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URGENT - Call to Arms!!!

Hi everyone,

I received the following information from a ‘shall remain nameless’ lord this morning. Please could you circulate to all your contacts and publicise the government’s latest trick to try and avoid full scrutiny of the WRB,

After an incredibly constructive debate yesterday in the House of Lords the government appear to be concerned about how many Lords had significant concerns about the Welfare Reform Bill, even those Lords who in principle supported the bill had major questions they wanted answers to.

For a bill of this size and importance, convention dictates that the next stage of the bill should be kept in the main chamber of the House of Lords for debate. It’s particularly important the bill be continued to be debated in the main chamber as disability access to the smaller committee rooms is very limited and people will not be able to access the committee rooms to exercise their democratic right to observe the passge of the bill from the public chamber.

At 3.30pm today the govermnent are tabling a motion to move the grand committee stage of the bill into one of the smaller committee rooms. Presumably the government are hoping that by moving a bill into the committee rooms it will be harder to scrutinise - there won’t be enough space in any of the committee rooms to allow for all the Lords to participate, let alone for us to scrutinise online or attend in person.

This is an outrage :twisted: - the government are clearly concerned by the level of queries and opposition to the Welfare Reform Bill highlighted by yesterday’s debate and wish to quietly sideline it to a committee room where they hope it will pass with less opposition. Tabling the motion for the afternoon following PMQ’s is also an underhand trick as it means it will be harder for us to object through the main stream media.

This is our call to arms. This bill affects us, our families and every aspect of our lives, as well as the lives of those currently paying into the system in anticipation of protection should they require it. If we can make enough noise in the next few hours the government will be forced to keep the passage of the bill in the main chamber of the house of lords where it can be effectively and appropriately scrutinised by all.

What you can do to help is this;

Please post copies of this blog onto your facebook, your twitter, stumbleupon, wikio etc. Please email it to everyone you know, please talk about this on your own blogs. Email or phone your MP to register your objections, email or phone the house of lords to explain your concerns, email or phone the media, local or national and explain that whether or not people are in favour of this bill, that it is a fundamental democratic right to have it debated in the main chamber of the house of lords where there is space for all who wish to attend and observe. Highlight the injustice and hypocrisy of the governments behaviour in trying to sideline this important bill into a room too small for all the Lords to attend and certainly too small to allow those in wheelchairs, or with guide dogs, the very people most affected by this bill to be able to observe from the public gallery.

If we make enough noise before 3.30pm today the government will have to drop this underhand tactic and the Bill will continue to be debated in the main chamber of the House of Lords where everyone who wishes to can attend and observe.

I have emailed chief whip etc. We can only hope they won’t allow this complete ‘two fingers’ to democracy. Unbelievable what this government are trying to get a way with!!!

Pat x

ive been following this bill and am getting increasingly worried as it gets closer to going through
people who it will effect ie most people with ms on any sort of benifit,dla,esa,incapacity benefit… seem to me to be totaly oblivious to the awful effects its going to have.

what are the ms society doing to make everyone aware of it all ??
andy

Hi Andy

The Society has been on this since day one. Our policy and campaigns team are actually working with the person who wrote the original blog piece above. See their section of our main website for more http://www.mssociety.org.uk/get-involved/campaigns/key-campaigns/uk

Greg [admin]

Hi all,

I should have clarified that my post was a copy & paste of an urgent email I received from Kali who wrote the original blog instead I copied, pasted & dashed :o

Unfortunately I’ve since heard that the tabled motion went through this afternoon :twisted: - the next stages will be held away from public scrutiny and in rooms without wheelchair access :x :x :x .

This is the update from Dash:

Peers agreed today to a Government plan to hold the committee stage of the controversial Welfare Reform Bill away from the main chamber of the House of Lords, despite strong opposition from Labour.

Government chief whip Baroness Anelay of St Johns argued that the next stage of the Bill should be debated in a committee room and peers accepted the plan by 263 votes to 211, majority 52.

Decisions on where committee stages are held are almost invariably taken in private between the parties, making today’s vote extremely unusual.

But today both sides blamed each other for the breakdown of negotiations.

Labour chief whip Lord Bassam of Brighton described the situation as “very grave”.

He said: “The Government has got itself into a muddle over its legislative programme. This is a controversial Bill and it deserves to be debated on the floor of this House.”

