The Jobseekers Bill is difficult for Labour – but I think we’ve made the right call

March 21, 2013 10:58 am

People are very angry about the Jobseekers Bill currently before Parliament. Labour MP’s are furious. Labour councillors and activists are angry. And they are right to be. This Bill is an emergency fix to almighty incompetence at Iain Duncan Smith’s DWP. Our decision not to support the Bill in the Commons, but to abstain was very, very difficult. But there are three big arguments I think people need to think about.

First, say many, is this Bill not retrospective legalisation of workfare? No. It categorically isn’t. If you don’t believe me, read the Bill. Here’s the link. This Bill restores to the department of work and pensions its legal power to sanction anyone who gets Jobseeker’s Allowance if they did not take steps to find work. It’s a power that government has had since 1911.

Now, you might believe that governments should not have that power. If you do, then you should disagree with me and the Bill and most of the Labour party. Because Labour has supported this legal power for years and years. The reason the Jobseekers Bill has been confused with the famous Poundland case is that the Court of Appeal in ruling for Cait Reilly and Jamie Wilson, decided to go much, much wider than the individual cases and strike down the 2011 regulations which activate the department’s legal power (in the 1995 Jobseekers’ Act) to issue any sanctions whatsoever.

Now as it happens, the Future Jobs Fund, which was so successful, had the same sanctions. So did the New Deal. So, arguing against DWP’s possession of a sanctioning power is to argue against a policy that we found worked in practice – and is core to our current policy. Today, our key policy for getting people back to work – the Compulsory Jobs Guarantee – says that people should have the choice of a six month paid job, with training and job search, and real wages at the National Minimum Wage – and that if people don’t take up the offer of a job without good cause, they should have their Jobseekers’ Allowance stopped. It’s pretty hard to say DWP shouldn’t have a sanction power that was well and truly incorporated into policies that worked when we were in government.

The second big argument is against the very idea of a retrospective Bill, especially a Bill pushed through Parliament so fast. I agree. It’s a terrible idea to rush ahead on this. Retrospective legislation does happen from time to time. But the government is moving too fast. It’s taken four weeks to bring forward a Bill that the government wants to push through Parliament in days.

So that’s why we are voting for a motion in the Lords deploring the speed with which the government acted – and its why we’ve argued so hard to maximise the time we have to improve the Bill. But we should be clear about something. If the DWP loses its Supreme Court case in a few weeks time, it might find itself liable for £130 million. Where would that money come from? The Employment Minister Mark Hoban told the House yesterday that it could only come from further benefit cuts.

And here’s the choice I faced in the Commons. Do I do everything to foul up the timetable of the bill, safe in the knowledge that because we lack a majority, the Tories and Lib Dems would ultimately win any vote they liked, whenever they liked? At best this might have delayed the Bill a week or two. Or, do I let the Bill go through before Easter in return for two critical concessions which Labour MP’s actually can actually use in practice to help people over the next two years?

I think we made the right call.

To be honest, I was surprised that Iain Duncan Smith accepted the concessions I demanded. Had I wanted to grandstand I could have forced votes that delayed the timetable a bit. This would have been the small “p” politics of parliamentary legislation. It would certainly have been easier for whips to convince colleagues who were concerned. But even now, after all the fury, I think the most honest way was to gain a guaranteed concession and bank it. Labour are in opposition. We don’t normally get any concessions at all. But now we’ve got two vital changes.

First, we had to make sure that people hit by sanctions have an iron-clad right of appeal against a sanction decision. That’s the right we’ve now ensured is written onto the face of the Bill; it’s the right to appeal on ‘good cause’ (for example, refusing to take a pointless course which is inappropriate) within a 13 month timetable.

There’s something else at stake here. I actually think it’s impossible for anyone to stand in Parliament and say that not one single sanction issued by DWP since 2011 is unfair. We’re not psychic. How could we know? The key thing the DWP got wrong was their notification letters which were too short. Instead of saying:

“If you fail to take part in the [name of employment programme] without a good reason under the Jobseeker’s Allowance (Employment, Skills and Enterprise Scheme) Regulations 2011, your Jobseeker’s Allowance could stop for up to 26 weeks. You could also lose your National Insurance credits.”

They should have said:

“Under the Jobseeker’s Allowance (Employment, Skills and Enterprise Scheme) Regulations 2011, your Jobseeker’s Allowance could stop for up to 26 weeks if you fail, without good reason, to take part in [name of employment programme]. This would include failing to complete any activity that your Provider has required you to do.

  • Two weeks, for a first failure
  • Four weeks, if you have previously received a two-week sanction, whether in relation to your participation in the Work Programme or any other scheme set up under the Jobseeker’s Allowance (Employment, Skills and Enterprise Scheme) Regulations 2011, within the last 12 months; or
  • 26 weeks if you have previously received a four-week or 26-week sanction, whether in relation to your participation in the Work Programme or any other scheme set up under the Jobseeker’s Allowance (Employment, Skills and Enterprise Scheme) Regulations 2011, within the last 12 months.

This was the lack of detail that provoked the Court of Appeal striking down the government’s sanctioning power. I don’t think we know whether every single sanction decision issued since 2011 is wrong. That’s why we need to ensure people hit by sanctions have the right of appeal – to protect the innocent – and that’s what we got guaranteed on the face of the bill.

Second, there’s something else. I’ve heard too many stories – not least from my own constituents – about people being wrongly sanctioned. And that’s why I insisted – and won – an independent review of the sanctions regime with an urgent report to Parliament. We need to use this to ruthlessly expose bad behaviour. It is actually one of the practical things we can do to make a difference over the next year.

