Margaret Greenwood MP, Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, has written to the Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey, to demand the removal of gagging clauses stopping charities from speaking out on Universal Credit, saying: “All civil society organisations… must have the right to speak out about this injustice.”
I previously wrote about Citizens Advice and how they cannot be trusted following their £51 million deal with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). The DWP had said last week that gagging clauses are common practice when talking about the deal.
The DWP has now attempted to backtrack on this by saying no such clause exists in this case. But, just as they announced this news broke that throws this claim into doubt.
It was reported that no less than 22 other charities also have contracts with the DWP that contain a gagging clause. So alarmed by this news Margaret Greenwood MP, Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, has written to the Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey today.
In the letter she says that the attempt to gag charities could be open to legal challenge and warns that the rollout of Universal Credit could “exacerbate the health problems of some claimants.” Something I think we can all agree is accurate.
Labour is demanding the Government listens to the overwhelming evidence and stops the rollout of Universal Credit.
The full transcript of the letter is as follows;
“Dear Secretary of State,
Following an investigation published in this morning’s edition of the Times, I am writing to you about the revelations that charities and other third parties contracted to work with your Department on the roll-out of Universal Credit and related matters have been required to sign contracts including gagging clauses precluding criticism of ministers and your Department or even the failing system in which you and they are operating.
The human suffering already caused by the failed roll out of Universal Credit is unacceptable, and the next phase could bring even more severe problems. Moving nearly three million people from the ‘old-style’ benefits and onto Universal Credit in the way that you are planning is widely predicted to result in large numbers of low-income and vulnerable households temporarily or even permanently losing the majority of their income. This could cause enormous stress and even exacerbate the health problems of some claimants; as you will be aware, a third of the people due to be transferred to Universal Credit in this new phase have been assessed as too ill or disabled to work.
All civil society organisations, whether or not they are contractors of your Department, must have the right to speak out about this injustice. And yes, that must include the right to criticise you and your work. This is not a bureaucratic technicality; it is a fundamental element of democratic accountability.
I appreciate that these contracts may have been negotiated before your appointment as Secretary of State. However, I note that you were also a minister in the Department of Work and Pensions from 2012-2015. Moreover, such attempts at silencing civil society are unacceptable in modern Britain and could be open to legal challenge.
I am asking that you come to the House of Commons to explain the original rationale behind these gagging clauses and to publicly announce that they will be removed by the Government. No third party should be constrained from criticism of the Secretary of State, of Universal Credit, or of any other aspect of your Department’s work or policy.
I look forward to your urgent reply.
Margaret Greenwood MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions”
Labour flip-flopping again
A Labour spokesperson said the party is committed to a root-and-branch review of the social security system to ensure it lifts people out of poverty and is there for everyone in their time of need.
This is dramatically different to what Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said last Sunday when he suggested a Labour government would see the whole system would be scrapped.
Universal Credit is one of the most talked about issues bar Brexit, and even then that’s debatable. The Labour Party need to get to a firm position on welfare as their flip-flopping over the last few weeks has seen hopes raised and dashed too many times.
We have had the Shadow Chancellor saying twice he’d scrap Universal Credit only for a “spokesperson” to backtrack on that commitment. They may think they don’t need to declare a firm position as there’s no need until a general election.
However, if they keep chopping and changing as they are now, voters may find it hard to trust them when it comes time for them to cast their ballot.
The Mirror takes action and you can help
The Daily Mirror have started a petition demanding a halt to the expansion of Universal Credit and for a review to take place
- Redesign UC to be fit for purpose
- Axe it in favour of the old system if UC is unfixable
- Introduce a brand new system
You can sign petition calling for a stop to the rollout of Universal Credit and to demand the government replace it with a fairer system.
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