Mock indignation from IDS won’t halt the uproar over benefit-related deaths

The latest DWP-related death (to be reported in the newspapers): David O'Mar had collected thousands of football kits, to be given to children in Eastern Europe, before he succumbed to pneumonia after a tribunal said he was fit for work - while he was lying in a hospital bed.

The latest DWP-related death (to be reported in the newspapers): David O’Mar had collected thousands of football kits, to be given to children in Eastern Europe, before he succumbed to pneumonia after a tribunal said he was fit for work – while he was lying in a hospital bed.

The Conservative Government’s stalling tactics when confronted with questions about benefit-related deaths have at last tarnished the image of Prime Minister David Cameron, along with his ministers at the Department for Work and Pensions.

When Debbie Abrahams, a Labour MP whose own image is refreshingly glowing after she stood up for her principles and voted against the Tory ‘Welfare’ Bill last night, asked an Urgent Question of him in the House of Commons yesterday (Tuesday), Cameron was nowhere to be found, having run like a jackrabbit and left others to face the grilling.

His Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, was present – but refused to respond, despite this being an issue of serious concern to the public.

Instead, he sent his minister for employment, Priti Patel, to the Dispatch Box and confined himself to muttered comments from the sidelines. At one point he could be heard very clearly, whining, “Don’t lecture us about it.”

It was a public relations disaster – and on the very last day before the summer recess, meaning people will remember it.

Ms Abrahams asked the Prime Minister to make a statement on his commitment of June 24, to publish DWP data on the number of people in receipt of Employment and Support Allowance and Incapacity Benefit who have died since November 2011, including those found fit for work – to honour This Writer’s Freedom of Information request on the subject, and answer more than 240,000 petitioners who have supported it.

“I am disappointed that the Prime Minister is not here in person to explain why he has not yet honoured his commitment,” she said.

“When will we see the data published?” she asked of Ms Patel. “When are they being prepared for publication?”

“Will the Minister commit to publishing the actual numbers of deaths?”

She also asked how much the DWP had spent on staff and legal fees in the decision to refuse my FoI request – and now to contest the Information Commissioner’s ruling that my question should be answered.

She called on Duncan Smith to reconsider his decision not to publish the details on any of the DWP’s 49 peer reviews into social security claimants who died, including – importantly – changes brought forward by the department as a result of them.

Finally, she asked what assessment has been undertaken of the potential impact on the health status of those on Incapacity Benefit or Employment and Support Allowance, given the measures introduced in the Welfare Reform and Work Bill.

Ms Patel repeated the platitudes we have heard already – that the information will be published “but before doing so the statistics need to meet the high standards expected”.

She added: “We will publish all aspects of the data that we have been asked to publish.”

Rest assured that this writer will hold her – and the Conservative Government – to that!

She did not say anything about the cost of refusing and appealing against my FoI request, about the 49 peer reviews, or about assessments of the health status of those on IB or ESA – despite being challenged several times by different MPs on the first of these issues in particular.

The tone of Ms Patel’s responses left so much to be desire that it attracted particular comment from – among others – the Father of the House, Gerald Kaufman.

In a room where emotions were already running high, due to the nature of the issue being discussed, she began by demanding: “Would Labour Members like to listen to my response before they start chuntering away?”

Her response was immediately branded “arrogant” by Mr Kaufman and a later claim that the Conservative-led Coalition was the first government to publish statistics on benefit-related deaths was labelled “misleading” by Labour MP Dawn Butler.

It is as though the government deliberately set out to cause upset, as Parliament dissolved for its summer recess.

For the record, the last-published statistics on benefit-related deaths were released in July 2012 and conveyed figures for the period January-November 2011, in which 10,600 ESA claimants died. That’s around one every two or three hours.

As Labour’s Kate Green pointed out: “There is huge disquiet among disabled people, as story after story surfaces in the media about disabled people being found fit for work and dying shortly afterwards—last week another story appeared in the Daily Mirror about a disabled man who died two weeks after his assessment.

“The shenanigans in the DWP around the release of the statistics are concerning—and puzzling, if the Department has nothing to hide.”

Mr Kaufman put Ms Patel right in her place when he said: “I say to the junior Minister that she needs to take some lessons from her boss in dealing with questions in this House, because whatever the nature of his replies, he replies with courtesy. She needs to learn about that as well.”

