Wednesday, 11 May 2011

A change of tone from Labour?

I know that many of you are very sceptical indeed about Labour's position on Welfare Reform and in particular how it failed the sick or disabled.

You're right to be sceptical and regular readers will know that I share that scepticism and even fury.

Nonetheless, I believe that the only way we will achieve real change is to win the hearts and minds of those 650 MPs sitting in the House of Commons. They get to vote, they get to decide, they have the power of veto.

Both myself, the Broken of Britain, National Charities and other campaigners and bloggers have worked tirelessly over the last year and well before to be heard. We have battled daily to give voice to the tremendous concerns we have over the changes to sickness and disability support. Some of it we write about, some of it we can't, but every day we fight.

Yesterday, Liam Byrne made a speech to the London Chamber of Commerce and it undoubtedly showed a change of tone from Labour. It refers to many of the points we have been making and gives me some hope, that at least to some degree, Labour are starting to hear us. I still have grave reservations about some of the content, but it would be self-defeating not to acknowledge the change. Here are the main quotes I feel are noteworthy :

This is the summary. We are at the very heart of it "
  • The idea of responsibility is a clear theme coming through in feedback to Labour’s policy review listening events; welfare reform is therefore one of the policy areas where Labour needs to win back trust.
  • The Tories have a wrong-headed view of responsibility, with no sense of balance between the responsibility of people to work if they can, and the need of government to help provide jobs and protect the vulnerable.
  • The Lib Dems have a chance to show they are serious about standing up to the Tories, by opposing measures which risk pushing thousands of disabled people into poverty in some crunch votes on the welfare reform bill. 
He goes on to say :

  • To help get people back to work – but to work if you can.
  • To invest in opportunity – but to protect too the most vulnerable.
  • To pay your taxes – but in turn to provide a helping hand with getting on and up in life.
Then :

Second, my basic position is that we should cut welfare to help cut the deficit; but we should cut welfare by pushing unemployed people into jobs; not pushing the disabled into poverty.
That is what I now fear the government’s welfare reform bill is about to effect.
Just as government has a responsibility to invest in opportunity, so it has a responsibility to protect the vulnerable.
I think ESA should be reformed, but it is wrong to ask people still recovering from cancer to start filling in job applications.
I think DLA should be reformed with a new, independent gateway, but a big bang approach is irresponsible and risks pushing thousands of disabled people into poverty.
And it will waste over half a billion pounds on retesting and retesting, including the disabled, when thousands of disabled people who are blind or have severe mental health problems, are not going to get better no matter how often you re-test them.
The abolition of the DLA mobility payments will overnight, leave disabled people as prisoners in their care home.
And the halving of disability premium for disabled children risks punishing some of the most vulnerable people in our country. 
Put this together, and this is an approach to reform which quite simply is financed by cruelty to the disabled.
It is irresponsible, we call on the government to change course before it is too late, and we will continue to seek to change the welfare reform bill to make it better.
These measures are not cruel to be kind. They are just cruel and they should change
Compare this to a speech he made just a few months ago on becoming Shadow Secretary of state for Work and Pensions :
Please don't misunderstand me. There is still a very, very long way to go indeed. Labour still support time-limiting sickness benefits, albeit for two years not one. They still seem unaware of (or wilfully ignoring) just how badly ESA is failing us. They are still all "stick" and no "carrot" - a speech to the Chamber of Commerce could have laid foundations for much more responsibility by business to employ and embrace us. 

Nonetheless, every triumph is noteworthy and every step brings us closer to an improvement. 

Later today, Mr Byrne will address the Hardest Hit protesters. They will, understandably, share our scepticism and it is at least to his credit that he will be there - unlike Maria Miller, Minister for Disabilities, who declined the invitation. 


  1. Maria Miller needs to go NOW!!!!
    How dare she get paid a wage by the taxpayer and comepletely ignore the people she was put in to support!

  2. Makes me fume....... steam from ears, full eruption of anger and disgust! It is totally disgraceful that this happens in the UK, respected bottom!

