Tag Archives: limit

In total, Universal Credit two-child limit will put nearly HALF A MILLION children into poverty

Around 450,000 children will be pushed into poverty because of the two-child limit on child allowances in Universal Credit and tax credits.

That’s the prediction from the Child Poverty Action Group about the cruel policy that has pushed 150,000 children into poverty so far – and will impoverish twice as many more by the time the rollout of UC is complete.

Already, 43 per cent of children in families with three or more live below the poverty line, in a country where the overall child poverty rate is 30 per cent. That in itself is a scandal in the fifth-richest nation in the world.

Two-thirds of families hit by the policy will be working, and CPAG says a single parent with three children working 16 hours per week on the fake ‘National Living Wage’ of £8.21 per hour would have to more than double their hours to 37 per week to compensate for the effect of the two-child limit.

Of course, that’s a full-time working week, which means childcare may be necessary – meaning our hypothetical single parent would probably have to hold down two jobs, just to make ends meet; there’s no guarantee they would be able to get free care.

They would be worked into the ground, and probably would hardly even see their own children.

CPAG also says the policy breaches the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and unlawfully discriminates against children, because it treats them as unworthy of individual consideration for entitlement to subsistence benefits – in fact it automatically disqualifies them.

That is the intention behind the two-child limit on Universal Credit, of course: Harm.

The intention is quite clearly to penalise people for having more than two children – never mind the circumstances. In short, it is a eugenics experiment; a “nudge” project – an attempt to restrict the population at large by making it too expensive for people on a low income to have children.

The rich will be able to continue having as many youngsters as they want, of course.

So the comment by a DWP spokesperson – that “the two child policy ensures fairness between claimants and taxpayers who support themselves solely through work” – is a lie.

Doubly so, in fact, because it does not acknowledge the fact that the number of people supporting themselves solely through work is diminishing – because of the fakeness of that misnamed “National Living Wage” mentioned above. It isn’t a living wage; anybody receiving it must top up their income with benefits or go into debt.

This means the claim that the government is tackling child poverty and helping families with the cost of living is also a lie.

As the number of people – especially young people – in poverty increases, one has to question how many people will continue believing this nonsense.


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Tories have been breaking the law by rejecting vulnerable benefit claimants

This could have serious repercussions for the Conservative government.

Suddenly, instead of dismissing appeals for mandatory reconsideration from people who were not able to submit them in time, ministers have been told benefit claimants must have a right to a tribunal.

It’s a game-changer, and it could save lives.

What does that tell us about the Tory policy that refused people this legal recourse?

Senior judges from an Upper Tribunal have ruled that Theresa May’s government has been acting illegally. And once again, those affected by the ruling are some of the most vulnerable people in the country. The judgment means that the government has likely been screwing over thousands of disabled people who will now potentially be affected by the ruling.

The case was brought by two people who failed to appeal the decision to stop their Employment and Support Allowance in time. Current Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) rules state that the first stage of appealing a decision – a mandatory reconsideration – needs to be lodged within a month.

These claimants didn’t make the deadline because of their “extenuating circumstances”; both have mental health issues along with other problems. But the DWP initially refused to hear their appeals or allow them to present their arguments to a tribunal. So with the help of the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG), they took the case further.

The problem with strict time limits for people with health conditions should be obvious. They may have issues that do not always allow them to appeal quickly. And this is something the Upper Tribunal judges thought should be “obvious”.

They ruled that: “We have concluded that as a matter of statutory interpretation a claimant in such circumstances has a statutory right of appeal to the first-tier tribunal.”

Source: Senior judges rule that Theresa May broke the law and probably screwed over thousands of people | The Canary


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Here’s another reason Tories want Brexit: They won’t have to explain toxic air pollution

Last year the UK was warned it would face a European Court of Justice case if the nitrogen dioxide problem was not dealt with [Image: Getty Images].

It must be particularly galling for Brextremist Michael Gove that he is being summoned to Brussels to explain why the Tory government has failed to tackle the UK’s toxic levels of air pollution.

You can be assured that it is no skin off his rosy nose that 50,000 UK citizens die every year because of air pollution; he’s doing quite all right, thank you very much.

You can also bet that he can’t wait for Brexit to happen, so he won’t have to answer to all those do-gooder Eurocrats who want to keep UK citizens safe from harm.

As far as he’s concerned, the sooner the UK can get back to making huge profits for him and his Tory friends, no matter the cost in health or wealth terms to the vast majority of the population, the better.

