Tag Archives: constituent

While polls show huge Tory lead, this woman in Johnson’s constituency speaks for the people

Star: This Uxbridge constituent gave a frank opinion of her MP, Boris Johnson, that belies the polls. We can imagine that his response was as pictured. Is this really the man the people of the UK want leading them, as polls suggest?

A star is born.

The Guardian is reporting that Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party has a huge, 15-point lead over Labour. This would mean a large majority for a Johnson-led government after a general election.

But does it, really?

Here’s a lady who lives in Mr Johnson’s constituency – speaking for all of us:

Her description of Mr Johnson may be considered more apt than she knew, depending on how she meant it.

A “tow rag” (as it is properly spelt) is a description of a person one might describe as a low-life, scum, or a loser.

It was originally a British Royal Naval term, referring to a long piece of rope, either frayed at the end, or with a bit of rag tied to the end of it, permanently fixed to a ship, which was dangled into the sea, and therefore, towed, next to the wooden plank with a hole in it which was secured over the edge of the ship and used as a toilet.

After the sailor had finished his ablutions, he lifted the rope out of the water, and then wiped his rear end clean with the wet, frayed end of the rope, and when he finished wiping, the soiled end of the rope was dropped back into the sea to clean itself as it was towed along by the ship.

Now consider:

Mr Johnson has lied repeatedly to the nation.

He has told us that “no deal” Brexit is not what he wants, but has consistently voted against any deal in Parliament and is working hard to ensure that the UK crashes out of the EU without a deal.

If this happens, it has been alleged that hedge fund bosses who financed Mr Johnson’s Tory leadership campaign will make billions of pounds from betting on the value of the pound plummeting and inflation rocketing. Your money will lose its value.

He is keen to do a trade deal with Donald Trump’s United States, and is absolutely determined to strip you of your human rights, trash environmental protections and end restrictions that keep you safe in order to do so.

We may therefore suggest with some veracity that to the hedge fund bosses and Mr Trump, Mr Johnson is indeed their “tow rag”.

He is also an enemy of the people.

Nobody in their right mind would support him or his cronies.

Source: Poll shows Conservative party 15 points ahead of Labour | Politics | The Guardian

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Minister resigns over sexually explicit messages – is Westminster back to business as usual?

On his way to the backbenches: Andrew Griffiths.

After a week in which the Tory government was rocked by major cabinet resignations and a threat of more to come every day, due to Brexit, a Tory minister quitting after being exposed as a sex pest must be a return to normality.

The behaviour of Andrew Griffiths, which he appears to have admitted, is a reminder of the kind of attitude that relegated Michael Fallon and Damian Green to the backbenches last year.

He isn’t on the now-notorious Tory “sex spreadsheet” – the list of high-ranking Conservatives who were known to the party whips at the time, and who they could therefore control, using this information.

So it seems that list was not exhaustive and more ministerial misdemeanours of the sexual variety may be waiting to be exposed.

A government minister has resigned [as Minister for Small Business] following allegations that he sent two female constituents “depraved” sexual messages.

Andrew Griffiths, the Conservative MP for Burton and Uttoxeter, whose wife gave birth to their first child in April, said in a statement he was “deeply ashamed” and was “seeking professional help to ensure it never happens again”.

Griffiths, who once worked as Theresa May’s chief of staff, is accused of sending 2,000 messages including lewd comments to a 28-year-old barmaid and her friend on social media over a three-week period.

Source: Minister resigns after sending constituents explicit messages | Politics | The Guardian

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McVey’s callousness is exposed again – with support of jeering Tories

Skwawkbox is absolutely right to remind us all of the monster in charge of the Department for Work and Pensions at the moment.

We’ve had a spate of resignations from the Tory government and that may have taken our minds off the fact that there are threats to the lives of innocent and vulnerable people still on their front bench.

Calls for Ms McVey to resign were widespread last week, after she lied repeatedly to Parliament.

But a week is a long time in politics, and many members of the public may think that a resignation is enough, even though it isn’t the resignation that is needed.

It isn’t enough. That’s why we have to keep reminding the people that all the Tories have to go.

DWP Secretary Esther McVey appeared before MPs again yesterday – fresh from lying last week about her ‘apology’ for lying to them – to answer questions about her department’s disastrous Universal Credit system.

Labour’s Liam Byrne stood to talk about the chaos of Universal Credit in his Birmingham Hodge Hill constituency and told Ms McVey about one of his constituents so badly impacted by it that her family can’t afford food – or even socks for her children’s feet.

