Tuesday, 20 November 2012

As The Secretary Of State Sees Fit

A solicitor has this article up on the Guardian website. This is the most striking part:
"One of the beacons of Britain's modern democracy is its advanced system of judicial review of administration. It is hard to believe now that even in the 1960s, our courts were just about as executive-minded as judges in some non-democratic states, refusing to rock the boat of public policy. If parliament conferred discretionary power on an official in wide terms (such as "to act as he sees fit", or "in the public interest"), then the courts would interpret such a power as the grant of an infinite authority, with which they could not properly interfere."
In case anyone needs reminding, language exactly like this features in the Welfare Reform Act 2012.

The words 'as the Secretary Of State sees fit' now governs eligibility for all income-based benefits within Universal Credit, rather than statutory entitlement.

David Cameron is laying the groundwork to scrap 'redtape', among it the Equality Act 2010. Why? Because the ability of an official to have legally infinite power, restrained only in broadness but not in depth by their office, really is archaic in Britain and is the preserve of less democratic countries in the 21st century. The Welfare Reform Act grants Iain Duncan-Smith that kind of power. The only thing standing in his way is this question: Is it legal?
Almost certainly not, hence the Prime Minister wants to make it legal. I want to highlight that two years ago before I started writing these Files I thought the mission was lost before it had even begun as whilst opposition to the current political consensus on public spending was at first formidable(the Conservative Party in particular managed to decimate their 17 point poll lead in 2009 when they began advertising their economic plan), the distinct groups forming organised public opposition were somewhat distasteful and didn't in my view know what they were doing. I still dislike these 'weekend warriors' and even though hardly anyone would notice a gesture from a tiny blog like mine, I publicly renounced my support for one. One of the more irritating things were the ill-conceived and historically illiterate comparison with the Third Reich that were frequently used.

Two weeks ago, Sue Marsh made this post on her blog. Read it, it makes a comparison with the Third Reich and the current situation facing sick and disabled people in Britain. But there is something in it which is very different from the hysterical comparisons of internet comments. Namely, Sue does not use a broad-brush and still has the insight to understand this is still a generalisation. But it's a very specific one- the comparison is specific and it can be supported or refuted on a very limited number of points without hair-splitting.

When it became clear to me that Pat's petition to halt all changes to benefits for sick and disabled people until after a thorough review of them was going to fail to hit the target before the deadline, even I began making very specific comparisons. At that point there was nothing to lose and the Nazi comparison when done carefully is an effective rhetorical device which says to detractors- "When you have the benefit of hindsight, you will find that we were right".

So here is another comparison: the Prime Minister in numerous speeches and in briefings to journalists has expressed his desire to move the country onto a militaristic footing, in order to secure it's future prosperity and lift it out of a depression. He has called for a change in national attitudes, norms and institutions so that they behave as if the country were in a war against an existential threat. He has successfully kept himself from being implicated in almost anything his government and supporters are criticised for. He has used scapegoats and blamed the nation's problems on them, they have limited means of fighting back. Scores of people are to be forced to work for less than they can survive on, some of them indefinitely. The business-class are carefully courted for support. High-ranking officials are given executive powers which they can exercise as they see fit.

Remind you of any other industrialised western democracy from the last century?

17 comments:

  1. He may well want to bring in martial law but there is no law without enforcement. Who's going to be enforcing such a law, any idea? I can't see our lads wanting to do it nor those from any other European power. Nobody joins up to wage war on their immediate neighbours. However, there may well be martial law declared next year anyway when the riots start as the cuts kick in come April. Really, Cameron's a representative from an era that's gone, one ruled by the British Establishment, and as all the signs are that's on the way out his backers have nothing to lose by destroying the country. It's going to get very nasty indeed but it will end with a new social ordeer arising.

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  2. And let's not forget Cameron and Osborne must be as aware Duncan-Smith is as mad as a box of frogs as the rest of us. I rather gather they're trying to reign him in, not position him so he can precipitate havoc.

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  3. They allowed the crucial text 'As the Secretary Of State sees fit' to pass without question in the Welfare Reform Act. They really wanted that. The public tussle was specifically over Universal Credit. The Chancellor didn't like it and wanted cancelled, that's when Iain Duncan Smith suddenly rediscovered his 'social conscience' and started opposing further cuts to the welfare budget.

    The moment the Chancellor gave reassurances, Duncan Smith's conscience conveniently disappears. The matter of giving a minister virtually unlimited power within their office isn't a concern at all for them.

    In regards to this experiment with militarisation- it won't take the form of martial law. Essentially it targets those need benefits and threatens them. No force is required, just the threat of depriving them of what little they get.

    It is a confidence trick of course. They can't withdraw support from too many or there will be a violent reaction. But the effectiveness of making the threats means they probably won't have to- just sanction or deny people to be made examples of every now and then.

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  4. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01p0fpg/broadcasts/upcoming

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  5. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01p0fpg

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  6. Watched some of the clips Adrian. The usual bunch of rent-a-gobs and unfortunately even among those speaking up for the welfare state, a dearth of factual content means that the assertions of the others are without proper balance.

    The highlight is Kelvin MacKenzie's grasp of percentages.

    "100% pay for welfare. 40% receive it, of which 15% deserve it".

    This would mean that most pensioners according to MacKenzie are undeserving.

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  7. Sigh.Memory maybe playing tricks but I am sure there was a time at the BBC where documentaries consisted of stuff like facts,evidence rather than z-list celebrities and "experts" who know nothing about the actual subject but opine anyway.on other matters-http://www.parliament.uk/documents/Chair-McVey.pdf

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  10. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmselect/cmworpen/576/57602.htm

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  11. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmselect/cmworpen/576/576vw01.htm

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  12. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmselect/cmworpen/576/57602.htm

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  13. I worked for some years part time BECAUSE of such entitlement(and CA),allowing us to stay in our heavilly adapted home(ie a mass saving for the state),no matter what the taper will be we(slightly better than previously)we are ~~~~ked by any notion of return to any work -move (more cost to the State-either council/housing association or funds for adaptions-space for ###ing dialysis machine etc(unfair to the taxpayer apparently even though it would cost them far more)-I hate them(and I do not hate) misanthropic scum IMHO
    On the other hand-at every opportunity I will outline just how the Government is doing the exact opposite of what it is claiming

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  14. 123. Universal Credit claimants will be eligible for Support for Mortgage Interest (SMI), but there will be a "zero earnings rule", which means that they will not receive any help with mortgage costs if they are doing any paid work. DWP explained that:

    The Government believes that most owner occupiers should be aiming to move from short-term help with their housing costs into full time work to support their housing tenure or they should take other steps, such as selling their homes and downsizing, if they are unable to sustain their mortgages.

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  15. The main receivers of SMI?-beyond time limit-the sick/disabled ,carers and pensioners-read their justification again and laugh or cry.

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  16. Sorry to go on but a statement of fact.If my wife had become disabled subject to their proposals/regime as outlined.Two alternative scenarios would have ensued.One the loss of our home and the resulting substantial increase costs to the State of moving to Council/housing association property or two a continuation of my fulltime employment,necessitating far more SS input and an inability(beyond actual risk of dangerous exhaustion)to carry out home haemodialysis.Economic stupidity of course.Beyond their comprehension is the concept of consequences.Stuck to their ideology of temporary disability/adjustments being resentfully allowed for.We the vulnerable,must be seen to be worse off and suitably needy;rather than celebrate care and recognise/support our adaptability ,we must be sufficiently grateful,know our place and be forever beholden to their beneficence.

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