The Conservative government has won a vote that will prevent billions of pounds’ worth of welfare cuts from being reversed. It will also hide their true impact on the poorest citizens.
On Wednesday 16 November, Labour MPs put forward a motion to reverse £4.8bn worth of cuts to Universal Credit and to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). They also asked the government to reintroduce “detailed distributional analysis for the Autumn Statement and all further Financial Statements, as was done 2010 and 2015”.
This distributional analysis would show the true impact of welfare cuts across different sections of British society.
Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell described the planned cuts as:
a threat to the living standards, to the quality of life of millions of many low earners and millions and some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in our communities.
He also said the government’s own economic metrics based on austerity had failed:
there’s an alternative, a very basic set of metrics on which you judge a government. It’s whether it’s government can adequately ensure it’s population is adequately fed, decently housed, kept warm in winter, has sufficient income through employment or support. A support safety net to have a decent quality of life as well.
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— John McDonnell MP (@johnmcdonnellMP) November 16, 2016
Too Tory for the Tories
The House of Commons defeated the motion, but by just 24 votes. And even some Conservatives felt that the cuts would have an adverse effect.
Tory MP Heidi Allen said:
Let’s get out of our well-heeled shoes and put ourselves in someone else’s for a day.
If I were a single mum with very little support, working 10 hours on the national minimum wage and taking home round about £240 a week, would I work another 12 hours just to take home a further £36? I’m sorry, but I probably wouldn’t.
But Work and Pensions Minister Damian Hinds said that public spending had not affected the poorest. At least no more than anyone else.
The devil is in the data
In the past, the Conservatives paraded distributional analysis as a move towards greater transparency. It’s something the previous Labour government didn’t do. An analysis of cuts in the past has revealed an immediate negative effect. In the long term, however, the government is expecting a positive impact, as cuts should encourage ‘behavioural change’.
But Labour MP Jenny Chapman said the government should start publishing its distributional analysis again. If it doesn’t, it means the government is:
trying – and this attempt will fail – to conceal the impact of some of the measures.
Impact of cuts
ESA payments will be cut by £29 a week for new claimants in the work-related activity group (WRAG). These are people who are unable to work at present, but will be able to with training. This will place them on the same income as those actively looking for work. And Universal Credit could cost people up to £1,000 as they move off benefits into work.
The impact of these cuts has caused serious concern. Inquiry findings revealed a string of suicides after benefit sanctions. And the UN recently slammed the Conservative government over welfare cuts for disabled people.
— Maria Nelson #JC4PM #GTTO (@rhymingmisfit) November 16, 2016
Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour government has ferociously opposed welfare cuts. And John McDonnell said he would “swim through vomit to vote against the bill”.
While the vote defeated the motion, the opposition has not ceased efforts to reverse the planned cuts.
On Thursday 17 November, Labour MPs are descending on cinemas across the UK to watch Ken Loach’s I, Daniel Blake. They are demanding that the government Stop ESA Cuts. And they are urging others to follow them.
— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) November 17, 2016
Welfare cuts have systematically deepened. Even by the government’s own admission, cuts have hit poor families hard. Further cuts will see a third of benefits disappear. This could cause unimaginable grief in an already austerity-stricken society. And that is why the data is extremely important to judge whether the government’s welfare policies have worked, or failed completely. Their attempt to bury that information is perhaps very telling.
– Read more articles from The Canary on the Department for Work and Pensions.
Featured image via UK Home Office
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