A Prayer for Welfare Reform

Baroness Murphy

Lord Freud

I shall be participating in a “Prayer to Annul” debate this evening. This weird wording means a debate raised to protest against a negative statutory instrument. Under the standard negative procedure, the SI is annulled if the prayer motion is agreed by the House within 40 days of the SI being laid. Lord Kirkwood of Kirkhope has tabled a potentially fatal “Prayer” against SI 2011 No 228, ‘The Employment and Support Allowance (Limited Capability for Work and Limited Capability for Work Related Activity) Amendment Regulations. This dry as dust wording refers to the rules of assessment and the assessment procedures for the one and a half million people in receipt of ESA who are going through the new procedures now to ascertain whether they will qualify for the higher level of support for people with disabilities or whether they will be reduced to the lower level of job seekers allowance and be expected to seek work. The intention of course is to ensure that support is properly targeted on those who need it. I have no quarrel with that.

The regulations however are imperfect and are especially difficult to use fairly with people with mental health problems and the Government is aware of that. It seems to me that we have a Minister, Lord Freud, who genuinely cares about getting it right, as did his predecessor Lord McKenzie of Luton, and has consulted all the right people to give advice on the practical implementation, but the best intentions of the Department of Work and Pensions go awry when they are put into practice by Job Centre Plus staff with inadequate training in mental health issues, operate in a tick-box fashion and are not encouraged to make decisions of their own but rely on sometimes gravely inadequate medical information.  We will no doubt have a robust discussion of these practicalities. It isn’t likely that Lord Kirkhope will press his “Prayer” to a vote; the regulations are an improvement on what went before.  But they will need amending again as the work continues.

I’d like to get rid of the silly language though. “Prayer to annul “ is unnecessarily archaic for  “A Member opposes”.

23 comments for “A Prayer for Welfare Reform

  1. Lord Blagger
    16/03/2011 at 12:39 pm

    Any extra payments should be for extra costs, and not a carte blanche handout.

    As for silly language, what percentage of the Lords time is taken up by archaic language and what does it cost us?

    Abolish it, chop 20% off the number of sitting days, and we are better off.

    Far better is to chop the whole of the lords and let the experts in the commons do some work.

    • MilesJSD
      18/03/2011 at 2:56 am

      If £200 per week is (as legislated) one-human-living

      i.e. sufficient for a person to maintain their-self healthy, citizenlike and environmentally-supportive

      then how does the theory (and further legislation) of “Any extra payments should be for extra costs” /…

      justify bloated handouts of twice, three times, 5 times, 10 times and even 100 times that amount of sufficient-living ?

      such as for example to failed-bankers, failed-politicians, failed-captains-of-industry, failed-academics, failed-civil-servants, failed judiciary, & failed royalty?


      • Lord Blagger
        18/03/2011 at 11:20 am

        So the can go out and work and earn 200 a week.

        Ah, I get it. Make it a human right, and then you can violate other people’s human rights in order to fulfil this one.

        Namely deprive other people of their property and their wages to fund the feckless.

        It’s not a human right. It’s people trying to make it a human right in order to justify theft.

  2. maude elwes
    16/03/2011 at 12:54 pm

    Welfare reform needs scrutinising in every detail. What is being proposed will bring enormous suffering to people who have no option in the matter.

  3. maude elwes
    16/03/2011 at 1:46 pm

    I think ‘prayer to annul’ is a term that suits the event.I also feel changing the term is totally unnecessary as tradition, in this setting, ties us to our history. The Lords is archaic. So what!

    Just because we get rid of the heredity’s doesn’t mean we have to ditch the ‘good stuff.’

    • Chris K
      16/03/2011 at 4:55 pm

      Quite right.

  4. Carl.H
    16/03/2011 at 3:08 pm

    My sister suffers severe distonia, along with other diseases that may or may not have been the result of radiation treatment back in 1960. Some of these are extremely difficult to diagnose precisely and due to a fire at the London Hospital long ago, the records of her treatment were lost.

    She lives alone and copes extremely well, far better than I would in the circumstances but is forever at one hospital appointment or another. As my Lady will know well Doctors, Consultants, will often disagree with each other and symptoms often fluctuate. To quantify and qualify can often be very hit and miss even with physical diseases let alone mental illness.

