‘Is Parliament fit for purpose?’ : DWP-AtoS issue now test of accountability of Government to House of Commons ~ Michael Meacher MP

Michael Meacher MP
Michael Meacher MP

January 19th, 2013

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. 

Weblog of Michael Meacher MP



16 thoughts on “‘Is Parliament fit for purpose?’ : DWP-AtoS issue now test of accountability of Government to House of Commons ~ Michael Meacher MP

  1. DAVID A SHAW says:

    Superbly written, and i myself as a former Royal Mail employee of 22 years have been treated with nothing but kindness by ATOS, and i am not joking when i say this for it is true. Every time i have dealt with them via RHF or Help they have gone out of their way to ensure i got what i required. So yes it is the government without a doubt and the DWP, which leads us back to ………..IDS and his sick ideology, Osborne and his look after the rich , and the hapless cameron who presides over the worst government in history. The system must be smashed without a doubt, and i am sure it will be soon. The days of the WCA and its brutal treatment of the vulnerable are over, it is countdown time for this inhumane government, of this is am certain.Atos are not without blame as Michael Meacher says, but in the end the buck stops with the tories, and they will stand before a court of human rights for how they have treated the disabled and vulnerable of this nation and their guilt and complicity will be there for all to see.

    1. Mo Stewart says:

      In actual fact this is all a Thatcher Legacy – IDS et al are simply continuing Thatcher’s work. Under Thatcher, Unum Insurance became ‘gvt advisers’. The ‘Atos’ treatment is a replica of the corporate insurance giant’s phylosophy of ‘deny,delay, defend’ to either resist insurance payments, or spend so long deciding and put so much presure on the claimant that they either stop their claim, live in abject poverty and anguish or die trying.

      SEE:www.whywaitforever.com/dwpatos.html – memorandum of disability insurance

      – a significant new research report that exposes the whole sorry story.

      Be brave before you read it then perhaps send the link to your MP …. as they don’t know either…

  2. Christopher says:

    Damn Right Michael..

    And well said David A Shaw.. The whole corrupt system needs overhauling..

  3. alan says:

    good work mr m meecher, in hull we have stanley street dwp/atos assessment centre always full of vunrable disable people 7 days a week till late at night rushing people through, the distress its causing is immense . its about every one, not just disable, so its not im alright jack, it will effect you so dont get sick or injured mental health problems, stress, future workers you dont know till it happens to your self

  4. Grayling says:

    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 ……though I agree re Capita , Serco , G4S they’re all ” colourful ” outfits



    22 January 2013

    Dear Department for Work and Pensions,
    How many Disabled people must succumb to death before the deadly
    relationship between the DWP and ATOS finally realise the extent of
    their ill deeds due to a deeply flawed system of examination?

    Yours faithfully, GEOFFREY REYNOLDS

    Link to this

  6. Bluesky says:

    The only monsters to blame for this mess is IDS and his little gang of NAZIS……..and we all know what happend to hitler and his little mob………

  7. Linda says:

    Michael Meacher is quite right. It is the DWP who are ultimately responsible, and they take their cue from IDS. Nothing will convince me that that the Government doesn’t set targets for how much money it wants to spend on on sickness and disabilty.

  8. jeffery davies says:

    its good you say its wrong but we the sick and disabled cannot leave atos to stay working to the dwp ever again and this must be the next goverment task atos out with big fines micheal meacher applaud you so far but not on this atos they are the evil partners of dwp so atos goes dwp clean house with those responsible for our deaths of friends and family so we say rid us of atos not allow it to go go dealing in death bcause they lied big time no matter whot you think so get rid it doesnt matter how or why our next health check but not with these please jeff3

  9. jay says:

    Michael Meacher is the kind of man who should be the leader of the Labour party.

    But I would have to agree with the condemnation of Atos above by Jeffery

    Atos are set targets and the WCA is irrefutably biased against those having to undergo it.

    Nobody forces Atos employees to lie on their final assessment report and as one that has been through it I can vouch for the truth of that as many others can hence the requests and refusal for recorded interviews.

    Atos employees are supposed to be “Healthcare professionals.” They fail miserably in that duty they lie and slant these reports in every way against the benefit claimant.

    They may be under pressure by the DWP and deny their are set targets to meet but are ultimately complicit and responsible along with the DWP and the politicians who refuse to stop this obscenity.

  10. Charlie Hawkins says:

    I could not agree more jay these people are supposed to be HEALTH CARE PROFESSIONALS instead they are lying through their teeth time after time,they are ruining peoples lives,how on earth can they live with themselves,i also see where Michael Meacher is coming from,we have to cut off the head of the snake to kill it.Again Michael has written a very good piece.

