Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Backdating law change to rob the poor

It’s official – we no longer live in a democracy.

Last month, three judges at the Appeal Court in London found that the Tory-Lib Dem UK Government had acted illegally when it withheld Jobseekers Allowance from two people who refused to work for nothing.

The two individuals who appealed against the government decision had been placed on the Workfare scheme.  Despite one having a science degree and the other having worked for years as a Heavy Goods Vehicle driver, both were told they had to ‘experience work’ by stacking shelves in a Poundland store for no wages.

In January, a report from the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee revealed that Workfare – officially known as the Work Programme - had found employment for just 3.6% of claimants referred to it.  The Tory-Lib Dem Government’s own officials in the Department for Work and Pensions estimate that 9.2% of Jobseekers will find work without any assistance.  Therefore, the figures clearly show that the unemployed have a better chance of finding employment if they are NOT on the Work Programme. 

The only beneficiaries of Workfare are private companies provided with free labour and those paid billions-of-pounds of public money to deliver a programme that is an abysmal failure.

Unemployed people who refused to work for nothing on the Work Programme  – full-time hours for no wages – had their Jobseekers Allowance stopped, meaning they had no income.  When two individuals took their case to appeal, the three presiding judges found in their favour.  The decision meant the UK Government had acted illegally in removing benefit from claimants who declined to work for no pay.  In total, the Department for Work and Pensions faced having to repay £130m it had illegally docked from Jobseekers.

Rather than face up to a problem of its own making, the UK Government introduced retroactive legislation, which effectively undermined the judgement of the Court of Appeal.  In other words, the government brought forward legislation that backdated a change in the law so it would not have to repay the benefits it had illegally docked.  In explanatory notes accompanying the Bill that went before the House of Commons on Tuesday night (March 19), the UK Government stated that backdating a law change was necessary to “protect the national economy”.

MPs from the two governing parties supported the Bill, while the SNP, Welsh Nationalists Plaid Cymru and the one Green Party MP voted against it.  Labour MPs were instructed to abstain, which guaranteed the passing of the backdated law-change depriving some of the poorest people in the country of benefits that were illegally removed from them.

To their credit, seven Scottish Labour MPs rebelled and voted against the Bill, including Katy Clark who represents North Ayrshire & Arran.

The people of Scotland did not vote for the Tories or Liberal Democrats: in fact, at the 2010 UK General Election the Lib Dems finished in third place in Scotland, the Tories were fourth, yet because we remain part of the British Union, we have this unwanted government imposed on us.

As if that wasn’t bad or undemocratic enough, the UK Government – with the assistance of the Labour Party - is now changing laws retroactively in order to steal money from some of the poorest people in the country.

Only by retaking our Independence will we be able to stop this British Unionist coalition.

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