Welfare battles

 

        I am glad Mr Duncan Smith is refusing to accept EU jurisdiction over our welfare system. The UK has always been told in Treaty negotiations that welfare remains a national issue, so the EU interference in this area is unwelcome. I am urging him today to buttress the UK position on this matter by passing a short amendment to the 1972 European Communities Act to reaffirm that welfare is a national matter, and that we do not accept EU intervention or court judgements on it. The Uk Parliament can do for us vis a vis Bruseels what the German Constitutional Court does for Germany.

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49 Comments

  1. lifelogic
    Posted June 3, 2013 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

    I agree and wish you well, but I will be very surprised should any bill actually emerge. Certainly with “heart and soul” and Clegg around.

    Meanwhile I see Balls wants to snatch the winter fuel allowance back from the very pensioners who mainly pay for it. The only positive about the UK I can see is how incompetent Milliband and Balls are – they almost make Cameron look relatively attractive, quite some task.

    • nicol sinclair
      Posted June 4, 2013 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

      @Lifelogic: “The only positive about the UK I can see is how incompetent Milliband and Balls are…”

      How right, oh how right, you are.

    • APL
      Posted June 4, 2013 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

      lifelogic: “Meanwhile I see Balls wants to snatch the winter fuel allowance back from the very pensioners who mainly pay for it.”

      I can see no reason why the ‘better off’ should be receiving state handouts.

      It would be a sensible measure if it came from Osborne & Cameron, instead they’ve gone into the Estate agent business.

      • lifelogic
        Posted June 5, 2013 at 6:43 am | Permalink

        Fine but you need to tax people less first, otherwise it is just another back door tax increase.

        • Bazman
          Posted June 5, 2013 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

          What does that make the charge for having an extra room in a council house then?

  2. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted June 3, 2013 at 8:40 pm | Permalink

    I wonder what excuse will be provided for not moving your amendement? The LibDems won’t let you? There isn’t a majority in the House of Commons? Our masters in Brussels say NO?

  3. Richard1
    Posted June 3, 2013 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

    This is an interesting idea, but does it work? Won’t the EU’s courts just declare such amendments ‘illegal’ and oblige the UK govt to reverse them on pain of fines? If this mechanism does work, it could be a solution short of a grand agreed renegotiation or leaving the EU – just a series of declarations of UDI by Parliament on different issues which Parliament decides are beyond the scope of the EU.

    • uanime5
      Posted June 4, 2013 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

      It’s more likely that this amendment will be declared illegal and that the UK will be fined for breaching EU law until we change our laws. Also anyone who has been harmed by this discrimination will be able to sue the UK for damages. So the UK is heading for an expensive failure.

      • Denis Cooper
        Posted June 4, 2013 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

        Do you really think they would be that foolish?

        Or do you think that they’d be glad if we handed in our Article 50 notice?

    • nicol sinclair
      Posted June 4, 2013 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

      @Richard1: “Won’t the EU’s courts just declare such amendments ‘illegal’ and oblige the UK govt to reverse them on pain of fines?”

      Indeed. And we should tell Brussels to stuff their policies where de sun don’t shine…

  4. forthurst
    Posted June 3, 2013 at 9:32 pm | Permalink

    The EU accepts that welfare is a national issue; what they do not accept is the principle that British subjects should be treated differently to other citizens of the EU. These absurd theatricals, demonstrating the UK ‘standing up’ to self-imposed diktat by undemocratic foreign domination are getting tiresome.

    • Peter van Leeuwen
      Posted June 4, 2013 at 10:37 am | Permalink

      @forthurst: If I understand it well (from the media) one neighbour (Ireland) would be treated differently from another neighbour (the Netherlands). Treating Dutch and Irish citizens differently, isn’t that an example of discrimination?

      • David Price
        Posted June 4, 2013 at 11:59 am | Permalink

        Yet you do not complain of Germany and France who I believe already discriminate in this way but you support the EU action to prosecute the UK for doing the same thing? Isn’t that an example of hypocrisy?