The final argument about Labour’s stance on the Bill, is for many, the most emotive; it’s the wide anger about the very existence of ‘mandatory work activity.’ Labour’s view is that work experience can help get young people into work – but – and this is the crucial ‘but’, we strongly feel that young people should be given a real choice of a real job with a real wage. That means a tax on bankers’ bonuses to create a fund which we would spend offering over 100,000 young people a six month job, with training and job search paid at the national minimum wage. And that’s what we will vote for in the House of Lords over the next few days.

Not one Tory spoke on this Bill in the Commons. We’re different. Labour MP after Labour MP spoke in the Commons. We care about this – and we’re right to debate it with passion and vigour   When we stop being angry about this kind of issue will be the day that we lose our soul. But, let’s be under no illusion. Only by standing shoulder to shoulder will we ultimately push this terrible government into Opposition. We are Labour because we care and debate questions like this so passionately. We reject the politics of divide and rule. And we’ve learned the hard way that unity is strength.

Liam Byrne is the Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensioners

  • Chilbaldi

    In the name of God, go!

  • DaveAboard

    Risible.

  • AlanGiles

    Mr Byrne, You are a smug, self-satisfied bugg@r, not half as clever as you think you are, and with the guts of a mouse.

    Prove me wrong by coming back on here and interacting with us. But of course you won’t – once you defecate on LL you run for the hills.

    • John Reid

      If you resort to personal insults its no wonder he. Doesn’t bother to reply,

  • Victim_of_the_state

    Dear #Grassroots I’m afraid we betrayed you, #workfare & good luck Liam Byrne

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=533279108 Peter J. Nicholls

    No, I’m sorry I don’t understand why a stronger bolder stance against can’t be made.

  • http://twitter.com/EdDavie Edward Davie

    This was a massive mistake and should be acknowledged as such. If not I’m afraid you’re in the wrong party – Labour must be on the side of the vulnerable and the exploited as well as the squeezed middle.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=533279108 Peter J. Nicholls

    I will also add, these sanction are not proportionate at all. Two weeks of deprivation for a failure? Abhorrent.

  • Gaudi

    If it was the right decision then why does it feel so wrong to a Labour supporter? You can’t rely on our vote just because the others are doing such a dreadful job, you need to convince us you can do a better one.

  • Amber_Star

    “If the DWP loses its Supreme Court case in a few weeks time, it might find itself liable for £130 million. Where would that money come from? The Employment Minister Mark Hoban told the House yesterday that it could only come from further benefit cuts.”
    ————–
    They are going to cut benefits anyway, Mr Byrne, Two wrongs don’t make it right. What part of that don’t you understand?

    • Victim_of_the_state

      This is money the claimants were entitled to and they should have payed anyway but was withheld unlawfully The government have their money.

    • http://twitter.com/paul_trembath Paul Trembath

      Let them cancel Trident, or tax bankers, or pass a hat around the Cabinet, to find the money. It is not for the Opposition to pander to their bullying.

  • rekrab

    F…. Off Byrne!!!!!!!!!

  • http://twitter.com/crazybladeuk Wayne Blackburn

    Terrible decision by the Labour leaders to abstain, regardless of the concessions you may or may not have gained. It is disgraceful that you sat idly by whilst this Government sought to retroactively change the law to avoid its obligations. You lost me as a supporter on Tuesday – I had intended to join the Labour Party. But I cannot in good conscience join you after what you did collectively on Tuesday. Shame on you.

  • Amber_Star

    Do I do everything to foul up the timetable of the bill, safe in the knowledge that because we lack a majority, the Tories and Lib Dems would ultimately win any vote they liked, whenever they liked?
    —————————-
    No Mr Byrne, what you do is put pressure on the LibDems & on the DUP so that, if losing is inevitable, at least you tried & went down fighting.

    • Jeremy_Preece

      And if he had stood and fought then he would today have the respect of the party.

      The whole point of being a political party and being in opposition is that you define the areas where you need to fight and you show the electorate exactly where Labour differs from the coalition.

      I fail to understand the logic of not opposing something no matter how bad, on the grounds that you will probably not win the vote.
      Ed M has failed as leader by not taking control of the situation and over-ruling him, he should try to redeem himself by sacking Byrne, and do so today.

  • Amber_Star

    “That’s why we need to ensure people hit by sanctions have the right of appeal…”
    —————
    Mr Byrne, Are you thick or something? People had the right of appeal. They appealed to the courts & won. But you have helped to rob them of their victory & make appealing seem not worth the stress & humiliation which it brings.

    • Redshift1

      Not to mention the fact that the average jobseeker doesn’t have access to any of the information in order to pursue an appeal!

  • 5 Hats

    Shame on you Mr Byrne! You have completely lost sight of where the Labour Party came from….a party born out of fighting for workers rights and human dignity. By Abstaining you have effectively supported 21st century slaver. It brings a whole new meaning to Slave LABOUR when the party that should be defending workers and job seekers alike are towing the party line. BYRNE MUST GO! THERE’S NOTHING LEFT

  • Amber_Star

    We reject the politics of divide and rule. And we’ve learned the hard way that unity is strength.
    —————
    Mr Byrne, at this moment, all Ed needs to do to unite the Party is walk into your office & tell you to clear your desk.

    • Jeremy_Preece

      And to send him packing, and to do so today, might help Ed M to regain some shred of the credibility that he has lost by following Byrne’s abstention route in the first place.

    • Monkey_Bach

      “We reject the politics of divide and rule.”

      After dividing the Parliamentary Labour Party more than I can remember and infuriating a majority of Labour supporters and potential Labour voters more than I can remember and making everybody with any interest in a Labour victory at the next election more unruly than I can remember the sentence above seems asinine.

      To me Byrne seems delusional.

      Eeek.

