The Welfare Reform Bill debate has now given way to open warfare, says Simon Barrow. These latest battles are as much about the soul (or lack of it) of the coalition project as they are about money or the demographics of power. The government can command majorities in both Houses. But it is losing the argument, losing good will and storing up massive costs - financial and political - for the future.
Why is the UK government so determined to slash benefits and public services for sick and disabled people and carers? Many people have pointed out the flaws in a harsh Welfare Reform Bill targeting those who are already badly-off.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4's World at One, ahead of the House of Lords Welfare Reform Bill (WRB) debate today, Parliamentary-Under Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Maria Miller sought to sound reassuring and reasonable. But the key points she made were either highly debatable or plain wrong. And the stakes are high. The government is attempting to move from Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to an untried Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and to cut around £2.7 billion from the benefits system for the most vulnerable people.
Patrick Butler, Society Editor at the Guardian, has done a splendid job in providing rolling coverage of the report stage debates in the House of Lords on the Welfare Reform Bill. He is again coordinating a live blog today (17 January 2012).
Writing in The Guardian, Declan Gaffney, former policy advisor to the previous Mayor of London and to the previous government, has written in a personal capacity about what is at stake in the continuing struggle over disabled rights and the Welfare Reform Bill.
Yesterday I went to meet the "Amendment Lords" ahead of today's crucial votes in the second chamber, where the Welfare Reform Bill (WRB) debate moves from Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), the income replacement benefit for people with work-limiting conditions, to Disability Living Allowance (DLA), which is intended to help with the extra costs people incur as a result of severe disability.