A situation of such agonising pathos must surely elicit a human response from even a hard-hearted Tory – even if only a token word. Right?

Wrong.

McVey made no reference at all to the poor woman or even her children – just a lame quip about Byrne’s note left for his successor after Labour lost the 2010 general election, while her equally callous colleagues jeered.

Source: Video: Byrne’s constituent can’t afford socks for her kids. McVey mocks as Tories jeer | The SKWAWKBOX

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Constituent’s ‘brawl’ over #Brexit with Theresa May

Theresa May [Image: The New European].


Louise Trethowan complained about Brexit to her local MP – Theresa May – and received an invitation to discuss the policy. But the subsequent encounter did not go quite as she expected.

This extract from her self-penned article in The New European is self-explanatory – and should alarm anybody who has put their trust in Mrs May.

To make a point about how narrow the referendum question was I produced a copy of the ballot paper. “Where on here does it say we were voting to reduce the number of EU citizens in the UK?” I asked.

“Well it doesn’t,” she replied. “But the government has reports that the level of immigration is a concern.” I asked for proof which she couldn’t provide.

I swiftly moved on producing an info-graphic showing that EU workers added more to the economy than they cost. She didn’t like this and I could feel her start to get agitated. The mood changed quite quickly – there was an added aggression.

She emphasised, not just strongly but crossly, that “the British people have voted for Brexit and the government is committed to making it happen”. Then she started pointing at my face across the narrow desk.

I was determined to carry on asking my questions and pressing her for answers so I showed her a pie chart with voting numbers showing that only 37% of the electorate voted for Brexit, which was not the majority of British people. She didn’t really have an answer for that in my opinion. She simply began to spout agreed media soundbites which say very little.

I emphasised my concerns about the increased costs of food and wine for my bistro following the fall in the value of the pound. She started talking about exports, but I replied that I couldn’t export our steak and frites. I needed assurances from the Prime Minister, “we will ensure a strong economy” was all she could say.

She did offer me some more spin though: “We’re going to get the best deal.” I replied: “That’s a hope, not an action.”

I gave the analogy that the Brexit “best deal” rhetoric was like me saying I want the “best holiday” without knowing where I was going, how much it would cost, how I’d get there or where I’d stay. Guess what? She replied that the government would not give details of their negotiations.

The meeting did not leave me feeling any better about the process – in fact I am far more concerned now. If the Prime Minister is so easily angered how on earth is she going to be the best negotiator for Brexit? I fear she will lose her temper and start jabbing her finger at people.

She seemed petulant, defensive, tired and rattled.

Source: My brawl over Brexit with Prime Minister, Theresa May – Top Stories – The New European

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These are the Labour MPs who ran away when their constituents needed them

MPs debate the Welfare Reform and Work Bill, July 20, 2015.

MPs debate the Welfare Reform and Work Bill, July 20, 2015.

This is a roll call of shame.

The Conservative Party has launched yet another attack on the poor, the disabled and the disadvantaged in the UK and – rather than stand up for those people – all but 48 members of the Parliamentary Labour Party just stood aside and let it happen.

Apologists for these so-called representatives say there will be time to oppose particular measures in the Welfare Reform and Work Bill during the Committee Stage, but they conveniently forget that it is easier to push objections through if one has not already stood aside to let the legislation reach that stage. In short: Nobody will take these objections seriously.

Here is the list of Labour MPs who betrayed their constituents:

Heidi Alexander
Rushanara Ali
Graham Allen
Jon Ashworth
Ian Austin
Adrian Bailey
Kevin Barron
Margaret Beckett
Hilary Benn
Luciana Berger
Clive Betts
Roberta Blackman-Woods
Tom Blenkinsop
Paul Blomfield
Ben Bradshaw
Kevin Brennan
Lyn Brown
Nick Brown
Chris Bryant
Karen Buck
Richard Burden
Andy Burnham
Liam Byrne
Ruth Cadbury
Alan Campbell
Ronnie Campbell
Sarah Champion
Jenny Chapman
Vernon Coaker
Ann Coffey
Julie Cooper
Rosie Cooper
Yvette Cooper
Jo Cox
Neil Coyle
David Crausby
Mary Creagh
Stella Creasy
Jon Cruddas
John Cryer
Judith Cummins
Alex Cunningham
Jim Cunningham
Nicholas Dakin
Simon Danczuk
Wayne David
Gloria De Piero
Stephen Doughty
Jim Dowd
Jack Dromey
Michael Dugher
Angela Eagle
Maria Eagle
Clive Efford
Julie Elliott
Louise Ellman
Bill Esterson
Chris Evans
Paul Farrelly
Frank Field
Jim Fitzpatrick
Rob Flello
Colleen Fletcher
Caroline Flint
Yvonne Fovargue
Vicky Foxcroft
Mike Gapes
Barry Gardiner
Pat Glass
Kate Green
Lilian Greenwood
Nia Griffith
Andrew Gwynne
David Hanson
Harriet Harman
Harry Harpham
Helen Hayes
John Healey
Mark Hendrick
Stephen Hepburn
Meg Hillier
Margaret Hodge
Sharon Hodgson
Kate Hoey
Kate Hollern
George Howarth
Tristram Hunt
Rupa Huq
Huw Irranca-Davies
Dan Jarvis
Alan Johnson
Diana R Johnson
Graham Jones
Kevan Jones
Susan Elan Jones
Mike Kane
Barbara Keeley
Liz Kendall
Stephen Kinnock
Peter Kyle
Chris Leslie
Emma Lewell-Buck
Ivan Lewis
Ian Lucas
Holly Lynch
Fiona Mactaggart
Justin Madders
Khalid Mahmood
Shabana Mahmood
Seema Malhotra
John Mann
Gordon Marsden
Chris Matheson
Steve McCabe
Kerry McCarthy
Siobhain McDonagh
Pat McFadden
Conor McGinn
Alison McGovern
Catherin McKinnell
Alan Meale
Ed Miliband
Jessica Morden
Ian Murray
Melanie Onn
Chi Onwurah
Albert Owen
Matthew Pennycook
Toby Perkins
Jess Phillips
Bridget Phillipson
Steve Pound
Lucy Powell
Yasmin Qureshi
Angela Rayner
Jamie Reed
Steve Reed
Rachel Reeves
Emma Reynolds
Jonathan Reynolds
Geoffrey Robinson
Steve Rotheram
Joan Ryan
Naseem Shah
Virendra Sharma
Barry Sheerman
Gavin Shuker
Andrew Slaughter
Ruth Smeeth
Andrew Smith
Angela Smith
Jeff Smith
Nick Smith
Owen Smith
Karin Smyth
John Spellar
Keir Starmer
Wes Streeting
Gisela Stuart
Mark Tami
Gareth Thomas
Nick Thomas-Symonds
Emily Thornberry
Stephen Timms
Jon Trickett
Anna Turley
Karl Turner
Derek Twigg
Stephen Twigg
Chuka Umunna
Keith Vaz
Valeria Vaz
Tom Watson
Catherine West
Alan Whitehead
Phil Wilson
Rosie Winterton
John Woodcock

(Thangam Debbonaire also abstained, but this was because she has been diagnosed with cancer and was in Bristol having chemotherapy. She was ‘paired’ with a government MP so her absence did not affect the outcome of the vote.)

(Natascha Engel and Lindsay Hoyle could not vote because they are Deputy Speakers and are automatically paired with government MPs.)

(Fabian Hamilton was, we’re told, recovering from surgery. Otherwise, according to a commenter, he would have voted against the Bill.)

(Lisa Nandy was on maternity leave.)

(Christina Rees was abroad on an all-party working group, according to a commenter to the blog.)

If your Labour MP is among the above, then This Writer encourages you to contact them and request an explanation for this betrayal. You may also ask them to explain why they think they should be trusted to fulfil the role expected of them in Parliament, which is to oppose the Conservative Government’s destruction of the Welfare State and the fabric of British society. You may even wish to request their resignation (although this is only likely to succeed if enough people in the same constituency make the same demand together).

The cowardly rejection of responsibility by the above-named Labour MPs has already earned the contempt of many very well-known figures in the Left of politics.

Harry Smith, the 92-year-old who spoke movingly in support of the NHS at last year’s Labour Conference, tweeted: “To abstain against austerity is to accept austerity.”

He added: “During days of Thatcher Labour fought her tooth & nail & stood up for the vulnerable but today we washed our hands of them.”

Owen Jones, the 30-year-old Leftie columnist, tweeted: “Abstaining on the Welfare Bill means saying you are on the fence about driving the kids of low-paid workers further into hardship.”

You can have this, from Green MP Caroline Lucas: “Labour frontbench defends indefensible & accepts principle of arbitrary benefit cap – how much extra child poverty are they relaxed about?”

