By John Pring Disability News Service 9th March 2017
Calls for government cuts to disability benefits to be reversed are likely to be debated separately – and voted on – by both Houses of Parliament later this month.
The amendments to personal independence payment (PIP) regulations were announced last month by work and pensions secretary Damian Green, and led to protests by disabled activists outside the Houses of Parliament this week.
The proposed changes to PIP regulations were set out by the government in a statutory instrument, and parliamentary procedures allow them to be debated and voted on separately in both the House of Commons and the House of Lords.
In the Lords, the Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Bakewell has lodged what is known as an “annulment prayer”, which will allow peers to debate – and vote on – the proposed regulations later this month.
A spokeswoman for the Liberal Democrat whips office said the regulations “definitely will be debated” later this month.
In the Commons, the “annulment prayer” has been lodged through an early day motion (EDM) sponsored by Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron and backed by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, and so far signed by more than 100 MPs from Labour, the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru, and the SNP, as well as the Green party co-leader Caroline Lucas.
The House of Commons library says the government will “typically find time” to debate such an EDM, if it has been signed by shadow ministers – which this EDM has – although it is not obliged to do so.
But it also warns that it is “very rare” for a statutory instrument to be over-turned: 1979 was the last time one was annulled in the House of Commons, and in the House of Lords it was 2000.
The PIP cuts will particularly impact on people with mental health conditions, with a Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) equality impact assessment concluding that an estimated 164,000 claimants will either lose all of their eligibility for the PIP mobility component or see it reduced, as a result of the cuts.
Another 1,500 disabled people who need support to take medication and monitor a health condition will either lose all of their PIP daily living payment or see it cut.
The government announced the amendments after two tribunal rulings that ministers claimed had interpreted the PIP assessment criteria “in ways that are different to what was originally intended” by the coalition government.
The mobility component tribunal ruling found that PIP claimants who need to be accompanied on journeys because of the risk of experiencing overwhelming mental distress could be scored in their assessment in the same way as those who cannot navigate a journey because of a visual or cognitive impairment.
DWP has said the amendments to PIP regulations are intended “to clarify the criteria, to restore the original aim of the policy and ensure support goes to those with the highest costs associated with their disability”.