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Labour supports Tory sanctions on job-seekers – but 40 fight back

A few months ago two young workers at Poundland appealed to the courts against being forced to work there for no wages at all or else forfeit all their benefits. The judge in the Court of Appeal decided in their favour, but also ruled that existing back-to-work schemes, of which Poundland was just one of very many, were invalid because the participants were not given proper information about back-to-work schemes.

The schemes were also invalid, it was ruled, as participants were not informed about their obligations under these schemes, and were not told of the sanctions that would be applied if they did not comply. The government appealed to the Supreme court, but meanwhile brought in a new Bill, all of whose stages were taken in one day – today – in order to restore the status quo ante, thus breaking several rules.

Crucially this 2-clause Bill laid down that the same rules would apply as before as if the case made by the two orginal Poundland workers had never been brought forward. This is objectionable on several grounds. It was retrospective in application which it has always been a cardinal principle of English law should be avoided. It set an appalling precedent that when the courts had struck down a law or regulation as having failed in due process, it could simply be forthwith overturned by government without any proper regard being given to the court’s reasoning or argument for reform.

And no attempt was made by government to address the fundamental issue at stake that it is not just or defensible that persons should be made to work without pay or else lose their benefits, nor that the penalties of the 4-week loss of benefits for failing to comply with scheme requirements (however marginally) or 13 weeks for failing to comply twice are neither fair nor proportionate.

What compounds this disgrace is that the Labour Party under the tutelage of Liam Byrne opted in effect to support the government by abstaining on the Bill. However 57 MPs in the House did vote against the Bill at second reading, of whom about 40 were Labour Members. That is more than 1 in 6 of all Labour MPs, and it included Members from all sections of the PLP. As the Labour Party seeks to burnish its credentials as a One Nation party it is to be hoped that the lessons of today’s debacle have been learnt and that Labour will in future be true to its real fundamental values.


  1. paul whiteley says:

    ED Miliband should stand down or be made to face a vote of no confidence along with ALL those who backed this bill.How this party has learned from the TORYS. DISGUSTING you have lost my backing and my vote along with hundreds of thousands.

  2. Dave says:

    I suppose supporting the Tories is part of the campaign to win Tory votes in the south of England. The result at Eastleigh suggests it isn’t working.

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