Courtesy 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