Disabled campaigners are relaunching the WOW Campaign in a bid to secure a debate in the House of Commons on the need for the government to assess the financial damage caused to disabled people through its cuts and reforms.Four years ago, nearly 105,000 people signed a petition launched by the WOW Campaign that called on the government to carry out a cumulative impact assessment (CIA) of the cuts.That petition led to a debate in February 2014, the first time disabled people had secured a debate in the main chamber of the House of Commons on an agenda they had chosen themselves.The WOW (War On Welfare) Campaign has been largely dormant for more than two years, but key figures now believe the time is right for a relaunch and a second WOW debate.Activists are working to secure cross-party backing for another debate that would call on ministers to defend their refusal to calculate the overall impact of their cuts on disabled people.This time, WOW is hoping to secure a debate through a request from supportive MPs to the backbench business committee, rather than through a petition to parliament.Initial support has already come, they say, from Labour’s shadow chancellor John McDonnell – who led the WOW debate in 2014 – Green MP Caroline Lucas, and Kate Green, Labour’s former shadow minister for disabled people, as well as SNP and Liberal Democrat MPs.Green said she was “still at the stage of investigating possibilities”, including “discussing exactly what a debate would cover, for example would it be just on benefit cuts or wider, given the comprehensively damning assessment from the UN since the original petition”.But she said she was hoping to draw together “a number of colleagues to apply for a backbench business debate” and was now working with others to build cross-party support “as that would strengthen any application”.As part of their campaigning push, WOW campaigners are planning a new website that will highlight the stories of disabled people impacted by eight years of austerity cuts.Michelle Maher, one of the earliest members of the WOW Campaign, said: “The CIA is what we have been fighting for forever, because they don’t want the figure out there, they have never wanted the figure out there.“They should have done a CIA as a duty of care [to disabled people]. They don’t want people to know how much they have cut from disability support.”WOW campaigners point out that the list of respected organisations that have called for such an assessment continues to grow.It includes the UN committee on the rights of persons with disabilities, the government’s own social security advice body, and peers on the House of Lords Equality Act 2010 and disability committee.And the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) published a report in March which calculated its own cumulative impact assessment of all the tax, national insurance, social security and minimum wage reforms introduced between May 2010 and January 2018.EHRC’s report calculated that some disabled lone parents would eventually lose more than 30 per cent of their income – more than £11,000 a year – due to eight years of cuts.
Labour activists, groups such as Another Europe is Possible, TSSA leader Manuel Cortes and high-profile Corbynite commentators including Owen Jones and Ash Sarkar all criticised the call for abstention.Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott defended the measure in a tweet:Re Immigration Bill, LAB accepts Common Travel Area must be restored with Ireland & Free Movement ends if we Leave Single Market. But this Bill puts cart before the horse. We need settled relationship with EU first. LAB wants to amend Bill substantially. Today isn’t a final vote!— Diane Abbott (@HackneyAbbott) January 28, 2019The explanation that a second reading is not a final vote on the bill was widely compared today to Harriet Harman opting to abstain on Tory welfare legislation when acting as interim leader in 2015.Following a Parliamentary Labour Party meeting this evening, which saw MPs express anger over the whipping decision, the one-line whip to abstain has been replaced by a one-line whip to vote against the bill. Tags:Labour /Immigration Bill / Labour has U-turned on its decision to abstain on the second reading of the government’s Immigration Bill after the move sparked a backlash from disappointed MPs and party activists.The bill being voted on tonight ends free movement after Brexit, a pledge made in Labour’s 2017 manifesto, but also repeals other rights of EU citizens and hands over control of the future UK immigration system to the Home Secretary.Party whips informed Labour MPs earlier today that they would be ordered to abstain on the second reading “as we accept that a new immigration system is required post-Brexit, but do not support the government such wide powers to introduce a new system”.The message continued: “We will seek substantial amendments in committee stage to restrict the powers granted to the government by itself and require that the immigration system eventually introduced is based on evidence.”But MPs soon expressed their opposition to the move via Twitter, with many saying they would defy the party whip to vote against the bill.Chris Leslie tweeted: “Why have Labour frontbench just dropped a three line whip down to one line whip against tonight’s Immigration Bill 2nd reading? This Govt Bill ends free movement, fails to secure U.K./EU citizens rights & delegates future immigration rules to Ministers. Surely needs opposing?!”