Is Parliament fit for purpose?

A month ago the Government was defeated in a vote on the floor of the House of Commons on a very important issue – the question of the level of the EU budget.    The Government whips strained every muscle they could to avoid defeat, but having been decisively defeated, the Government simply ignored the vote.   Two days ago a similar event occurred.   In the debate on the Atos Healthcare treatment of  disabled people not a single MP spoke in defence of the Government’s position and the Minister made a very poor speech in defence of the indefensible.   One senior Tory MP, Charles Walker, now chair of the Procedure Select Committee, solemnly pronounced that “Atos is now so discredited that we should park it on one side and go off again in a different direction”.   But having been unanimously overturned, will the Government change course?   I said in my concluding remarks at the end of the debate that this issue has now become a test of the accountability of the Government to the House of Commons.   It has, and we are not going to let go.

There’s another reason why this is so important.   Rarely have I known a debate in the House of such passion – poignant, focused, always well-evidenced – yet perhaps some of it was not as well directed as it should be.   What did not come out of the debate as strongly as it should have was that, dreadful as the things done by Atos are, they are not ultimately in control.   It’s not Atos’ fault that there are no recording machines, DWP blocked them.   The arbitrary descriptors – sending cancer patients to the Jobcentre, insisting you must be blind and deaf to qualify, as well as so many other cruel demands – were all designed by the DWP.   The one year limit was laid down by DWP.   The targets that they call norms, that too is a DWP device.   Even the inaccessible buildings are DWP buildings, they’re not Atos properties.

One other piece of evidence is clinching.   When Atos work for other employers like the Royal Mail or the NHS, their decisions about unfitness for work are wholly different.   That points ineluctably to the real truth, as I said at the end of the debate, that DWP are quite ready to accept, even require, this inhumanity if it is the only means to get 1.6 million disabled persons off Incapacity Benefit.    The evil is not Atos – I make no excuse for them whatsoever since they could, and certainly should, walk away from so brutal and dehumanising a contract – but the real evil is the DWP (and no doubt the Treasury behind them) and the Ministerial instructions that set up this system – the descriptors, the regulations, the guidance, and all the rest.   In fact in Kettering Atos have implemented all Harrington’s proposals and the accuracy of assessment is almost 100%, but it means only doing 4 assessments a day and DWP insists on 11.

We must be careful.    Getting rid of Atos would seem a triumph, but there’s always a private company greedy enough to step into the breach where contracts like £110 millions are involved.   Would G4S or Capita be a jot better if the underlying system and the DWP/Treasury instructions remained the same?   It’s the system itself we’ve now got to destroy.


39 thoughts on “Is Parliament fit for purpose?

  1. Well said, finally someone realises! Disabled people have been trying to tell you all for years – thank goodness you are now taking a stand.

    PLEASE read >> The People’s Review of the Work Capability Assessment – many deaths and suicides cited in “The Impact” as well as damning information in “Essential Information” section. Every politician with any compassion and principles should read this review!

  2. No.. Parliament is NOT fit for purpose.

    If there was a free vote in Parliament on scrapping the failed Work Capability Assessment and redesigning something fairer and more humane to replace it, it would be scrapped. I still have enough belief in the integrity of politicians to trust that if they were not forced to vote on Party lines, they would vote with their conscience and end it.

    Innocent people are dying because of the WCA. Parliament regularly votes against the death penalty, primarily because of the risk of an innocent person being hanged. They even vote to save foxes, for goodness sake. And yet there are hundreds, if not thousands of innocent people being hounded to their deaths by this cruel assessment process.

    MP’s have a freedom to vote with their consciences to save the lives of convicted murderers and foxes, but the lives of the sick and disabled are sacrificed on the altar of Party politics.

    Parliament has innocent’s blood on it’s hands.

