Why I voted against the welfare reform and work bill

Last night I joined 47 of my colleagues in opposing the governments’ Welfare Reform and Work Bill and in doing, became part of the biggest Labour rebellion against the party line in a decade. The party tabled a reasoned amendment which was defeated and advised abstaining on the second reading with the promise of “pulling the bill apart” at committee stage.

Last night I joined 47 of my colleagues in opposing the governments’ Welfare Reform and Work Bill and in doing, became part of the biggest Labour rebellion against the party line in a decade. The party tabled a reasoned amendment which was defeated and advised abstaining on the second reading with the promise of “pulling the bill apart” at committee stage.

Throughout my working life I have always sought to stand up for the poor and vulnerable and since entering Parliament have tried to follow that path. I did not come here to make the poor poorer, to make the sick more vulnerable, push more children into poverty or to restrict family size. This bill does all of that and despite understanding solidarity with the party no reassurance could have stopped me from opposing it. My solidarity in this case is with the families and individuals who this bill will desperately affect.

This is a bill which will push even greater numbers of children into poverty and not content with doing so will abolish the reduction targets set out in Labour’s Child Poverty Act 2010 and remove the duty upon the Secretary of State to meet them. This is the abhorrent politics of those who simply do not give a damn about the 50% of children living in poverty in wards in my constituency.

The Governments two child policy too is disgraceful politics that fails to understand real life. No child should be less valuable than their brothers or sisters and this will further fuel child poverty in larger families.

The populist crusade against social security claimants continues apace with the cap being lowered and support frozen. The majority of social security is almost always spent on putting a roof over the heads of a family. This cap will mean swathes of the more affluent areas of the country will become unaffordable for poorer families and could force people who have lived in areas all of their lives to move away from friends and family.

This disturbing bill also includes a redefinition of what it means to sick or disabled. Chronically ill people who currently receive payments of Employment Support Allowance in the Work Related Activity Group will see their rate slashed to the same level as Job Seekers Allowance a cut of £30 per week. People with degenerative diseases seeing the incomes that make their existence possible slashed. In areas like Wansbeck where people have paid the price for a life in heavy industry this could be disastrous.

Currently those in receipt of an income related benefit are able to claim additional help towards mortgage payments. Clearly this helps with people who have bought homes and have subsequently lost their jobs. However, the bill seeks to replace this support with a loan.

These are just a few of the measures that I simply could not stomach allowing to pass without opposition.

I and many of my fellow MP’s feel the Labour Party have found themselves in the wrong place on this issue. Despite the ongoing leadership campaign we need to get to grips with being an effective opposition and to defend our principles and core values which means opposing destructive legislation like this.

The analysis of why we lost the election has been wide, varied and in many cases deeply flawed. Unproven analysis is being used to dictate our policy, it wasn’t being “too soft” on welfare that lost us forty seats in Scotland. However, even if public opinion is squarely against us, which I firmly believe is not the case, we should not prostitute our principles and throw the poor, the sick and the vulnerable in front of the bus.