But you won’t hear him say that.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove has been asked to attend a meeting of the European Commission in Brussels, to explain why the UK still breaches legal air pollution limits.

Britain is one of the five member states that have received a “final warning” from the commission after persistently surpassing limits for nitrogen dioxide levels.

The meeting which is set to take place at the end of the month, will be an opportunity for Mr Gove and other European politicians to discuss air quality and how to protect “a basic quality of life” for European citizens.

Poor air quality resulting from pollutants including nitrogen dioxide have been linked with deadly health conditions such as heart disease and lung cancer.

Experts have estimated air pollution kills 50,000 people annually in the UK alone.

Last year the nation was warned it would face a European Court of Justice case if the nitrogen dioxide problem was not dealt with.

Source: Michael Gove summoned by EU to explain UK’s illegal air pollution levels


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Official: There is NO time limit for disabled people on Universal Credit to find a job

It seems strange to write a myth-busting article in favour of the Department for Work and Pensions, but it seems whoever told our fellow blog Skwawkbox that there was a two-year time limit for Universal Credit claimants with disabilities to find a job was misinformed.

This should come as a huge relief to many people who raised concerns after the article was published last month.

But it raises serious questions as to the information being circulated around the DWP.

This Writer, acting on concerns that the article was “fake news”, submitted a Freedom of Information request to the DWP on July 19. I received a reply today. It states:

“There is no Work-Related Activity Group in Universal Credit (UC). UC claimants are allocated to one of four legally defined conditionality groups, set out in sections 19-22 of the Welfare Reform Act 2012. The requirements that may apply to claimants in each of these groups are set out in sections 15-18 of the Act. A link to the Act is provided here: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2012/5/contents/enacted.

“Claimants who are expected to look for and be available for work must do all they reasonably can to find and take up a job. The Universal Credit Regulations 2013 regulations 93 – 99 set out the parameters for setting work-related requirements and regulations 101- 105 set out the different types of sanctions. A link to the Regulations is provided here: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukdsi/2013/9780111531938/contents.

“Sanctions are only used in a minority of cases when people fail to attend work-search reviews; fail to meet the work-related requirements they have agreed in their Claimant Commitment; fail to apply for work or take up an offer of work; or leave a job, without good reason. The DWP does not have any statutory powers to sanction or reduce benefit payments solely on the basis that a claimant has been trying but has been unable to find work within 2 years.

“There are no time limits for how long a UC claimant is given to find a job.”

So that’s that. 

The parts of the Welfare Reform Act 2012 and the Universal Credit Regulations 2013 are worth reading in their own right – especially paragraph 99 of the Regulations.

As regards the claims that the original article was “fake news”, I contacted Steve Walker, who runs Skwawkbox, on July 22, and he told me:

“Can’t say for sure where the activist who first contacted me got the idea. She begged me to put something out asap to highlight it – I checked it with three separate longstanding DWP contacts whose responses ranged from “yep” to “100 per cent correct”, so I ran the story.”

My experience of Mr Walker gives me every reason to believe that these are the facts of the matter. Apologies are due to anybody who was unduly distressed by the inaccurate information in the article published on This Site on July 17. Considering Mr Walker’s comments, and the fact that the DWP is currently trying to hide facts about ‘outcome reports’ on its fitness-for-work tests after lying by saying it did not hold the relevant information, I can assure all readers that it was published in good faith.

We are left to wonder about the quality of information being given to DWP employees, that made it possible for them to confirm the original allegations as accurate.


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Cowardly Cameron flees head-to-head TV debate with Miliband

This would have been a great opportunity to us the picture of a chicken appearing at the debates next to Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband - but this illustration from the Daily Mirror depicts the situation just as well.

This would have been a great opportunity to us the picture of a chicken appearing at the debates next to Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband – but this illustration from the Daily Mirror depicts the situation just as well.

What are we to conclude from David Cameron’s cowardly refusal to take part in all but one televised leader debate ahead of the general election – and said this must be with no less than six other party leaders?

That he’s running scared from Ed Miliband after coming off the worst in all their recent Prime Ministers Questions clashes?

That he hopes sharing the platform with people like Natalie Bennett means he won’t be the only person putting his foot in his mouth on the night?

That he knows he doesn’t have anything to say that the voting public wants to hear?

Cameron’s office has said he will agree to only one debate, before March 30, and he wants the Democratic Unionist Party to be considered for inclusion, meaning seven other leaders would be vying for attention and he could stay in the background.

