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Election 2019: Will YOU vote to support Tory policies of death by benefit denial?

Uncannily accurate: The Conservative government’s genuine policy towards PIP claimants may as well be as it appears in this cartoon from 2017.

 

It would be easy to forget – during the general election campaign – that Conservative government policies have contributed to the deaths of thousands of disabled people.

According to the Department for Work and Pensions, they died after the government rejected their claims for Personal Independence Payment – or before the government could be bothered to make a decision.

I refer to official figures released on February 1 this year.

They state that 7,990 claimants, who died within six months of their claim being registered, had had their claims rejected. Can anybody doubt that these decisions were wrong?

And 5,219 claimants died after registering but before the government made a decision on their claim.

Now, I’m not saying that all 13,119 of them would be still alive if their claims had not been handled under Conservative government rules.

But I’m absolutely sure the Tories did not treat them reasonably and many of them may still have been alive today, under a different system.

The newspapers – and This Site – have been full of stories demonstrating the ways in which the Tories have mistreated vulnerable people.

It is clear that anybody voting for the Conservatives supports the untimely deaths of people with disabilities.

But now the people have a chance to put and end to the cruelty.

All we have to do is vote for a Labour government.

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It seems the DWP is automating persecution of benefit claimants – to limit responsibility for deaths?

If you thought the Department for Work and Pensions was a slaughterhouse with people running it, when they let machines administer benefit claims we’ll see some real maladministration!

That’s my opinion, anyway.

We live in a society in which more than seven-tenths of appeals against benefit denial are successful – indicating a serious procedural failing that the Conservative government has ignored entirely.

Worse than ignored, in fact.

It seems the Tories are diverting millions of pounds away from benefit payment, to develop artificial intelligences capable of cocking up claims in worse ways than even the human beings currently assigned to that task.

In fact, I’m wondering whether one of these automated systems has been deployed to screw up Mrs Mike’s claim for ESA.

We received a letter last week, retroactively refusing her claim for income-related ESA from August 2012, on the basis that I had been working more than 24 hours per week.

I’m on Carers’ Allowance; Vox Political is a sideline that I carry out in my spare time which – so far – has provided me with earnings within the limit placed on people in receipt of that benefit.

And on the date mentioned, it was just a hobby; I wasn’t trying to earn money with it and I wasn’t carrying out any other work either.

It is an entirely false claim.

Sure, it may be possible for a human being to make such a mistake – especially a human being working for the DWP. I think it is even more likely that a machine could do so.

And I’m not alone:

The UK government is accelerating the development of robots in the benefits system in a digitisation drive that vulnerable claimants fear could plunge them further into hunger and debt, the Guardian has learned.

Claimants have warned the existing automation in UC’s “digital by default” system has already driven some to hunger, breakdown and even attempted suicide.

One described the online process as a “Kafka-like carousel”, another as “hostile” and yet another as a “form of torture”.

Several said civil servants already appeared to be ruled by computer algorithms, unable to contradict their verdicts.

There is evidence of rising error rates in parts of the welfare system that have already been automated.

A system of realtime data-sharing between the HMRC tax office and the DWP about universal credit claimants’ earnings is triggering more and more disputes, with the rate rising fourfold between May 2017 and October 2018, according to the government’s own figures, with up to 5,700 people a month affected.

Serious questions are being asked about the validity of the sources being used by the automated systems:

The DWP has refused freedom of information requests to explain how it gathers data on citizens.

The ministry has previously told parliament it gathers data from private credit reference agencies, the police, the Valuation Office Agency, the Land Registry and the National Fraud Initiative, which gather information from public and private bodies.

But it is now declining to update the list, claiming it would “compromise the usefulness of that data”.

It seems more likely that it would reveal the uselessness of that data, and the DWP is trying to hide the use of false information to wrongly push people off-benefit.

I’ll keep you all updated about my own case.

Hopefully we’ll know something conclusive before anybody else dies.

Source: Benefits system automation could plunge claimants deeper into poverty | Technology | The Guardian

EXTRA (October 15): I’ve received this on Twitter – and it is chilling:

I would appreciate your comments on this development.

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Demand for Johnson to resign after Supreme Court’s prorogation ruling. But will he?

