Richard Lochhead

Moray SNP News




Moray’s SNP MP Angus Robertson has vowed to continue to fight against the “deeply-flawed and cruel” benefits sanctions regime after debating time for an SNP bill on the issue ran out in the House of Commons on Friday.

The Benefits Sanctions (Required Assessment) Bill was presented by the SNP’s Mhairi Black, who led the debate and hoped to have it progress to committee stage, but despite having a strong turnout of SNP MPs in attendance the lack of other opposition MPs meant that bill lacked the 100 members needed to progress to the next stage in Parliament.

The Bill proposed that Department for Work and Pensions staff in Jobcentres across the UK would be required to consider whether personal circumstances such as caring commitments, whether a person is at risk of homelessness or whether they suffer from a mental ill-health condition that could be exacerbated by a benefit sanction before one can be issued.

Despite widespread agreement from all MPs that there are huge issues with the benefits sanctions regime, Tory MPs spoke at length to oppose the bill. Lack of progress means the bill is now not likely to be heard again this session.

Angus Robertson MP, who attended Friday’s debate, said:

“I am very disappointed that the bill was not supported by a sufficient number of MPs to guarantee progress to the next stage of the bill process but this is by no means the end of the SNP’s fight against the deeply-flawed and cruel sanctions regime.

“Apart from a handful of notable exceptions, Labour were nowhere to be seen and failed to turn up to support the bill.  Labour MPs have no problem talking about their opposition of the hated sanctions system but sadly when we had a real opportunity to make a difference they failed to act.

“On the Government side the Tories who did turn up, only did so to oppose the bill despite many MPs from the Government benches recognising the very real problems that exist within the system.

"Sanctions hit people, they hit real people. They are not statistics, they are human beings who are struggling and they are suffering, all due to the actions of the UK Government.  

“There have been examples from around the country of people being sanctioned for not turning up to a Jobcentre meeting when they have been caring for a sick child or suffering mental health problems and, in one case, being at their partner’s side for the birth of their child!

“Any reasonable person would see that applying sanctions in those circumstances is morally wrong and this bill would have addressed that by setting out a clear code of conduct of when sanctions should and, more importantly, should not be applied.

“We even had one Tory MP suggesting that benefit claimants were frightened of work when all the evidence shows that the vast majority of claimants want to work but cannot find work. If they put in as much effort into improving the economy and creating more job opportunities as they do attacking the most vulnerable then we would be in a far better place.

“With this bill Parliament had a real opportunity to make a difference and stop some of the misery and hardship caused by sanctions - sadly this opportunity has been wasted."