Brave Tory MP Heidi Allen’s ‘Warning Shot To Government’ On #NoESACuts
A furious Tory MP today fired a “warning shot to government” as she vowed to fight her own party’s welfare cuts.
Heidi Allen hit out at the Tory vow to press on with £30-a-week cuts to disability benefit Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) despite the move being defeated in the House of Lords .
In a blistering speech she made an 11th-hour plea to her own party to find “the compassion to look after the little man”.
And she said a white paper to be published later this year on the “disability employment gap”, which Tory ministers announced today, was too little too late.
“I do not believe mentoring and support alone will heat the home of someone recovering from chemotherapy,” she fumed.
“Nor help out the man with Parkinson’s who needs a little bit of extra help.”
She blasted the Department for Work and Pensions’ claim that people were “incentivised” to stay on disability benefits because they pay more than jobseekers’ allowance.
“If they’re stuck there, that to me says more about DWP processes failing rather than an active choice of the claimant,” she said.
“Anyone who has beaten cancer must surely burst with desire to return to a normal life.”
To cries of “hear, hear” from Labour MPs, Ms Allen – who was one of the few Tories to publicly oppose tax credit cuts – said: “This is my warning shot to government.
“Today I will not support them. Today I may abstain, but only for today.
“Let’s get the detail right,” she continued. “Let’s be a government of sweeping strategic change, but let’s be one with the compassion and the dexterity to look after the little man too.”
Tory ministers want to cut ESA for sick and disabled people from £102.15 to £73.10 if they are deemed fit for “work-related activity”.
Nearly half a million people – including more than 3,000 cancer survivors – are in the group that will be hit by the cut from April 2017. Those in the more severe “support group” will not be affected.
David Cameron said the move would only affect new claimants or those who interrupted their claims, and it would equalise work-related ESA with jobseekers’ allowance.
The cut was voted down by the House of Lords – along with plans to scrap child poverty targets – after an outcry from charities including Macmillan, Mencap and Parkinson’s UK.
But today the Tories mounted a bid to reverse both decisions and stick with their original plans in the House of Commons.
Labour accused Tory welfare minister Priti Patel of a “total lack of compassion” after she made an argumentative 29-minute speech defending the cuts.
And she sparked an outcry after she tried to claim Macmillan backed aspects of the government’s policy – despite the cancer charity warning ESA cut victims could lose their homes.
She told MPs: “Macmillan have also said that many people who are working when they’re diagnosed with cancer would prefer to work or return to their jobs during or after treatment.”
Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Owen Smith interrupted, saying: “Could she confirm that Macmillan are OPPOSED to the reduction by £30 a week for members of the ESA wrag group?”
But she sidestepped the question, saying: “I think Macmillan alongside the government will recognise that I’ve already said that those that are on the support group will rightly not be affected and will be supported obviously because they are in the support group because they are ill.”
I’m uncomfortable in agreeing to these cuts until I know what the new world will look like for these people.
I do not believe mentoring and support alone will heat the home of someone recovering from chemotherapy.
Nor help out the man with Parkinson’s who needs a little bit of extra help.
I remain unconvinced that these people do not also have financial needs.
The DWP’s site states that many people stay stuck in the WRAG (Work-Related Activity) group for too long, up to two years.
I would question the DWP’s conclusion that they are financial incentivised to stay there.
If they’re stuck there, that to me says more about DWP processes failing rather than an active choice of the claimant.
People in that group do not have an easy time of it.
They must demonstrate an appetite to transition towards work and can be sanctioned if they do not.
Anyone who has beaten cancer must surely burst with desire to return to a normal life, and is unlikely to want to be labelled as a cancer sufferer for any longer than they absolutely must be.
From 2017, in the region of 270 disabled people alone in my constituency of South Cambridgeshire would stand to lost £30 – or 29% of their weekly income – if we accept this bill in its original form and ignore the Lords.
For these people I need to see more detail of the contents of the white paper and hear about the financial support too.
If we don’t get this right we will damage not just the employment prospects and wellbeing of these vulnerable claimants, but also our reputation and our trust amongst the electorate.
And to secure my trust I need to believe in that white paper and that £100million is going to go some way towards those people.
This is my warning shot to government.
Today I will not support them. Today I may abstain, but only for today.
Let’s get the detail right. Let’s be a government of sweeping strategic change, but let’s be one with the compassion and the dexterity to look after the little man too.