Boris Johnson: One may imagine that his face had a similar expression after he was woken up to be told the Supreme Court’s decision.

This morning, Boris Johnson was being urged to resign for giving public money and a place on trade junkets to a personal friend. Now he’s facing a much more serious charge.

Here’s Jeremy Corbyn:

It’s not an idle demand.

Boris Johnson has tried to overrule Parliamentary democracy, and he has manipulated the Queen in order to do so.

The only proper course of action for him now is to come back from the UN with his tail between his legs and offer the Queen his resignation.

But you can bet he won’t do that willingly.

In less than two months, he has made himself the worst prime minister the UK has ever had. The government falls further into disgrace with every day he remains in position.

But it is what he has always wanted so, like a spoiled child, he’ll stay right where he is until someone forces him out.

Let us hope that happens sooner, rather than later.

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The sale of military equipment to Saudi Arabia was no accident. Truss should end it

Dimwit: Liz Truss.

Liz Truss’s claim to have “inadvertently” approved the sale of military hardware to Saudi Arabia should be enough to have her sacked for incompetence – but there is a better use for her.

The decision has put the International Trade Secretary in contempt of the Court of Appeal, which ordered the Tory government not to approve any new licences to Saudi for use in Yemen and to retake all the decisions on existing licences in a legally compliant manner.

It seems clear that these orders have been ignored by a government department that has a “longstanding and shameful” policy of maximising arms sales regardless of the consequences.

As Andrew Smith of the Campaign Against the Arms Trade points out in his Independent article:

This surely discredits the government’s tired old mantra that the UK supposedly has some of the most “rigorous” and “robust” arms export controls in the world.

Since the bombing of Yemen began in March 2015 the UK has licensed £5.3bn worth of arms to the Saudi regime, including fighter jets, bombs and missiles. These weapons have played a central role in the brutal war, which has created the worst humanitarian disaster in the world.

The extent of the UK government’s support was on display last week when a Saudi military delegation was invited to London by Truss’s department for Defence & Security Equipment International 2019 (DSEI), the biggest arms fair in the world.

While at DSEI, Saudi representatives will have been welcomed by UK civil servants and lobbied for further sales by the world’s biggest arms companies. Nobody will have dared to utter a word about the abysmal state of human rights in Saudi Arabia or the human cost of its bombardment of Yemen.

At the heart of discussions will have been the prospect of further fighter jet sales. Since 2016, the government has been in negotiations with the Saudi Royal Family and the UK’s largest arms company, BAE Systems, to secure the sale of 48 Eurofighter jets.

The deal, which appears to have been put on hold following the court verdict and the international condemnation of the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, is thought to be worth £10bn. With that kind of money on the table, government ministers have been prepared to act as cheerleaders for the arms industry.

Mr Smith says 60,000 Yemeni people have already died. If this £10 billion deal goes through, many thousands more are also likely to perish.

Because Tories believe money is more important than lives.

That is the only explanation that allows us to understand why the Conservatives are willing to put themselves in contempt of the UK courts (and consider what this portends for the Supreme Court’s decision on Boris Johnson’s prorogation of Parliament, next week).

I don’t want to be complicit in the murder of thousands more innocent people, encouraged by my government.

The only way to stop it, it seems, is to ensure that the dimwit who has been allowing it is made to do what she should have been doing in the first place.

Let’s see Liz Truss stay in post, for now – but only to show us how she is putting the Court of Appeal’s order into practise, and the concrete results arising from it.

Source: How is it possible for the government to claim it sold military equipment to Saudi Arabia ‘accidentally’? | The Independent

Legal challenge to Boris Johnson’s shut-down of Parliament to be decided next week

Time is ticking down: But the wheels of justice move slowly.

The BBC ought to have a slapped wrist for the headline on one of today’s (August 30) biggest stories.

Judge refuses to halt Parliament suspension plans implies that a legal challenge to Boris Johnson’s prolonged prorogation of Parliament has been stopped altogether, and that isn’t correct.

No – the bid by 75 MPs to secure an interim interdict, ruling it illegal and unconstitutional for the shutdown to take place now, has only been delayed.

The Scottish judge, Lord Doherty, wants access to the arguments of both sides – including the government – before making a decision.

His announcement is therefore expected on Wednesday – which is still in good time before the prorogation can come into effect.