    My sister has had her benefits stopped on a number of occassions, it seems the system is designed so that your guilty until you prove innocence. The sudden stoppage of your only income causes great hardships especially when you are unwell in the first place.

    Great care needs to be taken in the design of such a system especially in the case of mental health, it is all too easy to say today there is nothing wrong so therefore you’re capable of work.Assessment will be a difficult job and I feel it should not be left to those who follow precise ruling to the letter. It should be done with allowance for compassion and a leaning toward the recipient until proven otherwise beyond doubt.

    I’d like to get rid of the silly language though.

    Quite right, tradition is fine at ceremonial events but when in pursuit of a working practice, ceremonial language can only serve to confuse, especially those onlookers who are attempting to understand their Government.

    Whilst on the subject of Mental Health, it has long been stated that those with a particular brand of mental illness are drawn to politics. The noble Baroness has alluded in the past some of those drawn to political blogs may infact be in someway mad.

    What are the chances of a study into Politicians and mental health? Sociopaths are drawn to this field, has my Lady got any personal opinions on this ?

    • Lord Blagger
      18/03/2011 at 11:22 am

      Far simpler. Look at the number committing fraud by saying their expenses are wholly and necessary for being an MP.

      Look at the Lords where money was given out for second homes, but they didn’t even check on the existance of a second home or define it.

      It’s not mental illness, the evidence is from criminal tendencies.

      For example, “I’m entitled to my expenses because I’ve paid taxes”

  5. Lord Blagger
    16/03/2011 at 3:40 pm

    What is being proposed will bring enormous suffering to people who have no option in the matter.

    No it won’t. The people suffering are those who have to pay for it.

    They will have to pay for the next 100 years and more, because its all on the credit card.


    30,000 fraudulent claims. So what? Look at what she was claiming legally.

    At the time she was already receiving £170,000 worth of benefits a year, which included £150,000 housing benefit for a seven bedroom property in Acton, west London.

    You need to be on 315,000 a year to take home 170,000.

    All this legistlation allowing it was scrutinised by the Lords and passed.

    Perhaps its because they think 315,000 a year is just rewards for doing nothing. An aspiration they can aspire to.

  6. maude elwes
    16/03/2011 at 6:16 pm

    Recently a man in his fifties, after working his entire adult life, first as an apprentice and then progressed to his own business, was cast aside and treated abominably by the State he worked to support.

    At the age of fifty his business folded, as he could no longer compete with the Chinese ludicrously low rates for the units he sold. After raising a son alone, his wife died in her thirties, and sending him to an independent school, he had a complete mental collapse. He was hospitalised for many months with ongoing scitzophrenia.

    He struggled on when discharged, using his savings to support himself. Until, he could no longer pay his mortgage as there was no income and his mental capacity had diminsihed remarkably.

    He had to go apply for benefit, something he found horrendous to submit to. Finally, after many many months of complete anguish, his benefits were brought up to date. But he was made homeless. Then he had a letter to go to some kind of medical exam. It was a waste of time, as the ‘nurse’ asked very little. He took his medical letters and hospital papers. She gave him an eye test, and they stopped his money saying he had to look for work because he could see clearly from his left eye.

    No one in the world is going to employ him. He cannot stand up without vomiting until his stomach bleeds, amongst other horrid reactions to his very heavy medication. He is terrified. He has no one to take care of him and he sits alone in a cold flat as he cannot afford heating.

    After all his years of unbelievable hard work and taxation, this honest and very decent man, is treated as if he is a pariah. This would not have been so severe had Duncan Smith not been so narrow in his thinking and so hateful to those who cannot help themselves.

    The problem here is, the people are too willing to lay down and die, for they believe the crap being thrown at them by a profligate government. Many disabled people feel they are a terrible burden. They cannot see they gave their best and are being pilloried for it.

    What a disgusting country we have become in so many ways.

    16/03/2011 at 7:04 pm

    I suspect that you want to change it because its prayer… we all know that even though you respect Religion as the Hopes and Dreams of Humankind (whatever that means) you as a Rationalist (self described of course) want to move past Religion (as you define it) into a society that’s modern and Rational (read: That follows your beliefs instead).

