PMQs cancer row: MacMillan back Miliband

David Cameron and Ed Miliband clashed over welfare reform and its impact on cancer patients at Prime Minister's Questions, with MacMillan Cancer Research backing Miliband.

David Cameron and Ed Miliband clashed over welfare reform and the impact of the reforms on cancer patients at Prime Minister’s Questions today, with the Labour leader quoting cancer charity MacMillan’s fears over the withdrawal of support to cancer sufferers – and MacMillan backing his decision to do so and backing up the points he made.

On Monday, MacMillan Cancer Support said that, under the Welfare Reform Bill:

“Thousands of cancer patients who rely on a vital out of work benefit could lose up to £94 a week… Macmillan Cancer Support estimates nearly 7,000 cancer patients will be affected by this change which will leave some without crucial financial support at a time when they are simply unable to return to work.”

And today, speaking immediately after PMQs, MacMillan’s head of campaigns, policy and public affairs, Mike Hobday, said Miliband was “spot on” to raise the issue, telling the Daily Politics:

“We think it was a really important issue for Ed Miliband to raise. It is quite clear the government haven’t realised it will have a big impact on cancer patients who would like to work but aren’t yet ready to do so…

“There are 7,000 people this will apply to. Those who are recovering will be hit, those who want to work but are not quite ready yet because of the treatment they receive – they will be penalised to the tune of £100 a week.”

At PMQs, in response to Miliband’s statement:

“…because the government is stopping contributory-based employment allowance after one year… cancer patients, 7,000 of them, are losing £94 per week.”

Cameron, leafing through his ring-binder and once again showing himself to be unaware of the detail, claimed:

“He is wrong on the specific point…”

With Miliband then replying:

“Many people will lose this benefit simply because they haven’t recovered fast enough.”

Furthermore, appearing before the Public Bill Committee last month, replying to this question from shadow employment minister Stephen Timms:

Can the Minister tell the Committee what proportion of those who go into the work-related activity group he expects to be back in work within one year?

Employment minister Chris Graying said:

“At the moment, we do not have a specific answer to that, but I return to the point that this is not about recovery times. It is not about a decision that 12 months is an appropriate time for recovery.

“These are people who have other means of financial support, so what we have sought to do in difficult times financially, and by taking tough decisions, is to say ‘right, we need to start to replicate in the ESA system the kind of approach we take in the JSA system’.

“We have decided to set a 12-month time limit rather than a six-month time limit in recognition of the fact that if people face a health challenge it make take longer to sort out their affairs and may even take longer than the two year period. This is one of the tough decisions we need to take in government. We form a view and try to achieve a sensible balance.

“It is not based on an estimate of a typical recovery time, but on the principle that these are people who have other means of financial support. In around 60% of cases we expect people to need additional financial support through the income-based system, which they will of course receive.”

In other words, it’s not about recovery time, it’s about money.

Earlier, MacMillan’s chief executive Ciarán Devane had said:

“Many cancer patients will lose this crucial benefit simply because they have not recovered quickly enough. The majority want to return to work as it can represent a milestone in their recovery and a return to normality, in addition to the obvious financial benefits.

“This proposal in the Welfare Reform Bill will have a devastating impact on many cancer patients. We are urging the government to change their plans to reform key disability benefits to ensure cancer patients and their families are not pushed into poverty.”

With chief medical officer Jane Maher adding:

“In my experience one year is simply not long enough for many people to recover from cancer. The serious physical and psychological side-effects of cancer can last for many months, even years, after treatment has finished. It is crucial that patients are not forced to return to work before they are ready.”

As MacMillan’s release on Monday concludes:

“Macmillan Cancer Support wants the Bill amended so everyone eligible for ESA will receive it for as long as they need it, regardless of their financial circumstances. The charity also believes it is unacceptable to make cancer patients wait six months to access Personal Independence Payment (PIP).”

Cancer is a disease that can strike anyone down at any point in time, unforseen, unexpected; for those in recovery, those fortunate to recover, for them and their families, having been through all they have, to be treated this way is unacceptable.

