A £4 billion benefits u-turn. Is the PM in danger of being toppled? The Reunion Island children scandal. With Emily Maitlis.
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Tonight, a £4 billion U-turn
is underway as the government
accepts it may have acted unlawfully
on disability benefits.
Everyone on PIPs payments
will have their claim reviewed
after a High Court ruling.
The regulations were blatantly
discriminatory and it begs the
question, what is any government
doing introducing regulations that
are blatantly discriminatory?
We'll hear from a father whose
autistic son had his payments cut
overnight and a campaigner.
What does the government
say to that?
Are May's wobbles getting worse?
As Europe sets out its rules for
Brexit, we ask if the Prime Minister
is still trusted by her own party.
We'll be joined by two
senior Tory backbenchers.
Also tonight - why did the French
government move thousands
of children from their home
in the Indian Ocean to rural France?
Some never saw their families again.
What happened to them next?
We're with Marlene as she finally
returns home half a century later.
Every single person
on the government's main disability
Personal Independence Payment
benefit programme will have
their claim reviewed
after what is being seen as a major
A total of 1.6 million people
will be part of the review
which ministers have admitted
is necessary after a High Court
judge ruled the changes "blatantly
discriminate" against people
with mental health issues.
Last week Work and Pensions
Secretary Esther McVey confirmed
the government would not
appeal the judgment.
This evening Sarah Newton,
the disabilities minister,
went further, confirming details
of the massive review, which could
cost £3.7 billion by 2023.
Here's Nick Watt.
Storm clouds never appear to be that
far away from Theresa May
But in welfare, an area that has
bedevilled this government for
years, the Tories hope they may be
moving to calmer climes.
that every single person
receiving Personal Independence
Payments will have their claim
reviewed, was not of course,
born out of government thinking.
Ministers are simply complying
with a High Court ruling
and I understand the Treasury
is unamused about the
But, Tory backbenchers
do hope that today's
announcement will allow
the government to tell a more upbeat
story about welfare reform.
I think it is unfair
to say that all Tories
ever want to do is cut,
because I wouldn't be a member
of the Tory party if I thought
that was what
they were about.
But do I think we are seeing,
I guess a more balanced approach?
We had some tight fiscal
decisions to make to keep our
debt and deficit under control.
We've done a lot of the hard
lifting on that and
now it's time perhaps
to be a little bit more
reflective and think
the smaller detail in government
that makes a difference in
people's lives and that's
what we are doing with
this decision today.
So what is PIP?
Personal Independence Payments
are paid to people with
disabilities to help meet extra
costs they may have.
PIP is replacing
the disability living
In March, the government said people
who could not travel
independently on the grounds
of psychological distress, were not
entitled to a higher PIP payment.
In December, the High
Court ruled the
were blatantly discriminatory.
Last week, the new Work
and Pensions Secretary,
Esther McVey, said the government
would not challenge the court
ruling, leading to
A former minister responsible
for PIP acknowledges the
policy was designed
to save money, but,
policy was designed to save money,
but, in its original form,
it was meant to help people
with mental health conditions.
Let's not beat about
the bush, there are savings
that was made when PIP
There are people perhaps
in the lower area that only just
about qualify for DLA,
don't qualify now for PIP.
I don't deny that,
but what is absolutely undeniable is
that when I was working and bringing
PIP through, I wanted a complete
level playing field for people that
had physical disabilities,
psychiatric and mental health
issues, to be treated exactly
What happened with this
is the government
challenged it saying
they didn't fit the criteria.
I think that was wrong
and I think the
judge's decision is right and we're
now somewhere close to where I
wanted PIP to be.
For us, we are pretty
appalled and outraged the
mess the government have found
themselves in and this is all of
From introducing these regulations
last February which actually was
going to restrict the numbers of
individuals that would qualify for
PIP and specifically those with
psychological distress, and it begs
the question what is any government
in doing introducing revelations
that are blatantly does good
military to particular groups and
also what quality impact assessments
were carried out. We are pretty
outraged at it.
Theresa May has a
reputation for being something of a
plodding Prime Minister but on
Personal Independence Payments, the
government has shown rare fleet of
foot. Tory backbenchers hope that at
the very least ministers are making
a virtue out of necessity.
Joining us now, Alistair Rolfe,
who's son Nick is autistic.
Chris Philip, Conservative MP
who works for the Communities
Secretary and is a strong supporter
of the government's welfare policy,
and Ellen Clifford, a campaigner
from the organisation Disabled
People Against Cuts.
I will come to you a bit later. With
Nick, how does the autism show
itself, what Bercy struggle with? --
what does he struggle with.