Even Abby Tomlinson, the teenage creator of ‘Milifandom’, had to speak up against the abstention of her idol: “Really worries me that MPs would compromise their principles just to toe party line. If they think the bill is morally wrong – oppose it.”

Fortunately for the future of the Labour movement, there were some who were prepared to stand up, not only against the vile Conservative legislation but also against the wrong-headed complicity of their own party leadership – 48 of them.

Leading the rebellion was Labour leadership candidate Jeremy Corbyn. He made his views clear in a statement: “We introduced tax credits to fill the gap between wages and the cost of living. Osborne’s proposals do nothing to close that gap, while taking away the vital lifeline that tax credits have provided.

“Research by Savills shows that the lower benefit cap would make all of London and most of southern England uninhabitable for families – based on three-bed properties at market rent.

“Disabled people were hardest hit by welfare cuts in the last Parliament. Reducing ESA rates to JSA levels will send more disabled people into poverty at a time when poverty in disabled households has hit record highs.

“Freezing working-age benefits for four years will mean more homelessness, more people using food banks, more child poverty and more misery. This Bill is the unspeakable attacking the vulnerable. It is indefensible.”

In contrast, Twitter user David George King told another leadership candidate, Andy Burnham: “You’ve a bloody cheek claiming you think this tax credit cut is wrong then abstaining – total copout.” Burnham, like fellow leadership candidates Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall, abstained and let the Tory Bill proceed.

Debbie Abrahams, who has done such sterling work keeping my Freedom of Information request on benefit-related deaths in the public eye, said, “This is a wicked Bill.”

And John McDonnell made his own feelings even more plain: “I would swim through vomit to vote against this Bill.”

What a shame so few of their fellow MPs were prepared to take a principled stand. Labour desperately needs a leader who will purge the party of its dead weight – and only one candidate had the courage to stand against the tide this week.

Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall need to discover that they can’t expect the support of the people if they are happy to stab the people in the back.

If nothing else, this vote has shown that Jeremy Corbyn is clearly the man who should be leading Labour out of the dark.

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MPs tell their own Atos horror stories

Atos: Welcome to HellWhat follows are the stories told by members of Parliament about their constituents’ experiences of the Work Capability Assessment that is conducted by the private contractor Atos, which uses a tick-box computer system to assess the fitness for work of Employment and Support Allowance claimants (and soon, claimants of the Personal Independence Payment as well).

The system is itself based on one that was devised by the insurance company Unum, notably to cut down on payouts of insurance claims. Unum’s system was based on a theory known as the biopsychosocial model, devised by a Professor Engel.

This article is intended to be read in tandem with the other piece I am publishing today, Unum, Atos, the DWP and the WCA; Who gets the blame for the biopsychosocial saga?, in which I discuss the origins of the Atos assessment and hope to demonstrate that it is a perversion of a perversion of an original theory which – in any case – has not been proved. The aim of this article is to show what such distortions can cause.

The many cases quoted here are just a fraction of the total, but I believe they were representative of what is happening across the UK, and illuminated a high-quality debate that was let down only by the response of the Minister at the end (quoted in Persistent misdirection will perpetuate the Atos nightmare published yesterday). I urge you to read to the end, if you can bear it, because this should give you a good grounding in the issues facing sick and disabled people across the country.

Michael Meacher (Oldham West and Royton) (Lab): I have been sent nearly 300 case histories, many of which make heart-rending reading. I cannot begin to do justice to their feelings of distress, indignation, fear, helplessness and, indeed, widespread anger at the way they have been treated.

The first example concerns a constituent of mine who was epileptic almost from birth and was subject to grand mal seizures. At the age of 24, he was called in by Atos, classified as fit for work and had his benefit cut by £70 a week. He appealed, but became agitated and depressed and lost weight, fearing that he could not pay his rent or buy food. Three months later, he had a major seizure that killed him. A month after he died, the DWP rang his parents to say that it had made a mistake and his benefit was being restored.

The second example, also from the Oldham area, concerns a middle-aged woman who was registered blind and in an advanced stage of retinitis pigmentosa. She was assessed at 9 points—well short of the 15 that are needed—and her incapacity benefit was withdrawn. On review by a tribunal, the Atos rating of 9 points was increased to 24.

The third case—I could have chosen from hundreds of others—also comes from the north-west and concerns an insulin-dependent diabetic with squamous cell cancer, Hughes syndrome, which involves a failed immune system, peripheral neuropathy, which meant that he had no feeling in his feet or legs, heart disease, depression and anxiety. Despite his life-threatening condition, he was placed in the work-related activity group.

Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham) (Con): More than 2,000 people have signed a National Autistic Society petition to Atos, which was launched following the “Dispatches” and “Panorama” investigations, with which many of us are familiar, into the company last year.

Ian Mearns (Gateshead) (Lab): I am sure that my hon. Friend will not be surprised to learn that in Gateshead, of the 1,400 cases taken to appeal by the citizens advice bureau, more than 1,200 were successful.

Stephen Gilbert (St Austell and Newquay) (LD): None of us can underestimate or undervalue the human effect that some of these assessments are having. I would like to read into the record an e-mail I received from a constituent. It is probably similar to e-mails that all hon. Members have received. It reads:

“They never asked about the amount of pain I have to contend with or how tired I get from coping with it. After the interview I was told I was to be disallowed ESA benefit. I could probably go down the route of appeal but I really don’t feel like fighting for a benefit that I have already been made to feel that I do not deserve, neither do I have the energy” to appeal.

Steve Rotheram (Liverpool, Walton) (Lab): To illustrate one of those cases, I shall cite a letter I received from a constituent, Janine, in Liverpool. Her dad was thrown off sickness benefit in November after an Atos work capability assessment and was declared fit for work despite suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Six weeks later, on Christmas day, Janine’s father died.

Pamela Nash (Airdrie and Shotts) (Lab): I have had a frail lady sitting in my office who had only recently finished chemotherapy but had been told she was fit for work. I have had a lady who suffered 90 per cent burns to her body—she spends every day in severe pain—and was told that she was now ready to join the Work programme. I could list hundreds of others—sadly, these are very familiar stories. I am sure [Caroline Lucas, who had just spoken] has had the experience, as I have, of seeing people who have claimed employment and support allowance as a result of a physical disability or illness ending up with mental health problems owing to the stress of going through the system.

Madeleine Moon (Bridgend) (Lab): My caseworker, like those of many Members, is inundated with cases that are tragic and heart-rending. The telephone line to my office is often clogged with crying people. They often ring several times a day, as they are unable to cope with the stress that they are facing. Many have mental health problems, and are unable to cope with the paperwork. They are unsure what to do with it, and they ring me to ask for help in the most tragic and personal way.

I want briefly to describe some of the cases that I have been dealing with. I shall start with 53-year-old Mrs E, who was employed as an accounts officer. She was a very able and capable woman. She suffered a vicious sexual attack, and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. Her health problems caused her difficulties with working, and she was forced to take redundancy. She started claiming employment and support allowance, and attended her Atos assessment. The doctor who saw her is well known to me. I have received many complaints about him. I regularly receive complaints about his rudeness, arrogance and total lack of compassion towards the people whom he is assessing. He made unprofessional remarks to Mrs E, and bluntly told her carer to shut up, saying that he did not want to hear from him.

An official complaint was made, but Mrs E was found fit for work. An appeal judge overturned the decision maker’s decision and she was placed in the support group.

Three months later, she faced another Atos medical, and it was decided that she would be fit for work in six months. She was then placed in the work-related activity group. A month later, because of the stress, her mental and physical condition had deteriorated, and medical advisers told her to apply for disability living allowance. DLA was refused because of the original Atos report. When it was pointed out that the report was negative, but had been overturned on appeal, a reconsideration was requested. The DWP insisted that the information from the first Atos assessment was sound and that the only option was to appeal to the first-tier tribunal.

My constituent then faced two tribunals. We should remember that this is a lady with post-traumatic stress disorder. She faced two appeals. The first was for DLA. The decision to award the lower rate for mobility and care was backdated. Since then, another DLA application has raised the mobility and care components to the higher rate. The second appeal tribunal was for the employment and support allowance. She was placed in a support group and her benefit was backdated.

That was not the end of this lady’s trauma. Her mental health had deteriorated to the extent that she attempted to take her own life. Her carer has to remain constantly vigilant. A few months later, she received a letter saying she had been transferred back to the ESA work-related activity group from the support group. Payment for the ESA support component was stopped. Following some investigation, the DWP apologised and said that that was a random “administrative error”, but it affected the lady very badly and her mental state became even more fragile.

Despite that, incredibly, on Christmas eve last year the same “administrative error” occurred. My office was contacted, and I have to say that we were extremely angry. The additional stress was placing this lady in a suicidal position again. The application process started again, and yet again there has been an apology for an “administrative error”. This lady is being hounded by the state: there is no other way of describing it. There is no excuse for this behaviour. This is a company that is not playing fair by this country’s most vulnerable people.