      • John Reid

        If Liam divided the parliamentary party ,why did most of the take his view on abstaining,

  • http://twitter.com/paul_trembath Paul Trembath

    I’m not sure people should in fact be sanctioned “if they did not take steps to find work”, but regardless – forced participation in a slavery scam is not that and should never be sanctioned. The presumption that claimants don’t know how to get out of bed in the morning may be gospel in some circles but really calls for some evidence. People who do have this problem – through depression or for other reasons – may not be best “helped” by being made to stack shelves.

    That, however, is a straw man. People are upset in this instance because the bill retrospectively strikes down a court decision and undermines the rule of law. Additionally, the government’s mistakes are being paid for by those who can least afford it, with money to which they are (in every other respect) fully entitled for the purpose of their own subsistence.

    Labour did not have the votes to overturn this nastiness, but there is reason to suspect that Labour has sympathy with the government position, and fears the wrath of the red-tops for appearing to side too visibly with the despised jobseekers. It would be shameful if true that Labour MPs were warned against paying money out to “scroungers” on the eve of the budget. Is it true?

    Maybe Smith’s concessions were worth having in exchange for letting the bill pass without a fight. I am not convinced that Liam Byrne’s assertion is anywhere near enough reason to believe this.

  • david.gillon

    Arguing that sanctions are necessary ignores the fact that sanctions are being massively abused by DWP, with DWP front line staff under pressure to sanction as many claimants as possible. Labour may have favoured sanctions in the past, but the current sanctions regime now includes the sanctioning of disabled people in the ESA WRAG group, not to mention the many disabled people wrongly placed into JSA by Atos and the WCA (another Labour cock-up of the first magnitude that has systematically made disabled people’s life hell over the past few years). I managed to get through the WCA by refusing to be brow-beaten by the Atos quack (and it was a quite calculated attempt to browbeat me out of my claim), but then stopped claiming ESA, because I felt the ESA regime under IDS had become dangerous to my health, even though I remained unfit for work. Other disabled people don’t have the luxury of being able to do that, but if faced with a demand to participate in mandatory, indefinite disability workfare they consider dangerous to their health, Labour just voted IDS the ability to sanction them for it.

    Is sanctioning disabled people in fear of their health really what Labour now stands for?

  • http://www.facebook.com/gary.d.walters.5 Gary ‘Diz’ Walters

    You have scored the biggest own goal in UK political history and in doing so you’ve consigned The Labour Party to that same history. Mission accomplished Agent Byrne, enjoy your pieces of silver from your former(?) employers The Rothschilds.

  • http://twitter.com/ChrisNickson2 Chris Nickson

    I agree fully with the others who’ve commented. This bill is an outrage, and giving it implicit sanction is outrageous. It diminishes the respect people have for the Labour party and also for you. You should have demanded the concessions and opposed the bill, anyway. You are, as you put it, in opposition, so oppose. And stand up for those who are being victimised. That, after all, was the original ethos of the Labour party, at least before it was hijacked by New Labour, or Tory Lite. I’d hoped we were seeing a return to the way things were. Apparently not.

  • Monkey_Bach

    The only explanation I can think of to explain Byrne’s presence in the Labour Party is as agent provocateur for the Tory hard right. In Japan I would imagine at this point he’d might be considering committing seppuku: assuming, as a Japanese, he would have a sense of propriety and honour so conspicuously absent in him now. The sooner this Uriah Heep of the Labour Party goes the better as far as I am concerned. Surely this awful person’s days must be numbered. Eeek.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=715486331 Alex Otley

      He has compromised the Labour Party from the very beginning. His idiotic “no money left” note will never be forgotten by the press. He barely opposes the Tories in public because in private he is known to agree with them. He is not an asset to the Labour Party – all he does is damage every time he opens his mouth.

      • Monkey_Bach

        I don’t think concepts like honour, honesty, or even right and wrong exist for people like Liam Byrne. I don’t believe that a person like Byrne can understand why it IS important for a few free men and women to make a stand against an unjust and cruel opponent, even though there is absolutely no hope of winning any battle against them, in order to preserve what they are and the good in them and not betray the ideals, principles, beliefs, loyalties, and truths that inform them and make them different from and better than their opponents and makes them what they are. Unselfishness, altruism, and empathy for the suffering of others are beyond the ken of cold, machine-like, aloof souls; petty human concerns like that will never be intelligible or important to individuals like Liam Byrne. But worse than the moral vacuum and void inside our hollow Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, is his history of serial incompetence, artlessness, and ineptitude as a politician.

        If someone is brilliant and bad, you can sometimes overlook the bad.

        But if someone is plain bloody useless and bad, why on earth be so tolerant?

        Can’t somebody put Byrne out of our misery?

        He really needs to go doesn’t he?

        And soon.

        Eeek.

      • reformist lickspittle

        Loath as I am to defend him, the “note” is the least of his sins. It is tradition for departing ministers to leave something like that when a new party has been elected to government – often an ironic or humorous message – but this is on the understanding that it is a private joke. Byrne reportedly thought he would be replaced by Phil Hammond – who might well have taken it in that spirit. To his (and our) dismay, though, he got the odious creepy smarmy crawler Laws inheriting his job instead. The rest is (dismal) history……

  • Richard

    You support 6 month sanctions on the poorest and most vulnerable in society for missing 3 appointments on a programme which Labour have labelled worse than doing nothing at all. There is no justification for Labour abstaining and it does not make a lick of sense. Why are you forcing the unemployed to attend these programmes, when they would me more likely to find work if left to their own devices. It is illogical. But what can you expect from a minister who thought it would be funny to leave a no money left note.

  • Danny

    How can you even raise that “where would that £130 million have come from” as an argument?

    What are you suggesting, the DWP should be immune from paying any claimant’s they wrong? “Sorry your honour, money’s a bit tight at the moment so if you don’t mind, I’ll get the House of Commons to pass a bill that undermines your judgement to allow us to escape paying out”.

