Wednesday 9 March 2011

2nd Reading of Welfare Reform Bill - Summary

Today was the 2nd reading of the Welfare Reform Bill and, on the whole, it seemed a very constructive, mannerly affair with both sides of the house making reasoned arguments. There seemed to be a genuine desire on both sides of the house to make sure the reforms were fair and any problems resolved.

The main points that came up time and again were those things IDS couldn't confirm, the parts of reform for which details haven't been decided despite them being in the original bill. These include :

-Child Tax Credit will be abolished but IDS cannot confirm what will take it's place One study seems to imply that whilst currently up to 97% of childcare is paid for, this might drop to 70% acting as a disincentive to work

-We also don't know what will happen about free school meals, passporting of benefits, disability premiums,  housing for those on DLA or whether DLA will continue after retirement age. Council tax benefit and elements of support for carers are also unclear. Labour argued throughout the debate that there were far too many details yet to be presented to the house.

-Labour continually pointed out that without work to go to, these reforms would fail and cause hardship and inequality. Jobs MUST be the starting point for welfare reform.

-The savings cap came up over and over again. Members argued that capping savings at £16,000 for those on Universal Credit did not "foster ambition"

- Members on both sides raised concerns over the Work Capability Assessments and reassurance was given that these would be addressed.

It was however, noticeable from the start that by far the biggest issue was sickness and disability benefit reform. It came up over and over again from members on both sides of the house, many waving sheaths of letters from frightened constituents. A HUGE congratulations to campaigners who have worked tirelessly to make sure that MPs were well informed on the issues sick and disabled people face. It showed in every part of the debate that the message had got through.

Questions were asked on DLA and it seems that the government have backed down on scrapping mobility payments for adults in care homes. Liam Byrne pushed IDS for confirmation which wasn't quite given, but it was certainly a stronger concession than was given last week.

For a while it looked as though Labour might back down on time limiting ESA and certainly, many Labour MPs raised this issue as one of the greatest causes for concern. Byrne didn't quite back down, but it seemed to me that this may still be up for debate - a positive sign.

Many MPs also mentioned that DLA was in little need of reform. It was an occurring theme that announcing a 20% cut in the benefit before any assessment had taken place could only be viewed as a cost cutting measure and would understandably cause concern. I wondered if there might be a push to remove DLA from the WRB altogether as too many details were still too unclear? Watch this space.

Concerns were raised over ATOS and the assessment process. IDS was pushed on whether he would reconsider inflicting regular assessments on those who's disabilities were lifelong or degenerative. this was one area he stood very firm on. He saw nothing wrong with assessing ANY benefit regularly.

The Conservative side of the argument was nearly always that benefits were far too complicated and that work must pay. I disagree with neither of those statements and felt that there would be little resistance to changing specific details as long as those two points were rigorously upheld. They mentioned a desire to see real jobs that pay - another desire I can't disagree with

Finally, I'd like to point out that attendance in the house was shameful. A handful of MPs scattered the benches during this, the most important change to our welfare system for 60 years. Along with the NHS proposals, I urge EVERY MP to take his or her responsibility more seriously in our name. They ALL need to be informed on these proposals and surely every constituent has the right to think that his or her MP will give this enormous overhaul their full attention?

Sadly, right at the end when the cameras came in, Chris Grayling, the final speaker, turned the debate into a party political row. It WASN'T like that all the way through. This issue should be above politics. To their credit, most who spoke managed this admirably.

The (Lab) amendment failed by 244 Ayes, 317 Noes. Where were the other 89 MPs? Again, I don't care about excuses. This is too important to miss.

Update : John McDonnell MP (Lab) is tweeting that Ed Miliband told Labour MPs (PLP) to ABSTAIN on the bill, and to only support the amendment. I'll leave you to draw your own conclusions on that one. I'm way too deflated. 


  1. Might as well go top myself now then - I KNEW this Govt didnt give a shit about the disabled - They only care for those who own 40mill or so like Cameron!

  2. I'm so angry right now. What can we do now? What is left to do? I feel like there's no point to anything any more.

  3. Disheartening. I'm glad I didn't watch it. It's so depressing seeing every aspect of our lives up for - farcical - debate, and being torn down. We're not treated as people, just statistics. I wonder what they'll do when the suicide rate goes up?

  4. I'm a reading that correctly. Ed Milliband told Labour MP's to vote FOR the bill, i.e. in favour

  5. I'm feeling sick....I wonder if the ConDems will subsidise cheap flights to Zurich as part of a welfare reform package.....

  6. Mason Dixon, Autistic here. I was puzzled after the amendment failed why the next vote for the second reading pass had over three-hundred ayes and just twenty noes. Those against has almost entirely left the chamber; they didn't vote for as Milliband told them, they abstained. That could mean they didn't want their names attached to it, but it could simply be that when they realised the result would be the same whether they were present or not, they left without voting. I'm guessing the twenty noes were mainly people that took part in the debate.

  7. Carole aka Mewsli aka RoboMam9 March 2011 at 21:24

    Could anyone tell me now what is the point in fighting? If those who we should be able to count on to look after our interests DONT , then what are we disabled people to do ?