Annette Brooke (Mid Dorset and North Poole) (LD): Let me read out a few comments from one of my constituents, who says: “I do not believe that the WCA is working for people with mental health problems. Too many people are found fit for work when they are not, and are becoming trapped in a distressing and expensive cycle of appeals and reassessments. Too much of the decision making is inaccurate and too often the WCA and related processes worsen people’s mental health.”

Valerie Vaz (Walsall South) (Lab): Constituents have come to me in their wheelchairs with their carers because they have wanted me to know about the difficulties that they are experiencing. They cannot understand why, in the face of overwhelming medical evidence, they are still being called in for interviews. Some cannot understand why they have been told “If you make it to this interview, you must be fit for work.”

SD has cancer and is undergoing radiotherapy; she has been declared fit for work.

SH suffered seven strokes, and also suffers from type 2 diabetes and a liver condition; she has had to appeal against a decision.

KH was placed in a work-related group; she has incontinence of bowel and bladder as well as diabetes, and is partially sighted.

CS has received zero points despite having a spinal disc prolapse.

SA suffered a stroke and is blind, but has still been declared fit for work.

LM has arthritis of the spine, and has had to appeal against a decision.

Stephen Nye was so angry that he came to see me on behalf of his father, and said “I want to let you know what is going on. Sick people are being persecuted: the assessment system is flawed, and they are being harassed by the jobcentre.”

MD came to see me with her husband, who is blind and deaf. They told me that the work capability assessment did not take account of the issues faced by blind and partially sighted people. I wrote to the Minister’s predecessor, who replied that Professor Harrington had had considerable engagement with the Royal National Institute of Blind People, Sense, and Action on Hearing Loss. However, that was only at the time of the professor’s third review—it should have happened before the assessments had even been devised—and only at the time of his second review did he suggest the introduction of sensory descriptors and an additional descriptor addressing the impact of generalised pain and/or fatigue.

Nia Griffith (Llanelli) (Lab): Does my hon. Friend share my utter despair at the sheer amount of money that is wasted on calling in people whose well-documented histories clearly show that they suffer from conditions which, sadly, will not improve in any way, rather than being spent on trying to find ways of helping those who are in a better position to go back to work?

Jonathan Edwards (Carmarthen East and Dinefwr) (PC): In my surgeries, I have heard several harrowing and very sad accounts from constituents who have been subjected to impersonal and inhumane work capability assessments by Atos. One has been diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumour, which cannot be completely removed because that would leave her paralysed. In August and September of last year she had radiotherapy to slow down the growth of the tumour, but in October she was told that it would grow back even more quickly, and that she would have to have further radiotherapy or she would die. I should add that this lady also has polyarthritis and asthma. Why has this lady been placed in the work-related activity group? Her doctors and consultants have specified that she should be placed in the support group as she is fighting for her life. Her only concern should be winning that battle.

Another constituent contacted me who had been ill for two years and was eventually diagnosed with cancer following a serious bout of pneumonia. Prior to her illness, she had an unblemished employment record. She was certified as unable to work by her GP and had attended many DWP hearings about the employment and support allowance, with the final one being in April 2012. She won her tribunal hearing against the Atos decision. She had not received a single penny in state benefits from before April 2012 until she died at the end of November. She faced immense distress and was denied any financial assistance at a time when she was vulnerable and in desperate need of assistance.

Iain McKenzie (Inverclyde) (Lab): Let me outline briefly some of the cases that have been brought to my surgeries, on the back of a recurring issue now being referred to by my constituents as the “Lazarus letter”. This is a letter they receive instructing them to make their way to Glasgow for assessment and containing many connotations about what will befall their benefits. A constituent who suffers from severe cerebral palsy and could not travel was refused a home visit and told to go to Glasgow to be tested. Another constituent who was recovering after being seriously injured in an accident was advised to attend an Atos assessment in Glasgow. Both those constituents could not possibly travel because they were in so much pain, and I had to get involved and ask for a home assessment for them. It does not end there because they then had their benefits cut or stopped because Atos sent the assessment forms to the wrong address. If it cannot get the address right, what chance does it have with assessments?