Lady Anelay argued that if the House was to have “reasonable time” to debate all Bills, the committee stages of a fair number should be taken off the floor of the chamber.

“This session we are set to have the lowest proportion of Bills sent to grand committee since 2001/02,” she said. “That simply isn’t a sustainable position.”

Outside the chamber, the leader of Labour peers Baroness Royall of Blaisdon said: "The Government has dealt disabled people, and vulnerable people dependent on support, a severe blow by forcing through a procedure to squirrel its Welfare Reform Bill away from scrutiny in the main chamber of the House of Lords.

"Ignoring the pleas of disabled groups - as well as disabled peers in the chamber itself - the Government declined Labour’s offer of further constructive discussions to reach agreement on how to handle the Bill in Parliament.

“This is a bad day for consensus, a bad day for democracy - and most importantly, a bad day for disabled and vulnerable people. This Government should be ashamed of itself.”

A very bad day for the future of welfare reform. :x :twisted: :cry: :roll: :roll:

Keep the pressure up folks

And - from
http://www.latentexistence.me.uk/what-is-a-grand-committee-and-what-does-it-mean-for-welfare-reform

After all the fuss of the Welfare Reform Bill in the house of lords yesterday I wasn’t expecting much for a couple of weeks when it will reach committee stage. However, I woke up today to find that the government had tabled a motion in the lords to send the bill to the grand committee, held in a side room.

This is in fact the normal procedure for legislation moving through parliament. The committee stage is where the bill is examined line-by-line and objections from the debate at the second reading turn into amendments to the bill before it goes back to the house for the report stage and the third reading. Parliament’s own web page states:

Any Bill can be referred to a Committee of the whole House but the procedure is normally reserved for finance Bills and other important, controversial legislation.

So you can see, controversial bills are supposed to be debated by a “committee of the whole house” rather than a “grand committee.” As one lord stated in the debate today, no one can argue that this legislation is not controversial. The peers have stated over and over again during debate that they have been inundated with letters, emails, and phone calls from people concerned about this bill. They show surprise at the scale of concern shown to them. Unfortunately, despite a heated debate this afternoon in the end the lords voted 263 to 211 to pass the motion and move the bill to the Grand Committee. The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats voted for the motion, and Labour voted against it. Some of the reasons given were that it would block up the chamber and delay the passage of other bills, and that too many people would want to speak in the debate and it would take too long. (Yes, really! Democracy apparently takes too long.) One lady stated that several of the bills going through parliament are really three bills in one, and that of course it would take longer. (As an aside, I would urge you to look up Shock Doctrine for reasons as to why changes are being made so quickly.)

The difference between the two options for committee stage are quite important, I think. Here’s the official description of the committee stage:

Line by line examination of the Bill
Detailed line by line examination of the separate parts (clauses and schedules) of the Bill takes place during committee stage. Any Member of the Lords can take part.

Committee stage can last for one or two days to eight or more. It usually starts no fewer than two weeks after the second reading.

Before committee stage takes place
The day before committee stage starts, amendments are published in a Marshalled List – in which all the amendments are placed in order.

Amendments on related subjects are grouped together and a list (“groupings of amendments”) is published on the day.

What happens at committee stage?
Every clause of the Bill has to be agreed to and votes on the amendments can take place.

All proposed amendments (proposals for change) can be discussed and there is no time limit – or guillotine – on discussion of amendments.

What happens after committee stage?
If the Bill has been amended it is reprinted with all the agreed amendments.

At the end of committee stage, the Bill moves to report stage for further examination.

Here is the critical part though:

Grand Committee
The proceedings are identical to those in a Committee of the Whole House except that no votes may take place.

As compared to:

Committee of the whole House
In the House of Lords the committee stage of a Bill usually takes place in the Lords Chamber and any Member can take part. The Committee may choose to vote on any amendment and all Members present can vote.

So you can see, apart from being in a less-accessible room, with space for far fewer peers to discuss the bill and no public gallery, sending a bill to the Grand Committee also means that the amendments cannot be voted on individually. I think, on the whole, this can be viewed as a bad thing.

However, please keep sending your messages to peers. They have noticed our objections, and we can’t let up now. Details are in previous blog post.

Important Update
In the Grand Committee there is no voting on amendments, which would enable a majority vote to fix some of the worse points. Instead, the committee must agree unanimously on an amendment which means that just one person siding with the government can block any attempt to fix this bill.