Does anybody reading this still think the UK is a democracy?
I dare say most people are aware that the government, in the House of Commons, has reversed all seven amendments made by the Lords to the Welfare Reform Bill. This means the new benefits cap of £26,000, per family, will include Child Benefit.
The Bill will also:
- Require cancer patients to undergo a means test for Employment Support Allowance – if they fail, they have to look for work
- Reduce the lower rate of the ‘disabled child’ element of Child Tax Credits
- Means test other ESA claimants every year
- Stop young disabled people who have never worked from claiming ‘contributory’ ESA
- Impose ‘under-occupancy’ penalties on social tenants with one spare room
- Force single parents to face Child Support Agency charges, even if they have taken steps to reach a settlement
There is no mandate for these changes, or any of the other changes in the Welfare Reform Bill. The Conservative/Liberal Democrat Coalition does not have permission from the electorate to do this, because it was never part of either of their manifestos. This is undemocratic.
The House of Lords, in amending the Bill to prevent the measures I mention above, had been contacted by many people on benefits, and made their decision in the knowledge of the financial trauma it will cause if allowed to go ahead unchanged. This was the only opportunity the people affected by the Bill had to plead a case, and the government’s pig-headed refusal to pay attention (let’s call it a ‘not-listening’ exercise, in recognition of the sham that was carried out in respect of the Health and Social Care Bill, which is likely to cause even more harm to the honest people of the UK). The reversal in the Commons therefore flies in the face of the will of the people. This, too, is undemocratic.
Furthermore, the government has announced it will use a rule known as ‘financial privilege’ to prevent the Lords from sending the same amendments back to the Commons when they consider the Bill for the final time.
Now, Parliamentary convention has long stated that the Lords do not deliberate on “money” Bills, such as the Budget – but such legislation is never introduced to the Lords in the first place. As the Welfare Reform Bill was, there is a strong argument that this rule does not apply.
It is highly unusual for a government to introduce a Bill to Parliament with the intention of it being considered by both Houses, only for it to declare the Bill beyond the auspices of the Lords at this relative late stage in proceedings – and for this reason the whole process could end up in a judicial review.
In other words, for this to happen, it must normally be decided before a government is humiliated over its unsound policies – not after. This, again, is undemocratic.
Let’s not forget that the government falsified the results of its own consultation process about this bill. More than 90 per cent of those taking part opposed the changes in the bill but this was ignored in the report, which was intended to show that the public supported the change. It does not. This, yet again, is undemocratic.
This break with precedent could have further implications for other major government bills going through the Lords, including the Legal Aid and NHS Bills, both of which are highly controversial. Need I point out how undemocratic all of this is?
Finally, none of these measures are necessary. If the government taxed big businesses properly, instead of excusing them from paying the vast sums of money they owe, then there would be enough in the Treasury to keep benefits as they are and pay off some of the national debt. This is what the majority of the people in my country want and their refusal to do it is totally undemocratic.
If you’re not living in a democracy – and if you’re in the UK, you are definitely not living in a democracy any more – then you’re living in a dictatorship.
It is a dictatorship ruled by two parties that did not even gain a majority in the last General Election.
We have another three years of this agony, as matters stand at the moment.
All I can suggest right now is that we make our contempt for this arrogant cartel known at every opportunity. If any of the above makes you angry, make sure you’re on the electoral register and then get out and vote against them every chance you get.
There are elections in May. They’ll be a good place to start.