A Scottish judge has refused to order a temporary halt to Boris Johnson’s plan to shut down the UK Parliament.

A group of 75 parliamentarians were seeking an interim interdict – similar to an injunction – at the Court of Session ahead of a full hearing.

Their request was declined by Lord Doherty, who said he was not satisfied there was a “cogent need” for an interdict.

However the full hearing will now be heard next Tuesday, rather than Friday.

Lord Doherty said this was because it was in the interests of justice, and in the public interest, for the case – which is opposed by the UK government – to proceed as quickly as possible.

The judge will not decide on the merits of the case until he has heard legal arguments from both sides on Tuesday, with his final ruling potentially being delivered the following day.

Whatever the outcome next week, the prorogation challenge is likely to be appealed – to the Inner House of the Court of Session and the UK Supreme Court.

Source: Judge refuses to halt parliament suspension plans – BBC News

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The DWP can’t be trusted to get benefit decisions right – so let’s speed up the appeal process

Department for Work and Pensions: Not to be trusted to judge benefit claims?

There are two sides to this question.

On one, as “some researchers” mentioned in the Disability News Service article – quoted below – make clear, DWP decision-makers are said to be upholding too many of the recommendations by discredited government contractors Atos and Capita.

But on the other, we are faced with the possibility of DWP decision-makers deciding cases on a political basis, under orders from the Conservative government – and we know that those orders would be to fail a high percentage of claims.

From This Writer’s point of view, it seems the appeal process is vital; it is its slowness that should be questioned.

Claimants have to go through a process called Mandatory Reconsideration (MR) before they can even start an appeal against a wrong decision, and this can leave them penniless and struggling to survive for months at a time.

This is highly prejudicial against innocent people who have made their benefit claims in good faith, and whose health may suffer in the time they are forced to wait.

I would call for MR to be scrapped and the appeal process to be sped up, for the sake of claimants’ health.

New figures show that Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) civil servants are questioning only a tiny proportion of the benefit assessment reports written by discredited government contractors Atos and Capita.

Campaigners have been trying for months to secure evidence that would explain why such a high proportion of personal independence payment (PIP) claims that are taken to appeal are successful.

Figures from social security tribunals show the proportion of claimants who won their PIP appeals rose by seven percentage points in a year, from 64 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2016-17 to 71 per cent in the same period of 2017-18.

The new figures, secured by Disability News Service (DNS) through a freedom of information request, may help to explain why so many appeals are successful.

Source: DWP figures provide fresh evidence to explain PIP claim rejections

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Disabled people’s response to PIP review: STARK TERROR

Judge Death: Esther McVey’s Department for Work and Pensions will evaluate the PIP entitlement of people who have died since claiming – including some whose claims were refused altogether. Fat lot of good it’ll do them [Image: PA].

Perhaps Esther McVey thought disabled people would be grateful when she announced that every claim for Personal Independence Payment would be reviewed, because the government was under-paying people with mental health problems. If so, SHE THOUGHT WRONG.

In fact, the 1.6 million PIP recipients whose claims are to be reviewed have greeted the announcement, not with gratitude, but with terror.

Vox Political commenter ‘Florence’ explains:

The decision to review all cases had caused alarm among the PIP base; we see yet another opportunity to be denied benefits. The DWP are not trusted, and the decision to review all 1.6 million claims will undoubtedly have some unpleasant side effects.

While [the] opportunity to gain extra data on the appalling Human Rights situation is welcomed, the simple fact we are all being put through a desk-based review before our existing review date just fills us all with dread.

It’s a fair point – as ‘Brian’ agrees:

Instead case managers will review people’s claims using existing information, and REDUCE their benefits if appropriate. Cynical aren’t I.

And of course, the u-turn won’t affect people who were disadvantaged by wrong decisions about their physical health. Here’s another commenter, ‘DiabolicalMe’:

Too late for my lovely friend who died aged 47 in March 2017 who had such severe diabetic complications, including severe nerve damage in her legs, had to use 2 crutches to swing her legs about in order to move VERY short distances, and who relied totally on cabs to get anywhere. Got her PIP result 3 weeks’ after her death – standard f*cking mobility rate. Not even enough to get out once per week (return fare). She went to her death worrying about her PIP result (her last email to me said it was making her ‘loopy with worry’, she was having dizzy spells and falling over in her own home…turned out she had undiagnosed (long story, should have been picked up twice at hospital visits in the days leading up to her death) pneumonia. Worry/stress = more impaired immunity on top of her already impaired immunity. She died. RIP Emma

I still take this as an opportunity – to find out how many people have died as a result of the DWP depriving them of money – but clearly all PIP claimants must be vigilant.

