Backbench Business — Welfare Reform (Sick and Disabled People)

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 2:26 pm on 27th February 2014.

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Photo of John Martin McDonnell John Martin McDonnell Labour, Hayes and Harlington 2:26 pm, 27th February 2014

I am sorry to spoil the Minister’s day. When the banking crisis took place, the Government —with the support of all parties in the House—found £1.3 trillion to bail the banks out. Since then, virtually every other part of society has been paying for that bail-out, other than the banks themselves. Is it not ironic that we are debating cuts affecting people with disabilities in the week when RBS is putting together a half a billion pounds pool to pay bonuses?

Time and again in the debate, we have heard about the suffering that disabled people are enduring as a result of the cuts, and to be frank, I have heard nothing today about alleviating that suffering. That is why it is important to make a commitment to carry out a cumulative impact assessment. Any good Government would want to assess the impact of their policies, so why are this Government refusing to do so? I think it is because, if an impact assessment were published, people across society would be so angered and disgusted at how people with disabilities were being treated that they would rise up in revolt.

I say to the Minister that when the Question is put at the end of the debate, I will be shouting “Aye”, and I hope that everyone in the House will do the same. If the Government say that it is too complicated for them to carry out the assessment, let us have an independent assessment. Why cannot the Government bring in the Centre for Welfare Reform, Demos and the other think-tanks and fund them to do the cumulative impact assessment that the Government are running from?

All the campaigners have been saying—as we have exposed again today—that the work capability assessment is not working. It is failing people and causing them to suffer; it is failing properly to assess their ailments and conditions; and it is failing to get them back into work. That does not mean that there should be no assessment, however. We are saying that we should scrap this one and work with people with disabilities, their representatives, the BMA and others to create a system that is fair and just. That is all that the people up in the Gallery and the 100,000-plus others who signed the petition are asking for. That is why I urge Members to shout “Aye” today, and to support the reform that is so desperately needed.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That this House calls on the Government to commission an independent cumulative assessment of the impact of changes in the welfare system on sick and disabled people, their families and carers, drawing upon the expertise of the Work and Pensions Select Committee; requests that this impact assessment examine care home admissions, access to day care centres, access to education for people with learning difficulties, provision of universal mental health treatments, closures of Remploy factories, the Government's contract with Atos Healthcare, IT implementation of universal credit, human rights abuses against disabled people, excess deaths of welfare claimants and the disregard of medical evidence in decision-making by Atos, the Department for Work and Pensions and the Tribunals Service; urges the Secretary of State for Health and the Secretary of State for Education jointly to launch a consultation on improving support into work for sick and disabled people; and further calls on the Government to end with immediate effect the work capability assessment, as voted for by the British Medical Association, to discontinue forced work under the threat of sanctions for people on disability benefits and to bring forward legislative proposals to allow a free vote on repeal of the Welfare Reform Act 2012.