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50 Responses to “PMQs cancer row: MacMillan back Miliband”

  1. SMD

    PMQs cancer row: MacMillan back Miliband: reports @ShamikDas #cancer #PMQs

  2. Paul Gardner

    PMQs cancer row: MacMillan back Miliband: reports @ShamikDas #cancer #PMQs

  3. Matt H

    PMQs cancer row: MacMillan back Miliband: reports @ShamikDas #cancer #PMQs

  4. Catherine Pope

    RT @leftfootfwd: PMQs cancer row: MacMillan back Miliband

  5. Antony Timlin

    PMQs cancer row: MacMillan back Miliband: reports @ShamikDas #cancer #PMQs

  6. Ashley Wells

    RT @leftfootfwd: PMQs cancer row: MacMillan back Miliband

  7. Altany

    RT @leftfootfwd: PMQs cancer row: MacMillan back Miliband

  8. Liam McKee

    RT @leftfootfwd: PMQs cancer row: MacMillan back Miliband

  9. Lee Jameson

    PMQs cancer row: MacMillan back Miliband

  10. Michael

    PMQs cancer row: MacMillan back Miliband –

  11. Selohesra

    Would that be the same Mike Hobday who was former Labour candidate – and stood at last election for Labour at Welwyn Hatfield? – not quite as impressive headline if you say ‘Die-hard labourite supports Ed M’ – on second thoughts perhaps it is

  12. Clare Fernyhough

    Under the old system cancer patients given a terminal diagnosis were in fact ‘fast tracked’ with regard to D.L.A. and other benefits. Many who had no have transport of their, own desperately needed the mobility component since they could hardly catch the bus when experiencing such severe symptoms, and J.S.A. hardly keeps a person alive, never mind providing for transport costs.

    Yet another ill thought out scheme; one of many that will impoverish and cause chronic hardship to millions in this country: so much for the ‘caring minister’ IDS.

  13. Cameron and Miliband clash over sickness benefits for cancer patients – The Guardian | The Cancer Post

    […] hit cancer Dubs PM 'Disgrace' Over Cancer CareSky NewsPMQs cancer row: MacMillan back MilibandLeft Foot -BBC News -ePolitixall 96 news articles » […]

  14. Will Straw

    Top class primer from @ShamikDas on the #PMQs cancer row and why Macmillan Cancer Support are backing Ed M:

  15. Mabel Horrocks

    RT @leftfootfwd: PMQs cancer row: MacMillan back Miliband

  16. Jill Hayward

    RT @leftfootfwd: PMQs cancer row: MacMillan back Miliband

  17. Shamik Das

    Top class primer from @ShamikDas on the #PMQs cancer row and why Macmillan Cancer Support are backing Ed M:

  18. Ben Furber

    That damn @leftfootfwd using fact, quotes and reason in an argument. Bastards. Summary of today's cancer row:

  19. Ed's Talking Balls

    Ah yes, Mike Hobday.

    Just as Selohesra says…

  20. scandalousbill


    How does the political beliefs or affiliations of Mike Hobday add or detract from his position. And issues he has drawn attention to? The position outlined has been well documented and the supporting statements by Jane Maher and Ciarán Devane, as well, are difficult to attribute to a party partisan leaning.

    Do you feel that it is your obligation as a reactionary and troll to sling mud, or merely that without your glib semi literate musings discussion would be “not quite as impressive”?

    Try debating the very serious issues raised in the OP for a change…if you are able.

  21. Shamik Das

    Yes, Selohesra and ETB – can you please debate the merits of what Hobday said and the points he made. You’re not normally prone to shooting the messenger and normally come up with better, more reasoned comments.

  22. Noxi

    RT @wdjstraw Top class primer from @ShamikDas on the #PMQs cancer row + why Macmillan Cancer Support are backing Ed M:

  23. Mike Thomas


    It’s the words of a charity being for political ends with a figurehead of that charity coincidentally being available for comment FIVE MINUTES after PMQ on the BBC.

    A man who has a long and detailed history with the Labour Party who appears on TV to back the Opposition. Of all the cancer charities to have on the TV at that time huh?

    Can you spell dirty tricks?

    It’s straight out of the McBride book of spin and using cancer patients in that way is an utter disgrace. Same old nasty Labour.

    “Estimates” is the most telling word because if you understood empirical science you would know THAT word should be avoided when addressing FACTS.

  24. Shamik Das

    Mike, with respect, it’s those who are going after Hobday and MacMillan that are the ones drinking from the McBride kool-aid, attacking the individual not debating the facts – you and them are going after him because you’re wrong on the facts. Talk about an “utter disgrace”, “nasty” and “dirty tricks”.

  25. Realpolitik

    Pointing out that Mike Hobday was a Labour candidate in the last election as Guido and Selohesra have done is a bit like arguing over the size of the iceberg that sunk the Titanic. Yet another disasterous policy from a disasterous administration.

  26. Chris

    How is Hobday being a Labour supporter at all relevant? He was speaking in his role as head of MacMillan policy, a non-partisan organisation.