        • Peter van Leeuwen
          Posted June 4, 2013 at 10:14 pm | Permalink

          @David Price: I believe that you’re misinformed here.

      • nicol sinclair
        Posted June 4, 2013 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

        @Peter: Sod the discrimination. It is our future that is to suffer. We are a Nation and not a region of Brussels.

        For that matter, so are the Dutch but you may have given that away.

        • Peter van Leeuwen
          Posted June 4, 2013 at 10:15 pm | Permalink

          @nicol sinclair: You’re still bound by EU law for as long as you are an EU member.

          • Denis Cooper
            Posted June 5, 2013 at 9:05 am | Permalink

            That’ll be the EU law that Merkel repeatedly said prohibited any bailouts of distressed Eurozone states, until she decided that it did not prohibit bailouts after all.

      • Denis Cooper
        Posted June 4, 2013 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

        So what if it is?

        Our relationship with the Irish has long been and still is different from our relationship with the Dutch, and therefore there are reasons for treating the Irish differently from the Dutch, if we can be bothered to do so; if Dutch citizens object to that then the answer is that nobody is forcing them to come and live in our country.

        Our country, Peter; our country, not yours.

        • Peter van Leeuwen
          Posted June 4, 2013 at 10:21 pm | Permalink

          @Denis Cooper: “So what if it is ?” It would show this not to be a matter of welfare as claimed by the eurosceptics.
          I do hope that we’re not about to find out that Britain’s view of Ireland is like China’s view of Taiwan!
          It would be a funny EU indeed if we could chose to discriminate the Germans on one issue, the French on another topic and the Belgians on yet another area of policy.

      • Bert Young
        Posted June 4, 2013 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

        PvL . I think you are confusing “discrimination” with “difference” . There is absolutely no reason why a Dutchman should be treated in the same way as an Irishman ; they are different nationalities and subject to the overall laws and conditions created by their elected governments . If the Irishman wishes to live in Holland , he/she has to accept the prevailing rule of law there – and , vice versa . Economics from one country to the next will be different for a whole host of reasons , the aftermath being some winners and some losers .

        • Peter van Leeuwen
          Posted June 4, 2013 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

          @Bert Young: There are stated rights for every European citizen , signed and ratified by also the UK government. two of them,
          * Right to free movement and residence
          * Freedom from discrimination on nationality
          IMHO conflict with what you’re suggesting.

          the prevailing rule of law in each EU country includes these rights.

          • Denis Cooper
            Posted June 5, 2013 at 9:17 am | Permalink

            If John Major had possessed the integrity and the patriotism and the guts to ask the British people directly whether they wanted to become “European citizens”, then I’m pretty sure the answer would have been “no”.

            The Danes were asked about the Maastricht Treaty and said “no”, and an opt-out from “European citizenship” was one of the four opt-outs that the Danish government had to get to persuade them to say “yes” on the second time of asking.

  5. Leslie Singleton
    Posted June 3, 2013 at 9:49 pm | Permalink

    Sounds an excellent idea to me and I hope it works but just one thing viz surely there isn’t a cat in hell’s chance of the Liberals allowing such a step–or am I missing something?

  6. LindsayMcDougall
    Posted June 4, 2013 at 1:05 am | Permalink

    IDS probably wants to say ‘yes’ but the coalition cabinet won’t let him. That is why we Tories have to write our negotiating stance and red lines into the 2015 manifesto.

  7. Peter van Leeuwen
    Posted June 4, 2013 at 4:34 am | Permalink

    Would it be that simple? If the UK were to decide that women no longer qualify for welfare, that would just be a piece of national legislation with no relevance for being part of the EU?
    I could imagine that the courtcase is there to address more complex matters of discrimination and that this is not purely a matter of welfare.

    • nicol sinclair
      Posted June 4, 2013 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

      @Peter: ???????

      • Peter van Leeuwen
        Posted June 5, 2013 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

        @nicol sinclair: It is simple, while welfare legislation is and has always been a national issue, a UK law about welfare may have much wider ramifications and those may infringe on UK-agreed EU law. I gave a theoretical example to illustrate that. (Women cannot be cut out of welfare legislation, so don’t worry)

  8. Jerry
    Posted June 4, 2013 at 6:18 am | Permalink

    The Uk Parliament can do for us vis a vis Bruseels what the German Constitutional Court does for Germany.

    Now there is a thought, if the UK had a Constitutional Court, like Germany does, would they be able to do what our Parliament does for the UK – if so why doesn’t the UK have such a Constitutional Court, would the EU (even the UN) be more ready to accept the word of the Court than mere politicians?

    • sjb
      Posted June 4, 2013 at 11:34 am | Permalink

      Jerry wrote: [W]hy doesn’t the UK have such a Constitutional Court[?]

      Because currently the common law in England & Wales uphold the doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty.

      By contrast, in the US, which also has a common law system, the Supreme Court has struck down legislation it held to be unconstitutional. Now imagine the howls from MPs if Lord Neuberger and his fellow justices did the same to an Act of Parliament.

    • uanime5
      Posted June 4, 2013 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

      Given that the German Constitutional Court can strike down laws for being unconstitutional and force politicians to end certain policies I doubt that UK politicians would ever give the judiciary the power to hinder them in any way.

      Could you imagine how UK politicians would react if the courts prevented them from modifying education, welfare, or healthcare.

      • Mark B
        Posted June 4, 2013 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

        Well, a certain court sure as hell stops us from deporting people who we really do not want in our country.

        it is not such a big step then, is say, we the PEOPLE demanded to be made sovereign and demanded a written constitution and an independent Constitutional court, with judges elected by the PEOPLE and not appointed by politicians.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted June 4, 2013 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

      No, as the Germans will find out if their constitutional court dares to rule that the ECB bond buying programme contravenes the German constitution, and that case then goes to the EU’s Court of Justice and it ends up with that court ruling that the actions of the ECB are OK under EU law and therefore the Germans must change their constitution to legitimise them under German law.

  9. Electro-Kevin
    Posted June 4, 2013 at 6:58 am | Permalink

    We’re in the situation where the Tories cannot win.

    We will be suspicious that this is a ‘battle’ set up for Mr Cameron to ‘win’ in a deal to take the steam out of Ukip and put UK integration into the EU back on track.

    This is how toxic EU membership has become. It has stained everything.

    • Leslie Singleton
      Posted June 4, 2013 at 10:16 am | Permalink

      Kevin–Agreed, but I suggest tainted might have been an even better word

      • Electro-Kevin
        Posted June 5, 2013 at 8:03 am | Permalink

        Leslie – I’m commenting on how the situation might be viewed rather than how it is.

        ‘Strained’ might have been a better word than either in this case.

  10. Ben Kelly
    Posted June 4, 2013 at 7:06 am | Permalink

    The new universal credit is a timebomb which will support corporations taking on migrants at minimum wage to be subsidised by the benefit system.

    A migrant who would be entitled to a mix of JSA and housing benefit to the value of £25K when out of work, while working at the minimum wage would still be entitled to much of that £25K under universal credit but also get to keep most of their wage too. Paying £80 per month in tax they would be banking (net) £36K per year while putting inflationary pressure on the housing stock, requiring new school places for their children @ £4K plus inftastructure investment and making the NHS further overstretched.

    EU legislation means we can’t avoid this so we should find a way to recoup this money off business taking advantage of the subsidy. Taxation, a requirement to sponsor education, raise the minimum wage. If firms can’t compete with China or the third world without government subsidy should their executives really be accepting large wages and bonuses for their subsidised performance?

  11. Electro-Kevin
    Posted June 4, 2013 at 8:03 am | Permalink

    Thank you for your effort on this Mr Redwood.

    My previous comment on this stemming from what I’ve read in the press “Mr Duncan Smith will ‘see you in court’ ”

    A supranational court as you identify in this post.

    This issue is about discriminating against those with a ‘right-to-reside’ and one should imagine a lot of EU interference being brought in on the back of it – will separating out welfare in an amendment protect us enough ?

    That our benefits are no longer a stop-gap for people but have lifelong potential is at least as big an issue. That we are meant to be content that a mere six months of NI contributions are enough to qualify a recipient for this level of largesse is laughable.

    Well done to certain ministers on certain measures – it’s the right direction at least but all efforts can be so easily thwarted by meddlesome lawyers on legal aid and no-win-no-fee.

    All pro-EU parties ought to be made to display the EU flag proudly and prominently on their election campaign literature forthwith. If they cannot be proud to do so then we must surely ask why.

    • Electro-Kevin
      Posted June 5, 2013 at 8:13 am | Permalink

      I read that – under the Duncan Smith proposals – they don’t even have to work here and pay stamp to qualify for benefits. The proposal being contested is merely to impose a delay of six months before new applications can be made for benefits, which begs the question:

      Is Mr Duncan Smith (whom I regard highly) the best the Tories have to offer ?

      (I’ve yet to hear the Left counter IDS with the “there will be a rise in crime if we don’t give them money” as they do when arguing in support of indigenous recipients)

  12. nicol sinclair
    Posted June 4, 2013 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    Mr Redwood: What a lone voice for sanity. Sadly, your argument will not win against the ‘windmill’ lobby. Vested interests I believe in both leaders of the Coalition?

  13. uanime5
    Posted June 4, 2013 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    John your plan has no chance of working. The free movement of workers is one of the four fundamental freedoms of the EU, so the UK can’t unilaterally decide to have a welfare system that openly discriminate against non-UK EU citizens.

    I suspect that you’re pushing for this amendment in the hope that the UK will be kicked out of the EU for breaching it’s obligations under several EU treaties.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted June 4, 2013 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

      If you read the EU treaties you’ll find that they provide no mechanism for a member state to be expelled on any grounds whatsoever.

    • Mark B
      Posted June 4, 2013 at 7:51 pm | Permalink

      @uanime5
      The Four Freedoms are NOT a fundamental part of the EU, and you jolly well know it !!!!!!

      The FOUR FREEDOMS are covered under the EEA agreement which has no less than 30 countries as members. 27 EU and 3 EFTA are members. The EU merely act as arbiter for the 27 EU countries. EFTA have equivalent arrangements such as courts etc.

      I have on numerous occasions posted links too the EFTA/EEA website highlighting this. So very few who read here can claim any ignorance of the facts.

      Also, we cannot be kicked out of the EU. What the court and the Commission can do is fine us and, should we refuse to pay said fine(s) remove certain privileges from us. Do you really think they would get rid of one of their best cash cows ?
      ———-
      To deal with the subject of the post. I think our government is being very disingenuous with the general public and the media in general are being typically lazy ans sloppy in their analysis.

      The UK still maintains control over welfare in this country. What it cannot do, as uanime5 points out, is to discriminate between member states of the EEA. A person wishing to work here, and claim benefits, cannot be treated any differently than any other member of the EEA. Our government signed up to this. We helped formulate the rules. Hell, wasn’t it a Conservative government that first suggested and helped create the ‘Single Market’ the fore runner of the EEA.

      Our government seeks to impose extra rules upon other members of the EEA (remember that is 29 countries excluding us). This they cannot do !

      From the EFTA/EEA website:

      “A person who moves from one EEA State to another may not be placed in a worse position than a person who has always resided and worked in the same EEA State.”

      I summary:

      The UK Government is in the wrong and is breaking EEA rules. The EU monitor its members (27) and take action when those rules are transgressed by said the members.

      The welfare rules in other EU member states may be different, but they must be applied to all EU and EFTA/EEA member citizens.

  14. Dan H.
    Posted June 4, 2013 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    I cannot help but feel that this one is fairly easily put to bed. All one need do is stipulate that in order to claim UK benefits, a person has to have paid a set (and fairly low) amount of UK National Insurance. This neatly side-steps that tiresome EU demand, since under such rules everyone would be treated equally, so that the work-shy chav who dreams of going from school to a life of leisure on benefits (with cash-in-hand work on the side) would be denied this luxury until he had contributed to the State.

    If one then stipulates that if a person is in a marriage or civil partnership, then they will get some NI credits from their partner’s employment (but not for mere co-habitation) then a mild social engineering aspect to encourage marriage can be introduced, thus helping reduce the numbers of single parents.

    This would have to be introduced along with another rule: any foreign national who tries to claim benefits without being eligable must immediately be assessed to see if they are a fit person to be permitted to remain in the UK. That ought to take the wind from UKIP’s sails nicely, as well as encouraging many to resume working.

  15. Bert Young
    Posted June 4, 2013 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    IDS is right to show some mettle on this and keep our independence . Equally Theresa May should do the same with the Euro Court of Human Rights . It is ludicrous that we should be subjected to rules laid down by un-elected bureaucrats whose experience , qualifications , would not bear comparison to their equivalents in this country . Our history and standards have stood as models for centuries and should NOT be changed by lesser individuals and systems .

  16. Denis Cooper
    Posted June 4, 2013 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    “The UK has always been told in Treaty negotiations that welfare remains a national issue”

    This reminds me of that November 1996 “Dear Jacques” letter that John Major sent to Jacques Santer, then President of the EU Commission, complaining about a judgement from the EU’s so-called Court of Justice.

    Lord Pearson attached it to a Memorandum for Opinion Formers he produced in 2000, which can be seen here:

    http://www.globalbritain.org/BOO/BetterOffOut.html

    Without reproducing the whole letter, it started thus:

    “Dear Jacques

    ARTICLE 118A OF THE TREATY ESTABLISHING THE EUROPEAN COMMUNITY

    My intention in agreeing to the Protocol on Social Policy at Maastricht was to ensure that social legislation which placed unnecessary burdens on businesses and damaged competitiveness could not be imposed on the United Kingdom. The other Heads of State and Government also agreed that arrangement, without which there would have been no agreement at all at Maastricht.

    However, in its judgement today, the European Court of Justice has ruled that the scope of Article 118A is much broader than the United Kingdom envisaged when the Article was originally agreed, as part of the Single European Act. This appears to mean that legislation which the United Kingdom expected would dealt with under the Protocol can in fact be adopted under Article 118A.

    That is contrary to the clear and express wishes of the United Kingdom Government, and goes directly counter to the spirit of what we agreed at Maastricht. It is unacceptable and must be remedied …”

    Given that their final interpretation rests with a bunch of eurofederalists in Luxembourg, one can question whether even the EU treaties are worth the paper they’re written on, but verbal assurances are definitely not worth the paper they’re not written on.

    The best way to guarantee that the EU will not work against our interests is for Parliament to have a veto over all EU laws: and that must be its own national veto which it can deploy independently of other national parliaments, not a so-called “red card” which could only be deployed by a group of national parliaments acting together.

    Even then, we still have to rely on the MPs we elect to Parliament insisting that the national veto must be used when necessary.

  17. Robert Taggart
    Posted June 4, 2013 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    Agreed, Johnny, but…
    If it was that simple – why has no government done so before ?
    As a Eurosceptic this be music to our ears, but, as a lifelong scrounger – should tha not be worried ?!

  18. Pleb
    Posted June 4, 2013 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

    On the TV program “Skint” an ex steel worker said he would need a job paying £600 a week to make it worthwhile coming off of benefits. There are many like him.

    • Ben Kelly
      Posted June 4, 2013 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

      @pleb

      See my earlier post re tax credits. Said steele worker and others can get their £500 (capped) per week plus another £200 by taking a minimum wage job on universal credit.

      Then we have to compete with them for the housing stock and living commodities.

  19. Jon
    Posted June 4, 2013 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

    Sounds like a simple solution, why can’t we get on and do it or at least propose it even if Labour and the Lib Dems vote against it.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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