Tag Archives: Council of Europe

Corbyn forces Cameron to ‘clarify’ EU in-out negotiations


When David Cameron woke up this morning (Tuesday), it may have been to the realisation that he said too much in response to a grilling by Jeremy Corbyn over Europe yesterday.

Cameron had been to a meeting of the Council of Europe, the regional intergovernmental organisation with 47 member states best know for its operation of the European Court of Human Rights. One of the subjects he discussed there was the UK’s attempts to renegotiate the conditions of its membership in the European Union. He said:

“On the UK’s renegotiation, I set out the four things that we need to achieve. The first is sovereignty and subsidiarity, where Britain must not be part of an “ever closer union” and where we want a greater role for national Parliaments.

“Secondly, we must ensure that the EU adds to our competitiveness, rather than detracts from it, by signing new trade deals, cutting regulation and completing the single market. We have already made considerable progress. There has been an 80 per cent reduction in new legislative proposals under the new European Commission, and we have reached important agreements on a capital markets union, on liberalising services, and on completing the digital single market. Last week the Commission published a new trade strategy that reflects the agenda that Britain has been championing for years, including vital trade deals with America, China and Japan. But more needs to be done in that area.

“Thirdly, we need to ensure that the EU works for those outside the single currency and protects the integrity of the single market, and that we face neither discrimination nor additional costs from the integration of the Eurozone.

“Fourthly, on social security, free movement and immigration, we need to tackle abuses of the right to free movement, and deliver changes that ensure that our welfare system is not an artificial draw for people to come to Britain.”

Mr Corbyn instantly drew attention to matters that the PR Prime Minister had failed to mention. Noting that full discussion of the UK’s in/out referendum had been deferred to the December European Council meeting, he said:

“I think that all of us across the House and people across the country would echo the words of Chancellor Angela Merkel when she asked the UK to ‘clarify the substance of what it is envisaging’. There have been indications from Government advisers that the Prime Minister is trying to diminish the rights of UK workers through opt-out or dilution of the social chapter and the working time directive. However, other sources say the Prime Minister has retreated on those proposals.

“Working people in Britain are losing trust in a Government who attack their trade union rights and cut their tax credits, while giving tax breaks to millionaires.

“Will the Prime Minister confirm that Britain will remain signed up to the European convention on human rights and will not repeal the Human Rights Act 1998? The lack of clarity and openness from the Prime Minister means we do not know on what basis he is negotiating. Too often, we have been guided by anonymous press briefings from his inner court.

“Does he agree with Angela Merkel, as we on the Labour Benches do, that ‘there are achievements of European integration that cannot be haggled over, for example the principle of free movement and the principle of non-discrimination’? Again, clarity from the Prime Minister on that would be welcomed not just, I suspect, by his own backbenchers but by millions of people across the country.

“We believe we need stronger transnational co-operation on environmental and climate change issues, on workers’ rights, on corporate regulation and on tax avoidance.

“We will continue the European reform agenda. Labour is for staying in a Europe that works for the people of the UK and for all the people of Europe. We will not achieve that if all we are doing is shouting from the sidelines.

“On the referendum, will the Prime Minister confirm that the Government will now accept votes at 16 for the referendum, as per the amendment in the House of Lords?”

He also told Cameron that Labour will be “on his side” to support the proposed “red card” mechanism to give national Parliaments greater powers of influence over European legislation: “In fact, it is such a good thing that it was in Labour’s manifesto at the general election.”

Now on the back foot, Cameron had to work hard to regain the initiative. He started by claiming that the discussion of the referendum had not been deferred, but that the meeting in October had always been intended as an update, with a full discussion in December.

But he went on to contradict himself on “what we were delivering for working people in Europe”. Cameron said: “We are delivering two million jobs here in Britain for working people, with tax cuts for 29 million working people. I have set out in this statement again the reforms that we are pressing for in Europe.”

But later he added: “We do need to reform free movement; it should not be free movement for criminals or for people who are benefit shopping, for example, and we are already taking steps to ensure that that is not the case.”