    I am NOT a scrounger, I am NOT scum , I am NOT a workless sinner ( IDS you may not have said those words, but by God you meant the inference)

    I am a 54 year old disabled woman who is very, very angry at having to pay for the mistakes of bankers and the patrons of the conservatives.

    I did NOT cause these monetary problems, so why should I, and the rest of society have to pay for the foolishness of others?

    What do I do when .....?

    Arguably just a bad, but sorry for the error. Either way, Labour did NOT vote against this bill. Only 20 MPs defied the whip.
    John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn were two, I'm trying to find out who the others were.
    Do help on this if you can. I'm going to write about this in the morning and Labour List will carry it too, so help me and research.
    I'm exhausted and I think tomorrow will be a big day.....

  9. The Ed Miliband thing doesn't seem to correlate with the stance that Liam Byrne was taking - odd, is this gospel?

  10. Well I was waiting to see how this was going to go...sadly it looks like it's not good so I will save them my IB and DLA.
    I cant go on sorry! Dramatic I know but this is making my illness worse and every day is purgatory. The pain is much too much. For a christian IDS is a joke! I don't know how he sleeps at night. I'm a great believer in karma and I really hope he suffers at some point in his miserable life.
    Please all I ask is if ever anyone on here has a chance for a face to face please let him know I tried and trusted our politicians to do the right thing for the poor and disadvantaged.
    More fool me huh? Anyway I hope one day one of them finds their conscience.
    I wish you luck and all the love in the world.x

  11. It IS gospel. It is odd isn't it??
    I watched AND tweeted the whole thing and Byrne came out fighting. His tone was different and he said several times, "That's why I cannot support this bill" It didn't FEEL all the way through that that meant abstention did it?
    Glad you said the same Gracie.
    I wonder could it have always been planned that way or not?

  12. I think voting on the bill should not be party based but based on weather our MPs really believe this ill make ours a fairer or less fairer society ! I think its sad that we have change for changes sake without any thought to what will replace it and hence the lack of details only makes it open to abuse and arbitrariness by politicians in years to come

  13. Money saving idea! Scrap parliamentary debate. Hand out redundancy notices to all MPs outside the cabinet cabal. All we need is a cabinet of yes men and women to rubber stamp any bloody thing they choose. Disgraceful! Full marks to Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnel.
    As for Miliband - Sorry but support has just gone straight out of the window. Oh Raving Loony Party - where art thou in our hour of need?

  14. Vote record is here.


  15. I was quite hopeful at points during the debate as Member after Member on both sides of The House stood up and spoke about DLA and ESA but was increasingly horrified by the apparent paucity of detail in the Bill. I almost believed, at one point, that the Amendment might be won. A couple of LibDems said they couldn't support the Bill in its current form. But then the Government rolls through the lobby in its steam-roller to defeat the amendment and I really don't know what Labour are at with Abstention from the vote on Second Reading. And yes, where were the other 89 MPs?

    Ho hum. Recover from watching a long debate, then regroup and gird loins to continue the fight...


  16. My son is one of the deafblind IDs wants to be re-assessed, which is lauughable as he would not understand. Though Tom Clarke the disabled's champion spoke so well. Very impressed by Liam Bryant. IDS doesn't care about DLA its all about saving money for his masters.

    Very suprised by Miliband's late action, through we fight, and fight on. Shall keep this action in mind. Plus looking round the chamber expected more MP's to speak against the Bill by the amount of work charities have done for MP's.

  17. 'Noes' were basically the Socialist Campaign Group MPs ie 'old' Labour ... I'm afraid the blairite legacy has yet again screwed the LP from doing the right thing.... it makes me very bitter.

    And while I'm about it ... how come we are so well briefed by the BBC on Libya but these changes have been barely covered?

  18. This is what Labour MP's and a few others voted for - That this House, whilst affirming its belief in the principle of simplifying the benefits system and good work incentives, declines to give a Second Reading to the Welfare Reform Bill because the proposal of the Universal Credit as it stands creates uncertainty for thousands of people in the United Kingdom; because the Bill fails to clarify what level of childcare support will be available for parents following the abolition of the tax credit system; because the Bill penalises savers who will be barred from the Universal Credit; because the Bill disadvantages people suffering from cancer or mental illness due to the withdrawal of contributory Employment Support Allowance; because the Bill contains no safeguards to mothers in receipt of childcare support; because it proposes to withdraw the mobility component of Disability Living Allowance from people in residential care and fails to provide sufficient safeguards for future and necessary reform; because it provides no safeguards for those losing Housing Benefit or appropriate checks on the Secretary of State’s powers; because it fails to clarify how Council Tax Benefit will be incorporated in the Universal Credit system; because it fails to determine how recipients of free school meals and beneficiaries of Social Fund loans will be treated; and because the proposals act as a disincentive for the self-employed who wish to start up a business; and is strongly of the opinion that the publication of such a Bill should have been preceded by both fuller consultation and pre-legislative scrutiny of a draft Bil