  3. Sue,

    And all your work, real work is appreciated, but then as an elected rep myself I have time for you and your arguments.

    I will keep ranting to until we get a fair and dignified settlement that provides confidence for everybody should life go wrong for them.

    You are doing a good job of out-Labouring Labour in Parliament Sue lol


  4. Just interrupting (excuses0 to say you all got a good piece on BBC lunchtime news, although it was plonked towards the end. The interviewer said she had three disabled people to talk to but she didn't as one was Jane Asher who is fronting some charities.

    I thought the two disabled people were far more effective.

  5. Thanks Howard! It took a while, but now at least we're on the BBC News 24 bulletins too. (as an aside, I see Nick is saying he should "blow his own trumpet" more. Really, who advises this guy on PR???)

    Ralph - great to know we have another voice speaking out for us inside the tent.

  6. It's all words sue I'm afraid i myself come from lord sugars neck of the woods and it all means nothing to me at this time it may to you but not to me

    I have never in my life been allowed to speak a load of bull and that is what I'm still seeing and hearing both from labour and the conservatives

    They dont like us pure and simple and when i come across a proper response from either of those two parties i will let everyone know

    At the moment there just in to words that have no meaning and just playing on peoples fears and succeeding i may add

  7. I've written some point-by-point analysis/criticism, limited to be sure, but I feel they were insightful, of the govt response to the DLA reform consultation and the draft criteria for the PIP assessment. I've sent them to the scrutiny committee, but I wonder if the Labour party, particularly Liam Byrne as the shadow for W&P, might find them useful as points to criticise in parliamentary debate and questions...

    Does anyone know if this is likely, how to send such stuff for his attention as a member of the Shadow Cabinet, and/or if there's anyone else who might use it to inform a more well-thought-out group piece?

  8. Hi sam

    there are 3 ways to contact Liam.

    1. Ring the office on 0121 789 7287 to speak to a member of Liam’s team or book an appointment to see Liam at a monthly advice bureaux (see below for further information). The office opening hours are Monday – Friday, 9.00am – 5.00pm (excluding bank holidays).

    2. Write to Liam at the House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA

    3. E-mail Liam at

  9. fourbanks: if those are parliamentary contact details, those are only supposed to be for constituents. Apparently there's a strict convention saying MPs mustn't respond to contact from others' constituents when contact is made through their facilities as an MP. For the Shadow Cabinet, I'd've thought it would be through the party somehow. I'll try googling later.

  10. You can ring sam and they will tell you on how to proceed

    Write to Liam at the House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA is ok Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions,

  11. Fourbanks
    That was good advice there sir.

  12. Thanks Howard



    The Right Honourable Iain Duncan Smith MP – Secretary of State for Work and Pensions
    The Right Honourable Chris Grayling MP – Minister for Employment
    Steve Webb MP - Minister for Pensions
    Maria Miller MP - Minister for Disabled People
    Lord Freud - Minister for Welfare Reform

    Ministers' speeches

    The Right Honourable Iain Duncan Smith MP

    Secretary of State for Work and Pensions


    The Secretary of State has overall departmental responsibility.


    Iain Duncan Smith was appointed Secretary of State for Work and Pensions in May 2010 as part of the Conservative Liberal Democrat Coalition Government.

    He was born in Edinburgh and before entering politics served in the military with the Scots Guards before leaving to join General Electric.

    He was first elected as MP for Chingford and Woodford Green in the 1992 General Election and served as Leader of the Conservative Party between September 2001 and November 2003.

    The Right Honourable Chris Grayling MP

    Minister for Employment


    Employment and related benefits
    The Work Programme
    Labour market and the economy
    Jobcentre Plus
    Health and Safety Executive

    Chris Grayling has been MP for Epsom and Ewell since 2001 and lives in the constituency with his wife Sue and their two children.

    Between 2003 and 2009, Chris held a number of Shadow frontbench posts including Shadow Higher and Further Education Minister, Shadow Leader of the House, Shadow Secretary of State for Transport, Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and Shadow Home Secretary. Following the formation of the coalition government in May 2010, he was appointed Minister of State at the Department for Work and Pensions.