So, he has delivered more jobs alongside tax cuts – making the UK a more attractive location for EU residents looking to immigrate in – but he wants to bar the entrance. This looks like a lie, to make it seem that Cameron has achieved something worthwhile.

The facts are that the jobs are low-paid and the tax cuts do not make up for the amount of income that working people have lost over the last five years of Tory rule. With the forthcoming tax credits cuts, millions of working people will no longer have enough money to make ends meet. That is the shame of the Conservatives and it is understandable that Cameron would want to hide it.

His dilemma is that it is his own rhetoric about his (imagined) achievements that is making the UK attractive to EU immigrants. We know the jobs are awful and the tax system has been skewed to benefit the rich, and we also know that the social security system has been sabotaged by Iain Duncan Smith – but that is because we live here. Citizens of other EU states are not so lucky. If Cameron was honest about the mess he has made of this country, his immigration problems would evaporate. His own public relations skills have betrayed him.

And worse was to come: “Our plans for a British Bill of Rights are unchanged. We want to get rid of the Human Rights Act and replace it with a British Bill of Rights.

“We voted in this House of Commons on votes at 16, and we voted against them, so I think we should stick to that position.” This will not please the Scots, where the voting age was lowered for their own referendum on whether to remain in the United Kingdom, and where democracy enjoyed a huge resurgence in popularity as a result.

Finally, there’s the elephant in the room. It is unfortunate that Mr Corbyn did not raise the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, one of the “vital trade deals” that Cameron mentioned. In its current form, this would mean control of workers’ rights, working conditions and the quality of products would be transferred from elected parliaments to faceless international corporations. It is the biggest threat to democracy facing us.

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Conservatives set to launch ‘incoherent’ attack on human rights

Sacked: Dominic Grieve's reservations about Legal Aid cuts put him at adds with the Coalition government; it seems his concern over a planned attack on human rights led to his sacking.

Sacked: Dominic Grieve’s reservations about Legal Aid cuts put him at adds with the Coalition government; it seems his concern over a planned attack on human rights led to his sacking.

Now we know why former Attorney General Dominic Grieve got the sack – he is said to have opposed a forthcoming Conservative attack on the European Court of Human Rights, which he described as “incoherent”.

Coming in the wake of his much-voiced distaste for Chris Grayling’s cuts to Legal Aid, it seems this was the last straw for David Cameron, the Conservative Prime Minister who seems determined to destroy anything useful his party ever did.

The European Court of Human Rights was one such thing; Winston Churchill helped set it up after World War II and its founding principles were devised with a large amount of input from the British government. It is not part of the European Union, but is instead connected to the Council of Europe – an organisation with 47 member states.

It seems the Conservatives want to limit the European Court’s power over the UK, because they want Parliament to decide what constitutes a breach of human rights.

The opportunities for corruption are huge.

Considering the Conservative-led Coalition’s record, such corruption seems the only reason for the action currently being contemplated.

The plan could lead to the UK being expelled from the Council of Europe, and the BBC has reported that Mr Grieve had warned his colleagues that the idea was a plan for “a legal car crash with a built-in time delay”, an “incoherent” policy to remain a signatory to the European Convention of Human Rights but to refuse to recognise the rulings of the court which enforces it.

This blog has already discussed the Tories’ plan to take away your human rights but it is worth reiterating in the context of the latest revelation.

The United Kingdom helped to draft the European Convention on Human Rights, just after World War II. Under it, nation states’ primary duty is to “refrain from unlawful killing”, to “investigate suspicious deaths” and to “prevent foreseeable loss of life”.

The Department for Work and Pensions has been allowing the deaths of disabled people since 2010. Withdrawing from the European Convention and scrapping the Human Rights Act would mean this government would be able to sidestep any legal action to bring those responsible to justice.

