Tag Archives: violate

Tories unleash flagship scheme ahead of conference – to abolish your rights!

Slavery in the UK: This image was part of a campaign against it - but the Conservative Party wants to extend it to include you.

Slavery in the UK: This image was part of a campaign against it – but the Conservative Party wants to extend it to include you.

One has to marvel at the twisted logic of modern Conservatives; right before their last party conference in the run-up to the general election, they can normally be expected to be trying to bribe us all with tax cuts and benefits (maybe they will come later).

Instead they are promising to remove the safety net that keeps us free of exploitation by – what a surprise! – the Conservatives and their friends.

It’s not a new plan – Vox Political reported on the policy back in March last year, when Theresa May announced that they would scrap the Human Rights Act and withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights if they win the 2015 general election. They aren’t saying anything different now.

Back then, she claimed it would be “in the national interest”, and now Injustice Secretary Chris Grayling is saying more or less the same thing, dressing it up as an attempt to return power to the UK.

He told the Daily Telegraph: “Decisions like ‘do prisoners get the vote?’ or ‘can you send brutal murderers to prison for their whole lives?’ seem to be outside our control. I want our supreme court to be supreme. Decisions that affect this country should be taken in this country.”

He did not mention all the other rights you are likely to lose if the Conservatives are allowed to get away with this.

The European Convention on Human Rights was co-drafted by the UK – in fact by the Conservatives’ greatest Prime Minister, Winston Churchill – just after World War II. It states that nation states’ primary duty is to “refrain from unlawful killing”, to “investigate suspicious deaths” and to “prevent foreseeable loss of life”.

VP commented in March 2013 that “the Coalition government has been reneging on this obligation – wholesale – since it came into power”. Look at the Department for Work and Pensions’ work capability assessment for Employment and Support Allowance, and the thousands – possibly tens of thousands – of deaths related to it.

Article 4 of the Convention prohibits slavery, servitude and forced labour, so removing it would give the Tories free hand to impose their Mandatory Work Activity or Workfare schemes on us – despite the fact that these schemes are worse than useless at getting people into employment. The real reason for them is that they are a money-making scam to ensure the businesses involved support the Conservative Party.

Article 6 provides a detailed right to a fair trial, which is something Mr Grayling has been working hard to take away from you for a considerable period of time. It’s where you get the right to a public hearing before an independent and impartial tribunal within a reasonable time (the Coalition’s secret courts have removed this right already), and where the presumption of innocence until proven guilty is enshrined.

Article 8 provides a right to respect for another person’s “private and family life… home and… correspondence”. This has been violated, of course, by the Tory-led Coalition’s recent Surveillance Act.

Article 10 provides a right to freedom of expression, so removing it would allow the Tories to censor the Internet and remove blogs such as Vox Political, leaving only their own propaganda.

Article 11 protects the right to freedom of assembly and association, including the right to form trade unions. Obviously the Tories would love to ban the unions, but removing this would allow them the ability to ban anti-government demonstrations and it is probably why Boris Johnson bought his water cannons.

The Human Rights Act 1998 (brought in by the Labour Party) is the UK legislation that makes the European Convention binding on this country, meaning that breaches of it may be remedied in British courts, rather than the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. It is only appeals against the decisions of the British courts that go to Europe.

Grayling doesn’t like the idea of impartial foreigners ruling on whether his government’s politically-motivated human rights violations are legal.

That’s why he said; “I want our supreme court to be supreme. Decisions that affect this country should be taken in this country.” He wants absolute power over you.

Dominic Grieve, the former Attorney-General who got the sack during the summer, described the Tory attack on human rights as “incoherent”. It is widely believed to be one of the reasons he got the push.

The Tories are also determined to tie this policy in with anti-European Union rhetoric, even though the ECHR is nothing to do with the EU.

The Guardian‘s story on Grayling’s announcement includes a coda in which Savid Javid, our Sontaran* culture secretary, tried to reassure people that Britain could still prosper if it leaves the EU, despite the possible loss of hundreds of billions of pounds worth of trade deals (as reported in this blog previously).

But that’s another fact they’d rather you did not know. Misdirection is the only way forward for modern Conservatives.

Remember “There will be no top-down reorganisation of the NHS”?

*It’s a Doctor Who reference. Look up pictures of Javid and a Sontaran and you’ll spot the resemblance.