    And what kind of an attitude is, “The Lib Dems and Conservatives combined would have got it passed regardless of how we voted”?

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001116515833 Michael Carey

    Here’s a little blog post giving my opinion: http://mikecareywigan.wordpress.com/2013/03/21/labours-abstinence-over-welfare-sanctions/

    Here’s a facebook page promoting the removal of Liam Byrne from the shadow cabinet and deselection as a Labour MP: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Remove-Liam-Byrne/388544214574175

  • Daniel Speight

    So Liam to abstain is OK, to vote against is wrong. You give both us and the public no respect and because of that deserve no respect in return. You are the weakest link on the opposition front bench and should go now. I hope one day you get into real trouble and need the help of the state to meet your basic needs. I would just love to see you in the queue so I could remind you of what you once were.

    • AlanGiles

      If Byrne supports the idea of retrospective law, I wonder how he would feel if his part in the expenses scandal was re-examined, and the CPS were asked to consider bringing charges against him?

      • Alexwilliamz

        Please do this now.

      • John Reid

        Criminal law for retrospective legislation is illegal under the HRA, the worse that could happen is if a gov’t got in said all expenses in the past must be paid back, to which both the EcHR would say that it was unfair or that he’d have to pay back 50p a week, other laws retrospectively involving benefits are legal, like when Labour stood on the policy in87′ of buying back the shares in BT at the price they were sold for ,so anyone who’s bought them wouldn’t get the profit they’d made,

    • Monkey_Bach

      What is remarkable is that this idiot (Byrne) seems to have no awareness whatsoever of the damage to Labour’s steadily improving reputation this sorry business has caused. The fall out from this disaster will continue to play out right up to the next election. Surely no one capable of such extraordinary misjudgement should be entrusted with even a smattering of political power? Byrne should burn. Period. Eeek.

      • AlanGiles

        I risk sarcastic remarks from the usual source, but listening to Byrne and reading things like this he has written, for example:

        http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2012/oct/02/labour-cuts-welfare-liam-byrne

        I wonder who could be gullable and jejune enough to think Byrne’s Labour would be any better than the current shower.

        Yesterday I saw a PCS picket locally and one of the placards read:

        “Get the Tories Out”

        – presumably to get the crypto-Tories in.

        Who would vote to see the oligenous Byrne back in the chauffeur driven ministerial car?

        • MonkeyBot5000

          Do I get to choose where the car is driving? I have a couple of scenic cliffs in mind.

  • Daniel Speight

    Jesus reading Byrne is like putting your fingers down your own throat. I read this three times now and feel rather sick. Do you think he is human. Maybe he is one of those lizards which have human skin suits.

    • BusyBeeBuzz

      I read it about 3 times and concluded that he has received so many angry letters about his performance that he wrote his defence in an irrational state. His argument isn’t really an argument. He is panicking and on the run.

  • Elizabeth Nelson

    IDS and Bryrne should be sacked for incompetence. They are both
    As evil as each other.
    Hope the court rules against them again. Can’t wait to see
    The panic. Someone will be sacked. And about time.
    Vote of no confidence from me.

  • http://twitter.com/DanJCullen Daniel Cullen

    “[T]he Jobseekers Bill has been confused with the famous Poundland case is that the Court of Appeal in ruling for Cait Reilly and Jamie Wilson, decided to go much, much wider than the individual cases and strike down the 2011 regulations which activate the department’s legal power (in the 1995 Jobseekers’ Act) to issue any sanctions whatsoever.”

    Correct me if I am wrong here but it seems that Liam Byrne is deliberately misrepresenting this issue. This legislation IS directly related to the Poundland case and the potential for further similar cases to be brought and does not only concern sanctions. This is illustrated by the following abhorrent quote from the DWP about the legislation: “This legislation will protect taxpayers and make sure we won’t be paying back money to people who didn’t do enough to find work.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/mike.sivier Mike Sivier

    Dear Mr Byrne,
    Get out of the Labour Party.
    And take Stephen Timms with you.

    • John Reid

      Bit like when the SDP left, because they never took 4 million votes with em when they went, oh no wait….

  • Jeremy_Preece

    Liam Byrne, I don’t know what planet you are on.
    If you have any integrity left, then resign the front bench and applogise. Better still do not stand for re-election in 2015.
    If you have done none of these things in the next 24 hours, then I suggest that your CLP deselects you.

  • BusyBeeBuzz

    Your very lengthy argument doesn’t hold water. People are angry about the Jobseekers Bill because it is retrospective legislation designed flout the rule of law. If you had not supported this Bill, their anger would have been directed at Iain Duncan Smith, but since you have supported this Bill by encouraging the Labour Party to abstain, this anger is now directed towards you. This has lost the Labour Party the moral high ground in any argument that we might have with the coalition about their destruction of the justice system. If you don’t stand up for the rule of law and Article 6, how can you oppose the introduction of closed courts, the restriction of judicial review, the reduction of equality impact assessments and cuts to legal aid which will have devastating effects on the most vulnerable people in society who are already suffering from Welfare changes. How can you and the Labour Party encourage young people to re-engage in politics if you (like the Tories) don’t respect the rule of law and everything that is good, right, true and Just? How can you (and Labour Party campaigners) convince the millions of students and unemployed people to vote Labour if the ONE NATION doesn’t include them? They will just say: “There is no point in voting.They’re all the same.” If you were presented as a prime example of the ethics of Labour Party MPs, they will be correct. Thankfully there are still men like Michael Meacher in the Labour Party.

