Thursday, 19 March 2009
"Brutal attacks on the unemployed"
FURIOUS left MP John McDonnell warned on Wednesday that Britain's growing army of unemployed will face "brutal" attacks after the government gained Commons approval for its Welfare Reform Bill.
Despite a revolt by nearly 30 Labour MPs, the Bill passed its final Commons stages on Tuesday night thanks to Tory support.
Mr McDonnell protested on Wednesday: "Labour Party members are recoiling from the brutality of welfare policy being pursued by the government when we campaigned so hard in opposition against the same policies from the Tories."
Tory shadow work and pensions minister Theresa May gloated: "Without our votes on the wrecking amendment that Labour backbenchers tabled, the government would have lost."
She said the Tories had set out proposals for "welfare reform" in their manifesto eight years ago. She added: "The government have finally come round to our proposals."
The Bill, which now goes to the House of Lords, will bring in profit-hungry privateers to attack benefit claimants.
It introduces tough workfare-style measures, with cuts in benefits for failing to comply with tight new rules, and aims to force more lone parents back to work.
Labour opponents of the Bill expressed horror during the debate at the imposition of more sanctions on the unemployed when the jobless total is expected to soar to three million.
Walsall North MP David Winnick rejected the slur that a large number of people on benefit are "work-shy."
He said: "When I visited a jobcentre in my constituency recently, I found people eager - indeed desperate - to find work."
Reporting that hundreds of people had applied for each of the few job vacancies in his constituency, he added: "That is hardly an illustration of people being shy of finding work."
Islington North Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn protested that similar workfare schemes in the US had led to "severe destitution" among the unemployed.
But Employment and Welfare Minister Tony McNulty accused Labour opponents of the Bill of leaving "those who are in the unfortunate position of being unemployed for any length of time to wallow in that position."
He added: "We are told that we are privatising parts of the JobCentre Plus organisation, but we are not.
"Contracting out - delegating out those contracts - is not the same as privatisation. Those contracts are going to the voluntary sector and the private sector to get them to carry out specific parts of the operation."
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