It is a
social and communication disorder
which means he struggled in any
social situation to act like another
normal child. He finds all kinds of
things difficult we would take for
granted around the house, going out,
public transport, and the chance of
him earning a living wage at the
moment are very slim.
And during his
school years, he was fully
supported, statement did, had
he was diagnosed at the age of three
with full-blown autism. We put in
place and early intervention
programme which enabled him to go to
mainstream school and at that point
he had a statement of special needs
which enabled him to have the full
amount of support with a learning
support assistant. He was then
assessed and reviewed, reassessed
every year for the next 15 years by
experts who knew what the problem
was and it time they came back and
said they needed to continue with
the same level of support. About the
same time when he went to school, he
started receiving visibility living
allowance which was a small amount
but enough to help with certain
things. As he left school around the
time that the disability living
allowance change to become the
personal independence payment and he
had to be completely reassessed from
scratch. After 15 years of being
reassessed and acknowledged by the
government that he had this need for
financial support, in an interview
with 15 minutes, the government
decided that he deserved absolutely
no money whatsoever.
What was he
asked in the interview?
questions that were asked in the
interview were completely inadequate
and not designed to capture the
issues that lie behind his autism.
He was asked questions like, can you
dress yourself? Can you cook a meal?
Can you go on a bus journey? His
answers were yes, I can do all of
those things, but the amount of work
that goes behind just getting him to
the point where he can make a bus
journey is enormous on our part and
he might get on the bus and then he
would lose his ticket or forget
where to get off, there might be
noise on the bus.
So he should not
have answered yes but he was trying
to say the right answer?
right he did not possibly understand
the question, can you dress yourself
or cook a meal, it was to tick a
box. But if they have come to the
home and watched him, he might cook
a meal but leave the cooker on and
start a fire. We have to be very
The assessment itself was
It was completely inadequate
and when we got the news back that
he was no longer entitled to any
form of payment, we concluded that
this was prejudicial against people
with mental health disabilities.
really sorry to hear the problem is
that Nick experienced, nobody should
be without support that they clearly
need. I am not sure how closely that
case relates to the PIP position we
heard about any piece but I'm
pleased the government has responded
to the High Court decision not by
trying to challenge it in the Appeal
Court or Supreme Court but excepting
You put your hands up and say
this was badly wrong and badly
judged and despite everybody saying
to the contrary, you went ahead with
it and it was the wrong decision?
Clearly there was a difference of
opinion on this measure, the High
Court judge made a ruling in
What do you mean a
difference of opinion?
government felt that the mental
health limits of Tabernacle were
covered separately. The High Court
had said they were wrong and the
government had accepted that
immediately and it will not appeal
and it will backdate the claims to
the beginning. And it will write the
anybody trust your government to get
it right if you have done so much
damage? Listen to this case, going
from being completely helped through
his childhood and left with nothing.
There are clearly individual cases
like the one we heard about when the
assessments need to be improved but
the allowance has gone from
13,000,000,020 ten at 216 billion so
when people say there have been cut
to payment that is not true from £13
billion to £16 billion. There are
600,000 more disabled people in work
now than there were four years ago.
That is a real success in addition
to spending more money.
I'm sorry I
have left you to the end but give us
the broader picture as you see it,
is it a good thing that more people
with disabilities are in work?
are a lot of barriers that disabled
people faced at work and anecdotally
we are seeing less people in work,
people who are struggling because
they're not getting out of work
benefits. But in terms of the PIP
ruling, we are happy that the
government has decided not to appeal
it but they should never have got to
this situation in the first place.
Disabled people and organisations,
we support of the claimants in the
court in 2016, it was their ruling
the government try to overturn in
2017, our organisations,
parliamentarians all spoke out
against bringing these regulations
and the government did.
campaign is putting this points to
you, why was the government not
listening to this?
The point we were
hearing is about the assessment
itself and those cases have to be
this Ducab belief. It is different
to the court ruling point.
It is the
same larger point that people with
behavioural disabilities or mental
health disabilities or psychological
disbelief were being ignored.
the answer the point, the proportion
of people on PIP with mental health
conditions who get the highest level
is 66%. Under the old DLA it was
only 22% so there is a three-time
higher recognition of mental health
problems under PIP.
There are 1.6
million cases to be reviewed.
this very specific point about the
mobility allowance component, but as
I said already, the total amount
paid under DLA has gone up to £16
billion which is a big increase.
There was a decision taken a year
ago that the High Court was found to
be wrong and the government has
accepted that and will not appeal it
and is putting it right.
Are we on
the right track now in terms of what
happened here wrong?
I don't think
we should be here anyway. This is
going to cost untold sums, those
people are going to go through more
anxiety and distress having been
through enough as it is. The bigger
picture for disabled people in the
UK is it that the government is
failing them, the UN has made a
binding of great and systematic
violations against this government.
They talk about spent on disability
benefits but as a share of national
wealth it has heart and we see
people suffering, with nowhere to
turn -- it has halved.
accept that because we spent more
than any other G-7 country apart
from Germany on supporting people
with disability and health problems.
There are of course problems to be
fixed but we are spending more than
every other G-7 country apart from
If you compare
like-for-like it is difficult to
compare what is spent on disability
figures. The amount spent is not
comparable in the way you are
Thank you very much.
Theresa May flies to China tomorrow
on a trade mission seeking to secure
the sort of deal the government
is hoping to land after Brexit.
It's possible she might never have
been as happy to leave these green
and pleasant lands, after yet
another weekend of torrid
headlines and a growing chorus
of criticism from across her party,
not least from a band of Brexiteers
who seem to feel distrustful
of the Prime Minister's
ability to deliver.
Today Europe's foreign
ministers made a point
of showing their own unity
on the issue by taking just two
minutes to agree the hardline terms
on which negotiator Michel Barnier
can approach the next
round of Brexit talks.
The EU position is very clear.
The transition will last
for 21 months, until
the 31st of December 2020.
During this limited period of time,
the whole of the EU acquis
will continue to apply to the UK.
So how does the state
of Brexit talks affect
Theresa May's leadership,
despite the growing noise?
Is there any sense anything
has really changed?
Nick Watt is here.
A little bit more movement, what is
An interesting interview
by Liam Fox in the Sun newspaper
tomorrow. He is saying to
Brexiteers, you will have to learn
to live with disappointment because
we do not command a majority in the
House of Commons. But he said the
core Brexit will be delivered out of
the single market and out of the
customs union. But there are three
people who wanted to remain who said
the Prime Minister needs to set out
a domestic vision for Britain after
Brexit. What is going on? I think
what is happening is two forces are
colliding. The legacy of the recent
reshuffle, lots of resentful
ex-ministers. Then you have
Brexiteers who are thinking, is this
Prime Minister going too far in a
soft Brexit direction.
going to survive?
You are reminded
of Harold Wilson who said, you ask
what is going on, I am going on. The
quiet ones are still quiet, at the
noisy ones are noisy. Iain Duncan
Smith that was in trouble when the
quiet ones stopped been quiet. I
have been talking to other Tories. I
spoke to one former minister who
said they believe there will be a
challenge, there should be a
challenge against Theresa May in the
summer to give a new leader a long
time to bed in the 2022 election and
this person said
this person said Theresa May really
isn't working. They say you
journalists have the wrong end of
the stick. You're looking for these
48 letters we need for the
no-confidence vote. We are after the
149 votes we need to get to oust
A quick word on labour?
There will be an interesting new
face on the Labour front bench when
the withdrawal bill stars its
journey and that will be Lord Peter
Goldsmith. His advice as Tony
Blair's Attorney General meant the
action was authorised for the UK
forces. What is interesting about
this, the defining moment Jeremy
Corbyn's career was opposing the
Iraq war. You could save that is how
he managed to bury New Labour in the
Labour ship contest for the Labour
Party. But he doesn't represent the
front bench in the Lords, but I am
told this is more of a guest on the
front bench, not an actual
frontbencher, so Jeremy Corbyn is
living with it.
With us from Westminster
is Nicky Morgan, a former
under David Cameron.
And Jacob Rees-Mogg who now leads
the European Research group
of Tory Eurosceptics.
Now, two backbenchers,
if there are grumblings coming
from both your wings of the party
that probably suggests the PM
is doing something right.
Let me start with you, Nicky, Nick
said forget about the letters to
Graham Brady. Are you hearing of
anyone voicing their unhappiness in
letter form at the moment or is it
Nobody is going around
saying we have signed this, or sent
this in. I certainly haven't done
that. It is important. We have seen
the EU talking about the negotiating
stance. We have a critical nine
months ahead of us and everybody in
the Conservative Party realises we
will be judged by the success or
otherwise of these Brexit
negotiations, the final deal we get
to. The Conservative Party has a
strong reputation for economic
competence and we must not
jeopardise that in these
negotiations. The noise about the
leadership doesn't help.
you think the instability is coming
from? When you hear Johnny Mercer
saying the window is closing for the
Prime Minister to meet the
challenges. Is he right to speak
out, is it a non-helpful
There are the
stations, inevitably. Some of my
other colleagues are talking about
the need to focus on domestic
legislation. We have seen a focus on
the environment, for example, it is
possible to talk about other things
than Brexit. We have just had a
piece talking about mental health
and personal independence payments.