    As for him conveniently being available immediately afterwards, is it such a crime for a politician who wishes to quote an organisation giving them advance notice that he is going to do so, and is it such a crime for such an organisation, having been given that notice, to have someone available for comment immediately afterwards?

    But by all means, don’t let that detract from a good conspiracy theory.

  27. Selohesra

    Mike I think it is pretty clear that this was a rather clumsy plot – whilst it may have grabbed some immediate headlines when people think a little deeper about how Ed had to use all his questions on one issue which according to his own figures only affect up to 7,000 by up to £94 they will see through the spin and realise that Ed was using cancer as a cheap gimmick to take the focus of the maulings he has received in recent weeks. That will only damage his image even more – could it be that Balls put him up to it and is now chuckling as a further nail is driven in Eds coffin.

  28. Ed's Talking Balls

    I was merely pointing it out because in the past LFF has done precisely the same with those backing Tory policies. Shamik, you know this to be true (cf. this truly ridiculous piece by Dominic Browne, perhaps the worst I’ve seen here:

    I don’t believe that affiliation with a political party fatally undermines the credibility of one’s viewpoint. However, I do believe that anyone who has such close links with Labour is obviously going to have that used as a stick to beat him, particularly when Hobday was interviewed on television so soon after Ed Miliband had dedicated all his questions at PMQs to the issue. It definitely looks premeditated.

    I have a great deal of respect for MacMillan Cancer Support and I will always take seriously their views on a matter about which, quite obviously, they know infinitely more than I do. I just wanted to make clear that my comment above was purely in retaliation to what I regarded as juvenile smear attempts in previous LFF articles.

  29. Mike Thomas


    These are ‘estimates’ Macmillan’s own words Shamik, which Milliband passes as fact. I mean, it’s not as if cancer survival rates in the UK are anything to crow about after 13 years of mismanagement are they?

    The rest of it is the tawdry kind of effluent-flinging that Labour excel at complete with media manipulation. As for the accusation of ad hominem, are you on drugs?

    It’s a bit rich to argue over a few million quid when Labour gave the private sector £125m of NHS funds to get diddly-squat back.

    That is a disgrace and shameful.

  30. Ed's Talking Balls

    P.S. I have absolutely no idea why the link I provided about directs you to an entirely different article from the one I meant.

    Hopefully this copy-and-past jon will be more successful:

  31. Gracie


    What has Mike Hobday’s political affiliations got to do with this? Do you not realise that cancer is apolitical?
    Mr Hobday is spokesman for Macmillan Cancer Support, which suggests a degree of knowledge about the subject and is more than qualified to give an expert opinion.

  32. Ron Burns

    So Mr Hobday is politically motivated and Dodgy Dave is not? Back to Central Office for a reboot please..

  33. Gracie

    10 Selohesra

    It was skillful of Ed Miliband to use his question in this way;

    1) It actually concentrated on the debate and vote today on welfare reform.
    2) Once again it exposed Cameron for failing to be on top of his brief.

    This is not the first time Cameron has been found wanting and been totally unaware of specific detail in a bill he is about to vote upon, the last time was the “Liberating the NHS” reforms bill that Cameron voted in favour of *twice*. If it were not for the public, the medical profession, the Labour party etc actually applying pressure and stopping this bill in its tracks then those reforms would be on their way to becoming law, with our NHS in serious danger of destruction and being asset stripped and sold off to the private sector. Exactly the same applies to the Liberal Democrats who were also whipped through the government’s lobby by their leader Nick Clegg, who said he supported the NHS reforms 100%.

    Cameron fluffed his way through PMQs and Ed Miliband was absolutely correct to expose the prime minister’s appalling ignorance on a matter he will be voting for later today.

    Ed Miliband was not using cancer as a cheap gimmick. Ed Miliband is leader of the opposition, it is his job to oppose this government and expose issues exactly like this one. If not Ed Miliband exposing the plight of people *recovering” from cancer, then who? You have already objected to the Macmillan spokesman Mike Hobday speaking about the subject even though this is his job, so who exactly?
    If not choosing today when this bill is to be voted upon late in the HoC, then when?

    Selohesra, I would seriously advise you to examine your own reasons for objecting to this matter being raised.

  34. Raymond Kelly

    McMillan Cancer Support is not the only organisation that takes this view so Hobday’s political affiliations is not the issue.

    The Tories are trying to personalise their attack in order to wriggle out of the position their uncaring and ill thought out policy has landed them in.