    Shame on them…

  3. I realy don’t know 2008woke up no use of legs born with congenital heart lock not treated pacemaker now fitted but damage done i have ra I get high care high mobility I worked paid in 29years partner of 26years cared for me kept me 2010saw us in abject poverty we made to live apart I am in a flat not fit for purpose on a housing dispute I realy would love to know 14months has seen me traped in this flat I am condemned to what I have my medics ot sheltar equality commision fire services all not understanding this treatment of me so I would love someone to give me the answers

  4. Thank you Mr. Meacher for your most excellent speech last Thursday, and to the MP’s that had the common human decency to also speak up on behalf of their constituents.

    There is now the pressing issue of ‘imaginary medication and aids which seem to include imaginary guide dogs !

    This is a pressing issue as these regulations are due to come into effect on 29th January .. 8 days time !

    Would it be possible for this matter to be addressed urgently ?

  5. Well done i thought the government didnt care and the growing tide of ant atos sentiment is only increasing

  6. I suspect the real evil behind the process might be the Unum insurance company, brought in despite monstrously anti-social conflicts of interest as consultants by Peter Lilley back in the 90s as documented by Private Eye since 1995. The Atos process of disability denial is similar to the process used by Unum to deny legitimate health/unemployment insurance claims, as documeted in records of the many instances they’ve been in court over this, as UnumProvident mostly I believe. More can be learned by Googling for Unum scandal. In my view any government having dealings with this company isn’t worthy of the name.

  7. Great article

    Further to the 29th Jan changes that Jacqui draws attention to above – how have the DWP been able to slip in the “clarification” of an absurd and anachronistic division between mental and physical descriptors in these changes?

    Harrington set up a working group in his second review to look at the precise issue of mental/cognitive functioning issues faced by people with health issues that straddle this division.

    The Government are supposed to have accepted the setting up of this working group and I understood it is due to report early this year.

    What is going on ? I suspect this issue is about to be buried because it exposes yet another fundamental flaw in the design of the WCA.

  8. the real problem is UNUM ( formerly the outlawed UNUM Provident ) which drives everything ….the elephant in the room ….the PCA and it’s successor the WCA is ” remarkably ” similar to the UNUM MDA .

    …the use of LIMA Computer says no software with deliberately loaded questions to elicit a negative response which ATOS insisted on using …..the pseudo science the Bio – psychosocial model working on the premise …..” You’ve a ” good ” doctor , you’re not trying hard enough , we don’t believe you and we’ll trip you up and stitch you up any but which way ” that the ” colourful ” ex city character Lord Freud subscribes to …….

    ……….ATOS are just the fall guys taking the flack for UNUM and to a lesser extent the Tories and the DWP .with these illegal medical insurance industry methods and definitions …trebles all round as they say in ” Private Eye ” ……though I agree re Capita , Serco , G4S they’re all ” colourful ” outfits

    Ironically the PCS union trusts ATOS as far as they can throw them …not very far ! for the DWP staff members they represent ….insisting on reps riding shotgun on ” assessments ” to ensure fair play ….the same goes for the CWU………there’s been two conferences when the debate could have gone on all night with the mandatory ATOS horror stories ….however they tell Royal Mail HR exactly what they want to hear .

    Check out for too depressingly similar ATOS accounts to be within the realms of coincidence .

    Even Royal Mail junior management admit the service from ATOS is poor , ” reports ” are riddled with basic errors , inconsistencies , contradictory , begging more questions than answers .

  9. i just cant support you with atos surving if the labour party gets back to power as atos has caused untold damage to the disabled and sick how can they be allowed to throw them out please .why do we have to have private companys this is a tory thing please employ people who work for the goverment not to like atos atos kills not again micheal after that speach you give please no atos jeff3

  10. It was refreshing to see such passion, from SOME politicians. Iain Duncan Smith seems to have an agenda, and it appears to be a nasty one. If this man doesn’t realise just how much despair he is causing other human beings, then should he really be Secretary of state for works and pensions!. His lack of compassion and understanding is disturbing.

  11. I have one question. How can a private company have one set of rules when working for the royal mail. Then use a second set of rules (and act on them)without anything being said until now.
    If ATOS are only working on behalf of the DWP surely all in government (both sides) have been complacent in this act of terror on those least able to defend them selves.