    Steve Webb MP

    Minister for Pensions


    Pensions and related benefits
    Pensions reform
    The Pension, Disability and Carers Service
    Pensions Regulator
    Pension Protection Fund
    Financial Assistance Scheme
    Pensions Advisory Service and Ombudsman
    Financial inclusion
    Social Fund

    In 1997 Steve Webb became the Liberal Democrat MP for Northavon. He lives in the constituency with his wife and two children.

    Before being elected, Steve studied Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Hertford College, Oxford. He worked as an economist at the Institute for Fiscal Studies from 1986 to 1995 before being appointed Professor of Social Policy at Bath University.

    Maria Miller MP

    Minister for Disabled People


    Disability and carers benefits
    Specialist disability employment
    Office for Disability Issues
    Child poverty
    Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission
    Independent Living Fund

    Maria Miller has been Member of Parliament for Basingstoke since the 2005 General Election. She is married to Iain Miller, and they have one daughter and two sons.

    Before entering Parliament, Maria was a director of Grey Advertising and also Rowland Saatchi. Prior to that Maria worked for the oil company Texaco in business development and marketing.

    Lord Freud

    Minister for Welfare Reform


    Welfare reform and related benefits
    Fraud and error
    Housing support – including Housing Benefit and Support for Mortgage Interest
    Customer Information – data sharing and information security

    David Freud is the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Lords) for the Department for Work and Pensions.

    How to contact ministers

    Email DWP ministers

    Or write to them at:

    Department for Work and Pensions
    Caxton House
    Tothill Street
    SW1H 9DA

  13. A call to the Dept of Health re: Euthanasia options for the disabled :shock: :shock: :shock: :shock: :shock: :shock:

  14. I was shocked to see that there was no mention of The Hardest Hit march on the BBC News last night (Wednesday). Please join me in complaining to BBC Newswatch about the lack of mainstream reporting perpetuating our invisibility, so it's more likely our complaint will be aired on the Newswatch programme on Friday evening (BBC News Channel, Fridays at 8.45pm). Thanks everyone!

  15. theyoungjane - Left Foot Forward asked me to write about just that tomorrow, so I'll try to put together a scorcher .

  16. I did call the BBC but judging by the phone call didn't seam interested at all

    The only ones interested it looks like are the Guardian

    I sent the link above to them for comment

  17. Sue - thanks, great minds and all that. You may be interested to know a little about me; I have worked in both the voluntary sector and local government in the field of disability - my most recent job was as Disability Equality and Access Officer at Kingston upon Thames, where I am also a service user.

    We recently ran a high profile campaign in Kingston against its proposals to increase charges for social care services (which became a decision!) and we have now made an application for Judicial Review of the decision, on the basis that the authority did not fulfil its legal responsibility to promote the equality of disabled people and women and did not pay due regard to the impact of its proposals on disabled people and women. The solicitor is Rosa Curling of Leigh Day & Co and the barrister is Kate Markum of Doughty Street Chambers. Kingston have asked for more time to respond to the letter before claim so we have to wait to see what they say before the case can proceed. Rosa says we need to publicise what we're doing so that if the court tells Kingston to make its decision all over again they find it politically difficult to make the same decision again. I have a website at which I'm using to post updates on the campaign.

    The other thing I can tell you is that my own MP, Zac Goldsmith, has been very receptive to my concerns and very good at writing to Maria Miller on my behalf but, unsurprisingly, she has never answered the question. But I'm in continual email contact with Zac and a few months ago he asked me for a briefing when he had a meeting coming up with Ian Duncan Smith, which I was quite chuffed about!

    I try to follow the posts on your and other blogs regularly but like you I have periods of ill health when not much happens! I'm also trying to do an MA in Disability Studies from the University of Leeds but that needs more concentration and isn't so easy to progress when I'm not physically well! Thank you so much for all you're doing Sue - I look out for your articles in the Guardian as well.