What’s the Commons speaker saying about the DWP?


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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22 thoughts on “What’s the Commons speaker saying about the DWP?

  1. Nick Fourbanks

    Iain Duncan Smith will never admit to any wrong doing that must surely be for all to see by now
    The only time i feel he will cooperate is when he is in a wooden box

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Nah. He’ll probably be like one of those old-time aristocrats who led such a dissolute lifestyle that they tended to explode in their casket without even having the decency to be buried first.

  2. hstorm

    Equally, if Bercow is fully aware of the evasion and refuses to do anything about it, what’s the point of the Speaker?

      1. hstorm

        Yes, but the definition of order is very arbitrary. For instance, the Speaker is compelled to intervene every time an MP accuses another of lying, because the suggestion that a fellow ‘honourable member’ is behaving dishonourably s forbidden. (Hence the invention of the ridiculous phrase, “Economical with the truth.”)

        Is the accusation of lying, especially when it’s accurate, as in IDS’ case, really any more ‘disorderly’ than a guy wasting an hour of debating time dodging questions continuously?

    1. Florence

      Indeed what is the purpose of the HoC if the govt treat it with disdain, and pass unintelligible legislation then put through massive changes in “rules” without debate or vote?

      we are already being treated to one-party rule, when are we going to be told that the HoC is an expensive old system that needs to be “reformed” and “modernised”?

  3. dungareenjean

    Hi Mike – I think the speaker meant that if she were to raise the matter on the summer adjournment debate she probably wouldn’t get IDS or even a dwp minister replying since that occasion usually covers lots of topics and is answered by a fairly random government spokesperson. The second thing is that he may have been implying that she could use an urgent question to get an answer- I’m just wondering if that was what he meant by the “range of options for questioning” ? And that he might be sympathic to such a request? That was my first impression of what he said anyway but we’ll see I suppose…

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Debbie Abrahams has tabled an Urgent Question – and I certainly hope that Mr Bercow is sympathetic to the request.
      I took his comment about the chances of getting an answer from the DWP and its ministers to be a blanket statement about that department and the people who run it – Ms Abrahams’ response certainly seems to bear this out.
      I reckon those responsible for answering the question will do everything in their power to sidestep it for as long as they can.

      1. Tony Dean

        I contacted my MP, (new one Tory) about this issue a few weeks ago.
        Thus far he is the only MP, Government Minister, or Prime Minister over the last thirty years who has not answered a communication from me.
        I will give it a little more time and inform him of that fact personally and in the local press.

      2. Mike Sivier Post author

        Aren’t they duty-bound to reply to all correspondence from constituents?

      3. Tony Dean

        Mike, no they are NOT duty bound to reply to all constituents and there are many complaints about them not doing so especially in relation to complaints about disability medicals.

      4. Mike Sivier Post author

        That’s interesting.
        See, it’s hard to know what your rights are, most of the time. People are never given a handbook for UK citizenship but if they make a mistake they are told ignorance of the law is no excuse.

  4. Jeffery Davies

    Rtu ids the great cull of the stock yet how can you get these ministers to tell the truth has we know they killed this to yet mustn’t the opposition all stand together shaming them into this but sadly its way to many have we lost through this vile man and his partys abuse of those claiming any benefits jeff3

  5. David Woods

    As they did when asked about their expense fraud – they even went to court to try to hide that from us! The only time there has been ‘solidarity’ throughout Parliament.

    There’s also their cover up of Cyril Smith’s paedophile activities (how many more may still be ‘active’)! The ‘reputation’ of the ‘House’ being considered far more important than justice for their victims!

  6. Steve Grant

    John Bercow is basically a good speaker but is constrained by his office….Perhaps Ms Abrahams would achieve more by allowing the next leader of the Labour Party to challenge Cameron over this matter in Prime Ministers questions?

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      It’s a possibility, if we’re still having to push for it by then. She was hoping to get a question in yesterday but was overlooked.

  7. Chickenbutty

    That Noose is getting Tighter around Gormless Compulsive LIAR RTU’S neck i fully Belive in Karma I really Can’t see it ever being done for what it’s done..but He’ll get it in the next life..I doff my cap to you Michael

Comments are closed.