Daily Archives: July 15, 2015

What’s the Commons speaker saying about the DWP?

150715bercow

Following on from the article earlier today, Debbie Abrahams was not able to put her question about the deaths of sickness benefit claimants to the Prime Minister – but she did make a point of order, and the response from Speaker John Bercow was… interesting.

The Oldham East and Saddleworth MP told the Commons: “Three weeks ago today, the Prime Minister promised to publish data on the number of people in receipt of employment and support allowance and incapacity benefit who had died since November 2011, including those who had been found fit for work. Indeed, I raised it as a point of order on the same day.

“To date, nothing has been published. These people who died – and their families – deserve better than this. As we are approaching the summer recess, I will be very grateful if you can advise me on how I might expedite the publication of these data — on actual deaths and not just mortality rates as the Government have proposed” [Bolding mine].

Now look at the response: “The short answer to the hon. Lady, whose long-standing interest in this subject is well known, is that she must use the device of questioning, and there are further opportunities for questioning of various sorts between now and when we rise for the summer recess.

“If that method does not suit her, for whatever reason—and sometimes it has to be done more than once, even several times—there will be the opportunity, of course, to offer thoughts in the summer Adjournment debate, though I accept that she might not elicit a substantive reply from the responsible Minister.”

What? Did John Bercow just admit that the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions is likely to dodge an important question, put to him in the House of Commons on behalf of the citizens of the UK?

Yes he did!

In that case, as far as the electorate is concerned, what is the point of Iain Duncan Smith?

Mr Bercow continued: “Use of the Order Paper and of the various opportunities for oral questioning—she will know that there are a number of different options on that front—would be her best course, and I advise her to try to take it.”

Then Ms Abrahams interrupted, to point out that she has already put her questions “several times” in the manners described.

“As I have sometimes had cause to observe, repetition is not a novel phenomenon in the House of Commons, and sometimes a Member who has done something several times simply has to resolve to do it again and again—and there will be such opportunities for the hon. Lady on that matter and for other Members on matters that concern them,” said Mr Bercow.

Was he saying that questions which Ministers are required to answer are being ignored?

Yes he was!

This is not the behaviour of a responsible government – or government department.

Debbie Abrahams deserves better, and so do the rest of us.

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Release the Death Statistics on Benefit Cuts to Show Their Full Impact | Maggie Zolobajluk

Please follow the link to the Huffington Post article by Maggie Zolobajluk (with a little assistance from This Writer).

Undoubtedly most – if not all – of you have already signed the petition on Change.org (and if not, why not?) but the tribunal on the DWP’s appeal against providing the benefit-related death statistics is unlikely to take place until late September or early October and it is important to keep this issue in the public eye until then.

Following last week’s budget announcement of £12billion in benefit cuts, how many people will die as a result? Dramatic as it may sound, there is already solid evidence that deaths directly correlate to the harsh family benefits caps like those the government plans to introduce. But that evidence is being hushed up. And you can help it become public by signing the petition I’ve set up on Change.org, which appeals for its release.

I’m asking Iain Duncan Smith to stop blocking the publication of these death statistics from the past four years, which reveal how many people have died within six weeks of their benefits being stopped.

Source: Release the Death Statistics on Benefit Cuts to Show Their Full Impact | Maggie Zolobajluk

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NHS funding to come from insurance and user charges, says unelected health minister

Keep the NHS public: These demonstrators don't want the NHS to be funded by private means. They want a publicly-run service, catering for everyone, regardless of their means to pay.

Keep the NHS public: These demonstrators don’t want the NHS to be funded by private means. They want a publicly-run service, catering for everyone, regardless of their means to pay.

A junior health minister in the House of Lords has called for an independent inquiry into ways of changing the way the National Health Service is funded, away from taxation and towards insurance and user charges.

It’s the Conservative Party’s dream come true – but you probably missed it because it was announced very quietly last Thursday (July 9) in a House of Lords debate on the “sustainability” of the NHS, by the unelected Tory Government’s Under-Secretary of State for NHS Productivity, Lord David Prior. One suspects he may have overstepped his job description.

The gist of the debate is presented in this Open Democracy post. Basically, Tory Lords called for “a plurality of funding” to make the NHS sustainable. Rather than taxing the rich (who can afford to pay), they want to tax the sick (who can’t).

Astonishingly, Labour peers didn’t have a lot to say against the idea. Pro-privatisation Lord Warner (why is he Labour, if he’s pro-privatisation?) said: “A wise Government should begin now the process of helping the public engage in a discourse about future funding of the NHS.”

Prior, summing up, said that, although he preferred a tax-funded NHS, “if demand for healthcare outstrips growth in the economy for a prolonged period, of course that premise has to be questioned.”

He called for an independent inquiry on healthcare funding – perhaps to be carried out by the King’s Fund or Nuffield Trust – ignoring the fact that the King’s Fund’s Barker Review has rejected user charges and called for more taxes to pay for healthcare, through a review of inheritance tax and national insurance increases – which George Osborne has recently cut.

This plan, coupled with the recently-announced possibility of social security becoming based on private insurance, would pronounce the death sentence on the Welfare State.

The Open Democracy article asks: “Are we being nudged towards an inefficient, unfair ‘pay NHS’ in the only way possible – undemocratically?”

It seems so.

Let’s nip this one in the bud.

Back in 2011, David Cameron told the world: “We will not be moving towards an insurance scheme, we will not introduce an American-style private system. In this country, we have this most wonderful, precious institution and idea. That whenever you’re ill, however rich you are, you can walk into a hospital or surgery and get treated for free. No questions asked. No cash asked. I will never put that at risk.”

It seems that now would be an excellent time to contact your MP (via the Write To Them website if you like), reminding them of Cameron’s words.

Then – as a Vox Political reader suggested in a comment to the Facebook page, point out that an unelected junior health minister, Lord Prior, has suggested to Parliament that he plans to launch an inquiry to consider whether we should move away from a tax-funded NHS, towards one funded by insurance and co-payments.

Finally ask if it is now official government policy to consider such a move to an insurance or user-fee funded NHS, away from the core principles that have been in place since the 1940s.

Don’t forget to ask all your friends to do the same.

This government only listens if enough people raise their voices.

Let’s give David Cameron and his ministers a reason to prick up their ears.

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Another mention in Parliament for Vox Political’s campaign on benefit-related deaths

Debbie Abrahams in the House of Commons.

Debbie Abrahams in the House of Commons.

Following on from the launch of an Early Day Motion, earlier this week, to force the Conservative Government into publishing the number of incapacity benefit and employment and support allowance claimants who have died since November 2011, it seems it will be mentioned again in the House of Commons today (Wednesday).

Debbie Abrahams, who raised a point of order about the fact that Iain Duncan Smith misled MPs over the existence of the information (he said the DWP doesn’t collect it, which is not true), has contacted me to say that she is hoping to raise the delay in publishing this data during Prime Minister’s Questions.

If not, she will raise a point of order.

Note: Those of you who have criticised This Writer for reacting harshly to Mhairi Black’s maiden speech yesterday, in which it seems she stole certain ideas from an article on This Blog earlier in the week, are encouraged to take note of this.

Ms Abrahams has contacted me, out of courtesy, to let me know what she is doing.

If you are among those who think I should be flattered to have my ideas mentioned in Parliament, isn’t it a shame Ms Black couldn’t do the same?

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