Thursday, August 16, 2012

The law is the true embodiment of everything that's excellent

There’s nothing harmful about asking a Birmingham University graduate to do some unpaid work in exchange for her dole money. Somebody should tell Cait Reilly she does not have a human right to sit around waiting for a job to come to her.

If she is a victim of anything, it’s not slavery or forced labour but of an education system which cheats young people.

Ms Reilly is the 23-year-old who – mercifully – has just lost a court case over whether she should be made to work at Poundland in Kings Heath, Birmingham.

Egged on by human rights lawyers, Ms Reilly complained bitterly about the futile work she was made to do at Poundland in exchange for her taxpayer-funded £54-a-week Jobseeker’s Allowance.

She’s a geology graduate and she wants to get a job in a museum. No doubt she has been encouraged by the education establishment to believe she is entitled to well-paid professional work in exchange for her student debt.

But this country’s irresponsible universities have expanded so fast they are churning out far more graduates – especially in relatively obscure subjects like geology – than there are jobs for them.

That would be true even in a growing economy but at the moment most people are grateful for any work they can get, never mind some cushy number classifying bits of ancient rock.

So rather than labour in what she clearly sees as a menial job stacking shelves, Ms Reilly did what any self-respecting student would do and demanded her human right not to work.

She claimed being made to work at Poundland in exchange for her State benefits amounted to slavery.

For once, a sensible Judge put paid to that ridiculous claim. Mr Justice Foskett said “characterising such a scheme as involving or being analogous to ‘slavery’ or ‘forced labour’ seems to me to be a long way from contemporary thinking”.

He was dismissing Ms Reilly’s claim and another brought by 40-year-old unemployed HGV driver Jamieson Wilson, from Nottingham, who was asked to clean furniture for 30 hours a week in exchange for his dole money.

This country’s subjugation by the European human rights laws has led to hundreds of bizarre cases which defy common sense – from terrorists who can’t be deported to murderers demanding the vote.

Ms Reilly and her supporters clearly take the view, so fashionable among spoilt teenagers everywhere, that the world owes them a living.
They seem to believe that a bit of hard graft or even some modest experience of ordinary, day-to-day work, is beneath them.

The Government is right to use whatever incentives it has available – including the withdrawal of benefits – to encourage people to get back to work.
It’s always easier to find a new job if you’ve got one already. If you’re unemployed for a long time you lose the will to work, you become apathetic and disinclined to make any sort of an effort.

So a “workfare” system which encourages jobless people to get reacquainted with the world of work is actually doing them a favour.
Since Ms Reilly’s case first hit the headlines, many companies have backed away from offering placements to unemployed people. They are frightened of “slave labour” headlines.

And, of course, if they have genuine vacancies, they should fill them with paid employees not a succession of State-sponsored conscripts.
But that’s a different matter. We are talking about companies giving unemployed people a chance of finding work. What could be wrong with that?

People who refuse the offer of work experience are, by definition, not seeking work. So it’s only reasonable they should be denied Jobseeker’s Allowance – the clue is in the name.
Real job-seekers will take whatever opportunities are presented to them. They won’t say that because they are a geology graduate they want to pick and choose. They don’t have that luxury.

Ms Reilly is handicapped not just because her university education has led to possibly unrealistic expectations. She’s also a victim of a legal system which encourages people to whine about their human rights.
Her case was brought by a firm called Public Interest Lawyers, which is based in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter.

Its leading solicitor is Phil Shiner, a committed human rights lawyer who has on his books the case of 130 Iraqis making claims against our armed forces.
He’s also suing the Metropolitan Police over their use of “kettling” in crowd control.

Inevitably, Public Interest Lawyers are not accepting defeat in the cases of Ms Reilly and Mr Wilson.
The Judge made some comment about how the Department for Work and Pensions didn’t get the paperwork right when they wrote to Mr Wilson telling him to get on his bike.

The lawyers claim that, as a result, “over the last year, across the country, tens of thousands of people have been stripped of their benefits and must now be entitled to reimbursement by the DWP”.
And at a stroke, what started off as a human rights case involving a couple of alleged victims has grown into one involving thousands. As usual, human rights laws are only good for one group of people – lawyers.

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