clause V meeting (including the national executive, shadow cabinet, etc) that would be held to decide the position showed he is not a “dictator”.On whether Labour is campaigning to leave: “No… We’re campaigning for a country that is brought together by investment.”On free movement: “I’m not against the free movement of people. What I want to end is the undercutting of workers’ rights and conditions.” Later, he said free movement “would be open to negotiation”, but added: “Diane Abbott has made it very clear our migration policy will be based on the needs and rights of people to work in this country.”On EU citizens’ rights: “We would unilaterally legislate to guarantee them all permanent rights of residence in Britain.”On extending Article 50: “Clearly, if Theresa May’s deal is voted down, and clearly, if a general election takes place and a Labour government comes in… there would have to be time for those negotiations.”On another EU referendum: “My own view is that I would rather get a negotiated deal now, if we can, to stop the danger of a no deal exit from the European Union on the 29th March, which would be catastrophic.”On Speaker Bercow: “I think he’s a very good Speaker… The attacks on him are really unfair and unwarranted.” Jeremy Corbyn says Labour will do “everything we can to stop” a “catastrophic” no-deal #Brexithttps://t.co/vTuldmoEln #Marr pic.twitter.com/PjUG3VKvrG— BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) January 13, 2019Ridge on SundayJohn Mann, Labour MP for Bassetlaw and 2016 leave campaigner, confirmed he would be voting for May’s deal on Tuesday.On voting for May’s deal: “A day is long time in politics so things can change, but as it stands it is likely I will vote for the deal.”On ‘no deal’ and extending Article 50: “There is no such thing as no deal. The no deal option actually means thousands of deals into the future with the European Union. I think the mess and chaos and uncertainty that will cause negotiating all those thousands of deals is the worst option other than putting it off. The worst of anything would be delaying Article 50 for me.” Labour MP John Mann says that it is “likely” that he will support Theresa May’s Brexit deal, and says a number of Labour MPs will likely do the same #Ridge pic.twitter.com/sEOeoEn84x— Ridge on Sunday (@RidgeOnSunday) January 13, 2019Rebecca Long-Bailey, Labour MP for Salford and Eccles and Shadow Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Secretary, gave similar answers to Jeremy Corbyn on Marr.On Labour’s objections to May’s deal, Long-Bailey highlighted “the customs union backstop” instead of a “permanent customs union deal with a right for Britain to have a say in future trade deals”, the “extremely ambiguous” political declaration and the need for a “strong single market relationship”.On a vote of no confidence: “We’ll wait and see what happens on Tuesday and we’ll act at the appropriate time.”On whether Labour would campaign for Brexit in a general election: “Our current manifesto states that we respect the result of the referendum and we want a deal that puts our economy first. Now ultimately of course, when we go through the next manifesto making process, we’ll have those discussions within the Labour Party but that is our position.”On Barry Gardiner saying that Labour would hold another referendum after winning an election and negotiating a new deal: “That’s not official party policy at this stage.” Shadow Business Secretary @RLong_BaileyMP says Labour will call a confidence motion in the government “at the appropriate time”, but gives no clarity as to when that might be #Ridge pic.twitter.com/3DhaooEarh— Ridge on Sunday (@RidgeOnSunday) January 13, 2019Pienaar’s PoliticsSadiq Khan, London mayor, explained his reasons for backing a fresh EU referendum, but acknowledged that there are valid reasons for which Corbyn has been hesitant to give his support.On Labour supporting another referendum: “I’m hoping if the option of a general election is defeated in parliament, I’m hoping there is a public vote… It would be cathartic.”On Corbyn’s reluctance to back a ‘people’s vote’: “There is a good reason for that. Jeremy Corbyn, not unreasonably as leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition, wants to be the Prime Minister.” Audio Playerhttps://labourlist.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/PienaarsPolitics-20190113-BrexitBunfight.mp300:0000:0000:00Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume. Tags:Sadiq Khan /John Mann /Labour /Jeremy Corbyn /Rebecca Long-Bailey /Brexit /Pienaar’s politics /Ridge on Sunday /Sunday shows /
“THE Flying Springbok” Tom Van Vollenhoven flies in to England today from his home in South Africa as the special guest of the Club for the Grand Final and will personally present each Saints player with his Grand Final shirt at a private player gathering on Friday.Saints’ Chairman Eamonn McManus stated: “Tom has flown in with his wife Leonie as our special guests for the game. He will present each of our players individually with their match shirts.“He is one of the all-time rugby greats and Saints’ greatest ever winger. He knows what it is like to play in and to win big finals against Wigan and what it means to this Club and to its fans.“He is an absolute gentleman as well as the leading figure in our great history. It is magnificent that he’s with us again as we write our latest page.”‘Vol’ played rugby union for North Transvaal and the Springboks before attracting the attention of St Helens in 1957.He scored four tries for the Boks in seven appearances and that phenomenal strike-rate continued at the Saints.In 11 seasons he crossed 392 times in 408 appearances in a legendary career which is still talked about and revered today.