    So lets chuck tradition because it doesn’t suit your own prejudices.

    As for Welfare, Benjamin Franklin said that the more Public Provisions we make for the Poor, the more they remain trapped in Poverty.

    I think he was right. Morality, personal Character, and even the ability to improve ones life is hampered by a lot of this.

    As cold hearted as you will undoubtedly see me as by saying this ( as you have no obligation as a “Rationalist’ to respect others who disagree, though they must respect you) I think the Welfare State has only ensured people remain in Poverty and have become dependant.

    I’d much prefer a system that lets them better themselves, rather than treating them as animals requiring feeding and housing from the State.

    But hen, I also believe we need to keep our Traditions rather than dump them in favour of the promise of a bold new Utopia.

  8. Gareth Howell
    17/03/2011 at 8:06 am

    The govt does not reform anything to pay out more and certainly in the context of people who are out for what they can get such as welfare.

    Nor would they be able to chop and change 1.5 m people’s negative taxation arrangements over night, so the answer can only be availability for work of the ESA claimants, or reduction of

    • maude elwes
      17/03/2011 at 4:38 pm

      May I write, I hope you will be one of the ESA claimants in the near future. And that your tax payments will not be found beneficial to your requirements.

      And that you will go home and sit in a cold dark room because no one will be there and you will not be able to afford the heating.

      Satisfaction all around then, no?

    18/03/2011 at 3:16 am

    Maude, I’m not sure if your comment was to Gareth or me, but those Sceptical of the Modern-day Welfare State aren’t heartless fiends, who need to suffer some dire fate.

    No one wants to see people go Homeless, without food, or without Heat in Winter. However, one has to question how the modern Welfare State manages to function and provide integrity and fosters morality and personal responsibility, and how it can all be paid for, as well as the effects it has on the Tax Payer.

    I personally am all for helping people but the current system is ridiculously convoluted, is frequently abused, and is based on taxing the worker to give to those who simply don’t want to work.

    That is not the same as helping elderly persons in Retirement whop did their bit for Queen and Country.

    • Carl.H
      18/03/2011 at 10:53 am

      2.5 million people are currently unemployed, many more on disability.

      Without income the only way to survive is to rob those that have or alternately like those of the Middle East who were given little, overthrow the Government.

      Every system is abused as we can see from MPs and Lords now entering our judicial system. There are abusers in terms of those landlords who benefit from those on benefit and many more instances. We have a thriving market in cash jobs where no tax is paid in this Country. Directing your aim only at those with nothing is a little opportunistic.

      Humans are corrupt from top to bottom, from tax evasion, expenses abuse, bribes and false claims.

      A balance has to be struck where a man in order to stay alive or keep his family alive has an alternate option rather than kill or rob those who have what he needs.

    • maude elwes
      19/03/2011 at 1:37 pm


      What do you know about the British benefits system? Or, its objectives?

      It is paid for out of taxation. That taxation was taken by government making a deal with the British people to care for them, when in need, from cradle to grave. As the taxation level increased to enormous proportions the ‘care’ promised has decreased out of all proportion. Our schools, hospitals, infrastructure, benefits full employment and so on, have been diverted to war, overseas aid, fiddling of expenses, immigration, outrageous quangos, fiddling of council taxes for the benefit of the town hall employees, and every other siphon imaginable.


      And we British people, unlike dumb yanks, are not happy to be exploited by our politicians as you are. You are willing to pay your millionaires in government to have free health for life, and all manner of perks you yourselves feel not worthy of.

      You need to blog the White House about their fiddles of US tax payers money and worry about what goes on there at your expense, rather than giving your Republican views to us.

      Do you think we are brainless and need your help? Don’t you realise we pity you American people and cannot understand for one minute why you don’t kick back as you watch your fellow citizens and yourselves being abused by your State.

      So, answer some of your own dilemmas before you feel you need to look out for us Brits. Who, in the main, are far better off in quality of life, and even life itself, according to the latest stats, than you are in Tennessee. Incidentally, a State which has a poor level we would find unconscionable.