They treat the Conservative government with distrust for a very good reason – so many people have died that they, and I, consider the benefit system to have been perverted into a programme of genocide for anyone unable to work; a covert ‘Aktion T4’ for the present day, in which people are ‘nudged’ to their deaths by being deprived of the money they need to survive, rather than being herded into a mobile truck and gassed.

And it’s still going on. Look at the state of this:

Anmarie Williams’ condition has left her incontinent, vomiting and in constant pain.

She has spent weeks on end in hospital and struggles to look after her five children. Simple tasks like changing a nappy and doing the school run have become an ordeal. It’s even made the 34-year-old question whether she’s a “good enough” mother.

And after being signed off by her GP following invasive surgery, Anmarie approached the DWP to claim the Personal Independence Payment (PIP). But after an assessment she was shocked to be told she was “fit to work”.

So Anmarie, who suffers from the debilitating condition, Crohn’s, has been denied benefits despite her illness.

The former shop worker says it’s left her in a position where she can “barely cope” and struggling with depression.

After being told she would not be receiving PIP she ended up back in hospital for three weeks and was being fed through a tube in her nose.

The Tory plan is for this mother to die – either by the worsening of her health condition or by being driven to suicide. Then, as is common DWP practice, the government can deny having anything to do with the death. It is sickening.

I’d appreciate it if readers claiming PIP would keep This Site informed about the review’s effect on them – so I can report it to the world.


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PIP u-turn is Tories’ chance to tell us how many people have died because of their murderous policies

Judge Death: Esther McVey’s Department for Work and Pensions will evaluate the PIP entitlement of people who have died since claiming – including some whose claims were refused altogether [Image: PA].

It’s brilliant that Esther McVey has seen sense and the Department for Work and Pensions is to re-evaluate all 1.6 million claims for Personal Independence Payment.

It’s amazing that the Department is preparing to spend £3.7 billion putting right the wrong that the government deliberately inflicted on these people – even though it took a court ruling to make it happen.

But I have a question:

If the government is starting with claimants who have died – or had their benefits denied entirely, will the DWP take this opportunity to find out how many PIP claimants have died after being told they did not deserve the benefit?

Long-term readers will know it took me two years to get an answer from the DWP on the number of people claiming the other benefit for people with long-term illnesses or disabilities – variously IB, SDA and ESA.

That answer was miserably inadequate because the DWP does not monitor what happens to people who have been refused benefits.

They are simply left to fend for themselves – and This Site has run article after article detailing how many of them have died as a result.

Now, the DWP has to find out what has happened to everybody who has claimed PIP over the period since it decided to restrict payments. That means civil servants will know how many people have died and what proportion of all claimants they represent.

I want those numbers published for everybody to see.

We need to know how many people are dying because of Conservative government policy.

The DWP said no one will have to endure a fresh face-to-face disability assessment.

Instead case managers will review people’s claims using existing information, and bump up their benefits if appropriate.

Case managers will contact claimants or their GPs if they need to find out more.

Priority will be given to claimants who have since died, and those who had their benefits denied entirely.

Officials will then move on to those who were paid PIP but got less than they deserved.

Source: Tory government will reconsider 1.6MILLION people’s disability benefits after offering higher payments in huge U-turn – Mirror Online


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Esther McVey: Already the lies and cover-ups have started

Esther McVey’s promotion to Secretary of State for Work and Pensions has left many without hope [Image: REX/Shutterstock].

Already the arrival of Esther McVey as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions has been followed with lies.

Disabilities Minister Sarah Newton misled Parliament – less than 24 hours after Ms McVey’s appointment was announced – with a claim that, although her 2012 decision to close the Independent Living Fund (ILF) was challenged with a judicial review, “throughout the process the DWP won on all points.”

