Tag Archives: point of order

What’s the Commons speaker saying about the DWP?

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Following on from the article earlier today, Debbie Abrahams was not able to put her question about the deaths of sickness benefit claimants to the Prime Minister – but she did make a point of order, and the response from Speaker John Bercow was… interesting.

The Oldham East and Saddleworth MP told the Commons: “Three weeks ago today, the Prime Minister promised to publish data on the number of people in receipt of employment and support allowance and incapacity benefit who had died since November 2011, including those who had been found fit for work. Indeed, I raised it as a point of order on the same day.

“To date, nothing has been published. These people who died – and their families – deserve better than this. As we are approaching the summer recess, I will be very grateful if you can advise me on how I might expedite the publication of these data — on actual deaths and not just mortality rates as the Government have proposed” [Bolding mine].

Now look at the response: “The short answer to the hon. Lady, whose long-standing interest in this subject is well known, is that she must use the device of questioning, and there are further opportunities for questioning of various sorts between now and when we rise for the summer recess.

“If that method does not suit her, for whatever reason—and sometimes it has to be done more than once, even several times—there will be the opportunity, of course, to offer thoughts in the summer Adjournment debate, though I accept that she might not elicit a substantive reply from the responsible Minister.”

What? Did John Bercow just admit that the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions is likely to dodge an important question, put to him in the House of Commons on behalf of the citizens of the UK?

Yes he did!

In that case, as far as the electorate is concerned, what is the point of Iain Duncan Smith?

Mr Bercow continued: “Use of the Order Paper and of the various opportunities for oral questioning—she will know that there are a number of different options on that front—would be her best course, and I advise her to try to take it.”

Then Ms Abrahams interrupted, to point out that she has already put her questions “several times” in the manners described.

“As I have sometimes had cause to observe, repetition is not a novel phenomenon in the House of Commons, and sometimes a Member who has done something several times simply has to resolve to do it again and again—and there will be such opportunities for the hon. Lady on that matter and for other Members on matters that concern them,” said Mr Bercow.

Was he saying that questions which Ministers are required to answer are being ignored?

Yes he was!

This is not the behaviour of a responsible government – or government department.

Debbie Abrahams deserves better, and so do the rest of us.

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Another mention in Parliament for Vox Political’s campaign on benefit-related deaths

Debbie Abrahams in the House of Commons.

Debbie Abrahams in the House of Commons.

Following on from the launch of an Early Day Motion, earlier this week, to force the Conservative Government into publishing the number of incapacity benefit and employment and support allowance claimants who have died since November 2011, it seems it will be mentioned again in the House of Commons today (Wednesday).

Debbie Abrahams, who raised a point of order about the fact that Iain Duncan Smith misled MPs over the existence of the information (he said the DWP doesn’t collect it, which is not true), has contacted me to say that she is hoping to raise the delay in publishing this data during Prime Minister’s Questions.

If not, she will raise a point of order.

Note: Those of you who have criticised This Writer for reacting harshly to Mhairi Black’s maiden speech yesterday, in which it seems she stole certain ideas from an article on This Blog earlier in the week, are encouraged to take note of this.

Ms Abrahams has contacted me, out of courtesy, to let me know what she is doing.

If you are among those who think I should be flattered to have my ideas mentioned in Parliament, isn’t it a shame Ms Black couldn’t do the same?

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Duncan Smith chastised over benefit deaths lie

Debbie Abrahams: This image is from a previous occasion in which she made a Point of Order.

Debbie Abrahams: This image is from a previous occasion in which she made a Point of Order.

But will he even bother to acknowledge his mistake and make reparations?

Readers of Vox Political will be aware that the DWP has admitted not only that it has figures on the number of people who have died while claiming sickness and disability benefits, but also that this information could be published without breaching the £600 cost limit for Freedom of Information requests.

