Saturday 2 April 2011

The Welfare Reform Bill: Committee Stage (2nd week)

The Welfare Reform Bill Committee began its line-by-line scrutiny of the Welfare Reform Bill this week, after gathering oral evidence the week before. Line-by-line scrutiny will take some time, with the final meeting of the Committee scheduled for May 24th. This week's debates were interesting in a general way, and notable in that the Bill remains standing as tabled, but there is a long way to go until the scrutiny touches on any topics directly related to disability. You can read the transcripts of the scrutiny so far in the records of the Committee's 5th-8th sittings.

The 1st-4th sittings were the oral evidence-gathering sessions. Most interesting, from a disability perspective, are the 1st sitting, especially from Column 26 to Column 30, the 2nd sitting, especially the first half, and the whole of the 3rd sitting.

The evidence sessions were extremely frustrating because there were too many witnesses in far too short a time and little time for follow-up, with questions to be asked about whether the most appropriate and best-informed witnesses were invited. It seemed on some occasions important questions were given no proper answer (such as on the increase in DLA claims), wrongly strengthening the case for reform. The timing of sessions, lack of time for follow-ups and the quality of witnesses seems suspicious, especially as the backbench MPs who form the bulk of the Committee membership were not consulted on these issues.

It was fortunate that The Broken of Britain were closely monitoring these developments and were able to delay submission of our written evidence to the Committee until we knew what had happened at these sessions. As such, the evidence that we submitted not only draws on everything that you, our members, have told us in the past months, but also fills the gaps left in the oral evidence given to the Committee.

The Broken of Britain is keeping abreast of development, lobbying politicians and briefing MPs to ensure that your concerns and ideas are heard whilst scrutiny of the Bill is ongoing. When the timing is right we will prepare a template e-mail for MPs in advance of the Bill's Report stage. Meanwhile, please leave a note here, or e-mail me at, if you have any points you want to make.

Wednesday 30 March 2011

Write To Your MP on ESA

It’s really important to impress on MPs that ESA is not fit for purpose.
More details at -

Please help by sending the e-mail below to as many MPs as possible.
You can find contact details for your MP at -

I am writing to you as a disability campaigner, representing The Broken of Britain.

Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) is the benefit designed to help disabled people or people with a long term health condition who are unable to work or may need extra time and support to find work. However, the test used for the benefit is so tough that thousands of people are being turned away and denied the support they need.

The Government now plans to make this test even tougher. There are regulations before Parliament that would change the criteria used to decide who gets ESA and if these go through thousands more people will be denied the support they need -

These changes are being put forward despite the fact that the second independent review of ESA is currently looking at the criteria used when assessing people for ESA and how these are working. Any changes to the test for ESA should wait until the second independent review reports
to Parliament.

Please show your opposition to these regulations by supporting EDM 1651 or speaking against the regulations in the chamber.

- Thanks go to CarerWatch

Tuesday 29 March 2011

The Meeting #TBofBTT

This post is a bit late in coming, as I am sure that you are all dying to know how the meeting went. I can confirm that it was interesting. Whether or not it was productive is harder to judge - and that will only become clear in the coming weeks and months.

The meeting itself was late yesterday afternoon, and I took the opportunity beforehand to meet and brief a number of MPs, including my own constituency MP, Hywel Williams. This was probably more immediately productive as the Welfare Reform Bill Committee begins line-by-line scrutiny of the Bill today, and briefing members is important. I am very lucky to have worked as a parliamentary researcher for Hywel, and thus have some inkling of how to get things done in Westminster.

I know now that many MPs are trying to find out what has happened to the DLA reform consultation, which seems to be in limbo at the moment. I have also got people digging into the Personal Independence Payment Objective Assessment Development Group. This group keep popping up, but nobody seems to know who they are. Very cloak-and-dagger!

Work and Pensions Question Time was quite interesting, in the sense that Chris Grayling and Maria Miller managed to find some empty answers to all questions on ESA and DLA. One exchange had me laughing as a Conservative MP asked and obviously planted question on DLA reform, conveniently allowing Maria Miller to give a spirited account of her rhetoric on PIP. My visit to Westminster was recorded in the Commons Hansard records for posterity by this question:

Hywel Williams (Arfon) (PC): What account does the Secretary of State take of arguments by disability campaigners such as my constituent, Mr Rhydian James, who points out that much of the increased cost of the system is due to demographic matters and to reduced under-claiming?

Unfortunately, Iain Duncan Smith responded with unintelligible babble about the universal credit, desperate to avoid the question.

The big meeting itself took place in on of the Committee Rooms in Westminster - quite an impressive setting! Kaliya was the hero of the meeting, making argument after considered argument. We had agreed beforehand that she would do the talking, as she is far more articulate and measured than I could ever be. She certainly impressed those we were meeting.

I was disappointed that some of the others present insisted on making their arguments personal and emotional, which did not strengthen our case. That said, I am a person who deals best with policy arguments and this may just be about my choices in making an argument. The end result of the meeting was as one would have expected - no firm commitments either way, although it did seem that our arguments were listened to.

Either way, it is out of our hands now. Overall, we did what we had intended to do - made our arguments without compromise. I am glad we went, though I have that nagging doubt that the lobbying and briefing I did beforehand was the more productive part of my day. We shall see.

- this is a personal account, and not a reflection of The Broken of Britain's views

Monday 28 March 2011

#TBofB on the way to The Commons

A short blog whilst we are on the train en route to London for this afternoon's The Broken of Britain meeting at The House of Commons.

Kaliya and I just want to thank everyone in the TBofB family for your support. We have been busy all week constructing our arguments. We will do our best and will let everyone know how we get on.

Rhydian Fôn James