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From The Socialist newspaper, 19 May 2005

Hands off incapacity benefit

THE QUEEN’S speech on 17 May shows what Blair intends to do in the first part of his third term. True to form, most of New Labour’s plans are designed to make life better for rich profit-seekers and worse for the rest of us. His big business agenda talks of ‘reforming’ the NHS and the welfare state but he means more private-sector involvement and more cutbacks.

One of their most draconian bills aims to curb what ministers call ‘spiralling’ incapacity-benefit (IB) costs. David Blunkett says he wants to "coax" up to a million sick and disabled people off IB and into work.

But IB is for people who can’t work through illness or disability. And apart from that very vulnerable group who were incapacitated early in life, most IB receivers have made national insurance contributions all their lives.

Ex-mining and ex-shipbuilding areas are among those with the highest take-up rate for IB. That shows that the conditions that these workers toiled in have made them ill. And many workers in those industries wrecked by previous governments were put off sick rather than adding them to the unemployment figures.

Blunkett’s idea of ‘coaxing’ is to cut the income of those who don’t find work. But where is the government going to put these workers eager to "try out" employment, as New Labour coyly puts it? After such disasters as Rover and Marconi there is increasingly only low-paid unskilled work available.

New Labour’s majority in Parliament has been cut tremendously and we could see more rebellions from MPs, particularly those from areas with high numbers of IB claimants. A massive campaign of opposition could convince these MPs to join in the fight against this legislation.

Hit the rich scroungers

THE GOVERNMENT treats Incapacity Benefit claimants as ‘lazy’ and ‘scroungers’. Yet all New Labour’s policies are designed to aid the real scroungers in our capitalist society - the super-rich.

Britain’s wealthiest 1,000 people have just got richer and richer over the last 25 years under both Tory and New Labour governments. They are now 'worth' a record £250 billion, up by nearly a quarter on last year, according to the latest Sunday Times rich list. That’s 152% wealthier than when Blair came to power in 1997!

These scroungers gain from pro-rich government policies yet they avoid paying tax on their ‘earnings’. Around the world they avoid taxes totalling a cool $860 billion a year.

The rich make this $860 billion out of the $11.5 trillion they stack away. They use ‘offshore’ companies, washing their cash through a host of tax havens, anything rather than contribute towards the societies where their businesses operate.

The super-rich are robbing the poor in ‘their own’ countries and in the ex-colonial world. But rich business people, their accountants and tax experts, who bay for punitive action against IB claimants, all say there’s nothing anyone can do about this.

When their wealth is threatened the rich often threaten to carry out a ‘strike of capital’, in other words they say they will stop investing.

Socialists say there is ‘something we can do about it’. If these rich individuals try to stop investment, their companies should be taken into public ownership with compensation paid only to those in need. And, if they can’t do a useful job, we could always put them on Incapacity Benefit!

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In The Socialist 19 May 2005:

Public health not private profit

More bad news for economy

Hands off incapacity benefit

Standing for socialism at Blackheath High

Football: Fans protest at billionaire’s takeover

Desperate smears on George Galloway

E=mc2 - how Einstein changed our understanding of the universe

Revolt and repression in Uzbekistan

USA: Time to mobilise and fight back

The curse of long working hours

Royal Mail privatisation threat after workers deliver record profits

Firefighters urge union to face up to challenges

Week-long strike at London Met

Calls for an end to trade union passivity at Amicus conference


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