This is a strategy that has been tried out in Vox Political‘s local area. In a recent Powys County Council budget debate, televised on the Internet, Tory Parliamentary candidate Chris Davies did not say a single word.

He knew that keeping his mouth shut (and letting people think he was a fool) would increase his chances of election more than opening it (and proving them right).

Other party leaders have hotly criticised Cameron for trying to hold the debates to ransom and for trying to bully TV broadcasters.

“This is an outrageous attempt from the Prime Minister to bully the broadcasters into dropping their proposals for a head-to-head debate between David Cameron and Ed Miliband,” said Douglas Alexander, Labour’s chair of general election strategy.

“That it comes only hours after Ed Miliband called David Cameron’s bluff and said he would debate him any time, any place, shows the lengths David Cameron will go to run scared of a debate with Ed Miliband.”

It seems David Cameron is telling us he has nothing to say.

In that case, why give him your vote?

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A worrying new anti-terror law is sneaking through Parliament – UK Human Rights Blog

[Image: David Icke (he might think the Royal Family are lizards but he's got a point about this).]

[Image: David Icke (he might think the Royal Family are lizards but he’s got a point about this).]

Our security services are under pressure and seeking new powers, it is reported by Angela Patrick on the UK Human Rights Blog.

The spectre of the Communications Data Bill is again evoked. These reports mirror renewed commitments yesterday to new counter-terrorism measures for the EU and in France.

The Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill completed its fast-track progress through the House of Commons earlier this week, after a handful of days’ debate and only six weeks after its publication in late November. In a departure from ordinary procedure, the Bill will have its Second Reading in the House of Lords on Tuesday.

A quick consideration of its contents illustrates the seriousness and breadth of the proposals it contains:

  • The Bill will introduce a power for the Secretary of State to exclude a UK citizen from returning to the UK, except on conditions stipulated by the Minister. Early announcements by the Prime Minister promised a new “exile” for terrorist suspects travelling overseas to Syria and Iraq; after the publication of the Bill and likely consideration of legal advice, Ministers now seek “managed return” (Chapter 2) (See further below).
  • The Government proposes that police and immigration authorities should have new powers to seize passports at ports and airports (Chapter 1) (See further below) .
  • The Bill makes new provision for the extension of TPIMs orders under the Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures Act, including to reintroduce old ‘control-order’ powers of relocation formerly criticised as a form of “internal exile”, permitting the Secretary of State to move a person suspected of involvement in terrorist activity to a place of her choosing up to 200 miles from their home (Clause 12).   The Bill will provide that the ordinary civil standard of proof that must apply when a TPIMs order is made by the Secretary of State – she must be satisfied on the balance of probabilities that a person is more likely than not to be involved in terrorism related activity (Clause 16).
  • It also adds to the controversial surveillance powers in the Data Retention and Investigation Powers Act 2014 (DRIPA), requiring internet service providers to collect and retain additional data about their users, including communications data and/or other relevant data which can be used to identify the user of a particular IP address any particular time (Clause 17). It appears that the power to inspect goods is to be amended to permit the interception of mail without a warrant (Clause 35).
  • It would introduce a new Privacy and Civil Liberties Board to assist in the oversight of surveillance and counter-terrorism legislation. However, even after debate in the House of Commons, it is far from clear what the functions or membership of this body will be, how it will relate to the work of the Independent Reviewer and whether it will add any value to the existing limited provisions for the scrutiny of Government work in counter-terrorism and national security (Clause 36).
  • Finally, the Bill will introduce broad new powers – principally in secondary legislation – which will permit the Secretary of State to direct a range of public bodies, including schools, universities and local authorities, to take steps to “prevent people from being drawn into terrorism” (Part 5).

Yet, even before Paris rightly dominated the headlines, the Bill’s progress attracted little public or press attention. Briefings of organisations like JUSTICE rarely spark the excitement of the mainstream press. Given the support in principle of the official opposition for many of these measures, there seems little political excitement for journalists to report.

The full report is on the UK Human Rights Blog.

We should be more disturbed by this. Given the rise of claims – perhaps by rabid conspiracy theorists, perhaps not – that the Charlie Hebdo atrocity was a ‘false flag’ attack, carried out by a Western security service in order to lay the blame on somebody else, perhaps we should all be hawkish about our governments’ responses to these incidents.

