1. Change the new time limit on contribution-based ESA from one year to a minimum of two years. The Government's proposal meant that anyone who's been sick for a year this April would immediately lose their benefit entitlement. With the Lords' amendment, they will have a year to find out how changes will affect them and try to put other provisions in place if they're not going to get better.
2. Remove the time limit altogether for cancer patients. The Government wanted the one-year limit above to apply to everyone, even those struggling against cancer.
3. Protect ESA for severely disabled children. Currently, children who will never be able to earn a living and make NI contributions have a guarantee of benefits to support them in adult life. The Government wished to remove their guarantee.
During last night's debate, it became obvious that the Lords had done a far better job of researching the issues. Lord Patel, who led the challenges, produced case studies and statistics whereas the Minister for Welfare Reform (Lord Freud) had only "hearsay" and vague "estimates".
Among many strong statements in the House of Lords, Lord Patel said
"If you are going to rob the poor to pay the rich we have entered a different form of morality".Controversial shadow work and pensions secretary, Liam Byrne, admitted the Coalition has
"Crossed the basic line of British decency"
All the charities, the disabled group who compiled the "Spartacus Report", and most of the Lords breathed a sigh of relief and went home for a well-deserved rest.
Then Lord Freud did something no Government has done before. He tabled a series of amendments, which would override the decisions taken in Parliament that day.
The House was, at this late stage, sparsely populated - mostly by Conservative supporters, whom Freud had presumably told to stay behind. His first amendment was passed.
Disabled children will no longer be protected.
Outrage at his evident skullduggery was so strong, Freud declined to present his other two amendments, though he will do at a later stage.
What Freud did was legal, but so against the principles of British government, it has never been done before. Parliament had debated, taken decisions, and that should have been the end of it for the day. Lord Freud used (abused?) the rules to score points. Such gamesmanship has its place - in sport, for example - but goes entirely against the principles of a fair and just democracy.
As Baroness Meacher said on Radio 4 this morning:
“The British public do not accept that banks screw up and very severely disabled people pay the bill.”
Her words encapsulate the whole purpose of this blog, and - we believe - the feelings of normal British folks like us. What we have now seen is that our current Government is prepared to wring out the last few quid from vulnerable adults and children, while failing to tax wealthy institutions for their errors. And will go to any lengths to do so. I'm not exaggerating when I call this sinister - dictators in recent history have overthrown democracies using similar moves. We are still a democracy.
Our voices do count and we can still be heard.
Please campaign against these continuing cuts to the weakest and most vulnerable. The government should be doing more to recoup losses against the banks and multinationals which caused the problem. Please campaign.
What can I do?
- Tell your friends! We're so used to a fairly honest Government, most don't believe this could happen.
- Pester your MPs, calling their attention to the comments by Meacher, Hollis and Patel.
- Pester the Lords, urging them to support moderation of the Welfare Reform Bill.
You can do this easily with WriteToThem.com. We have a link in the right-hand sidebar. What you say does matter.
Don't forget you can also sign Pat's Petition asking the government to stop and think about the impact these cuts have on disabled people.