  19. This is all great info guys, please keep it coming :)

  20. So you were right Sue - Byrne did come out fighting and he didn't support the bill. Gives me some hope.

  21. As i predicted you can argue to your blue in the face the conservatives are not for turning and never have been the public have a lot to learn

    The lords will probably pass it through and then it will be just the survival of the fittest among us here

    At the end of the day there will be winners and losers that contribute to these blogs as to who will be a winner will be potluck some goes for the losers it will be like throwing a dart blindfold in to a pack of cards

    Your a great bunch of folk of the highest order and if we are to get through all of this over the coming months and years we will have to stick together through thick and thin and may the good lord have mercy open us as we daily struggle with a deaf and blind conservative government


    Father, we pray for the many who are trapped by growing burdens of debt,

    who see no way out, and who despair for their future:

    give them courage to tackle the problems they face,

    clarity in taking decisions which will turn their situation around,

    and faith that, as they cry to you in their trouble,

    you will deliver them from their distress;

    through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

    God of power,

    you are strong to save

    and you never fail those who trust in you.

    Keep under your protection all who suffer as a result of debt:

    help them through their time of darkness,

    give wisdom to all who seek to help,

    and bring them to know true freedom

    in your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

  22. David Cameron: 'It is time for Gaddafi to go'

    While your at David could you do us all a favor and go with him I'm sure you will get on like a house on fire together and become good friends

    They say Saudi is pretty good you could also ask IDS if he wonts to go with you I'm sure he would like to

    Don't worry about us here we'll be fine and I'll take good care of things being retired from the bank of england you can be sure things will move on upwards

    take care and warm regards

  23. God you're so right that constituents have the right to expect their mp's to be invested in this process, and actually give it the attention it deserves.

    This bill would irrevocably change the path the country is on, because so many lives would be affected by it, for better or worse.

    I think it's appalling that so few mp's actually went to the debate.

  24. Including front-benchers opening and closing the debate, 68 MPs spoke or intervened during the time-limited debate - that is an exceptionally high number for any debate, and if somebody took the time or trouble to read Hansard, they would note that two of the Deputy Speakers had to ask members to curtail their remarks as there were still a large number of Members wishing to speak, and time was running out. So to criticise the poor attendance is both stupid and ignorant.

    It is also worth pointing out that at the same time as this Debate was taking place, the Foreign Affairs Select Committee was taking evidence from William Hague (Foreign Secretary) and the Defence Select Committee from Dr Liam Fox (Defence Secretary), amongst other Select Committees and Bill Committees that would have taken Members out of the Chamber. Just because a Member isn't in the Chamber does not indicate a lack of interest - there are other MPs who are possibly overseas on Parliamentary business, and I note that, amongst others, neither the Prime Minister nor the Deputy Prime Minister voted in the Division on the Labour Amendment.

    Finally, add to that the MPs who had meetings throughout the afternoon with Ministers, and constituency visits to accompany around the Palace of Westminster. I reiterate, to assume that because a Member is not present in the Chamber demonstrates disinterest is merely showing your immense ignorance of the House of Commons and its workings.

    Bills do not get changed at Second Reading, and this Bill was never going to be defeated in the Lobby. The time to try and remove the most pernicious elements will be at Committee Stage and Report Stage, and, an even greater opportunity, when the Bill reaches the House of Lords.

    It really would help if the disability community, when engaging in politics, got its facts right, and actually knew what it was talking about; in that way, it might be taken more seriously and carry more influence than it currently does.

  25. fendawg.
    That's a very aggressive and patronising way to introduce yourself.

    Did you read the bit that says : "on the whole, it seemed a very constructive, mannerly affair with both sides of the house making reasoned arguments." ??

    I watched all 6 and a half hours. I think that would make my facts fairly "right"
    What's more, I'm a politician before I'm a campaigner, so perhaps you fall for the old trap of assuming someone who is disabled knows nothing about their subject?? That's OK, you wouldn't be the first.

    It might interest you to know that I read tomes of Hansard on the 1931 - 34 period - perhaps you'd like a little chat about it sometime?

    With all that in mind, it's probably fair to say that I know

  26. ....when a debate is well attended at what stage and why.

    This particular bill is
    a) one of the most important for 60 years
    b) very badly understood by many MPs.

    Spending a half hour or so in the house listening to some of the speakers would have informed them greatly. At most points there were 20 or so MPs listening to the arguments.

    If you'd also read anything else I'd ever written you'd know that I mentioned several times that this bill would not be defeated at this point - probably not at all, but my job is to ensure that as many MPs attend these debates, hear our arguments, understand the ramifications and challenge their assumptions.

    The next time you accuse someone you don't know and obviously know nothing about of "immense ignorance" it might be worth checking you are not highlighting your own.

    As for the disabled community, I suggest they might carry more influence if they weren't deaf, blind, housebound, poor, dependent and exhausted.

    This site
    might make you think twice about how "ill informed" we are - though I doubt it. You sound far to arrogant to think you could ever learn anything yourself.

  27. Atos doctors are the villain of the piece
    they say and write untruths about many claimants
    they likely get paid more for lying...

  28. Really sickening but to be expected from this callous government.