In the UK, considering its silence, it seems the Labour Party may be complicit. Let’s have a statement of Labour’s position on this, please.

Are our politicians creating the perception of a problem, simply so they can ‘solve’ it with more draconian powers that severely limit the freedoms of their own people, rather than actually fighting terrorism?

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Tories are trying to buy the election with ‘quiet’ candidate spending hike

141214torydonations

Candidates in the general election will have 23 per cent more money to spend after the Tories slipped the increase through without debate. This only applies if any candidates other than Tories actually have that much money, of course.

The Observer has reported that, under the new limits, the total amount the candidates of each political party can spend has increased from £26.5m to £32.7m.

In March, the Electoral Commission recommended there should be no such increase in spending limits for candidates over the so-called “long campaign” period between December 19 and general election day on May 7.

The change to the law on candidates’ election spending, passed without parliamentary debate, was made despite a direct warning by the commission against “excessive spending” in order to “prevent the perception of undue influence over the outcome of the election”.

Ministers changed the law through a statutory instrument, the terms of which were not debated in the Commons, which is used more properly for consensual changes in the law. A Labour source said the move had not been spotted by them at the time, so they missed the chance to force a vote in the Commons.

It’s too late for that now.

We know the Conservatives have much more moolah than any of the other parties – let’s face it, they have spent all of their period in office changing the law to make it possible for the extremely rich and big businesses to donate increasingly ludicrous amounts to Tory Party funds, and this is the reason.

For example: In the past four years, 27 per cent of the £78,010,807  the Tories have raised – £21,072,508 – has come from hedge fund donors. George Osborne’s 2013 budget abolished stamp duty reserve tax on funds, a £145m giveaway to those very same hedge funds. That’s just one example.

The Observer states: “With the Tories having amassed a £78m war chest over the past four years, they can now funnel huge amounts of cash into key seats.”

We know that the Tories won more seats than anyone else at the 2010 election by throwing ridiculous amounts of Lord Ashcroft’s money at marginal seats and by lying about their policy intentions. This undemocratic move – there was no Parliamentary debate and one can hardly say it has been announced loudly; did you even know this decision was made in the summer? – clearly states their intention to repeat the same grubby, underhanded manoeuvre next year.

And we know that David Cameron has made this decision against the advice of the Electoral Commission – meaning that it should be plain for all to see that this is yet another corrupt decision by the most corrupt government of the last century.

What else are we to think of this? Lucy Powell MP, Ed Miliband’s election strategist, had a few well-chosen ideas on that subject. Writing in The Guardian, she stated:

“With only a record of failure to run on, David Cameron’s campaign is reliant on smear, fear and fat cats’ chequebooks. This is a party flush with big money backers but without the empathy or ideas the country needs, so they are rigging the rules of our democracy in their favour.

“When he was first leader of the opposition, David Cameron said he wanted to take the big money out of politics. He promised to address the ‘big donor culture’, arguing that we should ‘cut what is spent on a general election’. Yet he has now cynically changed his tune. Desperate to hang on to power, the Tories have quietly changed the rules to allow them to spend big in the runup to the election. The changes would allow them to spend millions more than they’re presently allowed, paving the way for Tory propaganda to flood constituencies.”

Opponents of Tory tyranny cannot match the Nasty Party’s spending power. All we have are our own voices and the facts.

That’s why next year – more than ever before – we have to put the message out to protect the public against the next wave of lies and ‘spin’.

The Tory Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act means we can’t spend any appreciable amount of money doing this, but they can’t stop us talking and they can’t stop us publicising the facts.

It’s up to us – all of us – to show the Tories that money isn’t everything.

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It’s time to debunk a few common myths about the Labour Party

myth-busted

The Vox Political Facebook page has become a lively place over the last couple of days – mainly because of the presence of misinformed people purveying hand-me-down myths about Labour Party policies, accompanied by the odd troll who wants to cause mischief by supporting those beliefs, even though they know them to be false.

This makes it a frustrating place for Yr Obdt Srvt, who has had to respond to every other comment with a rehash of explanations provided to other people on other comment threads. It’s like trying to have a conversation in which you have to repeat yourself after every couple of sentences because you’re talking to people who keep coming out with the same – disproved – claims.

Clearly it is time to provide these people with a common point of reference, to which they may refer – it won’t shut up the trolls but at least they’ll look stupid if they’ve been given an answer and still carry on.

So! Let’s have a look at some of these claims.