Article 4 of the Convention prohibits slavery, servitude and forced labour – in other words, the government’s Mandatory Work Activity or Workfare schemes. The government has already faced legal action under this article, and has been defeated. It seems clear that the Tories want to avoid further embarrassment and inflict the maximum suffering on those who, through no fault of their own, do not have a job.

Article 6 provides a detailed right to a fair trial – which has been lost in the UK already, with laws allowing “secret courts” to hear evidence against defendants – which the defendants themselves are not permitted to know and at which they are not allowed to be present. The Legal Aid cuts which Mr Grieve opposed were also contrary to this right.

Article 8 provides a right to respect for one’s “private and family life, his home and his correspondence” – and of course the UK’s violation of this right has been renewed only this week, with the Data Retention Act that was passed undemocratically within a single day.

And so on. These are not the only infringements.

Clearly the Tories want to sideline the European Court so they never have to answer for their crimes against the British people.

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More smears from the Mail against UN official who is trying to help the poor

The victim: Raquel Rolnik, the United Nations' expert Special Rapporteur on Housing is once again the victim of a baseless Daily Mail smear piece.

The victim: Raquel Rolnik, the United Nations’ expert Special Rapporteur on Housing is once again the victim of a baseless Daily Mail smear piece.

Yet again, the Daily Heil has been using the tactics of its best friend Adolf Hitler – the ‘Big Lie’ – to attack a United Nations official whose job is to point out that Coalition government policies are harming the innocent poor.

The Flail‘s tone was Nurembergian – and almost entirely fact-free – as it denounced ‘Brazil Nut’ Raquel Rolnik for imaginary crimes against Iain Duncan Smith’s benefit cuts – the homicidal, if not genocidal, measures that are driving hundreds of thousands of people into destitution and despair.

You see, the Fail is fine with destitution and despair for the poor – its readers are all rich middle- or upper-class housewives who pass their days spending their husbands’ vast fortunes (this is not entirely true, but is exactly the sort of generalisation you can expect from that paper. If you are a Mail reader, it isn’t such fun when you’re the victim, is it?) and gossiping.

The news story is that a group of United Nations poverty ambassadors has written a 22-page letter pointing out that cuts to social security benefits introduced by Iain Duncan Smith and enforced by his Department for Work and Pensions on behalf of the Coalition government may constitute a breach of the UK’s international treaty obligations to the poor.

The letter is new but its factual information is not, having been confirmed by the Council of Europe.

The letter states: “The package of austerity measures enacted could amount to retrogressive measures prohibited under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, ratified in 1974.”

Among the benefit changes it highlights are alterations to housing benefit, council tax benefit, working age benefits and the bedroom tax and the benefits cap – which everybody agrees would be a good idea if it had been limited to a reasonable amount, rather than one at which the Conservative-led Coalition could throw people into hardship.

The Mail‘s report pays little attention to the facts, lavishing far more space on Mrs Rolnik herself. It said she had been nicknamed the ‘Brazil Nut’, which she had – by the Daily Mail; and went on to attempt to cast doubt on her authority as special rapporteur on housing and those of fellow UN ambassadors Maria Magdalena Sepulveda Carmona, special rapporteur on extreme poverty; and Olivier De Schutter, the special rapporteur on the right to food.

These are experts in their field who have been engaged by the United Nations – a higher-ranking legal authority than the UK – to investigate government policies, but that’s not good enough for the Mail.

It prefers to get its opinions from tupenny-ha’penny Tory thinktanks.

So it casts doubt. The letter is from ‘ambassadors’ and follows an ‘investigation’, according to the Mail, because putting those words in that way casts doubt upon their validity.

Mrs Rolnik was brought up as a Marxist, the Mail states – as if that has anything to do with her findings. And the report claims she should leave the UK alone and concentrate on problems in her own country, where millions of people live in shanty towns – even though the writer, ‘Jason Groves’, should know perfectly well that her job involves just that.

He clearly doesn’t want you to see her comments on housing in Brazil, prior to the football World Cup which is being held there at the moment: “We expected that the champion of many football cups would use this opportunity to show the world it is also a champion of the right to housing, in particular for people living in poverty, but the information I have received shows otherwise.”