      As you will see, the level of poverty in your State is way out of proportion to much of the US. And if you spent your time doing something for your own people you may find solace there rather than looking for it here.

      I cannot abide Christian Republicans because that is the top of the line in oxymoron’s I have yet to encounter elswhere.

  10. ZAROVE
    18/03/2011 at 6:04 pm

    The “man is corrupt” line makes me wonder why you are so Hostile to Christianity, as this is what it teaches.

    And I still find the Solution in its basic tenets, or those of the past Philosophers regarding it.

    Local rather than National help should be principle, with the Crown Government offering oversight and some aid. But if people need it or not should be determined by a Minister on the Local Level, who is not confined to mere tick boxes people can manage to weasel by but allowed to use proper Judgement. To prevent a cruel or unjust soul from being said Minister, simply make sure more than one exist in any given local and that one can appeal a decision.

    I also think the Emphasis on Secularism hinders this. Churches, Mosques, and Synagogues can be of tremendous help by adding to the coffers of the needy in a Voluntary way apart from taxation if they were but to be allowed to work in Partnership in that area. As would other Charitable groups. Voluntary giving added to the mix cuts down considerably on the need to increase a tax Burden.

    • maude elwes
      21/03/2011 at 1:23 pm

      @Zarove: What we need to cut down on is the tax burden of war pushed on us by Uncle Sam. Now that would put us in far better shape in the long run and leave us plenty of room to take care of our citizens, who pay for the privileges they were promised but find, the more we join your country in war, the more is being removed from our care by the day.

      Again, why do you American citizens think of us as a ‘Hawaii’ you’ve paid for, with Don Ho giving the Hula girl routine, whilst we sit looking up at you with admiring faces.

      Have you seriously looked at the United States and its problems. Seeing as you are so devout you should try tackling the issue of Christian crooks ripping of the poor with their begging TV shows asking for money from the vulnerable. Especially in the State you come from. Why does their plight miss your conscience? Do you believe you have some kind of missionary role here?

      Your State is a mess. You are run by a bunch of rogues who make big bucks free loading of the tax payer. And you are selling that line world wide. Time to pull the horns in.

      Plug your American dream to the willing, there are plenty who have bought it, and let us Brits think for ourselves. We are capable.

      As a little reminder.


      Now I see the US as a country which is in serious trouble and in need of a good citizen like yourself to address the issues there. Capital punishment. Torture. Political prisoners. Impoverished people queuing for food hand outs. Growing unemployment. A vacillating President who appears to have lost his way. You have a lot of work to do for your people.


      You see what you need to do over there is become a really democratic socialist country. One who looks after its people rather than leaving them without the means to take care of themselves. Socialism is the answer for your people and the way forward for your poverty stricken. They need your help. Don’t turn your good face from them. Rise up and tell them of your good works and ideas for their future. I know they will be thankful.

  11. ZAROVE
    22/03/2011 at 5:12 am

    Maude, Three Things… Times Three.

    1: I may live in America but I am not personally responsible for every action America has ever done. In fact I oppose quiet a bit.

    So your asking me the wrong sorts of questions.

    I live here as for now I must, I have certain work and familial obligations and despite how the Federal Government is, its still a place of lovely people and stunning scenery.

    2: That said, America is not a single State. Its 50 State Governments united by a Treaty, with the Federal Government being basically amalgamated from the 50 States. “My” State, Tennessee, is 1/50th of the voice in America, and I personally represent very little about America, as anyone who has spoken to me for over 5 minuets knows.

    3: You do know that as I was born in Sussex I am actually also a UK Subject. Oddly I’m not a Citizen, nor are you, as Citizenship technically in Law doesn’t exist it he UK. A Minor point.

    Still, I’d be considered eligible for a UK Passport.

    4: Speaking of which, the State I come from is Sussex. I don’t see why you think I am a Native of America when I’ve explained I’m not already.

    5: Televangelists are not a Governmental Concern. They run their own affairs. They can even exist in the UK if they like, and do broadcast there, its just not as great as here.

    Why should the Government do anything about them?