He had already cast doubt on the honesty of the Conservative Government as a whole, remarking witheringly: “I wish my hon. Friend (Debbie Abrahams) every good fortune in awaiting a reply to a letter to the Prime Minister, in view of the fact that in the last five years I have had exactly one letter from him, and that was after I had received a letter from No. 10 signed by somebody who did not exist.”

Join the Vox Political Facebook page.

If you have enjoyed this article, don’t forget to share it using the buttons at the bottom of this page. Politics is about everybody – so let’s try to get everybody involved!

Vox Political needs your help!
If you want to support this site
but don’t want to give your money to advertisers)
you can make a one-off donation here:

Donate Button with Credit Cards

Buy Vox Political books so we can continue
fighting for the facts.

Health Warning: Government! is now available
in either print or eBook format here:

HWG PrintHWG eBook

The first collection, Strong Words and Hard Times,
is still available in either print or eBook format here:


34 thoughts on “Mock indignation from IDS won’t halt the uproar over benefit-related deaths

  1. ian725

    The Tory infantry are beginning to waver, tremble and worry over their own careers it is early in the term but I surmise Labour will band and strengthen along with the other opposition parties including the SNP against Hoodlum Conservative Government. By the way I would like to submit that Labour has not gone to bed with the Tories the only similarity is that they are both Unionist Parties. Having said that it does look as though Cameron and Co are doing their best to separate the Union. Of course they believe that the Conservatives would then hold the power in England for the next few decades. I shudder at that thought it is evil. Mick keep chipping away you are doing a grand job.

  2. Jeffery Davies

    You had stated the government couldnt fiddle the figures
    but rtu ids is another kind of devil who does whot he likes
    getting away lies deceit honest nay but a devil yes you bet
    But those figures will not be true but covered by deceitful
    Other figures covering the true figure it seems this devils is getting away againg hiding the truth away

  3. Mr.Angry

    Is there no outside source that can bring these evil evil Tory ministers to account ?

    It’s difficult to accept this type of denial can take place inside the houses of parliament by senior ministers and the PM it’s tantamount to criminal.

    My sincere gratitude goes out to VP and Debbie Abrahams and others for their continued efforts and persistence in these matters.

    Families are no doubt sat in silence grieving for the loss of their loved ones who’s lives have been destroyed by a pack of soulless evil Tories.

    Clearly they have hit an extremely raw nerve with IDS and Cameron running scared and the issue is gathering a rapid momentum, something is going to give soon I can sense it.

    What happened to the support of our wonderful Labour party one wonders.

  4. Scales

    Mike, it is heartening to see 94 MPs thus far signing Early Day Motion 285 about ESA deaths – including Mhairi Black from the SNP!!!

    Well, well, well!!!

    With such a large proportion of SNP MPs signing that EDM, no one will ever describe Scotland as a back office again.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Nobody ever did describe Scotland as a back office – apart from SNP supporters, referring to the way (they said) Labour treated it.
      I see you are now spelling Ms Black’s name correctly – well done!
      (For other readers, this is the same person who pretended to be Ms Black in a not-very-convincing impersonation that failed mostly because her name was misspelled.)

      1. Scales

        Mike, you said “nobody one ever described Scotland as a back office”.

        Wrong! It was described thus, not as you said by SNP supporters, but by the leader of the Scottish Labour party, Johann Lamont, who presumably knows what she’s talking about from front line experience. (She actually used the expression BRANCH office not BACK office – my mistake earlier, sorry).

        Secondly, when I “pretended” tongue-in-cheek to be “Mhari” Black, I deliberately mis-spelled her first name to avoid charges of impersonation – or indeed plagiarism!!

        By the way, Johanna Lamont resigned as leader of Scottish Labour after the Independence referendum; if she had resigned before the referendum the outcome of the latter might well have been different – as it might be when and if there is a second referendum!!

        It’s no great wonder Labour is in turmoil, being currently leaderless and rudderless north AND south of the border. Perhaps it will take a generation (of Tory rule) for the True Labour party to be reformed.

        The final word must go to Mhairi Black MP, who said: NEW LABOUR IS NOT LABOUR – the best expression I’ve heard to sum Labour’s floundering plight up!

      2. Mike Sivier Post author

        Johann Lamont was referring to Labour in Scotland being a branch office of the UK Labour Party – which it is. SNP hardliners tried to take offence to this, but only showed their lack of understanding of UK politics. Labour is a UK-wide party; it has branches in all the countries of the UK, but does not have separate Labour Parties for those countries. This would not be sensible.
        If Mhairi Black really said “New Labour is not Labour”, she was five years too late; Ed Miliband killed off New Labour as an entity in 2010. I guess some people are forever harking back to mythical times rather than dealing with reality. 😉

      3. Scales

        Mike…yes, Ed Miliband did not go down too well on either side of the border, but also don’t forget Tony Blair MP is an anagram of I’m Tory Plan B!!!