She had received allegations of evictions without due process or in breach of international human rights standards, cases in which residents and citizens had not been consulted and were barred from to participation in decisions that had a grave impact on their standard of living. Concerns had also been expressed about very low compensation that might lead to the creation of new “informal settlements” (shanty towns) with inadequate living conditions or greater rates of homelessness.

“Authorities should avoid at all costs any negative impacts on then human rights of the individuals and communities, especially the most vulnerable… [and] should ensure that their actions, and those of third parties involved in the organization of the events, contribute to the creation of a stable housing market and have a long term positive impact in the residents of the cities where events take place.”

So critics who think she has ignored issues in her home country are wrong.

That’s a bit of a blow to the Mail‘s credibility, isn’t it?

The measures criticised by Mrs Rolnik and her colleagues were brought in “to tackle the huge budget deficit left by Labour”, according to the Mail. Again, this is wrong. The Coalition government has made no real effort to tackle the budget deficit which was necessitated when Labour saved our banking system, the threat having been created by Tory-supporting bankers whose greed put their firms into overwhelming debt. Look at the annual deficit for the last financial year; it is still well above £100 billion. If you agree that the cuts were to bring the deficit down, you have swallowed a lie.

Iain Duncan Smith, the man this blog describes as ‘RTU’ (standing for ‘Returned To Unit’ in tribute to his failed Army career) is reportedly furious at this intervention from the United Nations, which has a duty to intervene if governments of member countries descend into criminality, as has happened with the UK (here’s just one example).

Vox Political has reported extensively on this matter and his arguments carry about as much weight as his retrospective Jobseekers (Back to Work Schemes) Act. Take a look at Mrs Rolnik’s report on housing in the UK and the research that supported what she said and then ask yourself if Mr …Smith has got a leg to stand on.

According to the Mail, he said: “They talk down our country, criticising the action we’ve taken to get control of the public finances and create a fairer more prosperous Britain. They simply do not have a clue – and we will not be taking lessons from a group of unelected commentators who can’t get their facts straight.”

“Unelected” and “Can’t get their facts straight” are both criticisms that could be applied with more accuracy to Mr …Smith and his government.

In fact.

Additional: Here’s some more information about Iain Duncan Smith playing fast and loose with statistics, just in today.

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The Tory Euro threat exposed

Many a truth told in jest: This Labour advert was withdrawn after claims that it was in bad taste (although this could be said equally well of the television programme it references) - but it accurately summarises the Conservative approach to the European Union and our place in the world.

Many a truth told in jest: This Labour advert was withdrawn after claims that it was in bad taste (although this could be said equally well of the television programme it references) – but it accurately summarises the Conservative approach to the European Union and our place in the world.

Here at Vox Political it has come to our notice that some of you are still thinking of voting ‘Conservative’ in the European Parliament elections. This would be a mistake.

The Conservative Party is trying to hoodwink you into thinking it has a host of great ideas dependent on having a large number of MEPs after May 22, but its own manifesto tells a different story.

Here are just three examples:

1. The lynchpin of the Conservative campaign is the pledge to hold an in/out referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union. The party’s European manifesto states, “The British people now have a very clear choice: if you want a referendum on whether Britain should stay in the EU or leave, only the Conservative Party can and will hold one.”

This has nothing to do with your vote on May 22. It is a General Election promise involving the UK Parliament, not the Parliament of Europe. It is Westminster MPs who would push through the Tory plans for a referendum during the next UK Parliament, not MEPs in Brussels.

The suggestion that the proposed referendum – which is heavily promoted in the manifesto – has anything to do with these elections is a flat-out lie.

Long-term readers should not be surprised that Conservatives are lying again, but this may come as a surprise to Tory adherents. To them, we should say: “Wake up!”

