Iain Duncan Smith has hit a new low this week.
The Gentleman Ranker has labelled the British people as “disgraceful” because they are supporting a petition to force his Department for Work and Pensions to reveal information that should be published routinely.
“Disgraceful”, is it?
To This Writer, it is “disgraceful” that the Secretary of State has lied to his fellow MPs yet again about the facts relating to people who have died while claiming sickness and disability benefits.
The “disgraceful” Duncan Smith said, “The Department does not collate numbers on people in that circumstance.” In fact, we all know – because I have published it here – that the DWP does hold, and could provide within the cost limit for Freedom of Information requests, figures on the number of claimants who have died. That was said in an email between the DWP and the Information Commissioner’s office on October 21, 2013.
His attitude has been pilloried by the Daily Mirror. Under the headline, “Iain Duncan Smith claims 200,000-strong campaign to reveal Tory benefits deaths is ‘disgraceful'”, reporter Dan Bloom stated: “Iain Duncan Smith has attacked a ‘disgraceful’ campaign to reveal the number of people who died after being declared fit for work.
“The Work and Pensions Secretary lashed out after coming under fire over the figures – which his department is waging a legal battle to keep secret.”
Duncan Smith, who readers of this blog like to describe as RTU (Return To Unit) and SNLR (Services No Longer Required) in acknowledgement of his failed career in the Army, was reacting to questions from Labour MPs Marie Rimmer and Debbie Abrahams, in the House of Commons yesterday (Monday).
Ms Rimmer asked “why the Government are refusing to publish—even though the Information Commissioner has instructed them to do so—the up-to-date statistics”.
His “disgraceful” response was: “I find it absurd that Opposition Members deliberately try to misrepresent what happens under such schemes. I remind the hon. Lady that it was her Government who introduced the employment support allowance and the work capability assessment, and at no stage did they say that that led to people committing suicide. People in that situation are often in a very delicate and difficult position, and I find it disgraceful that she is going round making such allegations.”
Let’s just correct him on that. When Labour introduced ESA and the work capability assessment ‘medical’ test, it was not perfect – This Blog has campaigned for the removal of both and their replacement with a more humane system since it was founded in 2011. However, it was not until Duncan Smith arrived at the DWP and ratcheted up the stress for claimants with the additional of hugely stressful conditions and demands that the deaths started mounting.
He knows perfectly well that 10,600 people died between January and November 2011. Why did his department not publish statistics for the full year? Was it because he and his ministers know that the period leading up to Christmas regularly suffers an increase in suicides and they did not want the figures to be even more calamitous than they were already?
Those numbers are a disaster for the UK’s social security system, yet this man seems to be proud of them. He is certainly determined to defend the regime that created them, and to keep it in place.
Debbie Abrahams – a long-time friend of This Blog due to her actions as a member of the Work and Pensions Committee in the last Parliament – asked: “Given that on 5 June the High Court found the Department’s actions—this time on PIP delays—unlawful, does the Secretary of State think that he and his Department are above the law? Why does he refuse to publish the details of the number of people who have died within six weeks of their claims for incapacity benefit and employment and support allowance, including those who have been found fit for work?”
Duncan Smith’s “disgraceful” response failed to answer either of these questions. He whined: “I find it unbelievable that she, the hon. Lady and others have spent all their time trying to make allegations about people going about their work. She knows very well that the Department does not collate numbers on people in that circumstance. It deals with individual cases where things have gone right or gone wrong and reviews them. It is a crying shame that Labour Members want to go out every day scaring and frightening people. It is no wonder they lost the election.”
No – he knows that the statistics he is withholding will terrify people. That is why he is trying to keep them secret. If they had been published, his Conservative Party would undoubtedly have lost the election instead of Labour.
It remains to be seen whether the facts are so abominable that Duncan Smith himself should face criminal proceedings, as many believe.
Is he withholding the evidence simply to save his own scrawny neck?
The petition currently has around 220,000 signatures. Please sign it if you haven’t already, and publicise it widely so we can push it up to 400,000 signatures as soon as possible.
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