Labour abstain as Tories and Lib-Dems punish workfare jobseekers



‘Tories in red ties’ fail to stand up for the rights of ordinary workers  

Plaid Cymru’s Hywel Williams MP has roundly condemned Labour MPs’ abstentions on the crucial workfare vote. He said that, in effect, Labour have sided with the Government in overturning the court decision in favour of jobseekers who have been unlawfully treated while undertaking work schemes.

The Department of Work and Pensions is pushing through a law that will overturn the outcome of the court of appeal judgment. If successful it would ensure that the government would no longer have to pay £130m in benefit rebates to about a quarter of a million jobseekers.

The Bill, only introduced at the end of last week, is in response to last month's ruling from three appeal court judges in favour of jobseekers who were put on the workfare scheme.

The court found that the jobseekers, who had been made to work unpaid for months in some cases, had been unlawfully punished. 

Hywel Williams MP said:

“Lawyers and campaigners have rightly described the Bill as repugnant. Despicably, the Government has said that this measure is needed to ‘protect the economy’. The Supreme Court has found in favour of the jobseekers, and now the Government is seeking to punish those who are already unlucky enough to not have a job.

“People should be paid for work that they do, however, the Labour Party won’t stand up for these people. This reveals that Labour, despite its recent boasts – is still timid in representing the rights of workers.

“Labour MPs who abstained have sided with the government in undermining a court of appeal judgment and backed attempts to prevent people from rightly claiming back welfare payments that were docked as part of the shambolic workfare scheme.

"The very trade unions that back the Labour Party financially called for MPs to oppose the Bill and stand up for the rights of jobseekers. Labour’s failure to unanimously do so shows the party in disarray and is a clear sign that many of its members are just Tories in red ties.

"The real issue here of course is work, or the lack of it. The economy is in a parlous state, with youth unemployment at almost unimaginably high levels. Instead of seeking to unfairly punish those who cannot find work, the Government should be creating opportunities for real long-term paid work.

"It would make much more sense if the job search functions of Jobcentre Plus were devolved so they can be better integrated to move people in to work.

“Obviously, in Wales, economic development is a devolved area and so is tourism and being able to match people to jobs in areas such as this would be logical. Plaid Cymru has been calling for this consistently and will continue to do so."