2. One of the “key changes we will fight for”, listed on page seven of the manifesto, is “National parliaments able to work together to block unwanted European legislation”. If this seems like a good idea to you, it may come as a surprise to learn that it is a key feature of the Lisbon Treaty, that was signed by the last Labour government in 2007. That’s seven years ago!

It’s called the Ioannina Compromise, and it means that, if Member States who are against a decision are significant in number but still insufficient to block it (1/3 of the Member States or 25 per cent of the population), all of the Member States must commit to seeking a solution.

It seems likely that the reason the Conservatives are even mentioning it is that this part of the Lisbon Treaty is only due to come into force this year – 2014.

Tories have ‘form’ in this kind of legerdemain, having recently convinced the British public that they had imposed new rules on benefits claimed by immigrants, when these were in fact already enshrined in UK law.

3. One change the Conservatives are determined to impose is the removal of your ability to defend your human rights.

The manifesto states that they will “Undertake radical reform of human rights laws and publish a detailed plan for reform that a Conservative government would implement immediately: we will scrap Labour’s Human Rights Act, curtail the role of the European Court of Human Rights in the UK and make certain that the UK’s Supreme Court is in Britain and not in Strasbourg.”

Conservatives hate human rights laws because they forbid slavery, servitude and forced labour – such as the Tory-led government’s ‘mandatory work activity’ schemes; they provide a right to a fair trial – currently being removed in the UK by the Tories’ restrictions on Legal Aid; and most importantly they oblige nation states to “prevent foreseeable loss of life” such as that caused by the assessment regime for disability benefits, imposed by the current UK government.

You can read about these, and more, in a previous Vox Political article here.

The European Court of Human Rights is – as everyone should be aware – nothing to do with the European Union at all. It is part of the Council of Europe, which is composed of 47 European nations. The Conservative Party does not need a majority of MEPs to withdraw from it.

However, such a withdrawal would represent a betrayal of the Conservative Party’s great Prime Minister Winston Churchill, the man who is considered most directly responsible for the creation of the Council of Europe and the court. Dedicated Conservatives should consider this point well. None of the people currently running the Conservative Party have anything approaching the stature of a Churchill, yet they are taking it upon themselves to cut Britain off from his legacy – and they are lying to the public about how they need to do it.

In fact, let’s face it, the Tory European Manifesto for 2014 is a pack of lies.

The Conservatives currently have more MEPs than any other UK party, but any unbiased examination of their claims will lead to the conclusion that they deserve to have none at all.

Manifestly inadequate again: Coalition cuts support for discretionary housing payments

Bedroom tax victim: Stephanie Bottrill, the woman who committed suicide after the Bedroom Tax - imposed on her in error - left her without enough money to make ends meet.

Bedroom tax victim: Stephanie Bottrill, the woman who committed suicide after the Bedroom Tax – imposed on her in error – left her without enough money to make ends meet.

The spin doctors at the Department for Work and Pensions are working hard to make a decision to cut funding for discretionary housing payments, by claiming it “builds on the £180 million funding this year”. What a crock.

A cut is a cut. There will be less money available to people in financial trouble as a result of government decisions to cut housing benefit (the Bedroom Tax) or other state benefits (the one per cent uprating, the benefit cap, local housing allowances… pick a benefit and it will probably have been slashed).

The announcement was made yesterday (Thursday), and councils have until Monday (February 3) to bid for top-up funds if they need to provide extra support. How nice of the Conservative ministers at the DWP to put a weekend in the middle of the time councils must use to work out what they need! Hopefully, councils already have the figures ready but, if not, it’s clear that the government wants to make the process as difficult as possible – for councils and for people who need help.

So councils will get £165 million in place of the £180 million they had last year – an amount that, itself, was attacked as far too little by councillors at the time. It was, as the Council of Europe has described the government’s supply of other benefits including pensions, unemployment benefit and incapacity benefit, “manifestly inadequate”.

But let’s get back to the spin. The DWP press release states that local authorities are getting the money “to provide extra help for claimants as they move through the government’s welfare reforms”. This avoids the fact that people would not need “extra help” if the government had not imposed these regressive changes in the first place. And they’re not “reforms”. Reform takes us forward. These are just cuts.

“The reforms [cuts] are a key part of the government’s long-term economic plans [cuts] to deliver a strong economy [based, as we know, on a debt-fuelled housing bubble centred on the southeast of England alone] that delivers for people who want to work hard [for extremely low pay] and play by the rules [that are made up by Coalition ministers as they go along].

Work and Pensions Minister Esther McVey said: “Capping benefits is returning fairness to the welfare system and reform of the spare room subsidy is absolutely necessary to make a better use of our social housing when over 300,000 are living in overcrowded homes in Britain and around 1.7 million are on social housing waiting lists in England alone.”

The phrase “capping benefits is returning fairness to the welfare system” is inaccurate as the cap is set too low. The government claimed an average family income is £26,000, but in fact it is slightly more than £31,000. The reason the cap was set at the lower figure is that, at the more appropriate amount, hardly anybody would be affected; the system was fair before the Coalition interfered. Also, the UK has social security, not welfare.

The phrase “reform of the spare room subsidy” is redundant, of course. She meant: “Our arbitrary choice to cut housing benefit – illegally, in many thousands of cases“. In fact, let’s edit out “spare room subsidy” from the rest of our analysis and call it what it is.

She continued: “We are ensuring all working age tenants are treated equally – as claimants receiving housing benefit in private sector already receive support for the number of bedrooms they need and not for spare rooms.” Is that so? How many private sector tenants have been hit by their own bedroom tax in the same way? Is there not a difference in income between private renters and those in social housing? Where are the figures to support this claim?

According to the press release, an advertising campaign was launched in the local papers this week, “to ensure claimants affected by the [Bedroom Tax] are fully aware of the support available to them from Discretionary Housing Payments, home swapping services or to get into work”. I just checked my own local papers…. No. Nothing.

The press release ends with a couple of long-demolished assertions. Neither of these are factually accurate:

“The removal of the [Bedroom Tax] means all working age housing benefit claimants in both social and private rental sectors receive support for the number of bedrooms they need – but not spare rooms.” Wrong. It removes support on an entirely arbitrary basis, according to whether an assessor decides a tenant has a spare bedroom – without reference to any definition of the word “bedroom”. Now, a judge in an Upper Tribunal case has determined that a “bedroom” must be one furnished with a bed and/or used for sleep. In addition, the use of the word “all” for affected housing benefit claimants is inaccurate because those who were in their current accommodation and receiving the benefit before 1996 are exempt from the Bedroom Tax. Many thousands were billed in error and at least one person is known to have committed suicide because of that mistake. That unnecessary death is one of many for which the Coalition government, and the DWP in particular, is responsible.

The other false assertion – that “the benefit cap means claimants no longer receive more in benefits than average household earnings” – has already been dismissed elsewhere in this article.

Keep your wits about you.

The government will continue pumping out this kind of disinformation in support of its ever-more repressive policies – remember, this announcement states that it is cutting the money available for discretionary housing payments (DHPs) – and the right-wing-controlled mass media, including the BBC, will keep on mindlessly repeating it until the general election at least.

That is why sites like Vox Political need to keep reinforcing the facts as they become clear – and why you need to spread those facts, any way you can.

Don’t let them win this battle with lies.

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What you’re not being told about Europe’s verdict on social security


“Manifestly inadequate” are words that should ring in Iain Duncan Smith’s ears for some time to come.

They are the Council of Europe’s verdict on the UK’s social security system of payments for jobseekers, pensioners and recipients of both short- and long-term incapacity benefit.

The Council, an international organisation promoting co-operation between all countries of Europe in legal standards, human rights, democratic development, the rule of law and cultural co-operation, is home to the European Court of Human Rights.

The finding was made in an annual review of the UK’s adherence to the council’s European Social Charter. If the UK’s Conservative and Liberal Democrat Coalition government takes no action to rectify the situation, then the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers may address a recommendation to the UK, asking it to change the situation in law or in practice. This is clearly a weak way of handling a situation that could affect the well-being of many millions of people.

