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As you may already know, I am supporting Yvette Cooper in the Labour leadership contest. I believe that with Yvette as leader we can learn the lessons of our election defeat while staying true to our values so as to build a united movement to win in 2020.

There has been a lot of misinformation regarding what happened on Monday night's vote on the welfare bill. Here is what Yvette Cooper has to say about the decisions made by the Parliamentary Labour Party:

Lots of Labour members and supporters have been getting in touch with me to ask about my position on the Tories’ welfare plans, and the bill which was voted on this week. 

So I wanted to write a message to you directly to let you know where I stand. 

I’ve argued from the start for Labour to oppose the Tories’ welfare plans and cuts to tax credits and set out our own alternative approach instead. 

The Tories would make people worse off in work, reduce work incentives, hit millions of working families, and push more children into poverty. 

The reality is that Labour did oppose the Welfare Reform Bill; we voted for a Labour amendment that would have stopped the whole Bill altogether. But that’s got completely lost

We need to have the confidence to set out an alternative Labour approach – not just think we have to swallow the Tories' plans. 

That’s why I’m going to be campaigning over the summer for Labour to go much further in opposing and voting against these plans if we cannot get the changes we need. 

​​And with the news that George Osborne is asking departments to cut another 40% from their budgets, it's clear that these welfare plans are just the beginning. The scale of these planned spending cuts has nothing to do with getting the deficit down, and everything to do with a Tory ideological attack on the public services Britain depends on. 

Labour has to be confident enough and serious enough to take the Tories on. 

Thanks, 

Yvette 

Yvette Cooper MP 

PS: I’ve written a blog post about the Tories’ plans and what Labour can do to support work and help children out of poverty, and build responsibility and respect into the welfare system. Click here to read my full response: http://www.yvetteforlabour.co.uk/welfarevote

Yvette Cooper on the welfare vote

As you may already know, I am supporting Yvette Cooper in the Labour leadership contest. I believe that with Yvette as leader we can learn the lessons of our election...

 

Welfare reform is going to be one of the biggest challenges of this parliament. The Tories are determined to punish people who are already struggling and it’s going to be Labour’s job to find a way of protecting those who rely on the services the Tories are dismantling. The Labour movement has a proud history of fighting injustice, but under a Tory majority we’re going to have to think carefully about how we go about it.

The debates on the Welfare Reform and Work Bill show the scale of the challenge we face. Labour MPs have different opinions on how to respond (although we all oppose most of the bill) and the next few months will be an exercise in pulling together in the face of some real challenges. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the debate or vote on the bill on Monday 20 July. As many people know, I was diagnosed with breast cancer in June, and have started chemotherapy. However, even if I had been there, there were not sufficient votes to defeat the government.

I am now in a treatment cycle which means that most of the time I am too physically tired or too vulnerable to infection, due to low white blood cells, to risk travelling to London. However, I’m making sure I am focusing on constituency work and on the elements of being an MP that I can easily do from Bristol.

Last night I was paired with another absent government MP and our votes cancelled each other out.

Let’s be clear about this: the Welfare Reform and Work Bill is a Tory bill and it is attacking people who are working but on low wages directly and the poorest people in general. It’s doing that by dismantling legislation and policies brought in by the last Labour government to reduce child poverty and poverty in general. Tax credits for working people and the Child Poverty Act in particular are under attack. By the Tories.

Labour during government did so much to reduce poverty. Measures included Sure Start; the Education Maintenance Allowance for young people; investment in hospitals and schools; the Every Child Matters agenda; increased employment on good pay and conditions for many who had previously been out of work or on low pay; the minimum wage; and then the living wage. Almost all of this has either already been scrapped by the Tories, with the help of the Liberal Democrats in coalition, or is under attack now by the current Tory government.

The vote last night was on the second reading. Labour put down a strongly worded reasoned amendment that set out the main – though not the only – reasons why we oppose the bill. This was rejected by the government. The Labour Party decision was then to abstain on the final vote of this second stage, because there are some things in the current bill which we support – such as increasing the minimum wage and investment in apprenticeships.

The bill will now go to committee stage in the autumn, and this is where the Labour Party will fight it line-by-line, by proposing many detailed amendments. Last night was not that stage.

If these amendments are rejected by the Tories, as we expect they will be, it will then be down to all opposition parties to vote against this regressive bill.

To argue that the Labour Party doesn’t stand up for the poorest or for the working poor is to ignore both our actions in government and our intentions in opposition, as well as the individual track records of Labour MPs. We’re still working out how best to oppose the Tories through our leadership election, but there’s no one in the Party who wants to back their unfair reforms.

