I was disappointed to see John Glen use his “View from the Commons”: No Alternative to Universal Credit” 27th Feb Salisbury Journal, to respond to the chorus of criticism from church leaders about government welfare reform without actually addressing any of the issues raised.
The reality is that no one objects to welfare reform or the principle of universal credit. No one disagrees that an effective tax rate of 84% for hardworking low wage earners is criminal and, although much of the justification for the benefits cap is based on misinformation, no one disagrees that the underlying issue – channeling tax payers’ money to landlords charging unaffordable rents because of a catastrophic lack of affordable housing – is anything but unfair to ordinary people.
The reality is that Mr. Glen needs to address the actual criticisms i.e. that the implementation of benefits reform has not just involved bureaucratic failures but has included indiscriminate cuts and punitive sanctions. These and other cuts to local authority spending are causing real hardship to ordinary people who have done all the right things but find themselves at a time of rising living costs and decreasing income unable to make ends meet.
He also needs to answer the grave concerns about government misuse, misrepresentation and manipulation of evidence and statistics to create untruths that stigmatise everyone who is in receipt of benefits. At a time when violence and abuse directed at disabled people is on the increase and real hardship is leading to anger and frustration it is irresponsible to exacerbate the situation by using made up facts, inflammatory terminology, and the persistent use of rare unrepresentative, and salacious examples of benefit abuse.
No one expected welfare reform to be easy and we all want to ensure that abuse of the system is kept to an absolute minimum. But if it is to be genuine reform rather than part of an ideological agenda it needs to be based on facts, evidence, reasoned judgement, proportionate action and a public debate that avoids the temptation to smear and scapegoat one section of the community as “feckless scroungers”. Benefit dependency is a serious issue which dates back to the de-industrialisation and high unemployment of the Thatcher years. It will only be solved by those with the humility to realise that we all share responsibility for the resulting damaged communities and that punitive, vindictive and degrading treatment alone is not going to be the solution.
It is good that Mr Glen is on the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on hunger and food poverty and I hope the group is able to report back promptly and objectively. However it would also be useful if Mr Glen did what MPs are supposed to do and held the government to account for the consequences of its policies as well as its use of deliberately misleading and inflammatory rhetoric.
Two questions for Salisbury MP John Glen concerning the government’s misuse of benefits and poverty statistics: http://www.reasonandreality.org/?p=3219
Iain Duncan Smith’s ‘Statistical Foul Play’ Exposed For Fourth Time In Year: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/03/06/iain-duncan-smith-dwp-numbers_n_4911277.html?utm_hp_ref=tw
Hate crimes against disabled people soar to a record level: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/hate-crimes-against-disabled-people-soar-to-a-record-level-7858841.html
‘Scroungers’ rhetoric over benefits fuels abuse aimed at the disabled say charities: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/scroungers-rhetoric-over-benefits-fuels-abuse-say-charities-6579630.html
The Government is trying to justify its across the board cuts to welfare benefits by smearing all recipients as feckless scroungers: http://www.reasonandreality.org/?p=1789
The disinformation, made up statistics, exaggeration and inflammatory language of both government and its supporters in the press bear more than a passing similarity:
Even Norman Tebbit condemns the Bedroom Tax: “Norman Tebbit Attacks ‘Bedroom Tax’ http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/03/19/norman-tebbit-bedroom-tax-conservative-party_n_4994203.html
UPDATE (1st April 2014): Take politics out of food bank debate, says John Glen, the MP for Salisbury, as all-party parliamentary inquiry into hunger and food poverty is launched.
“We cannot rely on anecdotes, hearsay and unsubstantiated statistics”, says John Glen at the launch of an inquiry into food poverty”. Glen, the MP for Salisbury, where the Trussell Trust, Britain’s largest network of food banks, is based, said at the launch of the inquiry at Lambeth Palace: “I hope this inquiry will take some of the politics out of the food banks debate so we can understand some of the underlying issues.”
And yet John Glen’s own party has consistently used anecdotes, hearsay and distorted or factually incorrect statistics to misinform and inflame the debate about welfare. This observation is not left wing bias or paranoia – the evidence is there for everyone to see in ministers’ speeches and the many times that the government’s own Official Statistics Authority has criticised ministers for misusing statistics. I have written to John a number of times on this issue but he has never been prepared to accept the evidence, so this turnabout is very welcome, if a little surprising.
A Commons committee has accused the government of “hampering” its scrutiny of the Universal Credit welfare policy: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-26936477
UPDATE (3rd April 2014): Maria Miller and the culture of greed, impunity and arrogance
The Maria Miller story tells us: If your wage is too small to live on you are not allowed a spare room, but if you are an MP it is OK to have a spare house. It’s also OK for the MP to sell the tax payer subsidised house for a huge profit.
If Maria Miller were on benefits – failing to report changed circumstances to get housing benefit is a 6 months jail sentence. Here is an example: http://www.reasonandreality.org/?p=1441.
Maria Miller over claimed her expenses by £45,000 but only has to pay back £5,800 and say ‘sorry’.
Then we have Maria Miller’s 30 seconds of blatant, unmitigated, unrepentant arrogance supported by Jeremy Hunt and David Cameron :
Maria Miller should have resigned. The culture of greed and impunity is back at the heart of British politics: http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/peteroborne/100266279/maria-miller-should-have-resigned-the-culture-of-greed-and-impunity-is-back-at-the-heart-of-british-politics/
Note: Despite government rhetoric, the reality is that the vast majority of benefit claimants are law abiding – benefit fraud averages out at £55 across all claimants. Contrast this with the £1.2m paid back from the Commons — an average of £1,858 per MP.
Maria Miller expenses report: MPs conspired to save Culture Secretary: Committee of MPs overrule official inquiry into Culture Secretary’s expenses claims: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/mps-expenses/conservative-mps-expenses/10743455/Maria-Miller-expenses-report-MPs-conspired-to-save-Culture-Secretary.html