  12. The debate was interesting and you summed it all up wonderfully well. Can’t believe how few people turned up though.
    The whole attack on benefits is really hurting people …… so many people are suffering so much anguish …. as if they didn’t have enough to contend with. All the while we have non-stop Government spin. Divide and rule ….. or should that be dictate?
    Keep up the good work!

  13. Mr Meacher, what a great debate last week. You and all who spoke, barring one ministerial voice, are to be applauded. I must though, disagree on any flickering thought of retaining Atos.

    Take a football team who’ve been given specific instructions by their bosses. They are to be rewarded for kicking their opponents, sticking the elbow in, and spitting in the faces of their opponents. You can’t change the directors, then put the same team back on the field and expect any degree of credibility.
    Both Atos and those who’ve orchestrated the regime have to go! ♥

  14. The Nazis were told what to do with the jews just like Atos are being told to do with the sick and disabled

  15. [John McDonnell: If my hon. Friend does not mind, I shall not give way as other hon. Members want to speak.

    I conclude by saying that we all have a responsibility to say, “Let’s end the system now, start again and make something fair.” We will be to blame for all the injury and harm if we do not.] – Hansard

    Mr Meacher, a clean slate is required. Atos is a pustulent plague, DWP the carrier. Please don’t join those politicians who’ve sold their souls in the belief they can buy them back using ours.

  16. where are they going too house all the poor people,that cannot afford this tax???? are they going too compensate people for all there hard work in there homes?? pay removal costs etc, there is a lack of smaller places too downsize too,this has not been thought out at all properly,imo, also hope they will be paying for there extra bedrooms, if were all in this together, abs disgusting

  17. I am currently waiting for my appeal date for my ESA, it took the DWP 9 months to forward my appeal to the tribunal service and its going to take between 8 to 18 weeks before I go before a tribunal.

    The loss of income has forced a bankruptcy and we may lose our home as a consequence.

    I am confident the DWP hasn’t a leg to stand on and I will win my appeal but a what cost to mental and physical heath not just mine but that of my family. I fear too late to save our home too.

    While I can only applaud Mr Meachers attempts to protect the sick and disabled in our country I feel the need to point out that labour came up with the policy that precipitated this reform.

    Labour do not deserve the vote of the sick and disabled. I am roundly sick of being pilloried and called nasty names by senior politicians just bercause I’m disabled. I didn’t break my back by choice, shame the oafs in the DWP don’t get that or understand the term ‘degenerative bone disease’.

    I had no idea the illiterate could get a job in the civil service but the DWP seems to be staffed with imbeciles from the top down, IDS still hasn’t answered my question about his definition of the term degenerative, I can only conclude it would make a mockery of this situation if he had answersed honestly, personally I think he’s just a thick git living it large on the public purse and it’s no surprise his staff don’t know either.

    . The Torys and Limp Dems will find out just how hated they are at the next election and disappear into the nether world of political exile when the voters are done with them.

    Labours only hope of many of us voting for them is to promise to reverse these ill thought out reforms or find sick and disabled people standing for office against them. Our local chap does OK in my book but will face a challenge at the next election because of the policy Labour put into practice before the lat election.

    We no longer trust out politicians, they have all lied and ridden the gravy train for far too long.

    Time for change, bring on the election and hopefully there will be that many independent MP’s in parliament that no party will ever be able to carry out doctrine driven pogroms, (because that’s what this is a pogrom against the sick and disabled people in the UK) ever again.

  18. DWP are conducting a silent genocide of people unable to work for pay, with Atos as their tools. Look up ‘Calum’s List’ for the names of just a few of the many who’ve died (some suicides) after being found ‘fit for work’. Every day I’m having to deal with people who are terrified at the prospect of losing homes & livelihoods, not due to them being the ‘skivers’ that our gutter press portray, but because they have health conditions that prevent them doing paid work, in a ‘free market’ that demands long hours from many, & has access to free ‘Workfare’ labour.


