The parliamentary private secretary, who has resigned following the emergency vote on legislation for the back to work scheme, says there was pressure put on the party to abstain from voting.
Read the full article at The Guardian, 24th March 2013
Ian Mearns MP said he voted against the government’s jobseekers (back-to-work schemes) bill on Tuesday because he thought the unemployed were already suffering enough from benefit sanction decisions made by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
The fast-tracked bill, which seeks to overturn the outcome of a court appeal ruling on the Poundland case, is expected to be passed into law early this week.
It will ensure that the DWP no longer has to pay £130m in benefit sanction rebates to 250,000 jobseekers by retrospectively making lawful regulations deemed unlawful by three senior judges since February.
Mearns said that after passing through the Commons’ no lobby he sent a text to his former boss, the shadow secretary for international development, Ivan Lewis, and the party’s chief whip, Rosie Winterton, saying he had resigned.
I was under no illusions that I would be sacked if I voted against the party wishes. So immediately on having gone through the no lobby and having voted against the government bill, I then texted both the chief whip and the shadow secretary of state for international development … to say, with a heavy heart, I resign.
Among 43 or 44 Labour MPs who voted [against the bill], I was the one who had the PPS position. But I know a significant amount of pressure was brought to bear on other colleagues in similar positions.
There were an awful lot of people who were clearly unhappy … well over half of the parliamentary Labour party were clearly uncomfortable with the position that was taken by the leadership.
His description of the meeting was confirmed by other MPs who did not want to be named. One Labour source said the shadow chancellor, Ed Balls, had not wanted to lose fiscal credibility on the eve of the budget by being seen to be favouring a £130m payout to benefit claimants.
Mearns criticised his own shadow frontbench for misunderstanding the nature of the benefit sanctions regime.
It just seems to me that our frontbench stance is that everybody who’s been guilty of some sort of [benefit] infringement and had a sanction against them since 2011 is someone swinging the lead or taking a political stance.
I really do wish there were that many thousands of people who were willing to take a political stance and lose benefits for the sake of putting a marker down against workfare … I just don’t think that’s the case at all.