Tag Archives: negative resolution

The PIP assessment hoax shows we could believe any claim about our corrupt government

[Image: Getty Images]

[Image: Getty Images]

It seems some of your favourite bloggers – including Yr Obdt Srvt – have been hoodwinked by a hoax claim that assessment criteria for the new Personal Independence Payment have been made much more severe than has been the case until now.

If you were distressed by this article, please be reassured that – from what has been said over the last few hours – it is not accurate.

Vox Political only published the claims because they came here via a colleague of good character who in turn received it from a trustworthy source. There were telltale signs that it was a wrong ‘un – for example the fact that the story is based on unsubstantiated information allegedly provided by an anonymous Atos employee to an equally anonymous source – but here at VP it was felt that the possibility of another DWP betrayal merited a mention.

Much of the hoax article focused on the descriptors used to define the effects of their disabilities on a claimant. These are defined by regulations that can only be changed by Parliament (although not by an Act of Parliament, if I understand correctly) and that should have been evidence enough that the claims were false.

But we know that Iain Duncan Smith, Lord Freud and the other vipers infesting the Department for Work and Pensions like to change the conditions in which people receive benefit – especially if it helps them reach their savings targets. This goes for the rest of the Conservative-led government too; they hide information from us.

Look at the ‘negative resolution’ the government introduced last year, to open England’s health service to widespread competition. This happened after the Conservatives (Andrew Lansley in particular) promised on their honour that they would do no such thing. Their plan was that the new rules would not be discussed, and there would be no vote; instead they would automatically become law. How could any of us know whether the government was planning more of the same?

Let us decide, for the moment, that this was a hoax. Some commentators have suggested that it has been planted by fifth columnists working for the government but claiming to be acting for the people, in order to bring other, more substantial criticisms of DWP policies into disrepute. This seems unlikely.

Instead, it shows us that the policies put forward over the last four years by Mr Duncan Smith and his colleagues, together with the way they have been implemented, have shown ineptitude, underhandedness and treachery of such magnitude that people now believe they are capable of anything at all – even the bizarre and contradictory changes that were publicised yesterday.

This is the government department that changed the assessment rules for Employment and Support Allowance to such a degree that the death rate for people claiming the benefit rocketed. Iain Duncan Smith’s solution: Stop publishing mortality statistics for people claiming incapacity benefits.

This is the government department that, faced with a court ruling that its rules for mandatory work activity were illegal, simply changed the law in order to legalise them. This act alone made the Coalition government a criminal regime.

This is the government department whose behaviour shows only one area of consistency – continually making false or misleading claims about its work. Take a look at DPAC’s excellent Report on DWP Abuse of Statistics from June last year for no less than 35 examples of this.

When you are discussing liars it is easy to believe lies about them.

This is why it will be hard to believe any attempt by the DWP to discredit its critics on the basis of this single hoax.

If Iain Duncan Smith wants us to believe him, why doesn’t he give us those ESA death stats we’ve wanted for so long?

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NHS U-turn would be right choice – but for wrong reasons?

Ringing the changes: Jeremy Hunt, pictured a split-second before events proved there are TWO bell-ends in this image.

Ringing the changes: Jeremy Hunt, pictured a split-second before events proved there are TWO bell-ends in this image.

Fellow blogger Sam Bangert just published his latest article, in which he quotes reports in the Telegraph and the Guardian that the government is preparing to withdraw its new regulations that open up the NHS to “compulsory competitive markets”.

It seems that Statutory Instrument 257, that would have seen the demise of the English National Health Service as anything other than a brand name, may be scrapped before it has a chance to wreak the devastation that so many of us fear. That’s a good thing.

The regulations were being brought in under section 75 of the hated Health and Social Care Act 2012, under a process known as ‘negative resolution’. This meant there would be no debate or vote; they would become law 40 working days after they were introduced. In order to fight them, Labour MPs would have had to ‘lay a prayer’, calling for a debate to take place. If they are withdrawn willingly by the government, there’s no need for all that rigmarole.

But there is a very good reason for us to remain extremely suspicious about this affair.

This is not because it’s yet another government U-turn. Yes, we have the most indecisive, vacillating administration in recent British history, but at least in this instance it is doing the right thing.

Having heard Health questions in the House of Commons this morning, one has to wonder whether it is for the right reasons.

You see, comedy Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, knocked back not one but two questions from Labour MPs on this very issue, claiming that the new regulations were nothing more than what Labour would have done.

From Hansard:

“Mr Jamie Reed (Copeland) (Lab): “The hon. Member for Ealing Central and Acton (Angie Bray) asked a key question. Under the secondary legislation being introduced by the Secretary of State under section 75 of the Health and Social Care Act 2012, local commissioning groups will be forced to allow private providers into the NHS. These private providers will be exempt from the Freedom of Information Act, which will make it harder for patients to compare data between providers. It cannot benefit NHS patients for core clinical services to be given to private providers that do not have to conform to the same standards of transparency as those in the NHS. Will the Secretary of State see reason, ensure a level playing field for the NHS and withdraw the section 75 regulations without delay?

