Wednesday 20 March 2013

The Jobseekers (Back to Work) Bill

On March 19 2013 the coalition government managed to push some hastily drawn up "emergency legislation" through parliament which retroactively amended the botched rules they had drawn up to force people onto their mandatory labour schemes.

I've already explained why the introduction of retroactive legislation is totalitarian stuff, which sets dangerous precedents in a previous post (which can be seen here) so I won't go into too much detail about why such retroactive rule changes are immoral. I have also explained why the mandatory unpaid labour schemes this retroactive legislation is designed to salvage are immoral and economically illiterate in a previous post (which can be seen here).

Suffice to say that the Jobseekers (Back to Work) Bill which serves to retroactively change the law in order to protect the government's economically illiterate mandatory unpaid "workfare" schemes, is an awful bit of legislation.

Retrospectively amending the law in order to undermine a court judgement that the actions of the government were unlawful sets an appalling precedent. Whenever the government is found to have been treating citizens unlawfully, this precedent means that they would be able to simply retroactively amend the law to make their actions lawful. I find it difficult to believe that anyone could be incapable of understanding why this is a bad thing.

It is undeniable that this bill would never have been necessary in the first place were it not for Iain Duncan Smith's absurd incompetence. It is amazing that the man is still in his job after pushing through reams of unintelligible rules and the embarrassment of having his cack-handed schemes declared unlawful at the Court of Appeals. Yet, instead of being sacked, or falling on his sword, his Tory colleagues and their Lib-Dem lackeys have decided to protect him with this ridiculous piece of legislation.

The worst aspect to this whole saga is that it has been pulled off with the collusion of the Labour party too. By allowing this bill to be presented as "emergency legislation" the Labour leader Ed Miliband allowed the government to pass this new, hastily cobbled together legislation through parliament in a single day. Then when it came to the voting, the majority of Labour MPs (including the entire front bench) abstained in order to let this disgraceful bill  pass virtually unopposed.

Here's what the Labour shadow minister for employment Stephen Timms (the guy that as minister for digital Britain claimed that "IP address" stands for "Intellectual Property address"!) had to say in the House of Commons during the rush to pass this legislation.
"The way forward proposed by the Bill and the programme motion is deeply unsatisfactory, but it is less bad than the alternatives, and for that reason I shall not urge my hon. Friends to oppose it."
So, because Labour couldn't conceive a better alternative than this "deeply unsatisfactory" motion, they allowed it to pass unchallenged.

It is difficult to establish why they refused to oppose this "deeply unsatisfactory" motion. They've cobbled together some excuses about getting concessions from the government in return for not opposing the bill. However by colluding with the Tory led government in allowing it to glide through parliament virtually unopposed they've let Iain Duncan Smith off the hook big time. Why on earth didn't they seize the opportunity to "nail him to the wall" over his incompetence? Why didn't they let him sweat it out at the Supreme Court, instead of allowing him to write himself a retrospective "get out of jail card"? Why didn't they make the case that undermining the judgement of the courts by retroactively amending the law is an absurd abuse of process?

One can only assume that they refused to do their job as opposition because they agree with the precedent being set. They're thinking that the next time they get into power, they'd like to have Tory and Lib-Dem support when they decide to retroactively amend the law, to magically render their own unlawful actions lawful.

Either that or they are running scared of the baying right-wing press.

There were a few Labour MPs that listened to their conscience and defied the Labour leadership to vote against this disgraceful exercise in retroactive lawmaking, they are listed below (along with members of other parties that voted against). These individuals should be exempted from the criticism that the Labour leadership (and the majority of the party) thoroughly deserve, for having put Iain Duncan Smith's interests above the interests of the thousands of people he unlawfully thrust into destitution.

The only parties to cast all of their votes in opposition to Iain Duncan Smith's retroactive lawmaking were the Scottish National Party, Plaid Cymru, the Green party and the Alliance party of Northern Ireland.

David Anderson (LAB)
Nicholas Brown (LAB)
Richard Burden (LAB)
Katy Clark (LAB)
Michael Connarty (LAB)
Jeremy Corbyn (LAB)
David Crausby (LAB)
Ian Davidson (LAB)
Jim Dobbin (LAB)
Bill Esterson (LAB)
Mary Glindon (LAB)
Fabian Hamilton (LAB)
Dai Havard (LAB)
Kelvin Hopkins (LAB)
Ian Lavery (LAB)
Mark Lazarowicz (LAB)
Fiona Mactaggart (LAB)
John McDonnell (LAB)
Jim McGovern (LAB)
Michael Meacher (LAB)
Ian Mearns (LAB)
Austin Mitchell (LAB)
Madeline Moon (LAB)
Grahame Morris (LAB)
Sandra Osborne (LAB)
Teresa Pearce (LAB)
Margaret Ritchie (LAB)
Steve Rotherham (LAB)
Barry Sheerman (LAB)
Jim Sheridan (LAB)
Dennis Skinner (LAB)
Graham Stringer (LAB)
Gerry Sutcliffe (LAB)
Joan Walley (LAB)
David Winnock (LAB)
Mike Wood (LAB)

Gregory Campbell (DUP)
Jeffrey Donaldson (DUP)
Nigel Dodds (DUP)
Mark Durkan (Plaid)
Jonathan Edwards (Plaid)
Stewart Hosie (SNP)
Elfyn Llwyd (Plaid)
Naomi Long (Alliance)
Caroline Lucas (Green)
Angus MacNeil (SNP)
William McCrea (DUP)
Angus Robertson (SNP)
Jim Shannon (DUP)
Mike Weir (SNP)
Eilidh Whiteford (SNP)
Hywel Williams (Plaid)
Pete Wishart (SNP)

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