  • BusyBeeBuzz

    Your very lengthy argument doesn’t hold water. People are angry about the Jobseekers Bill because it is retrospective legislation designed flout the rule of law. If you had not supported this Bill, their anger would have been directed at Iain Duncan Smith, but since you have supported this Bill by encouraging the Labour Party to abstain, this anger is now directed towards you. This has lost the Labour Party the moral high ground in any argument that we might have with the coalition about their destruction of the justice system. If you don’t stand up for the rule of law and Article 6, how can you oppose the introduction of closed courts, the restriction of judicial review, the reduction of equality impact assessments and cuts to legal aid which will have devastating effects on the
    most vulnerable people in society who are already suffering from Welfare changes. How can you and the Labour Party encourage young people to re-engage in politics if you (like the Tories) don’t respect the rule of law and everything that is good, right, true and Just? How can you (and Labour Party campaigners) convince the millions of students and unemployed people to vote Labour if the ONE NATION doesn’t include them? They will just say: “There is no point in voting.They’re all the same.” If you were presented as a prime example of the ethics of Labour Party MPs, they will be correct. Thankfully there are still men like Michael Meacher in the Labour Party.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=715486331 Alex Otley

    Resign Byrne

  • http://twitter.com/mynewsspace mynewsspace

    Liam supports IDS and the very ill-conceived notion to step back in time and rewrite sanction notices already sent out and received by claimants, who were not given the appropriate information in the notice, and then subsequently sanctioned as a result. So Liam says DWP is not psychic neither were the claimants. There will be no right for those claimants to appeal because the Bill arbitrarily ensures the Regulations were retrospectively compliant. Unbelievable. Ignore justice, ignore the constitution and undermine the judiciary and rule of law. Liam should be picking up his P45.

  • http://scarlettnation.co.uk Janvier

    Maybe it’s just me, but I’m reading the Bill as Mr Byrne has suggested and it seems pretty retroactive to me.

    Section 1(12): “A penalty imposed on a person before or after the coming into force of this Act for (a) failing to participate in a scheme within section 17A(1) of the Jobseekers Act 1995, or (b) failing to comply with regulations under section 17A of that Act, is to be treated as lawfully imposed if the only ground or grounds for treating it as unlawfully imposed is or are removed by subsections (1) to (10).”

    This Bill is about redefining the 2011 regulations and treating penalties issued under them as lawful when a court of law said that they were not. How is that not retroactive?

    It would have been possible to reactivate the DWP’s sanctioning power without pretending that the sanctioning power used since 2011 was lawful. THAT’S the problem with the Bill.

    The £130 million argument is so ridiculous, I have half a mind to ignore it. However, if the DWP finds itself liable, IT SHOULD PAY THE MONEY. That’s the consequence of doing something wrong! Throughout the last few days, you have reiterated that people who do not play by the rules should face the appropriate sanctions. The DWP did not play by the rules as determined by a court, and so they should face appropriate sanctions – paying the people to whom they have been found liable.

    Also, yes Mr Byrne – we do know that every sanction issued after 2011 was wrong. That was the judgment of the case. It’s possible that some of those sanctions would have been upheld if the regulations were satisfactory, but that’s academic because the regulations weren’t. The duty is on the State to write good law, not the citizen to abide by “what we kinda meant and would have done if we could be arsed to get the paperwork right”.

    So well done. You sold some of the poorest people in our society down the river, alienated your base and a significant proportion of the Left’s activists, undermined a central tenet of a 1000 year old legal system, and for what? Supposedly two concessions, one of which isn’t even a concession because a review of the sanction scheme was to happen anyway following this case. An injustice with a concession remains an injustice, and it is our duty to fight injustice wherever we find it. So no, Mr Byrne, you did not make the right call.

  • UKAzeri

    Usually when there is a controversial issue, particularly within the Labour party itself( eg ‘Progress’ vs Unions) , LL is a good place to see opposing arguments and debates ( both in print and comments).

    However on this issue, i am yet to see a single comment, reaction or barely a fart in support of the PLP and Byrne. That in itself is an indicator of the sheer anger and sense of betrayal felt by members and supporters alike.

  • http://twitter.com/HauntedCabbage HAUNTED CABBAGE

    The govt were proved wrong in law ..then retrospected the law .. IMO the rule of law is now abstract and we now live subject to whims.

    The labour party should have opposed simply on the principle of law…

    shame on New labour … ….

  • reformist lickspittle

    I agree with everybody else who has posted here.

    Enough is enough.

  • http://www.facebook.com/carol.diggle Carol Diggle

    Are we allowed to make sweary posts? I’m sure you know
    what I’d like to say, Mr Byrne.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=701583592 Richard Firth

    I will never vote for you traitors again. It will take an apology for this abstention for me to reconsider.

  • Che Thomas

    Byrne, do the Labour party and it’s supporters a favour and resign. You are nothing more than a spineless technocrat, maybe IDS can find you a position in his office sharpening pencils or buffing his well polished heels.

  • http://www.facebook.com/chris.marshall.58173 Chris Marshall

    for the unenempolyed/sick and disabled of this country the labour party was our only hope, now because of your rush to get the vote of tubby white middle class man from surrey, you have condemed us all,and maybe just maybe, ruined your chances of been elected,frankly i hope so, what happened on thursday night was a disgrace.you attack [rightly to be fair]the libdems for having no principles what dustbin did you throw yours into? thanks for removing any belive that i had in the labour party

  • Paul Livingstone

    This is incredible. Totally missing the point. Take the politicians hat off for a moment and consider these questions from the point of view of the people politicians are meant to govern

    – If a government acts in a way that doesn’t stand up to the rule of law,and can retroactively seek to change the law to make their incompetent and illegal behavior, legal, then where does that end? What faith do any voters have in a system that ignores and uses the rule of law to their advantage? And what message does that send to the electorate?