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Gotcha! Bureaucrats’ bid to stifle freedom of information is uncovered


It seems DWP responses to Freedom of Information requests are now known before the questions have even been considered.

Disability researcher Samuel Miller received an email from a senior case officer at the Information Commissioner’s Office today (Monday), referring to his long-standing request for information on Employment and Support Allowance/Incapacity Benefit claimant mortality – the number of people who died in 2012 while claiming these benefits.

It stated: “I have reviewed all the information available to me and note that the Commissioner has dealt with a similar complaint.

“You may be aware of the decision notice issued in [the case of my own FoI request, which is well-documented on this site]. That case has now been appealed to the Information Tribunal by the complainant.

“Under the circumstances I would strongly recommend that we do not proceed any further with your case until the Tribunal has reached a decision.

“I understand that this is a highly sensitive and important issue to you, but there is little to be gained by continuing the case as it stands. This is because DWP has not specifically applied an exemption when refusing your request, other than stating it does not intend to publish a further report and is monitoring requests etc. Therefore, I would have to direct DWP to issue a new refusal notice citing an appropriate exemption, and the process would in effect begin again. An internal review would be required before bringing your complaint to the Commissioner. I note that your original request pre-dates that in [my case] so it is unlikely that DWP could apply the same exemption to your request in hindsight.

“I appreciate that this seems like unnecessary ‘red tape’ however, we are bound by the legislation we oversee. The most that could be achieved at this stage would be to potentially find DWP in breach of section 1 and section 10 of the FOIA.”

For information, section 1 covers a general right of access to information, and may apply as Mr Miller’s request was not recognised as coming under the FoI Act, while section 10 refers to the timescale in which a public authority must respond to a request for information (20 days in the case of FoI requests) so it is likely that this section was breached by no less than six months.

The case officer continued: “In the event that the Tribunal disagrees with the Commissioner’s decision they can order DWP to disclose the information requested. If that proves to be the case then the information will be in the public domain and likely to be on the DWP website.

“Given the above, I recommend that this case is now closed. I would be grateful if you would confirm that you have no objection to this.”

The first thing to note about this is that it seems the Information Commissioner’s Office feels qualified to predict the result of a FoI request to the DWP.

Why go straight to rejection, when the request has not yet been considered in the context of the Freedom of Information Act? Should it not be examined in that light first, before proceeding to consideration of whether to provide the information or refuse it?

If the question has not been considered as a Freedom of Information request, a case officer from another organisation cannot – legally – tell a requester whether it will be refused or not.

This casts doubt upon the validity of the entire process.

Secondly, it seems both the Department for Work and Pensions and the Information Commissioner’s Office have chosen to link Mr Miller’s request with my own. This is inappropriate. My request was made after his was rejected, in response to that rejection, but is a separate request and each should be judged on its own merits.

For example, my request was rejected due to a claim that I had organised a campaign of harassment against the DWP. This is nonsense when applied to me, and irrelevant when applied to Samuel; nobody even knew about his request until he received his reply.

In my case, the Information Commissioner sided with the DWP for the even more ridiculous reason that I run a blog “in which the main focus is the DWP and their ‘cover-up’ on the number of IB and ESA claimants who have died in 2012”. That was “the most significant factor” in his opinion, but even the most disinterested glance through this site disproves it. Samuel Miller has a site, but it is concerned with documenting the problems facing disabled people and any suggestion that it is part of a plot to bring down any part of the government would be ludicrous.

Mr Miller is furious at this treatment of his entirely appropriate and legally-submitted request which, let’s not forget, pre-dates my own, as another part of the same matter. It isn’t.

As he put it in an email today: “No disrespect intended… but I take umbrage that the ICO is violating my rights by linking my case to your Tribunal appeal.  My case should be judged on its own merits, without the taint of a ‘vexatious’ ruling.

“It’s very upsetting that The Information Commissioner’s Office regards us as conjoined twins, joined at the hip like Chang and Eng Bunker (1811–1874).”

I sympathise completely.

I hope the ICO case officer will soon be receiving notice that Mr Miller does object to this treatment, that he wants his request considered on its own merits, and that he will consider any further action after a decision has been made in the proper manner.

But I feel constrained to go on record right now to say that, if he does, I will have had nothing to do with it.