It was therefore a considerable surprise when Iain Duncan Smith contradicted this statement during Work and Pensions questions in the House of Commons on Monday. Responding to a question from Debbie Abrahams, he whinged: “I find it unbelievable that she, the hon. Lady and others have spent all their time trying to make allegations about people going about their work. She knows very well that the Department does not collate numbers on people in that circumstance.”

Not true.

This Writer had a word with Ms Abrahams on Twitter about this, and discovered that she would be making a point of order on this issue after Prime Minister’s Questions today (Wednesday). Here’s what she had to say:

“On Monday I asked the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions why he was refusing to publish information on the number of people who have died within six weeks of claiming IB or ESA, including those that have been found fit for work, after having been compelled to do so by the Information Commissioner on 30 April.

“In his response to me, the Secretary of State stated, ‘She knows very well the Department does not collate numbers of people in that circumstance. The Secretary of State’s statement is in direct contradiction to his own department’s submission to the Information Commissioner, which states that it does collect these data and published them last in November 2011.

“I would be grateful for your guidance on how to correct the record and seek an explanation for this error. Frankly, Mr Speaker, this happens too much and puts this House into disrepute.” [bolding mine]

The response from John Bercow, the Speaker, was circumspect: “If there is an inconsistency between what she has been told in the Chamber and what has been said elsewhere by the government, and that is a matter of fact [it is], then it will be apparent to ministers who are responsible for the accuracy of what they say, and in the event of inaccuracy, for ensuring correction.

“I cannot say more than that today but she has made the point with crystal clarity; it’s on the record and it will have been heard by ministers. I think she should, at this stage, await events.”

Iain Duncan Smith would have been aware that his statement was not true when he said it. But will he have the courage to admit his (intentional) error?

Experience suggests not.

Debbie Abrahams has said she’ll keep pushing.

When can we expect a response from the DWP?

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The ‘Dunce of Downing Street’ can no longer rely on lies

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For someone who was educated at Eton and Oxford, it seems strange that David Cameron never learns his lesson.

Today in Prime Minister’s Questions he got on the wrong side of an argument on the Coalition government’s botched sale of the Royal Mail and committed every MP’s cardinal offence: He knowingly lied to Parliament.

Ed Miliband had caught him out with a question about share prices, pointing out that Royal Mail shares had been sold far too cheaply. Referring to Cameron, he described the Prime Minister as “not so much the ‘Wolf of Wall Street’, more the ‘Dunce of Downing Street’.

Cameron hotly denied that his government had bungled the sale, and in response to Miliband’s claim that nobody had wanted it, he told Parliament that Labour had planned to do the same. “It’s in their manifesto!” he ejaculated.

It isn’t.

I have a copy of Labour’s 2010 manifesto on my computer, so I was able to check it immediately and found no mention of any such sell-off. Cameron was inaccurate.

Not only that, but unless the memory cheats, this is not the first time Cameron has made such a claim. His advisors would certainly have informed him of any inaccuracies, so any repetition is a conscious decision. Cameron was lying.

This blog has covered the offence known as Contempt of Parliament in considerable detail before (mostly in relation to serial offender Iain Duncan Smith). By rights, anybody misleading Parliament who does not apologise and put the record straight should be expelled from the House. The current government seems to be ignoring this (for obvious reasons).

Labour’s Jon Ashworth raised a point of order after PMQs, demanding that Cameron return to the Commons to correct himself. Fat chance.

A spokesperson insisted that the language in the Labour manifesto was “similar” to a 2009 plan by Lord Mandelson to sell off 30 per cent of the Royal Mail and prepare the remainder for modernisation.

This means nothing. If it isn’t in the manifesto, Cameron can’t claim that it is.

But then, Cameron seems very confused about manifesto pledges. He once claimed that Andrew Lansley’s reorganisation of the NHS in England had been a part of the Conservative Party’s 2010 manifesto, for example – despite having himself ordered that nobody should mention it in the run-up to that year’s election, in case it put voters off supporting the Tories.

I leave you with Martin Rowson’s cartoon on the Royal Mail sale, for Tribune magazine.

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