  11. carol larkin says:

    If this cruel goverment are ever taken to the court of human rights, rest assured they will try to pass the blame onto there scape goats ATOS.

  12. Peoples Assembly says:

    The self elected quango government is

    War criminals are running our government, and are responsible for war crimes, crimes against peace and genocide.
    They must face charges under domestic and International laws.
    Their actions are not only against the wishes of the general public, with their immoral stance towards the public, but they are also directly responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent children, women and men.

    Here is the truth of the matter.

    The crimes associated with waging aggressive war, laid down in the Nuremberg Principles and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, are clear.

    “If any person, in furtherance of a state policy, orders the use of force to attack members of a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, that person and everyone who takes part in the attack is responsible for the consequences, breaks international law and, if it results in the deaths of innocent people, commits the universal crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, aggression or conduct ancillary to such crimes”.

    Nuremberg Principle III states, “The fact that a person who committed an act which constitutes a crime under international law acted as Head of State or responsible government official does not relieve him from responsibility under international law”.

    “Nuremberg Principle IV states, “The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him”.

    For a more detailed explanation see http://youtu.be/DILcmDyKqHE

    Without law enforcement there is no law.
    Law enforcement officers are bound by oath & duty to uphold the law, they must arrest Tony Blair and others who are present in government for war crimes and over 1 ½ million unlawful deaths. As a civilian it is your duty to report War Criminals to the police.It is their duty to arrest them.

    The lies that lead to war
    How the Government deceived Parliament, HM forces, the media and
    the public into waging illegal wars with Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.

    “War is essentially an evil thing. Its consequences are not confined to the belligerent states alone, but affect the whole world. To initiate a war of aggression therefore, is not only an international crime, it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”
    Nuremburg War Crimes Tribunal 1946

    The method used by British Governments to persuade the nation to wage war is as old as the hills – lie repeatedly about the illegality of war. The British Government used the same lie to promote the war with Libya as it had done for the wars with Afghanistan and Iraq – that military action by HM forces is lawful and authorised by the UN Security Council operating under Chapter VII of the UN Charter.

    On March 21st 2011, shortly before 559 MPs voted in favour of illegal military action against Libya, the UK Government issued a statement making the false claim that the deployment of British forces against Libya was lawful and authorised by UN Security Council Resolution 1973; their note declared:
    “The Attorney General has been consulted and Her Majesty’s Government is satisfied that this Chapter VII authorisation to use all necessary measures provides a clear and unequivocal legal basis for deployment of UK forces and military assets to achieve the resolution’s objectives”.
    This Government statement, claiming that the armed attack on Libya would be legal, exemplifies the way in which British politicians, lawyers and civil servants pervert and break the law. By cross-checking Government statements against the laws governing the use of force, it can quickly be established that the wars with Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya are all illegal.

    The law of war

    The two main legal documents which govern the use of armed force in international affairs are the UN Charter and UN General Assembly Resolution 2625. The first lays down the law and the second explains how to interpret it.

    The UN Charter

    The UN Charter is the Statute which lays down the legally binding terms of this agreement in 111 Articles. Article 2 states the purposes of the United Nations and includes these rules:

    2.3 All members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace, security and justice are not endangered.

    2.4 All members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.

    Chapter VII of the UN Charter (Articles 39 – 51) contains the rules governing the measures that the UN Security Council may take to bring about peace and security. Article 41 states:

    The Security Council may decide what measures not involving the use of armed force are to be employed to give effect to its decisions, and it may call upon members of the United Nations to apply such measures…

    To a person with common sense the phrase not involving the use of armed force means not involving the use of armed force; so why do British Government lawyers repeatedly claim that the UN Security Council has authorised the use of armed force when it is clearly forbidden?

    UN General Assembly Resolution 2625

    In 1970 the United Nations agreed 51 new definitions of the law governing in UNGA Resolution 2625:


    This Declaration is one of the most important legal documents the world has ever produced; yet few if any public office holders in Britain or America have seen it or read it. It includes these rules:

    Every State has the duty to refrain in its international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State, or in any other manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations. Such a threat or use of force constitutes a violation of international law and the Charter of the United Nations and shall never be employed as a means of settling international issues.

    No State or group of States has the right to intervene, directly or indirectly, for any reason whatever, in the internal or external affairs of any other State. Consequently, armed intervention and all other forms of interference or attempted threats against the personality of the State or against its political, economic and cultural elements are in violation of international law.