    Plus, not all are crooks, saying thy all are is lie the image we have of Lawyers being all crooks. There are honest Lawyers, despite the Reputation, and there are honest Televangelists.

    6: Tennessee is not really known for Televangelism. Most are oddly enough from California or other Western States, with a handful from Florida, or New York.

    While the South may have the image of being crazy Fundamentalists with like Intellect, the reality still remains that most televangelists you could name aren’t from the South, much less Tennessee.

    7: No, I don’t think I have a Missionary Role on Lords Of The Blog. I’m simply interested in the Governance of my Homeland. Or should I just say “Yup, my Homeland is Tennessee” and forget where I was Born or ancestors died for several Generations?

    8: What’s it even suppose to mean by “Sell that American dream to the Willing”? Exactly how many times to I mention the American way of doing things as something that ought to be Imitated?

    9: Socialism, according to My people Winston Churchill is the Doctrine of Greed, not the solution to our problems.

    It was also declared Antipathetic to Christian principles by many, including notoriously Pope Leo the 13th.

    Socialism is not the same as actually caring for the people, its treating them as names on a list as if they can be managed. Its only assurance is the assurance of equal poverty.

    Britain doesn’t need Socialism, nor does America.

    That said, I am still a Monarchist, Maude, which despite my whole “Red Whit And Blue” American patriotism you impute on me, really limits me in many ways from being fully accepted by America.

    • maude elwes
      22/03/2011 at 1:39 pm


      I am fully conversant with the backdrop of the USA and its union. And I am fully conversant with Tennessee, among other States.

      And as far as you being British in a back story, well, all Americans come from somewhere, don’t they? I mean, only the Indian natives and the Hispanics can really claim the nation as their own.

      Now Winston Churchill? Are you referring to;

      ‘the main vice of capitalism is the uneven distribution of prosperity. The main vice of socialism is the even distribution of misery’

      or the alternative

      ‘The inherent vice of capitalism is the uneven division of blessings, while the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal division of misery.’

      Either way, I take his words as an indication that neither one nor the other was exclusively the answer.

      And to me that means, as in all things, balance is the optimum.

  12. ZAROVE
    22/03/2011 at 6:54 pm

    Maude, Balance is sort of the point. Im not exaclty a hardcore Capitalist. However, Im not a Socialist at all. Pope Leo the 13th thoguth both were bad ideas.

    Socialism shodl be done away with, and we shoudl go back to a Traditional Order.

    That said, most AMericans were born in AMerica.

    Thats a distinction.

    • maude elwes
      23/03/2011 at 5:28 pm

      Zarove: You in the USA have done away with any form of socialism. So, you have what you want.

      Relish it, thank your lucky stars for being so fortunate to live in a country that is run the way you like it.

      We British, in the main, don’t like the way your country is run and don’t want it emulated here. Although, to our chagrin it is adapting more and more the American dream, via the Judas T Blair and his merry men, followed keenly by our present coalition.

      But they won’t find the British people quite as cap doffing as you yanks. You people are so convinced of your unworthiness you beg them to take you to the cleaners as fast as they can.

      I see your society as regressive and far from progressive. I repeat you need a little socialism. And you as a Christian should be helping those more needy than you.


  13. Lord Blagger
    23/03/2011 at 10:56 pm

    6.8 Trillion in debt. Not the US, the UK.

    Average house hold share is 300,000 pounds, with interest on top.

    Missing from that is that 50% of the UK is so poor under socialism that they have less than 5,000 in savings. The main reason is that all their savings were given to the government (for their pensions) and instead of investing it, the government spent it. They will want, no doubt demand as their entitlement, bailing out in their retirement. Per person retiring today, that’s about 350,000 quid, ignoring their health costs.

    So under this ‘socialist’ niavana that is the UK, you up to your neck in debt.

    So Maude, how are you going to pay your share

    Ain’t enough bankers around.

    There isn’t enough middle class around.

    If you take the real liabilities, it’s around the 20 trillion mark, with interest on top.

    Government income, 0.5 trillion.

    Total UK income 1.4 trillion.

    40 times geared. Not even Tony Blair got that on his mortgage. His was a more manageable 15 times joint salary

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