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WOW petition motion passed

27 February 2014

The motion for the Government to commission a cumulative impact assessment of the impact of changes in the welfare system on sick and disabled people has been passed.

WOW petiition debate

A debate was scheduled today by the Backbench Business Committee following representations from John McDonnell and Grahame M. Morris, concerning the WOW petition, which had reached over 100,000 signatures.

John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington) (Lab) made the following motion and highlighted the historical importance of this debate:

"I beg to move,

That this House calls on the Government to commission an independent cumulative assessment of the impact of changes in the welfare system on sick and disabled people, their families and carers, drawing upon the expertise of the Work and Pensions Select Committee; requests that this impact assessment examine care home admissions, access to day care centres, access to education for people with learning difficulties, provision of universal mental health treatments, closures of Remploy factories, the Government’s contract with Atos Healthcare, IT implementation of universal credit, human rights abuses against disabled people, excess deaths of welfare claimants and the disregard of medical evidence in decision-making by Atos, the Department for Work and Pensions and the Tribunals Service; urges the Secretary of State for Health and the Secretary of State for Education jointly to launch a consultation on improving support into work for sick and disabled people; and further calls on the Government to end with immediate effect the work capability assessment, as voted for by the British Medical Association, to discontinue forced work under the threat of sanctions for people on disability benefits and to bring forward legislative proposals to allow a free vote on repeal of the Welfare Reform Act 2012.

We are making history today. This is the first time in the history of this Parliament that people with disabilities have secured a debate in the Chamber on an agenda of their choosing, so let us pay tribute to the War on Welfare campaigners. They initiated the campaign, drafted the petition that we have before us in the form of a motion, and worked hard for a year to gather more than 100,000 signatures in order to secure this debate. They are heroes and heroines who worked, many of them despite their disability, to ensure that this campaign was a success.

MPs may speak in this debate, but it is the voice of the WOW campaigners and petitioners that will be heard. What do the WOW campaigners want from this debate? They have said that they want a serious debate. They want MPs, party spokespeople and Ministers to listen, and to listen well to the statements that they have made. What do they want us to say? I have asked WOW petitioners what they want me and other MPs to say in today’s debate. They said, “We want you to get across as best you can what the welfare changes brought in over the last four years have meant to us and our families—the stark reality.” Why do they want that? Perhaps naively, they believe that if MPs and Ministers really knew what it is like, what disabled people are going through, they would not stand by and let fellow human beings suffer and be degraded in this way."

Although the debate was poorly attended the motion was passed, but questions remain as to what this means in reality.

"However, there now arises the question of what the government will do. As was noted in the debate, the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition has been defeated three times in succession over social security benefits – and has done absolutely nothing about the motions that have been passed."

[Vox political website]

You can watch are rerun of the debate at http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Main/Live.aspx

a transcript of the debate is available at http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/hansard/commons/todays-commons-debates/

The official Hansard report will appear tomorrow at http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/hansard/

You can also view Vox Politcal's live blog of the debate.

Disability Rights UK produced a presentation to MPs, to highlight our concerns, ahead of the debate. Grahame M. Morris (Easington) (Lab) thanked us for our work on this issue.

"I congratulate all right hon. and hon. Members who have participated in this debate, and I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell) for introducing it. I also thank the many groups and individuals who have taken the trouble to lobby their MPs and come to Parliament today and earlier this week. I give a special mention to Jason Roche from the Royal National Institute of Blind People in my constituency, who does such sterling work raising issues for the blind and partially sighted, to Simon Duffy from the Centre for Welfare Reform, and to Philip Connolly from Disability Rights UK. They have done a terrific job and we should acknowledge the efforts of disability activists and supporters in this campaign in collecting such a huge number of signatures to secure the debate."