Chris Grayling heckled in parliamentary debate as he defended Government use of Atos Healthcare

 

Oliver Duggan
Tuesday 04 September 2012 17:35
Comments

Outgoing employment minister Chris Grayling was heckled in a parliamentary debate today as he defended Government use of Atos Healthcare despite on-going public protest.

Mr Grayling, who will move to the Justice Department following the coalition’s cabinet reshuffle, was met with shouts from the public gallery in Westminster Hall when he spoke in support of the controversial agency.

Chairman of the session Phillip Holloborne was forced to intervene after protesters in wheelchairs interrupted the minister’s speech by shouting “shame on you” and “people’s lives are at stake.”

Mr Hollborne said: “Parliamentary rules are there is to be no noise at all from the gallery. This is your last chance. If there is more noise, I will have to suspend sitting, no one will hear from the minister and I will clear the gallery.”

After continued furore, one woman was ejected from the chamber before the speakers were allowed to resume.

The 90-minute debate was demanded by Labour MP Tom Gratex following widespread protests over the private company’s disability assessments after their brand was displayed prominently on London 2012 lanyards as sponsors of the Paralympic Games.

Responding to the debate, Mr Grayling said the decision to appoint Atos followed a “long and difficult process” but rebutted accusations that there was a concerted attempt within government to reduce the number of people on benefits.

The newly minted Justice Secretary said: “It is all about trying to help people back into the workplace if they possibly can be. That was the motivation of the previous government when they established the work capability assessment.”

“We will never create a system that is perfect. That is why we have a right to appeal.”

However, Mr Gratex claimed there must be radical reforms to Atos’ assessments to make sure they work properly for claimants and taxpayers.

The shadow minister added that the taxpayer is effectively paying twice for the government’s £122 million contract with the firm – once for the assessments and again to cover the cost of appeals, almost 40% of which are successful.

“There is a degree of chaos in the system caused by the decisions of government and the failure to hold Atos to account,” he said.

During the debate another Labour MP, Katy Clark, said Atos’ sponsorship of the Paralympics has sparked significant public anger, referring to a protest by hundreds of disabled people at the company’s headquarters and the Department of Work and Pensioners.

“Many people feel it is an insult to people going through this process,” she said.

Controversy surrounding the disability assessments heightened this week after a leaked DWP letter revealed that sick and disabled claimants could lose up 70% of their weekly employment support if they refuse to take part in work-related activities.

An Atos spokeswoman said: "We do not make decisions on people's benefit entitlement or on welfare policy but we will continue to make sure the service that we provide is as highly professional and compassionate as it can be.”

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in