“Jeremy Hunt: “Who exactly are the section-75 bogeymen that the hon. Gentleman hates: Whizz-Kids who are supplying services to disabled children in Tower Hamlets, or Mind, which is supplying psychological therapy to people in Middlesbrough? The reality is that those regulations are completely consistent with the procurement guidelines that his Government sent to primary care trusts. He needs to stop trying to pretend that we are doing something different from what his Government were doing when in fact we are doing exactly the same.”

Later in the same session, the following exchange took place:

“Paul Blomfield (Sheffield Central) (Lab): “On 13 March 2012, the former Secretary of State said of the Health and Social Care Bill:“There is absolutely nothing in the Bill that promotes or permits the transfer of NHS activities to the private sector.”—[Official Report, 13 March 2012; Vol. 542, c. 169.]However, the new NHS competition regulations break those promises by creating a requirement for almost all commissioning to be carried out through competitive markets, forcing privatisation through the back door, regardless of local will. Will the Secretary of State agree to make the regulations subject to a full debate and vote of both Houses?

“Jeremy Hunt: If the hon. Gentleman had listened to my previous answer, he would have heard that the regulations are consistent with the procurement guidelines that his own Government sent out to PCTs. It is not our job to be a champion for the private sector or the NHS sector; we want to be there to do the best job for patients. That is the purpose of the regulations.”

If one thing is perfectly clear from these exchanges, it is that the well-known Misprint was not going to be corrected!

Then, a matter of moments later, this happened:

“Andrew George (St Ives) (LD): “In spite of my right hon. Friend’s earlier comments, I am afraid that the regulation that implements section 75 of the Health and Social Care Act 2012 does not maintain the assurances previously given and risks creating an NHS that is driven more by private pocket than concern for patient care. Will the Secretary of State please withdraw that regulation and take it back to the drawing board?”

“Norman Lamb, Minister of State, Department of Health: “We are looking at this extremely seriously. Clear assurances were given in the other place during the passage of the legislation, and it is important that they are complied with in the regulations.”

If you are re-reading that, thinking to yourself, “What just happened?”, you’re not the only one!

Mr George added nothing to what the Labour members had said – nothing at all. Yet Mr Lamb’s attitude was a complete, utter and ludicrous reversal of his Secretary of State’s.

He practically tugged his forelock and murmured, “Yes sir, koind master!”

Is this some ridiculous attempt to make it seem that the Coalition is still strongly united?

Is it some bid to show that, no matter what the result of the Eastleigh by-election, they’ll still be friends, working together “for the good of the country” (if anyone still believes that)?

At its lowest level, is it an attempt to show the Liberal Democrats that they are still relevant to British politics?

If so, then it should fail, precisely because the only points made by the Liberal Democrat member had previously been made by Labour.

If the Conservatives try to say the decision was changed because of the Lib Dems – as the Guardian seems determined to suggest – then we should laugh them out of the Commons chamber.

Battle is joined – for the future of your NHS

n4s_nhs1

This week the Labour Party will be launching its formal defence of the National Health Service, after the Coalition government stealthily slipped a “negative resolution” to enforce privatisation onto the books before the Parliamentary recess.

The resolution, as mentioned in a previous Vox article, will force clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) in England to introduce competition to provide all services for which it is practical (in other words, almost everything), whether or not they believe it to be in the best interests of all concerned.

Its arrival means either the government lied when it gave the promise that neither the Health Secretary nor Monitor would be allowed to force health commissioners to put services out to competition, or it has decided to break firm, formal promises, written by Andrew Lansley in a letter and spoken on the record in Parliament.

Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, Andy Burnham, has announced that the party will ‘lay prayers’ against the resolution in both Houses of Parliament, and will fight “tooth and nail” to defeat it.   He has repeated his firm, unambiguous commitment to repeal the 2012 Health and Social Care Act as a priority once Labour is back in government, and to restore the lead on the commissioning of health services to local government.

If Labour win the next General Election, he will reintroduce a preferred provider policy that will allow genuine NHS organisations to be named as the providers of choice, thus ensuring that the NHS remains, at its core, a public institution. This will restore the NHS to leadership of health service provision, alongside local government as the commissioning lead.

But by that time much irrevocable damage will have been done, so concerted interim action is needed – and it is heartening that CCGs in Haringey and Bristol are already leading the way.

In Haringey, the CCG has been persuaded by campaigning organisation 38 Degrees to adopt amendments to its constitution, ensuring that they will only invite competition to buy services where “necessary or appropriate”. Contractors/providers must be “good employers” – be reputable, meet tax and NI obligations and keep to EO legislation. Other amendments exclude companies convicted of offences, and   prohibit companies that use improper tax avoidance and off shore schemes.

That is just the start of the battle for the NHS – but it’s a good one, and an example that can be taken forward.

Haringey has accepted that there is a case for arguing that awarding tenders to private providers will cause genuinely public structures to atrophy as funds are taken out of the public health economy and turned into private profits. This would be to the long-term detriment of the NHS, meaning an award to a private bidder is worse value, even if the headline price is lower.

If you are in England and concerned about the decline that the government’s negative resolution will instigate, why not get in touch with your own local CCG, ask them to examine the actions of their colleagues in Haringey, and politely request that they go and do likewise?

Expect much more on this issue in the future. It will be published here as it becomes available.