In fact, the Tory-Liberal Democrat Coalition government was forced to reconsider, after a damning verdict from three Court of Appeal judges in November 2013.

John Pring, of Disability News Service, explains:

The three judges unanimously overturned an earlier ruling by the high court and found that her decision to close the fund was unlawful, and that she had breached the Equality Act’s public sector equality duty.

She was heavily criticised by the judges, with one saying there was no evidence that she had “directed her mind to the need to advance equality of opportunity”.

He added: “Nor is there evidence she considered the proposals having due regard to the need to minimise the particular disadvantages from which ILF users and other disabled persons suffer or the need to encourage such persons to live independently and to participate in public life and other activities.”

The judges were also highly critical of DWP officials, with one saying there was a tendency for officials “to tell the Minister what they thought she would want to hear”, although he added that he was convinced that McVey “was sufficiently aware of the very real adverse consequences which closing the fund would have on the lives of many of the more severely disabled”.

A DWP spokeswoman told Disability News Service the minister had not intended to discuss the proceedings in any depth, and: “The preparation for the ILF debate was carried out well before the reshuffle, and the minister had no prior knowledge of its outcome.”

That’s not good enough.

It is dishonest – and that word sums up Ms McVey’s ministerial record very well.

DNS has also reported on the backlash against Ms McVey’s appointment to the Cabinet:

Soon after McVey’s appointment this week as the new work and pensions secretary, a petition calling on the prime minister to sack her was launched by a disabled campaigner on the website 38 Degrees as a way to “give people hope, a visual representation of numbers of support for those of us who’ve woken to this frightening news today”.

One of those who signed the petition said: “This is a terrible insult to every disabled and sick person.

“She didn’t show any understanding of the struggles people endure on a daily basis and I doubt she learned anything from her past experiences.”

Another pointed out that the UN had criticised the government for causing a “human catastrophe” with its disability policies, with the appointment showing Theresa May “returning one of the very ministers who has been at the heart of this ‘conscious cruelty’ meted out by the Tories to society’s disabled, sickest and poorest citizens”.

Disabled researcher and campaigner Catherine Hale said McVey’s appointment had been “a heartsink moment”, and that she felt “anguished on behalf of people on employment and support allowance especially”.

She said: “The appointment of McVey as secretary of state for work and pensions must be the Tories’ darkest hour yet.

“We can’t give her the benefit of the doubt in her intentions towards us, given her record as minister for disabled people.

“She and her morally bankrupt party have to be unseated urgently if disabled people are to survive and thrive.”

Anne McGuire, a former Labour minister for disabled people, said: “This is an unbelievably worrying decision.

“Esther McVey will be treated with justifiable suspicion after her tough, uncompromising and insensitive approach when last a DWP minister.

“Her lack of understanding of the severe problems facing those at the sharp end of benefit cuts means her appointment will fuel the fear that disabled people and other benefit recipients will continue to bear the brunt of government’s austerity policies.”

Linda Burnip, co-founder of Disabled People Against Cuts, said: “The appointment of the much-hated Esther McVey as secretary of state for DWP has provoked a massive backlash from disabled people and their organisations against Theresa May and her government.

“People see this as a deliberately provocative appointment which they feel will lead to the further abuse and denial of rights for disabled people.”

She said that neither McVey nor Jeremy Hunt – who was re-appointed as health secretary, with his role renamed as health and social care secretary – were “fit to be MPs, let alone hold any office”.

Disability rights activist Alice Kirby said: “In Esther McVey, the prime minister has selected someone whose actions had already caused considerable harm to disabled people to oversee a department already renowned for abusing our rights.

“In the past she has championed sanctions, the bedroom tax, and reducing the number of people being awarded disability benefits by replacing DLA with PIP.

“She also stated that it was ‘right’ and to be expected that people needed food banks as well. McVey’s record speaks for itself, she is not to be trusted.”

John McArdle, co-founder of Black Triangle, said: “The fact that Theresa May has appointed someone with such an infamous reputation for defending policies that the chair of the UN committee on the rights of persons with disabilities (UNCRPD), Theresia Degener, has described as a ‘human catastrophe’ reveals in stark relief the utter contempt with which this government holds the human rights and welfare of disabled people.

