Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Esther McVey's evidence session

I sat through two hours of this.  She was giving the last evidence, along with a DWP civil servant, Hayes, to the Work and Pensions Select Committee inquiry into sanctions.  After two hours the BBC Parliament channel left the session and I couldn't bring myself to go to it on the computer.  I'd felt myself losing the will to live inside ten minutes.
A bit of the flavour of it is reported by the Guardian here.  But they are trying to be too even-handed.  It was dire.  McVey waffled and fudged, didn't answer the question, cited surveys she then couldn't detail, and turned to Hayes whenever it got complicated.  The Chair, Dame Anne Begg, was tougher than usual, but it was only when the other Labour members of the committee, Debbie Abrahams, Sheila Gilmore, Glenda Jackson and Teresa Pearce, were set loose that McVey showed the gulf between what she (and her boss and the DWP) would like to think is happening and what is actually happening.
One lie has clearly been nailed.  The committee has heard about the way in which Work Programme providers are obliged to refer someone for sanction whenever there is a perceived infringement of the rules.  This is going to be changed, by the way; they are to have discretion, which is what they want.  But it needs primary legislation and a renegotiation of the contracts, so won't happen yet.  But McVey was not reminded of the fact that she has lied about this in Parliament, insisting that sanctions are only used as a last resort.  Another lie was repeated.  McVey was adamant that there are no targets.  This became a bit of a muddle, with Jackson and McVey both referring to the same letter from the PCS union; and in fairness McVey was right.  But, at least while I was watching, we never got to the truth about targets in Jobcentres.

The Guardian and the Independent have been publishing the truth, with articles here, here and here, and the New Statesman has joined in.  All these pieces give the picture which McVey determinedly denied today.  Let's hope that the committee's report doesn't get too watered down by the Tories on it.  They've heard the truth and should report it.  But, as I've said before, it won't make a scrap of difference if the Tories get in in May.


  1. I also watched,McVey was patronising,condescending and would not know the truth if it smacked her right side the head. When asked how much money in benefits being held back from claimants due to sanctions amounted too,she claimed that they do not keep that data because ? I could make no sense of her answer or lack of,she was asked a similar question about hardship payments,how much had been paid to those that were sanctioned,no answer,these figures should be extremely easy for the DWP to access,are they scared of the amounts that have been stolen from claimants?

  2. I admire Historian’s stoicism. I lose the will to live within a minute if I have to see McVey’s scruffy hairdo or listen to her rasping voice. I decided to wait for the written transcript, which should be published on Friday.

    Meanwhile, I’m really pleased that the Guardian and the Independent have both come in with such solid support for Debbie Abrahams and for benefits claimants.

  3. The timing of the Work and Pension Committee's report may itself become a contentious issue; its Tory Committee members, fearing a politically damaging report replete with embarrassing revelations and harsh criticisms, might strive to stall its release until after May's general election.

  4. Labour may have put in place the process of sanctions and workfare but these are being followed much more crudely and cruelly by the Tories. The system has got much, MUCH worse in the last five years to the extent that I like many, MANY others have actually signed off despite not being in work. I was never sanctioned but the process of claiming is now so onerous (because I have paid my taxes and NI) that it was not worth it for the pittance that you get.

    Trust me, there are millions like me who are now out of work but receiving no Social Security or income. This is why tax receipts are down and the economy is still struggling.

  5. No punishement without trial. Isn't that one of our human rights? Surely Sanctions should go before a judge with the claimant present and prepared to put thier case? Living with no income for a month or more would be a harsh punishment for most people. Even Criminals when fined are asked to pay less than their whole income in reparation.

    McVey says that there is all this guidance and none of what is cited as happening is in the guidance, so clearly having the power to cajolle encourage harrass and sanction is and might have been predicted, going to some peoples heads. Expecting MP's to take on every individual case presented, to sort out the muddle seems ridiculous. Regardless of the manual of rules there IS a problem in how the system is being run with people feeling threatened and abused.

    I too have listened and can only conclude this has to be a human rights issue. Our Govt has abandoned the poor as having no value and therefore not worth keeping. They close their ears and eyes to the desperate plight of the people they are supposed to serve. Shame on them and shame on those who uphold and furthur add brutality to the already stringent rules.

    I read that Theresa May announced a change in the law to protect partners from emotional domestic abuse. Threats, taunts, personal comments, witholding support. Why is is wrong now in the home but perfectly acceptable at the JCP, Work programme ATOS and in the DWP? Why should a person be sanctioned for a minimum of 4 weeks money for being a few minutes late for their work programme and then say nothing when their partner is late home with no excuse? Why should they be told how to smarten them selves up fo employers, to wash and shave etc and say nothing about a 'slovenly' partner that 'repulses' them? Why should they humbly submit to abuse outside the home and then be violating the law when they use that same behavior on a partner? Claimants are daily living in fear. If this is right and proper and motivating, how is it wrong at home? Surely reasonable behaviour is reasonable behaviour wherever it takes place? Surely govt departments, and agencies acting on their behalf, should be using exemplary behaviour the we can all emulate?

  6. Interesting (and relevant!) article here:
    I particularly likes ". There was a lot of faffing, and some broad and extraneous evidence about sanctions in general. “I take it from your failure to answer the question that you did not do any research,” the chair finally concluded, having grilled McVey and the DWP’s Chris Hayes, for long enough."

  7. Message for Fubar - your link doesn't work.


Keep it clean, please. No abusive comments will be approved, so don't indulge in insults. If you wish to contact me, post a comment beginning with "not for publication".