  35. Chris Paul

    Top class primer from @ShamikDas on the #PMQs cancer row and why Macmillan Cancer Support are backing Ed M:

  36. Rob

    Is it really so wrong to means test this benefit? – asuming we are serious about tackling the deficit then surely it is better to focus benefit where it is most needed ie those worse off. Whilst cancer is indeed terrible – I lost my mother to it – it should not become a taboo area for politicians to seek efficiencies.

  37. Miliband: PM A ‘Disgrace’ On Cancer Care – Sky News | The Cancer Post

    […] and Cameron clash over impact of welfare reforms on cancer patients24dash (press release)Left Foot Forward -Full Factall 214 news articles » This entry was posted […]

  38. matthew fox

    Ed Miliband alleged missed an open goal, last week, this week Ed Miliband cracks one from outside the box, with his back to goal.

    I see convicted drink driver, Paul Staines, aka Guido, tries to muddy the waters.

  39. 13eastie

    Macmillan is sailing very close to the wind re Charity Commission rules.

    PMQ’s is primarily a party-political affair. It would be ludicrous to argue that Miliband’s raising of this issue in that forum was not principally designed to serve Labour’s interests.

  40. Ed's Talking Balls

    ‘alleged missed an open goal’?

    I suppose Diego Maradona allegedly handled the ball into the net, too…

  41. Selohsra

    Media seem to have seen through Ed’s little stunt yesterday – he must be disappointed with coverage – even BBC didnt go that big on it after first few minutes. Must have seen through his shameless exploitation of the vunerable in order to gain a brief soundbite. Lets hope he pleased with his effort though.

  42. Anon E Mouse

    matthew fox – What has Guido’s previous convictions for anything got to do with the validity of his opinion?

    He is not a public servant – you don’t have to pay for his existence unlike the Labour Party leader who, despite his obvious limitations, did well at PMQ’s yesterday. Why not celebrate that instead of making grubby sneering remarks about someone’s presumably spent convictions?

    Why can’t you stop alienating people that might consider voting Labour and are put off from the smearing nasty aspects of it that you exemplify and continuously remind people of?

    Do you have nothing positive to say about the Labour Party instead of commenting on the character of other contributors here?

  43. Anon E Mouse

    ‘conviction’ sorry….

  44. Ed's Talking Balls

    Future Commons exchanges should be interested.

    Cameron is quite obviously the more accomplished performer but constant U-turns and odd and/or poorly explained policies give Miliband the chance to get on top of proceedings.

    With that in mind, it’s strange that last week was so bad for Miliband. This week he managed to wrongfoot Cameron by asking all six questions about one specific, highly emotive issue. I can’t imagine that such an approach can work in the long-term, but Miliband’s team might think it an avenue worth pursuing.

    In a more wide-ranging debate I think Cameron has the measure of him. But of course PMQs is a bit of a sideshow for the majority who don’t bother to tune into the pantomime.

  45. Anon E Mouse

    Ed’s Talking Balls – You’re right about the pantomime but I reckon even with this not really being a Tory government unless Labour ditch Miliband they are doomed.

    What is most laughable amongst Labour activists is despite the party members and the PLP not supporting him they still get annoyed when he promotes populist ideas like limiting the benefits to the average working wage.

    Do Labour supporters not realise there was a reason Gordon Brown was the least popular PM in history and Tony Blair was the party’s most successful leader ever and one who never lost an election. Brown never won one.

    Miliband did better this week and once Ed Ball’s is slapped down and made to tow the forthcoming party line I think he will do better. He’s no Cameron but who is?

    (The forthcoming party line from Labour is to admit their part in the deficit and apologise for not balancing the books in a boom since 2002…)

  46. Ed's Talking Balls

    Anon E Mouse,

    You’re bang on with regard to activists’ annoyance at Miliband’s only interesting speech, thus far, of his leadership.

    He needs to come round, fast, to the idea that a benefits cap of £26k is popular and right. And he needs to bring his party with him too.

    I am very confident indeed that if the Conservatives stick to their plan to set this up as a direct area of conflict with Labour (commentators have speculated that this is Osborne’s plan), it will be massively fruitful. I can’t think of a politician in history who could convince an electorate that it is wrong to bring benefits payments to a level which makes work more attractive yet still leaves a figure to live on, after tax, of £26k per annum.

    In a period of dizzying U-turns, Cameron must stick to his guns on this one.

  47. Leon Wolfson

    The policy isn’t a “benefits cap”, it’s a policy of breaking up families, especially those with multiple disabled members. It’s something which is very likely, in the mid and long term to lead to higher bills for the NHS, for starters.

  48. Ed's Talking Balls

    It is a benefits cap.

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