Disability Benefits and Social Care

Part of Opposition Day — [2nd Allotted Day] – in the House of Commons at 1:27 pm on 20th June 2012.

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Photo of Liam Byrne Liam Byrne Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions 1:27 pm, 20th June 2012

Those are precisely the kinds of worries that the House should reflect on because this is a very difficult and sensitive area of policy. The Government are not attempting to prosecute reform with any kind of consensus at all. That is why charities are resigning and resiling from their administration.

To the picture of ESA reform, I am afraid we have to add the Work programme. Once billed as the greatest back-to-work programme designed by human hand it is now missing its target for disabled people by 60%. Charity after charity says that the number of people referred to them for specialist help to get back to work is minuscule and tiny. St Mungo’s and now the Single Homeless Project have even gone to the lengths of resigning from the programme altogether.

This Government’s contempt is not reserved for disabled people without a job. There is plenty of it to go around for people with a job, including those Remploy workers in factories to whom the Secretary of State said, “You don’t produce very much at all. They are not doing any work at all. They are just making cups of coffee.” I hope that, in the course of this debate, the Secretary of State will take the opportunity to resign—I mean apologise.

[Interruption.]

I may not give way to calls on that point, but I congratulate the

Sunday Express on its campaign, highlighting the disgraceful treatment of Remploy workers. We all know that Remploy has to change—that is the point I would make to Conservative Members—but this Government have decided to press ahead, closing these factories at breakneck speed. These factories are in constituencies where twice as many people as the national average are chasing every single job. How can it be right to say to these factories that they have until Monday to complete a business plan that, if it is not successful, will see the closure of factories in communities that need jobs and cannot afford to lose them?