Theresa May suffered another humiliating defeat on Thursday 17 November, as her own MPs turned against her and voted with Labour, the SNP and the Green Party.
Parliament was debating a motion to call on Chancellor Philip Hammond to stop proposed cuts to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). SNP MP Neil Gray put forward the debate. It called for the government to rethink the £29-a-week cut to people’s ESA payment who are in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG). People in the WRAG are not in employment because of illness or disability. But they have been judged fit to return to work at some point in the future.
The motion passed by 127 votes to 0. Numerous Conservative MPs spoke out against the planned cut. Heidi Allen said:
I have a guiding principle in life. Always listen to the loudest voice in your head. I think we all know what that voice is saying. Let’s just pause these cuts. The £30 represents 29% of the weekly income of some half a million people. It’s big money for relatively few people. Let’s just pause. The risk of damage is high. The financial cost to pause is low. What kind of a government do we want to be?
Conservative MP for Enfield Southgate, David Burrowes, said colleagues who spoke out against their own government weren’t “particularly brave”:
The people who are brave in this debate, though, are those who are trying to make ends meet. They’re the brave people we care about and we have to do more for them.
“Grave” and “systematic” violations
The problem with the motion is that it is only advisory, meaning Hammond does not have to act on it. But it will apply more pressure to the Conservative government, in the same month that a UN report slammed the UK for violations of disabled people’s rights.
As The Canary previously reported, a UN Human Rights Committee report condemned the UK government for human rights abuses over its treatment of disabled people. The report found what it called “grave” and “systematic” violations of international conventions the UK has signed up to.
The report [DOC] into the state of disabled people’s rights (the first of its kind) found that the UK government had forced through reforms with no regard for the rights of disabled people. It outlined that:
- Welfare reforms have hit disabled people disproportionately the hardest.
- The UK government had also helped to create a public perception of disabled people as “lazy” and “frauds”. This has increased disabled people’s persecution.
- The government had violated disabled people’s rights through reforms such as the ‘Bedroom Tax’.
- Measures introduced by the government were discriminatory.
- Over half a million people may have had their human rights abused by the government.
A petition calling on the government to enact the 11 UN report recommendations has been launched.
Disabled people have had enough
Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) told The Canary:
It is highly significant that the government did not oppose the motion yesterday. MPs, including numbers of Tory MPs, are rightly very concerned that this cut in income to claimants who are already experiencing hardship will cause further harm to disabled people.
This cut is a further act of conscious cruelty by a government that stands accused of “grave” and “systematic” violations of disabled people’s human and civil rights. DPAC demands that the government stop the cut to people in the ESA WRAG. We also demand that a full Cumulative Impact Assessment is performed on all austerity measures that affect disabled people before any further cuts or changes are implemented.
Finally, we demand an independent inquiry into the deaths of social security claimants over the last decade and the response of the DWP to those deaths.
May’s government appears increasingly on the ropes over its treatment of sick and disabled people. And with her own MPs now turning against her, the systematic abuse of disabled people in the UK may begin to get the scrutiny it needs.
This article was updated at 5.45pm on 18 November to reflect that people in the ESA WRAG are deemed fit to return to work at some point in the future, not immediately.
– Write to your MP, asking them to support the UN findings.
– Sign the petition, calling on the government to implement all the UN report’s recommendations.
Featured image via Flickr/Foreign and Commonwealth Office
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