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IDS off the hook with ICC – so evidence needed of Atos deaths

Brian McArdle. On the BBC’s Question Time last Thursday, Iain Duncan Smith flew into a rage when Owen Jones challenged him about what happened to Mr McArdle, “57 years old, paralysed down one side, blind in one eye; he couldn’t speak. He died one day after being found ‘fit for work’ by Atos.”

People whose family members have died while going through the DWP/Atos work capability assessment are being urged to contact a disability specialist – who has been seeking international legal action against the austerity-enforced injustice.

Vox Political reported back in September that Samuel Miller had contacted the International Criminal Court in The Hague, intending to file a complaint against Iain Duncan Smith, Chris Grayling and Maria Miller, the ministers at the Department for Work and Pensions, considered most responsible for “draconian welfare reforms and the resultant deaths of their society’s most vulnerable”.

Mr Miller got in touch over the weekend, but said that the result had been disappointing: “They stated that the International Criminal Court has a very limited jurisdiction. The Court may only address the crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes as defined by Articles 6 to 8 of the Rome Statute.”

The Rome Statute is the document under which the ICC was established. Article 7, which covers crimes against humanity, states: “For the purpose of this Statute, “crime against humanity” means any of the following acts when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack:

“(k) Inhumane acts … intentionally causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or to mental or physical health.”

I thought this – Article 7 (k) – was a perfect description of what the DWP and its ministers are trying to achieve, and Mr Miller agreed. But he said: “Clearly the ICC is striving to discourage the filing of austerity complaints.”

There is a way forward. He added: “On a welcome note, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights recently acknowledged that austerity measures may violate human rights — which certainly is a step in the right direction.”

He’s right. The chair of the UN committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Ariranga Govindasamy Pillay said on October 23 that, although member states face tough decisions when dealing with rising public deficits, austerity measures are potentially violations of their legal obligations to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

“All States Parties should avoid at all times taking decisions which lead to the denial or infringement of economic, social and cultural rights,” Pillay said, citing an open letter to States Parties from the committee earlier this year that clarified the committee’s position on austerity measures.

By ratifying the Covenant, member states like the UK have a legally binding obligation to progressively improve, without retrogression, universal access to goods and services such as healthcare, education, housing and social security and to ensure just and favourable conditions of work, without discrimination, in accordance with established international standards. These rights must be achieved by using the maximum of available resources.

Pillay pointed out that austerity measures are also a disincentive to economic growth and thereby hamper progressive realization of economic and social rights.

The committee had pointed out that social insecurity and political instability, as seen in parts of Europe today, were also potential effects of the denial or infringement of economic, social and cultural rights.

The poor, women, children, persons with disabilities, older persons, people with HIV/AIDS, indigenous peoples, ethnic minorities, migrants and refugees were particularly at risk, the committee had noted.

Having identified the possibility, we come to the burden of proof. Mr Miller said: “My best hope lies in procuring coroner’s reports where the cause of death is found to be destitution and/or suicide.”

Inevitably, there is a problem. The UK Coronial system does not involve the collating of such information, nor does it look for national trends. The role of the Coroner is case specific, so wider information is not available. This is because the system of inquests into deaths was never intended to investigate whether those deaths were being caused by insane decisions of the government itself.

The law in relation to death certification may be amended in 2014 to provide for Medical Examiners whose role will be to examine such matters – but that is two years from now, and the DWP/Atos system could pile up another 7,600 bodies in that time (using the generally-accepted average of 73 deaths per week).

Mr Miller has written to the DWP, seeking a change of coroners’ duties to allow proper and robust reporting of trends such as stress-related deaths, suicides and/or destitution deaths of welfare recipients and recipients who perished shortly after being stripped of their benefits can be reported to both the DWP and the Ministry of Justice.

But I think we all know there is little chance of success there. This government is hardly going to hand over the tools by which its own ministers might end up in an international court. They’re insane, but they’re not stupid!

So people are going to have to do it themselves. We know about high-profile cases in which deaths have been blamed on Atos. Information about the others needs to be available now.

This is why I want to appeal for anyone who has lost a loved one because of the DWP/Atos work capability assessment system to get in touch with Mr Miller. He needs to know the verdict that was reached at the inquests into their deaths.

His email address is [email protected]

I would strongly urge that anyone writing to Mr Miller keeps their correspondence to the point. It is to be hoped that he will receive a strong response, but this entails a large amount of work. It is therefore important to make that work as easy as possible, perhaps by putting the deceased’s name, address and the verdict at the top of your email.