    The principles of the Charter which are embodied in this Declaration constitute basic principles of international law, and consequently [the UN General Assembly] appeals to all States to be guided by these principles in their international conduct and to develop their mutual relations on the basis of the strict observance of these principles.

    These laws are crystal clear. The use of force is prohibited. The use of armed force to attack other nations is a crime. No state or group of States such as NATO, ISAF or the EU, may intervene in another State’s affairs and every State must obey, uphold and enforce these rules.

    The crimes associated with waging aggressive war, laid down in the Nuremburg Principles and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, are also clear. If any person, in furtherance of a state policy, orders the use of force to attack members of a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, that person and everyone who takes part in the attack is responsible for the consequences, breaks international law and, if it results in the deaths of innocent people, commits the universal crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, aggression or conduct ancillary to such crimes.

    So why do British and NATO politicians, lawyers and civil servants interpret phrases such as all necessary measures, humanitarian intervention, and not involving the use of armed force to mean using weapons of mass destruction such as cruise missiles, rockets, drones, bombs and radioactive munitions to invade and occupy Afghanistan and Iraq or to attack Libya? Could the real reason for these heinous decisions to kill innocent civilians and destroy weaker nations be a psychopathic lack of conscience and moral values, or is it perhaps because they know that they control the law enforcement processes and can ensure that they will never be arrested, prosecuted or convicted for their war crimes, for the suffering inflicted on their victims or the horrific consequences of their decisions.

    For more than sixty years UK Government Ministers, officers and lawyers have deceived everyone over the illegality of war and armed conflict and have got away with it. These massacres of Afghan, Iraqi and Libyan civilians in which at least 450,000 children have died and more than 1m have been injured and maimed since 2001 are the worst atrocities in British history. Why is it then that not one member of the UK establishment is willing to call a halt to the killing or speak out against it? Why is it that those with the power to stop the wars and enforce the laws repeatedly refuse to do so?

    It is time for law abiding citizens everywhere to take a stand against Britain’s political, civil, judicial and military leaders and institutions to ensure that the killing is stopped, the resort to war is ended and those responsible for the deaths of 1.5m civilians are arrested and prosecuted for their crimes.

    Chris Coverdale The Peace Strike August 2012

  13. Toni Morris says:

    I totally agree bar one thing and that is that it was the Labour Party who first conceived of the Work Capability Assessments and so it is quite easy to distance themselves from any responsibility for this inhumane system. I still haven’t heard what the Labour Party would do differently and I have become so cynical of career politicians that I don’t really think they would do anything differently if they were in power.
    This system is clearly not fit for purpose any idiot can see that when it costs over half the amount of the whole contract in Appeals something needs to change and this isn’t by slanting the Appeals process as IDS is maneuvering. Surely if a public service was failing so dismally then the Nasty Party would have something to say about it. But as we all know this is not about anything other than nineteenth Century ideology.
    On a personal note I have been claiming Income Support and DLA for a number of years now, my conditions haven’t changed for the better but the goal posts have. My Atos Assessment has been cancelled three times now because I have asked for it to be recorded and for some reason despite stating this on my ESA form it has failed to be noted by anyone who works for either the DWP or Atos. I am completely stressed by this whole process which impacts negatively on my conditions.In one way I can’t wait for it to be over even though I know what the result will be, that I will be found fit for work. I also know that I will appeal and that if I do win at Tribunal I will be called in again and again until they remove the appeals process altogether.

  14. GEOFF REYNOLDS says:

    Lord FraudLord Freud (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Welfare Reform), Work and Pensions; Conservative)

    My Lords, the mobility component of the personal independence payment is designed to support those disabled people who face the greatest barriers to mobility. The principle that individuals must be able to complete activities safely, reliably, repeatedly and in a timely manner is integral to the assessment. We do not believe that this needs to be dealt with in regulations. However, we are looking urgently at whether it is possible to do this in a way that will achieve the outcomes that noble Lords and the Government want.


  15. GEOFF REYNOLDS says:

    GEOFFREY REYNOLDS left an annotation (26 January 2013)

    Extracts from the Report of the Physical Function and Mental Health Technical Working Groups.
    Commissioned by DWP sept 2006.

    There is still work to be done,to test the proposed new assignment in a live environment. This will be done by asking ATOS MEDICAL SERVICES DOCTORS to complete a PCA on incapacity benefit claimants.

    Among the experts cited at being present at the meeting;

    Dr Angela Graham-ATOS ORIGIN
    Dr Paul Stidolph-DWP
    Dr Peter Dewis-UNUM PROVIDENT

    Thanks Dan, much appreciated.

    Link to this

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