We would like to be talking about
that than about Europe.
She got that
one badly wrong, didn't she?
Actually, a fast reaction from the
government saying we will not appeal
this, it hasn't been handled right
in the past, we will get it right
now. Broadly supporting people with
mental health challenges, looking at
the NHS, rising educational
standards in our schools. But Brexit
will be central for the next nine
months. We cannot fall out with each
other, the country doesn't need
The way you are talking, you
are happy to see her fulfil her
parliament for five years. You are
happy that she has a game plan, a
series of things that she is, not
just talking about, but doing, do
you believe that?
I believe when she
took out the Premiership, she laid
out a plan, speech...
But is she
There is action, but
trying to get attention on anything
other than Europe at the moment is
difficult. The Treasury Select
Committee, we know things like the
budget, productivity and things like
growing the economy are incredibly
important, but of course the Brexit
negotiations will be influential in
all of that. It is important, it is
not just about the Prime Minister,
there is a whole cabinet. If the
Prime Minister is the person going
to be setting out a plan, the
Cabinet have got to do within their
own areas, agri- and end state for
Brexit. They have got to stick to
those lines. But falling out with
each other is not the right thing
for the country at this particular
time in our history.
Mogg, do you trust the Prime
Minister has your best interests at
heart, your party, Brexit?
course, I completely trust the Prime
Minister and I agree with what Nicky
Morgan was saying, in relation to
the need for unity and the
government to set out what it end
state is going to be. There may be
bits of the end states I don't like,
there may be bits of the end states
Nicky Morgan doesn't like, but we
need a proper discussion rather than
the Chancellor saying one thing and
the collective Cabinet view being
Why does your group in the
Times tomorrow said they give her a
50-50 chance, it is not a real
That is not me, I have
not said that.
Is there descent?
There are always people with
different views in a party.
not the party, it is the group you
The ERG doesn't have a single
view. We are interested in the
Lancaster House speech and the
manifesto and we want to back the
Prime Minister in that. Whether
individual members speculate on the
party membership or not, is nothing
to do with me.
When you talk about
the basis of Lancaster House and the
basis of what she has said, were you
happy with what Michel Barnier had
to say to the Prime Minister today?
Will you continue to support her if
she lets that transition deal go
The terms laid out today in
the transition deal are very
bullying from the European Union.
They are very harsh and they would
continue as to allow free movement
of people and we would take, for the
first time since 1066, laws imposed
upon us from a foreign power without
any say on it from ourselves. That
might be acceptable if we had a
clear idea of what the end point is.
You would put up with it the two
years if you had an idea of what was
We had talk about
staying in a customs union and not
get the benefits of Brexit. It means
remaining end EU law taker. Not
removing tariffs, 21% of the
household economy, had the chance to
make the country better. It is an
exciting opportunity if we grasp it.
Your support will remain qualify?
support for the Prime Minister will
remain qualified. I want her to
implement what she has already said.
As the Prime Minister is a
forthright and clear person, I
expect she will implement the
policies she has set out.
tell you about this story breaking
on bus speed, they have seen the
impact of Brexit from the
government's own analysis. They say
under the government's own
assessment, a comprehensive free
trade agreement with the EU, UK
growth would be 5% lower over the
next 15 years if there was no deal
scenario and it was WTO rules, it
would reduce by 8%. They say from
what they have seen, the UK would be
worse off outside the European Union
under every scenario modelled in
every part of the UK.
phrases every scenario modelled and
it depends on the base of the model.
If they use the gravity muddles the
government used prior to Brexit,
they were wrong. It predicted an
increase in unemployment just by
voting to read, to 500 to 800,000.
On the basis of these gravity models
and the key is the assumption of the
tariffs you apply to goods coming
into the EU. I don't know about
these models, but the one done
before the Brexit vote assumed we
would apply the common external
tariff to EU trade with the UK. That
sort of thing makes these models
speculative and so far, very
A quick word from you
Nicky Morgan on the Brexit study and
do you think the Prime Minister will
be there to see us through Brexit?
Yes, it is too important to worry
about leadership contests at this
time. We have to focus. What those
models do, we can argue about the
underlying basis. What they show is
there is a risk and this is why I
wanted to remain and our
constituents will not thank us and
nor will the country if we have
weakened their economic security and
jobs and livelihoods as a result of
negotiation. It is critical we make
sure we don't undermine the economy
any more than we are going to bike
actually leaving in the first place.