  20. As someone who went through the ATOS farce and instead of the 49 points I should have been awarded I came out with 12, when the assessor tells half truths, leaves out relevant information, distorts what is said, has personal opinions based on watching someone shuffle 3 meters and out and out lies, then yes it is time for ATOS to be removed from the picture, maybe it is not ATOS that is at fault but they are merely doing as ordered, wasn’t that the claim of the guards at the death camps in Germany? When over 10,500 have died because of this farce that is over 10,500 too many deaths and how many more to come? Mr Meacher I thank you for standing up for us disabled and sick and unemployables, even if I could work through the pain barriers no-one would employ me with the medication I take, three major pain killers all of which, I have been informed are worth a fortune on the streets, personally I need them more than I need the extra cash, bring back having a full and proper medical the way it used to be, in the 90’s I had a medical every year to make sure I was still disabled and every year I was awarded my DLA, now I cannot even get support group ESA. time sir to make an end to this toxic, death program.

  21. I have written reports about the links between Atos Healthcare, Unum Insurance & the DWP for the past 3 years, as quoted in the House of Lords, the Westminster Hall debate last Sept and during the debate last Thursday.

    A NEW report that explains the entire sorry mess, and the links with UK Gvt & highly discredited corporate insurance giants has just been published by my Webmaster, who is himself terminal with an inoperable brain tumour.


  22. Michael –

    The idea that someone needs to be both deaf and blind to qualify for help is a DWP directive as advised by Unum Insurance….

    ALL the atrocities now experienced by sick & disabled UK citizens by Atos/DWP is as a direct result of the influence of a discredited corporate insurance giant: UNUM Insurance.

    See inks in above comment.

    The Biopsycho-social (BPS) model of disability assessment, as used by Atos and promoted by former DWP Chief Med Officer Prof Sir Mansel Aylward is a work of fiction, an invention of the insurance industry in America and highly discredited in the American Justice system – so WHY are we using it in the UK to terrorise our own people?


    Do we need to become yet another American State before politicians remove this enirely bogus “non-medical” Atos assessment – as designed by Unum Insurance – from the UK ?

    WHAT were the costs before the Atos assessments… The DWP can’t be saving funds – driving people off benefit – if it’s costing £110 million per annum for the contract, £60 million for the appeals and unlimited human suffering by our people.

    We don’t need another private company to do this Michael. We need to have the assessment system inter-spaced with local hospitals using local doctors. As long as a patient is assessed by another GP surgery to their own, then the ‘medical’ will be much more acurate than Atos & patients will not be terrified. Work at any cost is not acceptable to our vulnerable people now living in fear of their own gvt.

  23. Well of course we moaned and complained when labour brought in the WCA, we were refused the FOI requests of Tony Blair’s meetings with ATOS in secret.

    Then we saw the WCA we requested it be changed because we could see the problems like no pain or no real ability to say if your problems affect you at different times days or fluctuating .

    Labour stated it was right and scroungers were the problem, Labour employed Freud, Mansell Alyward who was under the control of UNUM Provident.

    The Tories are bad Labour just as bad, my own bloody Union the GMB backed some of these firms that pushed people into work interviews, they wanted to back A4e.

    So in the end Unions were after the profits Labour wanted to save money and the Tories are adding to it.

    Yes it’s nice to see labour MP’s coming out to defend us, but boy has it taken a long long time.