“We can now expect an intensification of the government’s campaign of violations against the fundamental human rights of the UK’s disabled population.

“We urge everyone to protest vigorously by signing the petition on 38 Degrees calling for McVey to be sacked and urge a campaign of peaceful direct action against Conservative members of parliament to highlight this grave injustice at local, national and international level.

“Along with other organisations we will be keeping the UNCRPD informed of developments as they occur and will seek by every means at our disposal to hold the government to account in the courts and in the court of public opinion at home and abroad.”

Sue Bott, deputy chief executive of Disability Rights UK, said McVey had “a very full in-tray when it comes to disabled people”.

She said: “We hope she’ll work with us to come up with practical responses to some of the critical issues around disabled people’s ability to live as full and equal citizens in the UK.

“High on the list are the assessment process for disability benefits such as employment and support allowance and personal independence payment; these assessments were a growing problem during her earlier tenure as minister for disabled people, and that remains the case.

“The injustices around the bedroom tax and the burgeoning problems with universal credit are also things that disabled people are worried about.

“We want to see concrete proposals to support disabled people coming out of the previously announced industrial strategy, and the health and work discussion paper – that is the only way we might start making progress on the stated aim to get more disabled people into paid work.

“If the new secretary of state really wants to make a difference to disabled people’s lives, she’ll have to do more than promote the Disability Confident initiative and encourage employers to be more disability friendly.

“Actions, not words, need to be the order of the day.”


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Corruption: Tories on Brexit Committee vote down contempt of Parliament proceedings against David Davis

David Davis: “I see no Brexit impact assessments!” [Image: Reuters.]

This is utterly corrupt.

The media are reporting that the Commons Brexit Committee has decided not to pursue David Davis for contempt of Parliament after he admitted that nobody in the Conservative government has created any ‘sectoral impact assessments’ on the effect of Brexit on the UK economy.

This is because the committee has nine Tory members and one from the DUP, the party the Tories bribed to support them, among its 18-strong membership.

And let’s not forget the Tories rigged the membership of committees to give themselves a majority, even though they had no right to do so, having failed to gain enough MPs in the general election last June.

The excuse for failing to pursue Mr Davis is pure nonsense: “In view of the statement that no impact assessments have been undertaken, the Committee considers that the Government’s response to the resolution of the House of 1 November has complied with the terms of that resolution.”

No. The resolution was written on the understanding that almost 60 assessments had been carried out – an understanding that was based on Mr Davis’s oft-repeated claims to that effect.

There would have been no such resolution if it had been known that no assessments had been made; instead the Opposition parties would have wanted to know why no work has been carried out on this subject since the Tories won the general election of May 2015 – the date when we all knew a referendum on our EU membership would be held (it was in the Tory manifesto).

So Mr Davis misled Parliament into passing that resolution. He lied to MPs in order to waste their time and that is still contempt of Parliament.

Thank goodness we still have the independent demand for contempt proceedings to take place, initiated by Labour MP David Lammy.

Lib Dem Vera Hobhouse and Pete Wishart of the SNP have also demanded action.

And you can still demand it by emailing [email protected]

David Davis is unlikely to face contempt proceedings over his failure to provide Brexit impact assessments to Parliament – because he now says they don’t exist.

The Brexit secretary has repeatedly boasted that between 50 and 58 sectoral impact assessments had been carried out by his department.

Today he claimed to the Brexit committee that they had never existed.

The committee tonight decided that since they never existed, Davis can’t be held in contempt of Parliament for not producing them.

In a statement, the committee said: “That, in view of the statement that no impact assessments have been undertaken, the Committee considers that the Government’s response to the resolution of the House of 1 November has complied with the terms of that resolution.”

The committee voted against pursuing Davis for contempt by 10 members (the Conservative members plus one DUP member) to eight.

But tonight, Labour MP David Lammy said he had independently called for Speaker John Bercow to pursue the matter.

He tweeted: “Earlier this afternoon I wrote to the Speaker of the House of Commons calling on him to initiate contempt of Parliament proceedings and bring forward a debate on a resolution of contempt of Parliament after David Davis was shown to have misled and lied to Parliament.”

Source: David Davis unlikely to face contempt proceedings for failing to provide Brexit reports that didn’t exist – Mirror Online


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