Remember when the new Work and Pensions secretary, Stephen Crabb, wrote on his Facebook page, “A decision was taken by MPs to change the benefit awarded to a specific group of people who receive Employment Support Allowance. These people are in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) and they do have a disability or illness but are able to work”?
You should – This Blog only reported it yesterday (March 21).
Later that same day we found out about Sir Alan Haselhurst, who justified his decision to support the ESA cut for people in the Work-Related Activity Group (WRAG) with this: “It’s motivated by the desire to get more people back into work who are capable of doing some form of work. We should be making a more active effort to make sure that there’s something they are able to do.”
Since then, Johnny Mercer’s name has been added to this list. He’s the MP for Plymouth Moor View, apparently. Also Andrew Griffiths, MP for Burton and Uttoxeter. These are all Conservatives.
Today it occurred to This Writer – and others on the social media – that the correlation between these two comments is not likely to be coincidence.
It is as if Conservative MPs were given a briefing in which they were told people in the WRAG were able to work.
If so, it is an outrage.
It would be contempt of Parliament on a level that puts Mike Ashley to shame – deliberately misleading MPs, not just on a point of information, but with an intention that they would support a cut of nearly one-third to the income of some of the UK’s most vulnerable citizens.
Allow me to reiterate:
People on ESA are, by definition, not capable of work.
They aren’t on the benefit because their illness or disability is making it hard for them to find a job; they’re on it because they are too unwell to work. Many of them never return to work – because the mortality rate is three times the national average.
The rules are perfectly clear. Being in the WRAG means the claimant is expected to be well enough to work within a year of their claim starting – but it doesn’t mean they can work now.
If that was possible, they would be on Jobseeker’s Allowance, not ESA.
These facts are well known to everybody who works at the DWP – including the Tory Secretary of State who runs it (Iain Duncan Smith, at the time).
So, where did all these MPs get their information that people in the WRAG can work?
Were they briefed to this effect, by DWP ministers committing contempt of Parliament?
Or, worse still, did they simply not care and assumed it, because the group’s title includes the word ‘work’? This can only mean they never bothered to look into the facts of the matter and simply saw this as a chance to inflict grave suffering on the sick and disabled.
Those are the choices.
So let’s ask our Tory MPs – those of us who have one:
Did you cut ESA by a third because you were misinformed, or did you do it because you hate the sick and disabled?
And, if you were misinformed, will the culprits be prosecuted for contempt of Parliament and another vote taken – with the correct information made available to MPs?
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