Thank you both very much.
Next month, a French
will outline what happened to more
than 2000 children at the hands
of the French state
between 1963 and 1982.
These children, from
the Indian Ocean island of Reunion,
a French overseas department,
were resettled in rural
parts of France where
populations were in decline.
With France facing up to a scandal
that robbed these children
of everything they knew,
Katie Razzall travelled to Reunion
with one of those involved,
in search of the family she lost
more than five decades earlier.
Marlene is on her way
home for her first visit
to the Indian Ocean island
she was taken from as a child,
her first trip back in 52 years.
Marlene is in ill health
after a difficult life.
She has never been able
to afford the long journey
back to Reunion before.
Now she's leaving France courtesy
of the French government
which is paying her airfare and some
expenses, an acknowledgement
of the state's moral
responsibility for what happened
to her and 2000 others.
We first met Marlene in central
France where she has lived
since she was in her teens.
Before that she was
in care in Reunion.
Her mother had died of TB.
Marlene was persuaded
to resettle across the world.
Did you ever see your sister again?
Once a French colony,
Reunion became one of the country's
overseas department in 1946.
By the 1960s, with an exploding
birth rate, this desperately poor
island found its orphanages filling
up with children, many
of whom were not orphans at all.
Their families simply
could not provide for them.
The island's French MP,
Michel Debre, introduced a policy
he believed would solve the problem.
From 1963 until 1982,
social services oversaw
the resettlement of children
to rural parts of mainland France
where populations were in decline.
Some were adopted, others put
into children's homes
and religious institutions.
Marlene was amongst them,
featured here in a TV report
which portrays the children as lucky
to be given a new life.
But in the four years
before this was filmed,
she said she had minimal schooling.
Instead she had worked
the land at a convent,
done factory labour and even been
put in solitary confinement
when she complained.
Marlene's story is not a one-off,
as we discovered at a meeting
near Toulouse in south-west France.
Marlene is a member of a group
battling to find out what happened
to 2150 children from Reunion
at the hands of the French state.
Not everyone had a bad experience
but many suffered terribly.
There was racism, sexual abuse
and violence, as well as the loss
of their culture and identity.
Jessie Moenner and her younger
brother and sister were in the first
resettled group from Reunion
to arrive at this children's
home in rural Gers in
south-western France in 1967.
Jessie has spent years trying
to discover the background
to her family story but her care
files from the children's
home have disappeared.
Do you think you can judge
what happened back then
through modern eyes?
Jessie and her siblings
are traumatised by what happened
to them in France.
She said they were adopted
into a violent family and she holds
Michel Debre responsible
for their suffering.
I came to Paris to find out how
the French government
views the scandal now.
Those who were exiled hope
President Macron will apologise
for what happened once
the investigating commission
delivers its report.
It's a big moment for
Marlene, arriving on her
island after 52 years.
She has brought her daughter,
Aurore, for support.
Marlene has had 52 years
to dream of this moment,
and now she is here with a fanfare.
The French media has increasingly
been covering the story.
The publicity, mixed in with five
decades of expectation,
means Marlene hopes a long lost
family member might be
at the airport to greet her.
But there's nobody there.
But they are searching for Marlene's
other sister, Marianique,
who she last saw as a child.
Marlene is not giving up.
She does not know if Marie-Annique
is alive or dead but finding her
is the focus of this trip.
The next day we went to the town
hall looking for information
and came away with good news.
So you have an address
for your sister?
Their fortunes were changing.
After we left, the town hall
official got in touch with Marlene's
sister and two hours later came
the phone call they had longed
for from Marie-Annique herself.
So what is it like to see her now?
But the joy of finding
Marie-Annique is bittersweet.
Marlene is returning to France
knowing she may not see her sister
again until the next time
the government funds a trip.
In March, after a two-year
investigation, a commission
will present its 500-page report
to the French government
detailing what happened
to Marlene and 2000 others.
Many are demanding an apology
from the French president.
Katie Razzall there.
Her film was produced
by Maya Rostowska and you can see
a longer version on Our World,
this Saturday and Sunday at 9:30pm
on the BBC News Channel
and also on iPlayer.
That's it for tonight.
But before we go, if you happen
to be passing the Bruce Museum
in Greenwich, Connecticut,
you could do worse than pop
in and see their exhibition
of patriotic posters
from the First World War, and
witness how the American government
used to handle its communications.
As you can see, unlike now,
a big part of the sell.
MUSIC: "Creep" by Radiohead.