But Council officials say national courts refer to these international standards when deciding on relevant cases, meaning benefit claimants could try to use the Council’s ruling to boost their case for a higher award.

In response, our ever-more-right-wing government could decide to withdraw from its dealings with the Council altogether, meaning our citizens would no longer have recourse to the European Court of Human Rights. Many Tories – like Philip Davies – have long held this desire!

The Daily Mail, of all rags, appears to have done its homework on this, stating: “JSA, ESA (both £67 a week) and pension (about £102) all fall well below the £138 a week, or £596 a month, that the Eurocrats have set as the benchmark.

“Because all three are below a second threshold of £110 a week, they are rated ‘manifestly inadequate’.”

The UK has signed treaties in which it has promised to adhere to the provisions of the European Social Charter, so the Council’s claim that its conclusions are legally binding are accurate.

But the Coalition government has never been one to accept rules made by anybody else, and the DWP – one of the worst offenders (see previous articles on Workfare, work capability assessments for people with mental health problems, and the Bedroom Tax) is trying to claim that the findings must only be “taken into account” (meaning they would be noted, but ignored).

In his own response, Iain Duncan Smith appears to have completely misunderstood the meaning of the judgement, providing yet another example of why he is rightly considered one of the Coalition government’s leading dunderheads.

“This government has made great strides in fixing the welfare system so that spending is brought under control. It’s lunacy for the Council of Europe to suggest welfare payments need to increase when we paid out £204 billion in benefits and pensions last year alone.”

He simply does not understand that talking about the whole amount paid by the government is irrelevant when it is the amount paid on a regular basis to individuals that is at issue.

The Council of Europe states that 40 per cent of the Eurostat median equivalised income is the level at which the benefits should be paid and, as a treaty signatory, the UK has agreed to meet this requirement. RTU’s opinion is of no consequence at all. He is in breach of an international treaty.

The ruling also undermines his claim that many people have made a lifestyle choice to live in comfort on the dole, and his party’s claim that foreign nationals have been immigrating to Britain for purposes of benefit tourism – income levels are too low for anyone in their right mind to consider it.

What nobody is telling you is that this report does not even take account of the changes to the UK’s social security system that were ushered in by RTU’s (we call him that in honour of his ignominious army career – it stands for Returned To Unit, the fate of officer candidates who didn’t make the grade) hopelessly ignorant and hideously draconian Welfare Reform Act.

These are conclusions based on the system before the Bedroom Tax, before the benefit cap, before the flat-rate state pension, and before the one per cent limit on benefit uprating.

The report states: “The Committee notes that these legislative developments (the Welfare Reform Act and the State Pension Reform) are outside the reference period. Therefore, it asks the next report to indicate how these have affected the personal coverage of social security risks – ie the percentage of the covered persons out of the total active population as well as the minimum levels of income-replacement benefits (unemployment, sickness, maternity and old-age).”

In particular, it singles out Employment and Support Allowance: “The Committee of Ministers observed that there was a toughening of the qualifying conditions for the entitlement to ESA on the one hand and a drastic reduction of its duration on the other, which could result in an outright reduction of protection offered by the sickness benefit.

“The Committee of Ministers invited the Government to show in its next report … that the obligations and sanctions under the work-related activity regime are of such a nature as not to unduly limit the protection afforded … to sick persons after the 13th week of sickness.”

That’s going to be tricky for RTU – the last figures his department deigned to release showed that an average of 73 people a week were dying after going through his ideologically-motivated work capability assessment.

As stated at the start of this article, “manifestly inadequate” are words that should ring in Iain Duncan Smith’s ears for some time to come.

They describe the performance of his department in looking after the needs of British taxpayers who have fallen on hard times due to unemployment or illness – and also its treatment of pensioners.

They also describe, in the opinion of objective outsiders, his own performance as a British government minister.

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Strong Words and Hard Times
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