Employment and Support Allowance for people in the Work-Related Activity Group of the sickness benefit Employment and Support Allowance is to be cut by £30 per week, after the Conservative Government invoked their favourite trick to dodge the democratic process.
After the punitive – and counter-productive – measure was kicked back to the Commons by disgusted members of the House of Lords, the Tories realised they don’t have a good argument for it.
So they pushed it through on grounds of “financial privilege” instead.
According to the Parliament.uk website, “Financial privilege refers to the special right of the House of Commons to decide public taxes and public spending. It may be used by the Commons as grounds for overruling any House of Lords proposal that has cost implications.”
This is now the Conservative Government’s ‘go-to’ procedure for pushing through its most evil schemes – and believe This Writer, the plan to cut ESA is evil.
The benefit was intended to provide more money to the sick and disabled than to fit people who are unemployed because people with illnesses have to pay more money, simply to carry on existing; their costs are greater.
The Tory rationale for cutting it back to the level of JSA is to encourage claimants to go out and seek work – a misreading of the situation that can only be interpreted as intentional.
Be under no illusions – this change will kill people.
It will push people with illnesses and disabilities into poverty and debt, with no way out because employers do not want to take on people with extra needs, who may demand costly adaptations in the workplace.
And when the sick and disabled go into debt, seeing no way out, they do what most of us consider to be the unthinkable – as discussed previously.
It will be an expansion of the “chequebook euthanasia” that the Tories already practise at work capability assessments for ESA and PIP (and previously for DLA).
Some Lords have spoken out against the Government. Lord Low of Dalston accused the government whips of “working overtime last Wednesday night in the House of Commons, going round handing out bribes and blandishments like there was no tomorrow”.
And 11-time Paralympic gold-medallist Lady Tanni Grey-Thompson said: “As a Chamber appointed because of our expertise in areas such as this, we know and understand the impact this Bill will have, even if no formal impact assessment was carried out. 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.
“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.”
MPs were asked if they wanted to overrule the Lords’ latest bid to block the change to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).
They did, voting 309-274 to send the the cut back to the Lords for a third time.
Labour was whipped to oppose the cuts and the Tories were whipped in favour, which means the vast majority of MPs followed the party line.
All 309 pro-cuts votes came from the Tories. Not one MP from any other party supported ESA cuts.
At least one of the Tories turned up to vote wearing a full dinner suit.
Another 16 Tories including David Cameron abstained, and three rebelled to vote no.
From Labour, 204 MPs voted against the cuts and 26 abstained. None voted in favour.
The SNP voted 54 against with two abstentions, and the Lib Dems were 6 against with 2 abstentions – Norman Lamb and Nick Clegg.
The Northern Irish SDLP and DUP voted either against or not at all.
Ukip’s Douglas Carswell did not vote and the Greens’ Caroline Lucas voted against.
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