It sparked a lot of argument yesterday. What had the Supreme Court actually ruled? A lot of people thought that the DWP would have to repay any money they took away in sanctions while the regime was illegal. But no, the retrospective legislation took care of that. There was even confusion about who had appealed the High Court ruling, and on what grounds.
The best article in the press was, naturally, in the Guardian. Joshua Rozenberg used to be the BBC's legal expert, and knows what he's talking about. He points out that was Iain Duncan Smith who appealed. He had no need to, because the retrospective legislation was already in operation. The original decision was that the whole basis of the workfare schemes was unlawful because i) it hadn't been put to Parliament and ii) the information given to claimants was inadequate. That's what Smith appealed. And he lost. The Supreme Court upheld that decision. But, as Rozenberg points out, Smith's immediate response was: "We are very pleased that the supreme court today unanimously upheld our right to require those claiming Jobseeker's Allowance to take part in programmes which will help get them into work." Rozenberg picks up the "very pleased" and comments, "Pleased that it had lost an unnecessary appeal at no small cost to the taxpayer?" He quotes the ruling:"...it is rather unattractive for the executive to be taking up court time and public money to establish that a regulation is valid, when it has already taken up parliamentary time to enact legislation which retroactively validates the regulation."
To be fair (it pains me to say this) the lawyers for Cait Reilly and Jamie Wilson did make a cross-appeal about the legality of workfare, and lost that, so IDS could claim that that's what he was talking about. But that's almost irrelevant. Esther McVey (who has, in a very short time, become very irritating) was trotted out to repeat IDS's spurious claim and confuse the issue.
On the subject of workfare generally; the government has to maintain the fiction that it is not work, it's training, work experience or whatever, but not work. Because that would have to be paid. No court in this country is going to go against that. It might be that the only recourse is the European Court of Human Rights.
A final thought. Could we start a petition to impeach Iain Duncan Smith?