  24. JOHN CURRIGAN November 28, 2012 at 10:22 pm


    is the governments “healthcare provider”
    *WHAT ABOUT 1000, 10,000, 100,000… MILLIONS OF COMPLAINTS
    * “THAT’S” HOW TO WIN…
    1-The Parliamentary and Health OMBUDSMAN
    2-The Human Rights Commission-Europe
    3-The General Medical Council.
    M3 3AW
    TEL : 0161-923-6200
    FAX : 0161-923-6201
    EMAIL : on
    *Lets halt THEIR :

  25. Mr Meacher, I sincerely hope you read this comment.
    I want to encourage you to continually raise this issue until it has been put right.
    While it may be right to point out that some claimants of incapacity benefit or ESA could do some kind of work, the reality of situation is that countless thousands of very vulnerable people in this country have been targetted, defamed and generally used as a policital scapegoat for this government and the last. They really need someone to speak out for them and to help turn the tide of public opinion back to one that reflects reality rather than a financial agenda which is driven by the treasury.
    Thank you for raising these issues with such a clear compassion and for paying attention to the plight of these victims of Institutionalised Disabled Starvation (IDS for short)Pun intended.
    Can I encourage you to continue this noble cause and even perhaps go a lot further in campaigning to have this inhumane treatment of the weak, the sick and the vulnerable stopped once and for all?
    Once again, thank you.

  26. Not surprisingley the public accounts committee have released their damning report basically discrediting Atos and the DWP’s actions of late. However it appears to have already off the internet for public viewing and the committee’s report seems to have already been ignored by the ministers. What will it take to stop this draconian hatred of sick and disabled people?

    Our sincere praises to Micheal Meacher and others who have taken the time to get this out in the open. The saddness is what has happened to all those who have kicked into the gutter and left to rot. God help us all anyone can be struck down with an illness any time during one’s life.

  27. In case of my death here is another story to add to your ever growing file. 
     I have Crohn’s disease, arthritis in my joints,fibromyalga and numerous complications from extensive surgery. I haven’t  had to deal with Atos yet but live in Tameside a  pilot area so I started to research what to expect the more I read about other peoples experiences  the more  worried  and scared I’m becoming. Every morning I dread looking at the post will it be today I have to start facing  or should I  say fighting Atos and DWP. Every single day is a fight when you live with chronic  pain.
    I have always tried to cope as best I can but this winter i have lived with very little heating ; because of rising prices ,over a thousand pounds worth of debt to my landlord ; because of  Tameside council  losing a form , and will now face paying for bedrooms ; because of this and the stress of the thought of dealing with Atos Im becoming extremely depressed.
     Stress is linked to  Crohn’s disease I had been in remission but the passed few weeks have started with a flare up. I know another serious flare up of Chrohn’s will kill me because of the amount of bowel  li have lost already and their is all the extra cost of treating me how can this be saving money?
    I feel  so alone and disillusioned  that I’m  living in a society that dose not care anymore and thinks of me as a scrounger.  
    I get middle rate DLA and higher rate mobility so I know that I will be facing the same ordeal for pip and as things are will probably lose my moterbility car which has been my lifeline. When I was awarded my DLA it was for ‘lifetime’ this gave me a little security and piece of mind so that feels like a betrayal. 
    Apart from voting and following the news  I have never really been a very political person but  when I watched your speech I cried and a fraction of faith was restored thank you!!!
    Do you not think it is about time the cons-lib government were told most of the general public have no confidence in them!!

  28. Quite simply atos do not look at consultants letters or carers letters, when you state housebound due to ill health they say refused
    If you then inform them not refusing and have been recording for own safety they go nuts suddenly finding sent in information and cancel appointment.

    This is not the end as atos wait 3 months hoping you lost letters and then tell dwp did not attend.

    First you will know is when angry landlord contacts for none payment of housing benefit as dwp don’t bother to write.

  29. If more MPs were like you and Margaret Hodge then Parliament would be fit for purpose. What I find unsupportable is the weakness of the top echelons of the opposition. The DWP needs reforming and the dead material cut out. There needs to be a cross-party committee to sort the mess out regarding ESA and DLA. A rethink is needed with contracts involving billions anyway. Most of this and more needs to be in the Labour Party manifesto otherwise the party will never make it to being the Government.

  30. Until we rule ourselves nothing will ever change! The current system is rigged so who ever gets in power the fails to really change anything. Until we create a new system of self rule we will be rulled and bullied from above. We are doing this right now and you could help make history. Come and help make a system of national debate and referendum, your be very welcome! !!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *