Child Poverty and the CSA

Mr Peter Hain (Neath) (Lab): Will the right hon. Gentleman accept that children are also being pushed into poverty because his Department is not pursuing errant non-resident fathers vigorously enough? As he knows, my constituent Lisa Jones, a hard-working single mother, has been totally frustrated by the lackadaisical attitude of the Child Support Agency in tracking down the father, despite knowing his mother’s address, when he owes £23,000 and she has been struggling on tax credits and housing benefits to bring up a teenage boy while the father takes exotic holidays and avoids court orders. Will the right hon. Gentleman stop his weasel-worded replies to me and sort this matter out now?

Mr Duncan Smith: I completely agree that in the right hon. Gentleman’s individual case, which I do know about and I recognise, that money should go to the parent with care. We fully agree with that and the CSA, part of the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission, is bearing down to try and get the details of this individual. As he knows, this case is a little complicated because the individual moves time and again before the agencies can get hold of him, but I have to say that I have already intervened by talking to them about this, and I promise the right hon. Gentleman this, and ask him to pass this on to his constituent: I personally will take direct interest in this because it is outrageous that this individual gets away with what he is doing. I have told the CMEC that it must bear down on these cases. The reforms we are bringing in will do just that, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman can reassure his constituent that we will sort this out.

Mr Speaker: There will be a further report to the House on the matter in due course. I am quite confident of that.

Hain Slams Minister for Attack on Disabled Workers

Peter Hain MP has slammed Welfare Minister Lord Freud for his derogatory comments about disabled employees.

It was revealed today that Lord Freud had suggested some disabled people were not “worth” the minimum wage in a fringe meeting at the Conservative conference.

A former Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Mr Hain said: “His comments, his attitude, the total disregard for the hardships of disabled people, it was despicable.”

“The suggestion that having disability somehow impacted on whether or not an employee deserved the National Minimum Wage really was reprehensible. “

“It should not matter who you are, a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay is all any of us want. The Tories have shown once again the utter contempt they hold for so many workers across the UK.”

Lord Freud made a grovelling apology this afternoon, however calls are growing for him to be sacked.

  -ENDS –

 

DON’T BELIEVE THE HYPE SAYS HAIN

Neath MP Peter Hain has today launched a scathing attack on the Lib Dem-Tory Government after embarrassing revelations for Ministers regarding the maligned Bedroom Tax.

The former Secretary of State for Work and Pensions said: “quite frankly it reminds me of the omnishambles budget from 2012, both parts of the government are so out of touch of the realities on the ground, especially in places like Neath it is bordering on negligence.”

Mr Hain was commenting on yesterday’s news that the Liberal Democrats have reversed their support for the Spare Room Subsidy, commonly referred to as the Bed Room tax.

He said: “This is a shocking and mercenary decision which is motivated purely by political calculation. I am glad that they are doing the right thing and seeing the sense in what Labour has been saying for months, but they are not fooling anybody in Neath.”

On Tuesday the Department for Work and Pensions published an independent report by the Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning Research and Ipsos Mori which clearly documented the devastating effect the changes to the Spare Room Subsidy had on welfare claimants.

At one point it stated: “Tenants’ groups interviewed expressed concern about the welfare of people who were paying for the shortfall, reporting that some were going without food, not heating their homes, and becoming socially isolated.”

Mr Hain continued, “I read the report and was in a state of disbelief at times, the way this one change has affected people is terrible, 45% of those who have been impacted on by the Bedroom Tax had lived in their houses for over a decade, 68% that at least one individual in the house was disabled.”

“The entire episode has been wholly regrettable, this U-Turn by the Lib Dems is rubbing salt in the wounds of people who have been forced to choose between heating or eating by the callous coalition.”

“On top of this yesterday we saw the Prime Minister being bullish about the economy during Prime Minister’s Questions, but the truth is in places like Neath people are not feeling the benefits of the recovery.”

“Since 2010 people in Neath Port Talbot have seen their wages plummet from £489 per week, to £425 per week and now they still have not reached their 2010 levels. Never mind that our wages drag behind the rest of the UK.”

“All the while people have seen their real wages slowly eroded by rising inflation, this are some of the forces my constituents are contending with on a daily basis as they fight for their living standards.”

-ENDS –

Letter to the CEO of the HSE regarding the Gleision Tragedy

Former Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Peter Hain MP has today released a letter written to the Chief Executive of the Health and Safety Executive asking for more answer on questions raised in the aftermath of the Gleision Mining tragedy.

You can read the complete letter below.

 

Dear Mr Myers,

 

RE: Gleision Mine Tragedy

 

I am writing as the local MP and a former Secretary of State for Department for Work and Pensions to ask for a formal report on why and how the miners involved in the Gleision tragedy came to be working in an area of the mine where the accident happened.

 

After looking through the reports of the trial, it is my understanding that there remains some confusion about whether or not Mine Manager Malcolm Fyfield and his colleagues were aware of the potential presence of a substantial amount of water in the mine.

 

Yet the morning after the disaster I was escorted through the police cordon up to the entrance of the mine, and here it was explained to me that the men were working an area from an underground road heading straight toward old mine workings where, very clearly on the mine map presented to me by the Mines Inspector was marked ‘underground water’.  

 

During the trial I noticed that Fyfield appeared unaware of the existence of this map, and denied that he had been warned of the potential for water in the mine, while two former surveyors of the mine disagreed about the extent to which it had been mapped. Lee Jeffrey Reynolds said he quit the mine in frustration because he had not been able to do his job; however John Brosnan claimed that he had discussions with Fyfield warning him about the need for a Precaution Against Inrush scheme before mining the old workings.

 

This raises a number of questions which require answers:

 

1 – Can you confirm for me when the last comprehensive map of the mine was produced?  Was this the one I was shown?

 

2 – Can it be confirmed that Malcolm Fyfield or anyone from the Gleision operation knew of the existence of the map I was shown by the Mines Inspector and saw it? If it was so self-evidently dangerous to proceed, and they were aware of the inherent danger of what they were trying to do, why did they do so anyway?

 

3 – Can anyone confirm where the water actually came from? The prosecution claimed that it had been there the entire time and that Fyfield should have been aware of it; however an expert witness for the defence, Dr Cobb, said this had not been proved and it was impossible to rule out the explanation that water was moving in the mine? In the opinion of the HSE, which explanation is closest to the truth?

 

4 – Why were they driving up that way when it was in precisely the opposite direction from the other side of the road which I saw was marked up as the area they were licensed to mine?  Was this because it was ‘easier coal’ to extract and therefore cheaper?  Were they being driven into danger and to their deaths under pressure to cut costs? Or do you agree with the explanation given by Mr Fyfield that he was seeking to drive another way out of the mine through the old workings?

 

As far as I can see – though I readily concede I was not able to follow the trial proceedings in great detail – none of these fundamental questions have been answered.

 

I would be grateful for your detailed assessment and answers in a report to me which can be given to the families and which will be published.

 

 

Yours sincerely,

 

 

 

Peter Hain

MP for Neath

Hain condemns ‘astonishing’ decision to remove phones from Ystradgynlais Jobcentre

Neath MP Peter Hain has attacked Iain Duncan Smith, Secretary of State for the Department of Work and Pensions, following the removal of the telephones from Ystradgynlais Jobcentre. In a move he called ‘astonishing’ Mr Hain has demanded that the phones be returned to the Jobcentre as they are ‘a lifeline to many in the community’.

The phones were removed at the beginning of May and in a letter to the Secretary of State the Neath MP said, ‘this is a vital service for jobseekers and people on benefits needing to call the help lines when they do not have access to a phone or cannot afford to call the 0845 numbers that are being used.

‘This will have a hugely negative impact on those already struggling to make ends meet by making it more and more difficult to speak with an official for the help they need. It will further compound problems for people fighting to find work in a fiercely competitive jobs market and who use the phones when looking and applying for jobs.

‘How are people supposed to actively look for work or get help if something has gone wrong with their benefits if facilities like these are taken away? The remote location of the communities Ystradgynlais Jobcentre serves means the phone lines are a lifeline to many in the community.’

Earlier in the year Mr Hain condemned the decision to remove the telephones from Neath Jobcentre and speaking against the DWP decision he said, ‘this is clearly a cost cutting exercise at whatever cost to the public. People are being prevented from accessing the kind of advice and assistance they need to get and are entitled to

“The benefits system is a nightmarish one of complexity and ambiguity. If you deprive claimants of person-to-person contact and force everyone to go online, it’s a recipe for disaster.

“There are fewer and fewer staff to deal even with those claimants able to go online, while there are many especially older clients who are not. This will simply lead to chaos and misery.”