The government has been accused of using underhand tactics to try to steamroller the current welfare reform bill through the House of Lords with a minimum of opposition. Yesterday they forced a vote to move scrutiny of the bill, which axes disability living allowance (DLA) and time limits employment and support allowance (ESA), from the main chamber to a small committee room where many fewer peers will be able to take part in detailed scrutiny of the bill and the public will be entirely excluded.

Benefits and Work was alerted to the issue yesterday lunchtime by emails from Carer Watch and the Broken of Britain which explained that:

“​ 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.

“​At 3.30pm today the government 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.”​

We sent a brief newsletter out to members less than two hours before a vote on the venue change was due to be held, urging them to contact peers and whips to try to prevent the move.

Sadly, although we know many members did send emails, the vote went ahead and was won by the government. The committee stage will now either be held in the Moses Room or Room 4A.

A number of Benefits and Work members sent us copies of the replies they had received from peers after writing objecting to the proposal to change the venue.

Baroness Healy wrote: "​I did vote to keep the Bill on the floor of the House but I am afraid Labour was defeated by the Coalition Government. I am very concerned at how access will now be given to everyone who wishes to follow the Committee stage which is set to begin on October 3 as I am told. I agree with the points you have made so strongly."​

Lord Dubs wrote: “​Thank you. I agree with you. I/we have just voted on this but alas we lost.”​

Lord Hunt replied: “​Totally agree.”​

Lord Foulkes responded: “​I agree fully and voted against the motion but, sadly, we were defeated.”​

The leader of Labour peers, Baroness Royall of Blaisdon told

"​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."​


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