    Use the system. That’s what it tells the people. And Labour abstained from voting against this message. So whatever perceived advantages you claim to have been seeking – you have landed your party in with the rest. Rendering the British way of going about politics , unfit for purpose.

  • Paul Livingstone

    My comment seems to have been deleted. Will simply attempt to reiterate. What faith can anyone have in a system that actively undermines the rule of law that is absolutely essential in any real democracy?
    And what should people think about the opposition who let it happen? Tactical advantage or not, that is not the point.

  • Dave Postles
    • Alexwilliamz

      Thanks for the link. Done.

  • http://twitter.com/_DaveTalbot David Talbot

    “We are Labour because we care and debate questions like this so passionately”

    Apart from when you tell them to abstain, of course.

  • Felix

    “First, say many, is this Bill not retrospective legalisation of workfare? No. It categorically isn’t. If you don’t believe me, read the Bill.”

    Shameless liar, Liam Byrne, the Law Lords have decreed that it os.

  • Curlew

    Byrne says: “If the DWP loses its Supreme Court case in a few weeks time, it might
    find itself liable for £130 million. Where would that money come from?
    … it could only come from further benefit cuts.” << I am afraid that is a Tory argument, and you should be ashamed to use it. It could easily come from bankers bonuses or a Robin Hood tax.

  • Felix

    As a lawyer, I can confirm that the first page of the bill categorically and unequivocally establishes this as retrospective legislation.

  • Felix

    “The key thing the DWP got wrong was their notification letters which were too short. Instead of saying:”

    Then why didn’t you notice that at the time? Asleep on the job, were you? As the opposition, you’re supposed to notice these things. For that act of incompetence alone you deserve your marching orders.

  • Jeff Annison

    I have supported Labour since 1964. I have never missed voting at any election. But gutless decisions such as this on top of too much right wing policies are making it very difficult to that record going much longer. The Labour Party should stand up for the vulnerable and oppressed. Those on welfare benefits are being truly oppressed at the moment by this government what with the bedroom tax, social fund abolition, compulsory use of Universal Jobmatch, PIP and Universal Credit.
    So people appeal against being used as cheap labour, appeal and win and the Labour Party lets them down. As big a betrayal as Ramsey Macdonald and National Labour.

  • MonkeyBot5000

    If the DWP loses its Supreme Court case in a few weeks time, it might find itself liable for £130 million.

    The fact that you don’t like the consequences is not a justification to change the law.

    If the government can’t afford to pay the consequences of it’s actions, maybe we could find some money by removing the £5m subsidy you get for booze at work each year. Maybe you people might even stop babbling such half-witted nonsense once we cut you off.

    And we’ve learned the hard way that unity is strength.

    Which is why you all need to shut up and vote the way we tell you.

  • Celato

    This bill is most definitely retrospective as far as the jobseekers illegally denied the money they were DUE are concerned. It was rushed through to CONTINUE denying them that owed money. Those individuals – all desperately strapped for cash and vulnerable – were treated as expendable by Labour no less than by the Tories, Mr Byrne. And for this reason your party stands condemned as no less despicable.

  • Brumanuensis

    First of all, your immediate resignation from the Shadow Cabinet would be much appreciated. Not just because of the appalling mess of the recent vote that prompted this article, but also because you have been singularly intellectually incurious during your time as Shadow DWP Secretary and also because you clearly don’t want the job, as evidenced by your inept maneouverings last year in the run up to the Birmingham Mayoral referendum.

    “So that’s why we are voting for a motion in the Lords deploring the speed with which the government acted – and its why we’ve argued so hard to maximise the time we have to improve the Bill. But we should be clear about something. If the DWP loses its Supreme Court case in a few weeks time, it might find itself liable for £130 million. Where would that money come from? The Employment Minister Mark Hoban told the House yesterday that it could only come from further benefit cuts”

    As MonkeyBot has rightly pointed out, the fact that you don’t like the consequences is not a justification to change the law. ‘Fiat justitia, ruat caelum’ as an old saying in the law goes. Second, given the government’s stance on welfare cuts, do you really believe you are sparing anyone by your actions? You’ve let yourself be emotionally blackmailed by the government into tacitly supporting their programme.

    Equally, how pathetic are the words ‘we are voting for a motion in the Lords deploring the speed with which the government acted’? So you’re voting for a meaningless bit of fluff, but refuse to do something more substantial when presented with the opportunity? Remind us why you’re called ‘The Opposition’ again?

    “And here’s the choice I faced in the Commons. Do I do everything to foul up the timetable of the bill, safe in the knowledge that because we lack a majority, the Tories and Lib Dems would ultimately win any vote they liked, whenever they liked? At best this might have delayed the Bill a week or two. Or, do I let the Bill go through before Easter in return for two critical concessions which Labour MP’s actually can actually use in practice to help people over the next two years?”

    The concessions aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on. Do you really think that the government is going to implement any recommendations they don’t like? How naive are you?

    Secondly, I’d like to emphasise that you are ‘The Opposition’. Your job is to oppose. It’s your responsibility to ‘gum up the works’ and make it hard for the government to enact its programme, assuming you disagree with it. There is no duty upon the opposition to assist the government, nor should they except in exceptional circumstances. By giving them a pass, you’ve failed to perform your constitutional responsibility to scrutinise the government to the fullest possible extent.

    • Alexwilliamz

      Well said. The only positive that might come of this is that Byrne may find himself on the backbenches. Little comfort to those who will suffer as a consequence of this bill tho.