When the progressive parties and progressive-minded people criticise each other, we only help those who don’t share our values. We shouldn’t argue amongst ourselves instead of attacking the Tories where they need to be attacked. On the other hand, if we oppose the Tories on things we agree with or even things we also proposed – like increases to the minimum wage – we just look silly.

If you’re on the left, I am asking you to support Labour in opposition, campaign with us for equality, and hold us to account when we return to government. Let’s work together to fight the Tories. 

(See also my recent blog about the impact of the Tory budget). 

Welfare Reform and Work Bill

  Welfare reform is going to be one of the biggest challenges of this parliament. The Tories are determined to punish people who are already struggling and it’s going to...

Yesterday under cover of various other things, the Government reduced the already meagre cash allowance for asylum seekers from inadequate (according to the 2012 Cross Party Enquiry, and a court ruling in 2014) to woefully inadequate.

Today, a single parent with one child receives just £96.90 per week for all food, clothes and toiletries for the two.

On 10 August this will reduce to £73.90 in total (36.95 each). Single adults at the moment receive £36.62 and will now also receive £36.95. The cuts apply to parents and children.

This can only result in more children in poverty. These children have already come from desperate situations. These amounts are well below the amounts assessed for social security as necessary for basic living, even accounting for the provision of accommodation which is provided on top of this cash allowance.

Do you think you could manage indefinitely on £36.95 for all your food, clothes and toiletries? Even if you buy all your children’s clothes at charity shops? Without a proper kitchen to prepare food from scratch and balanced meals?

This has all happened without parliamentary scrutiny.

The Coalition government removed the link with social security allowances and then tried to reduce the allowance in March just before the election. The Liberal Democrat coalition partners refused to support this, so the Tory Ministers withdrew it, only to bring it back in now.

Because the Minister is doing this through what is called secondary legislation – a regulation, not a change in law – and because this is what is called a negative procedure, he has no obligation to discuss it with parliament. Holding him to account is harder, therefore, but not impossible. And there is some possibility that we could get him to halt, though it will depend on enough Tory MPs deciding that £73.90 is insufficient to feed, clothe and provide toiletries for one adult and one child (and the equivalent for larger families).

What am I doing about this?
As chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on refugees, I’ve been liaising with refugee organisations and mobilising colleagues from all opposition parties and the Tory party, I am doing my best to make it harder for the government Minister to get away with this:
• I’ve contacted our front bench spokesperson David Hanson MP - he has confirmed that on Moonday he will do what is quaintly called "pray against" this (official language for urging the Government to come to the House of Commons to have to answer for himself on this and take part in a debate and vote). This is our last chance of getting any government response before recess, though unlikely to be successful. However, we may be able to get the Minister to answer an Urgent Question.
• I've contact the government Minister to ask for an urgent meeting and I've asked my Tory colleagues sympathetic to refugees to do the same (they stand more chance than I do). When I asked two South West Tory MPs to ask him for a review of this proposal recently (before yesterday’s announcement) they were very prompt in doing so – I’m hoping that they will now follow this up by asking again.
• I've asked colleagues in the APPG to put down written questions and the front bench to ask for Urgent Question.
• I’ve arranged to meet key individuals from the main national refugee organisations on Tuesday and speak to others during the week. My constituency team will be contacting local refugee organisations and others in Bristol during the week to find out what we might be able to do to help with the impact of this.
• I will continue to mobilise MPs from across the House of Commons throughout the summer and making sure that they know what is likely to happen to asylum seeker families in their constituency on 10 August, particularly those with seats which are dispersal areas for asylum seekers.

Please, anyone who lives in a Tory seat, contact your MP about this – and if you have a friend who lives in a Tory seat, ask them to contact their MP.

We need Tory MPs to contact the Right Honourable James Brokenshire MP, the government minister for immigration, and urge him to reconsider. Please help to make sure James Brokenshire knows people care.

I pledged during the election campaign that if elected, I would do everything I could every day as an MP to help to end child poverty. The Welfare Reform and Work Bill going through Parliament now is also going to increase child poverty and I am also acting on this – more on this on this blog soon. But that Bill has further to go through parliament and has full parliamentary scrutiny. This action against asylum seekers is going to happen within four weeks and at the moment, without parliamentary scrutiny. Please help me to help make sure that we try to persuade the Minister to think again.

URGENT! Notice of cuts to allowances for asylum seekers from inadequate to worse

Yesterday under cover of various other things, the Government reduced the already meagre cash allowance for asylum seekers from inadequate (according to the 2012 Cross Party Enquiry, and a court...

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