Baroness Campbell says she was left speechless by bad arguments for cutting disability benefits

Baroness Campbell is a former Disability Rights Commissioner

Jon Stone
Tuesday 08 March 2016 11:36 GMT
Baroness Campbell of Surbiton
Baroness Campbell of Surbiton

Arguments made by the Government to justify sharp disability benefit cuts were so poor they left a peer lost for words, she has said.

Baroness Campbell told the House of Lords that “words failed me” when she had heard the Government’s justification for cutting Employment and Support Allowance by £30.

The peer, a former Commissioner of the Disability Rights Commission who herself uses a ventilator, is an expert in disability reform and the benefits system.

“Our arguments, in my view, were pretty indisputable, especially in regard to the absence of evidence that cutting severely disabled people’s ESA would incentivise them to work,” she said.

“I think we all know deep down inside that it is attitudinal and environmental discrimination that really prevents this group from accessing employment.”

The crossbench peer criticised arguments by the Government in support of the cut, which she said had allowed the “niceties of parliamentary protocol [to] trump the lives of disabled people”.

The Government argues that the sharp cut in weekly payments will incentivise disabled people to find work.

It also says because the cut involves money the House of Lords should not be able to block it.

Lord Low, another crossbencher who had proposed the rejected amendment, accused the Government of using “a pseudo-constitutional technicality” to force the measures through and said it was “a black day for disabled people”.

Baroness Campbell continued: “I hope and I pray that we don’t look back on this day as the moment we pushed some of the most severely disabled people in Britain over the edge.”

The peers were discussing the issue in the House of Lords after the Government invoked “financial privilege” on the cuts – meaning the peers could not overrule MPs.

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