The Welfare Reform Bill and Labour’s reasoned amendment

307438_447255352010665_491067854_nCourtesy of Robert Livingstone

I’m writing this short article as the media have most certainly distorted the account of events regarding the Welfare Reform Bill at its Second Reading. I want to focus on parliamentary process rather than offer an opinion, just to clarify the issues. Many people think that the Labour Party didn’t oppose the Tory Bill, some even believe that Labour supported it. That’s untrue.

Labour opposed the Bill using reasoned amendments. This type of amendment is used by MPs to record their reasons for opposing the Second Reading of a Bill. The important reasoned amendment that the Labour Party proposed was as follows:

“That this house declines to give a Second Reading to the Welfare Reform and Work Bill because the Bill will prevent the Government from continuing to pursue an ambition to reduce child poverty in both absolute and relative terms, it effectively repeals the Child Poverty Act 2010 which provides important measures and accountability of government policy in relation to child poverty, and it includes a proposal for the work-related activity component of employment and support allowance which is an unfair approach to people who are sick and disabled.”

So, the motion being debated and voted on was: “That the Bill be now read a Second time.” Labour opposed that.

Had the amendment been agreed at the vote, the Bill would have been halted. As it is, the Liberal Democrats, one UKIP MP and one UUP MP voted with Labour, supporting the amendment. All of the SNP MPs were absent or abstained on this vote. The majority of MPs voted to support the Welfare Reform and Work Bill (all Conservatives) at its Second Reading, allowing it to continue to Committee stage.

Reasoned amendments may only be added at the Second Reading (and not at the Third Reading). The Bill then passes to Committee and Report stage, where it is scrutinised line by line, it then has its Third Reading, which involves very little debate and a final Commons vote.

The media reported very little regarding this process, if any, and did not mention that the Bill is in its early stages, and that there is still a Commons vote to come at the Third Reading, and that bothers me. You have to wonder why. The media accounts have left many people with the impression that the passage of the Bill has concluded. It hasn’t.

Furthermore, the corporate media have managed to create further division and disunity amongst the already factionalised Left, as we witnessed today across social media platforms. Which was probably the aim. There’s nothing like encouraging inighting to disempower groups that threaten the status quo.

This account of parliamentary process is of course all verifiable on the Parliamentary website.

Links to the website are provided here: Welfare Reform and Work Bill — Decline Second Reading — 20 Jul 2015 at 21:50

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5 thoughts on “The Welfare Reform Bill and Labour’s reasoned amendment

  1. If Labour had opposed it it might hav encouraged anti bill Tories ta come out ann tha bill may hav gone doon swanney like tha fox hunting one. They only hav a 12 majority and all other opposition parties bar UU in NI opposed tha welfare bill

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    1. Labour did oppose it and didn’t get support of other opposition parties such as the SNP at the vote for moving to halt the Bill at the second reading. The Tories have a majority of 16. All of the Conservatives supported this Bill.

      The fox-hunting Bill was opposed by some of the Conservatives, too, hence it wouldn’t have got through anyway.

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  2. I also noticed that “the media have most certainly distorted the account of events regarding the Welfare Reform Bill at its Second Reading” giving “many people with the impression that the passage of the Bill has concluded”. I was very dismayed and not a little annoyed at such journalistic misrepresentation of the facts. Although I mentioned it repeatedly in BTL comments, other people seemed not to have made the same connection.
    Also feeling not very encouraged about the step during which it “passes to Committee and Report stage, where it is scrutinised line by line, it then has its Third Reading, which involves very little debate and a final Commons vote”. I’m unsure of the timing of the Committee and Report Stage in relationship to Labour Leader selection in September and how Labour will, as Burnham insisted, ‘fight this line by line’. That it will go to a final Commons vote after that is also cause for unease. Opposition is so fractured, no wonder the Tories are playing fast and hard with all sorts of legislation; easy to get things shoved through, and apparently willing to employ legislative instruments whenever necessary to achieve their agenda.

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    1. I’ve got frustrated trying to explain the process to a lot of people who are angry and don’t seem receptive to information. Some are so skeptical of the media, until it turns its corporate focus on Labour and does them down. Then all at once, the media are credible …

      I think that if reasoned amendments are put forward at the Second Reading, as Labour did, then they must use the final vote and try to halt the whole Bill that way.

      The SNP are soundbite opportunists, always up for a sharp kick at Labour, they all either abstained or didn’t turn up to support Labour’s amendment . Really, we need to be trying every way we can to halt a Bill like this. Even a UKIP MP voted for the amendment to decline the second reading.

      I suspect, left with no choice, having seen the amendment get us nowhere, Labour MPs will vote against the Bill in its entirety at the Third Reading, including those parts that are actually Labour policies – lowering council house rents, extending apprenticeships and so on. That way, the Tories can gloat that Labour voted against their own policies for the next five years.

      Mind you, there will be more Bills like this one, played in exactly the same way. Because it does what the Tories want it to: divides the opposition further and plays on the fact that the SNP, and Greens to a lesser extent also see the Labour party as “opposition” due to the fact that both are relying on left wing votes from former Labour supporters, hence the perpetual SNP oneupmanship.

      It couldn’t have worked out better for the Tories. And they know how to play this, too.

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