Dr Eilidh Whiteford (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): The very first constituent who came to me for help and who had been found fit for work was a man who could not climb the stairs in his own house to go to the toilet. He came to one of my surgeries which had disabled access, but he needed help from relatives to do so and it was quite an ordeal. His GP rather euphemistically told me that the man had “a poor prognosis”, and the man has absolutely no prospect of getting back into the labour market. He successfully appealed against the decision, but it emerged in that process that no account had been taken of his GP’s documentation or of the evidence supplied by his hospital consultant.

I have encountered incontinent patients being asked to make four-hour round trips on public transport.

I have also encountered constituents who have had to make very long journeys by public transport only to find that their appointment is not double-booked, but triple-booked.

Heather Wheeler (South Derbyshire) (Con): Long-term disabled people have come back into the work arena; unbelievably, within three months of being told that they are perfectly fit for work, they have dropped down dead.

John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington) (Lab): I […] refer Members to Calum’s List, which has a website. It is a list of people who have died, including by suicide, as a result of, or where there has been a contribution from, the loss of benefits. The first example on the list was that of Paul Reekie. Some Members may have known Paul, an award-winning writer and poet in Leith, Scotland. He did not leave a suicide note, just two letters on the table beside him. One was about his loss of housing benefit and the other was about his loss of incapacity benefit. He died.

The other example is that of Mark and Helen Mullins from Bedworth. They could not access their benefits. They were walking 10 miles a day to a Salvation Army soup kitchen. They committed suicide together because they could not access their benefits. Read Calum’s List, which has example after example of the brutal effect of the system.

Kevan Jones (North Durham) (Lab): A lot of constituents come to see me at my surgery about this, and I should like to give an example. The individual I mentioned is a 59-year-old who suffers from severe schizophrenia. He failed the Atos interview and is now being told by the DWP that he should be retrained as a security guard because that was the last job he did 10 years ago. What a waste of resources. This is despite his GP writing a letter on his behalf, which I have seen. I know his GP, because he is my GP as well.

The other week a 60-year-old nurse with osteoporosis, who has spent 38 years in the NHS, came to see me. She failed the work capability test. She is 61 in April and is now being told that she will be retrained for a new career until she is 62, when she gets her pension. What on earth is the point in wasting money on individuals like that?

There are also cases such as the 21-year-old young lady who ended up in the local psychiatric hospital because she failed the Atos interview. What is the cost of that to the NHS?

Helen Goodman (Bishop Auckland) (Lab): Mr H, a double-leg amputee, was told to undertake an 80-mile round trip for his work capability assessment.

Mr W, who has serious mental health problems, had a panic attack and was physically sick during his WCA but was told he was fit for work. His wife believes that he is being victimised by Atos.

Mrs D, a district nurse who broke her back at work, was told that she is fit for work. Her appeal will not take place until next month.

Mr E, who is one of the people the RNIB is worried about, had been completely blind for 16 years and forced to give up work, but was told by Atos that he was fit for work.

Iain Wright (Hartlepool) (Lab): A constituent of mine—let us call her Mrs J—is 51-years-old and suffers from diverticular disease. This leads to a compacting of her bowels, which means that she soils herself on a daily basis, requiring a change of clothes. Often she requires hospital treatment because when her bowels are heavily compacted she is unable to deal with the matter without medical intervention. She was on contribution-based ESA, but was allowed to be on it for only 365 days, and that period expired in 2012. She asked to be reassessed on the basis of her condition, and her assessment stated that she was fit for work. She appealed against this decision, but the appeal was declined. She had to go down the tribunal route but, as she told me in an e-mail last September: “So I’m now faced having to go to a tribunal which I was told today will take months. I’ve got no representation. I’m unable to go to the CAB as when I attempted to do this I’d soiled myself on route so ended up going home in tears. What can I do? I’ve not got a penny to my name. I’ve borrowed just to survive since April…I’m now faced with another 3-4 months with a tribunal decision again without money…I don’t know what to do and cannot carry on like this. Surely this isn’t how you expect people who legitimately cannot work. And the likelihood is I’ve failed my appeal just because I’ve not worded my appeal correctly when clearly my medical records and specialist have stated otherwise. Please, please help before I end up on the streets.”

A gentleman in my constituency—let us call him Mr D—served in the forces for many years and is now in his late 50s. In the past 18 months, he has undergone extensive surgery to the brain, following a tumour, and in November 2011 he was informed that he required further surgery, this time to his neck, to remove the growing tumour. At the same time—in precisely the same month—Atos assessed Mr D as being fit for work. That assessment was undertaken by someone who was not trained as a doctor at a time when Mr D was going to assessments with a gaping wound in his head and still undergoing treatment.