    • John Reid

      Is this a labour party website, or have I clicked on aSWP one by mistake, I don’t mind criticism of labour m.p.s and policy, but all this is just trolling,

  • Pingback: Jobcentres were set targets for benefit sanctions | A New Place Of Exile

  • butler

    Liam Byrne, please leave the LP with immediate effect and join your real bedfellows in the CP and/or LDs.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mike-Homfray/510980099 Mike Homfray

    Resign before you get kicked out. You are a disgrace and we would be better off without you. From your little jokey letter to your Tory successor, still constantly quoted, through to your barely-disguised love of the Tory approach to welfare, you are a liability. You’re just not Labour. Leave Parliament and go off and make some more money.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mike-Homfray/510980099 Mike Homfray

    This appears to be the universal wish of everyone here
    https://www.facebook.com/pages/Remove-Liam-Byrne/388544214574175

    • John Reid

      Blimey, there a Facebook page against him, shows how of out of touch he is from the 8.6million people who voted labour in i2010

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  • JoeDM

    You might not like it, but Liam Byrne and the Labour Party did the right thing.

    Sensible politics, good economics and not the usual political posturing.

    How refreshing !!!!

    • reformist lickspittle

      Go away, worthless Tory troll.

    • AlanGiles

      The fact that you, Joe, as a right-winger thinks Byrne did the right thing proves only one thing – that Byrne should join you in the Conservatives or whatever right wing party you support. Byrne is about as “Labour” as Norman Tebbitt, and as genuine as a nine bob note

  • Redshift1

    No Liam. On this one you really haven’t made the right call.

    I don’t disagree entirely with sanctions when they are reasonable and when they are designed to compel people to take part in activities that genuinely help them to get back into work. The Work Programme is a terrible programme that has categorically failed to get people back into work AND the workfare element is nothing more than a way to undercut wages – nothing to do with work experience. Either reason is enough for you to have voted against this bill and by abstaining it looks like you really don’t understand or appreciate what this government is doing to the unemployed.

    The Future Jobs Fund was as you say a great programme and yes, there were sanctions if a jobseeker refused to take part BUT this was PAID work. Not 30-odd hours a week work in exchange for jobseekers allowance, which is worth only a fraction of the minimum wage.

  • Monkey_Bach

    A fairly detailed Welsh perspective as per this travesty well worth reading:

    http://mikesivier.wordpress.com/2013/03/21/worse-than-two-bald-men-fighting-over-a-comb-labour-colludes-with-coalition-over-workfare-bill/

    And a link to a Guardian article:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2013/mar/21/labour-abstention-workfare-bill-byrne

    Does Labour really intend to go into the next election saying that Liam Byrne will be the man entrusted to oversee root and branch reform of the Welfare State if the Party gets back into office? When only Tories and UKIP fruitcakes really seem to like him, viz., the comment by LabourList’s old friend, JoeDM, below, or above, depending on how you sort the postings on this page?

    Has this been the sorry idea all along?

    Who knows?

    What I do know is that by colluding with the Coalition to deliberately deprive innocent citizens of rights and protections under the law – BY DARING TO CHANGE THE LAW REACTIVELY – One Nation Labour has been soiled indelibly and tarnished forever. After this event things will never be the same as they were: not for Ed Miliband or the political Party he supposedly leads.

    Eeek.

  • markfergusonuk

    Not had any submissions backing Byrne – other than pieces by him.

    • Dave Postles

      Those are the farts.

  • BusyBeeBuzz

    Liam Byrne is a scrounger of MPs expenses. Liam Byrne claimed £12,315.99 MPs expenses between May to August 2010. http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2010/dec/02/mps-expenses-every-claim-mp

  • John Ruddy

    To be honest, the £130m cost to the DWP is a red herring, as we know the Government are planning for cuts in the welfare budget of much more than this in any case.

  • Holby18

    Yes you did. The public would be outraged if our money had been used for compensation. In addition, you would lose more votes as many see Labour as the party of the workshy and public sector. You do not win elections when people hold these views. I wpould ignore those on the left – there are insufficient numbers of them to affect any election.

  • DH

    This decision is an absolute disgrace and leads me to consider putting an end to my membership of the Labour Party. I don’t want to be associated with a party so unprincipled as to undermine the rule of law and to do so in a way which explicitly hurts the vulnerable and legitimises the denigration of working and work-seeking people which was so clear from this bill. What value is left in the court judgment for those who were brave and patient enough to challenge it? A principled Labour party would have challenged the premise that “the money can only come from welfare cuts”, rather than accepting it and meekly surrendering to the highly politicized “envelope” the government has put forward.

    You should be ashamed…

  • Chrisso

    Glad that he gives some form of explanation. Not at
    all happy that workfare – getting just your benefit when you are working for a
    private sector employer – is not given attention by him. Why is he not
    insisting that claimants can make their own efforts to find work and that as
    long as they can demonstrate they are doing so they will not have to join
    Workfare? Why has he not said that volunteering in the absence of finding a
    job, and in the absence of one being offered, is adequate reason to be paid
    normal benefits without being forced into workfare? Why did he not say outright
    that Labour “will never allow the Poundland situation to recur” and
    that any employer must pay at least the NMW – not benefits.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/andy.hemingway.5 Andy Hemingway

    Mr Byrne,

    I think the stance that you have taken on the Jobseekers Act is insidious. The moment I read that such a course was planned, in last Friday’s Guardian, my heart sank. The thought that this party would collude with the Tories in retrospectively changing the law, fills me (and hopefully the great majority of other party members) with a feeling of nausea. Your support for this bill has caused serious damage to the party.

    In the days leading up to the vote, social media exploded with members screaming at their MPs and party leaders not to go through with this deal with the devil. All to no avail, although we now learn that the Shadow Cabinet were threatened with the sack (the Guardian 21/3/13) if they rebelled.

    This has been a PR disaster for Labour. What it now says to the electorate is that the poor have no protection in law against the neoliberal onslaught of the ruling elite. That if you take on the government, fight for your rights and win, Labour (of all parties) will hold back the crowds, while the Tories kick you back to your rightful place.

