From JonnyVoid’s Blog:
In a shocking abuse of state power – which could have a chilling impact on the independence of the courts – Iain Duncan Smith is attempting to reverse the impact of a recent Appeal Court judgement by re-writing history.
In the recent workfare case brought by Cait Reilly and Jamieson Wilson, the DWP were found to have unlawfully sanctioned thousands of benefit claims. The court ruled that the legislation upon which forced unpaid work was based was not legal and the information given to claimants did not fully inform them of what would happen it they failed to attend workfare. Which was that benefits could be stopped, for up to six months.
In other words, the DWP’s bodged information meant many claimants lost significant sums of money through no fault of their own. The Court of Appeal ruling meant that unemployed people who had benefit claims stopped or reduced illegally by the DWP could claim that money back.
Or at least it did mean that. Now the DWP is basically saying tough shit, we’re keeping your money.
In its arguments to justify withholding social security people are due – an average of about £500 per person, £130 million pounds in total – the DWP has stated that:
“If the Department cannot make these retrospective changes, then further reductions in benefits might be required in order to find the money to repay the sanctions”
In short, if the government is made to obey the high court’s ruling, it will inflict collective punishment on those who can least afford it by finding £130 million pounds more in new cuts from the welfare budget.
In response, this is my latest email to my MP:
I am disturbed to hear that the Secretary of State DWP is proposing legislation in response to the Work Programme court ruling that is retrospective in its attempt to avoid breaking the law for which it may have to compensate those sanctioned unlawfully.
It appears that the DWP have decided they are no longer accountable to the laws of the land. What will be the point of taking the Government to court if they can simply change the law on a whim to avoid facing any legal consequences retrospectively? It makes a mockery of our judicial system and democratic accountability.
I am further dismayed by reports the Liam Byrne seems to be backing this retrograde and cynical move. According to the Guardian, Labour are looking set support the government in legislating to avoid paying back money ruled legally due to claimants who have had benefits sanctioned.
I find this possibility of this offensive with the disregard to the judicial system that the Government feel they are above law and I do not want you to vote for this undemocratic precedent.