Another woman in my constituency—let us call her Mrs M—left school at 16 and worked diligently for 33 years. She paid her taxes. She was made redundant a couple of years ago at just the time that she was starting to suffer from ill health. Mrs M suffers from Crohn’s disease, which has led to severe diarrhoea, incontinence and abdominal pain. She has had surgery to remove a large section of her bowel, but the symptoms are getting worse. As Members may know, there is no cure for Crohn’s disease. Mrs M will not recover. There will be a gradual and irreversible increase in the severity and frequency of her symptoms. Mrs M is a proud and dignified woman who is embarrassed by her condition. She wants to do nothing more than work, but is unable to do so. She suffers from about two bouts of diarrhoea a day, for which she has no more than a second’s notice, and she cannot leave the house unaccompanied. Mrs M was assessed as having 15 points with limited capability for work. Her assessment and appeal were degrading, insensitive and unprofessional. She was described throughout her appeal notes as a man. Incorrect dates and fictitious telephone calls were placed on her files—in other words, lies. Mrs M was told that she could wear a nappy for work. What sort of country have we become? What sort of ethical values do the Government have, if that is the degrading and crass way in which decent, law-abiding constituents of mine are being dealt with?

Julie Hilling (Bolton West) (Lab): Sylvia’s husband came to see me because she was too ill to come. She had a subarachnoid haemorrhage four years ago, but aged 41, has now been found fit for work. She suffers blackouts, cannot dress herself, cannot self-medicate, cannot climb stairs by herself and cannot go out alone because she cannot remember where she lives or where she is going. Three to four times each month, she gets hemiplegic migraines, which last between two and six days, and mean that she becomes paralysed on her right side and loses her speech. Despite that, she has been found fit for work. The jobcentre, however, will not sign her on because it says that she is not fit for work. Needless to say, the stress sets off her migraines. One wonders what is the matter with her assessors.

Susan, a sufferer of fibromyalgia and hypermobility syndrome, told me that she felt like she was on trial for benefit fraud at her assessment.

Bill, a former long-distance lorry driver, had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart disease and diabetes. He thought the fact that he could not breathe would be reason enough to find him unfit for work, but of course he was wrong. He did not tell the assessors about his cerebral brain ascension, which means that he has terrible memory problems, because he is ashamed of having the condition. Of course, he has now had to tell them. He waited for nine months and then the decision was overturned.

Clare […] has severe mental health issues and scoliosis. She scored 15 points and was placed in the work-related activity group, even though she will clearly never be able to work. She appealed the decision and had to wait for 12 months, which made her condition far worse. She was then put in the support group.

Cathy Jamieson (Kilmarnock and Loudoun) (Lab/Co-op): One constituent got in touch with me when he found out about this debate. He states: “Getting a copy of the ESA85 report…to which everyone examined is entitled was like getting blood out of a stone.” The man was found fit to work despite being on crutches and in constant pain at the time. He said: “When I eventually received a copy I found that the examiner had stated clearly that I was found unfit for any kind of work and would remain so for at least two years.” He tells me that when he tried to follow that up via the DWP, he was left with the distinct impression that staff had been advised, encouraged or instructed that everyone was to go into one of the employment support groups rather than be deemed completely unfit for work.

I have one example of a gentleman who was brought to my constituency office by a neighbour. He had had his third WCA in May 2012 and was zero rated. On the previous two occasions he appealed, and his appeals were upheld on the basis that the tribunal decided that he had reduced awareness of everyday hazards, leading to a significant risk of injury to him or others, and was therefore not fit for work. That gentleman was brought to my office in August 2012 because he was awaiting his third appeal and was distressed by the process. Obviously, we gave him advice. On 8 October, the neighbour contacted me to say that the gentleman had passed away.

A constituent […] contacted me this week. He says: “I have been treated by my GP for over seven years for this illness, he is aware of the ups and downs, and the debilitating effects I am subject to. How can a registered nurse make a decision on my mental health in 41 minutes, most of which was asking questions about my physical health? This is what happened at my Atos WCA…There must be a change to the way people with mental health problems are dealt with by the system. I have spent the time since my WCA in June in misery, and the weeks leading up to the tribunal hearing in a mix of terror and stress. I was terrified at the tribunal itself.” That is no way to treat people in a civilised society. The gentleman says that he is “part of the last generation of ‘stiff upper lip’ and ‘put the best face on it’ people.” He says that that “works against” him because he does not fit what he describes as the stereotype of someone with a mental health problem.