    Not only have you abandoned the poor, the very people that this party is here to defend, but you have also dealt a kick in the guts to your own members. Those members that campaign hard for the party, in byelections, local elections and week-in, week-out in their wards. What do we say now when asked, “why should I vote Labour?” – A great deal of that hard won ground has now been lost. Thanks Mr Byrne!

    I think that this also raises some serious questions about the inner workings of the Labour party. Are the views and wishes of members really listened to at the top of the party, other than views that closely resemble those of the leadership?

    The speeches given by those MPs that voted against the bill were truly inspiring. THAT is the kind of Labour party that I want to belong to. On Tuesday evening, I came within an inch of leaving the party. It is only because I respect and admire my fellow branch members that I currently remain a member. That and to fight against those like you Mr Byrne, to fight for proper representation for members and for the bedrock of this party. The working classes.

    Have you ever thought of joining the Tories Mr Byrne? And if not, what can I do to persuade you?

  • BusyBeeBuzz

    LEGAL COSTS AFTER JUDICIAL REVIEW
    Without this, people like Cait Reilly won’t be able to challenge unethical government
    legislation. Where the policies of elected representatives are challenged by Judicial Review and found to be unlawful the political party involved should reimburse the public body (department or council) for the legal costs of defending the policy. It is a scandal that they can use public money to defend their own unlawful ideas.
    http://38degrees.uservoice.com/forums/78585-campaign-suggestions/suggestions/2404343-legal-costs-after-judicial-review

  • Clare Sheldon

    The mere fact that it is going to be very expensive, inconvenient and downright embarrassing for the government to compensate people for its wrongdoing, doesn’t justify retrospectively changing the law so that people are denied their legal rights in existence at the time the government broke the law. There is a fundamental issue of legal principle here, As for the Labour Party leadership in failing to oppose this outrageous law, I have seen jellyfish with more backbone to them.

  • tonybaloni

    I will never vote Labour again as long as I live.Until I hear MP’s with a working class accent in charge and see their role as defending the working class.
    Since 1997 you have failed the people who put you where you are.
    Give the party back to the people and join the Tories if that’s what you enjoy being so much which it appears to be so..
    Judge a tree by it’s fruit is my mantra from now on in politics.
    Our forefathers will be turning in their graves.

  • fourbanks

    all i care about liam is that the killing prematurely of the sick and disabled stops and that those found unfit for work are not punished in the home out of sight out of mind like i have been over the years and that i dont have to learn of any other on line friend i have that’s been told their fit for work and the stress has killed them because they weren’t fit and never had been

  • http://twitter.com/Ciaran_Laval Ciaran Laval

    There is no excuse whatsoever for Labour rolling over on this bill and I can only echo the comments of others who suggest that you should resign over this issue Mr Byrne, you’re way off base here.

  • Monkey_Bach

    Why did so many Labour MPs abstain during the vote?

    Because they were ordered to abstain by the Labour whips, held their noses, and did as they were told because Ed Miliband and Shadow Cabinet were afraid of negative publicity from the right-wing media if they followed their consciences and did the right thing.

    Labour whipped its MPs to abstain during the vote and yet one out of six Labour MPs refused to take their Party’s line and voted against the bill. Several MPs resigned from their posts. It is rumoured that hardly any Labour MPs agreed with or liked being prevented from voting against the bill. It the non-vote was not whipped the vast majority of Labour MPs would have voted with their consciences AGAINST the bill.

    If you could tell me of an occasion when the Parliamentary Labour Party was more divided, i.e., when more than a sixth of the Party rebelled against the whip, than during Ed Miliband’s leadership I would be interested.

    Eeek.

    • John Reid

      It was a free vote on gay marriage, but Ed was pro it, and more people voted differently than Ed on that,

  • Dave Postles

    According to all reports, those with shadow briefs were ordered to abstain on pain of losing their position. Frankly, I suspect that many of us here would have simply replied: you know where you can stuff your job and I hope it gives Byrne a thrill.

  • Dave Postles

    Well, they did, but no doubt Osborne has recovered all the year-end money in Departments to save his face about the deficit rising.

  • rekrab

    Well John, I’m hardly surprised he didn’t follow through with an act of contrition but hey ho! if Byrne is looking to relief his sin, I’ll take he words in some small room, Thanks for the concern John.

  • AlanGiles

    Head office must love you. Forever fawning to right wingers, no matter how badly they have behaved – always finding excuses. Boots licked, boxes ticked.

    One assumes it must be these “qualities” that got you your current position. It certainly wasn’t your communication skills.

  • AlanGiles

    You might not be the sharpest knife in the box, but even a sycophant like you must see there is real anger about Byrne amongst all wings of the party.

    You make me sick – anybody who dares not to toe the party line is automatically a supporter of the SWP.

    I would suggest unless you want to continue to tarnish the reputation of your party, you stop your ill-written remarks. And stop referring to welfare payments as “handouts”

  • Monkey_Bach
  • robert

    if you do not know why this bill is wrong, u shouldn’t be in our party, but to know the resions why this is a outrageous bill read Lord Pannick’s second
    reading speech, he destroyed the governments case for the bill

  • robert

    if you do not know why this bill is wrong, u shouldn’t be in our party, but to know the resions why this is a outrageous bill read Lord Pannick’s second
    reading speech, he destroyed the governments case for the bill

  • http://www.mr-omneo.co.uk Mr Omneo

    I don’t usually stay angry at political decisions because I accept, for better or for worse, most politicians are just playing a game which is how to better themselves. If they actually help individuals that’s just a welcome bonus. However Labour’s handling of this affair has really irked me to the extent that I’ve cut up my membership card and posted it back to them.

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