1. “Labour voted to support the Bedroom Tax and it is hypocritical of them to oppose it now.”

Labour never – categorically NEVER – voted for the Bedroom Tax.

The entire Parliamentary Labour Party (barring possibly any who were ill or had some other reasonable excuse not to be present) voted against the Welfare Reform Act (which contains Bedroom Tax legislation) when it was pushed through Parliament in February 2012. Look up Hansard debates, February 21, where MPs’ speeches, and the way they voted, are reported verbatim.

Since then, the party’s campaigning against the Bedroom Tax has been constant.

If you have been making this claim, you stand corrected.

Do not come to this blog or the Vox Political Facebook page repeating that claim again.

In addition, you should now take responsibility for preventing other people from spreading that falsehood. If you spot anyone doing so, you just make sure they know the facts – along with everyone they’ve been misinforming.

2. “Labour has committed itself to following Coalition spending plans and is therefore no different from the Conservatives.”

The Tory spending limits myth is another one that has to be challenged at every turn because a lot of people misunderstand it.

Firstly, just because Labour has committed itself to keeping the same limit on its spending as the Tories, for one year only, does not mean that Labour will spend the money in exactly the same way!

Too many people make this assumption when there is absolutely no basis for it in fact – including some newspapers, it is sad to report. They got it wrong.

Secondly, government spending for the first year is tied down, to a certain extent, by commitments made by the previous administration. Once those are out of the way, it leaves the board clear for the new government to be as bold as it wants.

And, as the New Statesman has pointed out: “It is worth noting that Labour’s room for manoeuvre is greater than it might appear.

“First, the party’s pledge to match the coalition’s spending totals in 2015/16 does not mean that it has to spend each budget in the same way. In education, for instance, it could devote less funding to free schools and more to schools in areas where demand is greatest.

“Second, the commitment to match planned government spending only applies to the first year of the next parliament: the party is free to outspend the coalition after that and to make greater use of tax rises to reduce borrowing.

“Third, while promising to eliminate the current account deficit, Labour (unlike the Tories) has not pledged to eradicate the total deficit, leaving room to borrow to fund capital projects such as housing and transport infrastructure (provided that the rate of spending growth is slower than the growth in GDP it will still be able to meet its promise to reduce the national debt).”

3. “Ed Miliband is a closet Tory because he has said he wants to govern like Margaret Thatcher.”

Some people seem determined to shoehorn this statement into a belief that Miliband was confessing that he is a Conservative.

He was talking about Margaret Thatcher’s style of leadership, not her political beliefs – Thatcher led from the front, telling her cabinet what she wanted done and expecting them to do it. In contrast, for example, Johon Major was a consensus leader who discussed big decisions with the other members of his cabinet in order to find out their opinions before making a decision.

Now, you might have an opinion on which of those styles is the best, but you won’t even be able to start forming a judgement if you’re unable to recognise what it really is!

4. “We cannot trust New Labour, the party of Tony Blair and his brand of neoliberalism.”

New Labour ended in 2010.

Go to a search engine and type in ‘Ed Miliband new labour dead’ or something similar. The relevant articles are dated around September 26. New Labour was a neoliberal mistake.

New Labour made too many errors – it was a silly experiment to take Labour down the same neoliberal cul-de-sac as Thatcherite Tories. This is why the current leadership has turned its back on the whole project.

Yr Obdt Srvt joined Labour to help turn the party back into what it should be. Yes, there are still New Labour hangers-on, but Vox Political does its bit to expose them for what they are on the blog (as you’ll know, if you’re a regular reader).

We’re not all Red Tory propagandists, you know!

5. “Labour has not opposed any of the Coalition cuts to services or social security. Labour has supported them.”

This misconception seems to have grown from the fact that the Coalition has been able to push through all of the changes it wanted, no matter how damaging – and arises from a misunderstanding of the way Parliament works.

While the Coalition has a majority, it doesn’t matter what Labour does in Parliament – the Coalition will always win the vote.

In fact, Labour has opposed every single cut inflicted on the UK by the Coalition, except in one case where the party abstained in order to win concessions.

Labour MPs and activists have campaigned ceaselessly against the cuts that have led to many thousands of deaths, speaking out in the Commons Chamber, in newspapers, at demonstrations, rallies and public events. They have made it perfectly clear that they intend to hold the Coalition to account.

Claims that Labour “sat idle” for the last four years are dangerous nonsense as some people may believe them without checking the facts for themselves.

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