        And don’t forget wee Mhairi comes from a solid Labour background – not some mythical past!!!

      4. Mike Sivier Post author

        Don’t try to twist my words, please. I was pointing out that, for Mhairi Black to think Labour was still ‘New Labour’, she must have disengaged from reality at some point. Come to think of it, that probably explains her membership of the SNP.

    2. hugosmum70

      no matter who said this, for a long time ive been telling people this when anyone in the forums or on Facebook have made remarks calling labour that. only Tony Blair called it that. it ceased to be NEW labour as Mike says. when Ed Milliband became leader and in my opinion rightly so. i am so disappointed that 14 MPs who supported Jeremy Corbyn have said they wish they hadnt and wont be voting for him, because although he may be a bit TOO far left, he has the welfare of the poor ,ill and disabled, the unemployed etc at heart and to me that cannot be bad. SOMETHING needs to be done to stop the onslaught on those people. as well as bringing industry back to Britain making full time jobs available. not piffling things that last a few weeks and upset housing benefit etc causing arrears to build up. and to get the NHS ,transport systems and housing back to how they were but better.

  5. amnesiaclinic

    Well done, Mike. Excellent blog and thanks for keeping us informed.

    We will get these numbers eventually but they are just making things worse by all the stalling. They will be quietly released in a very doctored form on the back of some very big news and buried.

    Then we have to start to get the reforms.

    PEOPLE ARE DYING by the hour and it’s only going to get worse.
    How stupid is that?

  6. Daniel Margrain

    Of course, it should also be pointed out that Duncan Smith was nowhere to be seen during the election campaign to justify his position to journalists.Conveniently, the opposition were nowhere to be seen either. So Duncan Smith wasn’t accountable to anybody and yet we were constantly being told after the election that the Tories were elected on a mandate of cuts.

  7. wildswimmerpete

    I suspect that anybody walking past Caxton House in the small hours will hear sounds of shredding from the basement. There’s no way Duncan Smith will release information that could lead to his arrest and charging with serious criminal offences.

      1. Mike Sivier Post author

        Attempts have been made to encourage the UN, the EU, the ECHR and so on to take an interest. Nothing so far I’m afraid.

  8. Phill Evans

    Mike, do you know of anyone/organisation who is compiling a verifiable list of the dead from non governmental sources? If not I think it needs doing. And yes, I am putting myself forward to do it (and to hunt out the funding it would need, too.)

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      There are a few, like the Facebook group National Remembrance for the DWP/Atos Dead.
      Trouble is, all we can really get is newspaper and eyewitness accounts. We can’t put together a full picture using the sources available to us and this is a serious handicap.

  9. ian725

    “PEOPLE ARE DYING by the hour and it’s only going to get worse. How stupid is that?” Its NOT STUPID !….. Its EVIL !!

  10. quinnybuzz

    The Noose is getting a tighter around that lying little c*** ids’s neck he’s gormless s** failed leader failed in the Army failed at the DEPARTMENT FOR DECEIT AND SANCTIONS!!

  11. Daniel Margrain

    “I was pointing out that, for Mhairi Black to think Labour was still ‘New Labour’, she must have disengaged from reality at some point.”

    To all intents and purposes it is. Black is quite correct.

    1. Scales

      Daniel Margrain, you quote Mike manipulating my own words about Mhairi Black. Mike is so good at spinning and twisting words, he should have been a politician!

      1. Scales

        One thing is certain. Whatever Labour is currently, it is not TRUE Labour. The electorate are not fooled – especially after the decisive result in Scotland.

        Labour deserved it’s Nemesis at the General Election – because compromise serves NO cause.

      2. Mike Sivier Post author

        Again with the generalisations and the self-reflexive claim about Scotland.
        You may be right about the election result, though.

      3. Mike Sivier Post author

        That has to be a poor attempt at humour, right.
        On here, it’s the SNP that acts tribalistically and then tries to claim others are doing so.
        Tell us, what party do you support?

  12. Scales

    Tell me, Mike, what do you think of the following view, a view which is prevalent in Scotland:


    As far as I can see, the statement is sound unless Labour undergoes a political Reformation, and that might take a generation (of Tory rule), by which time the UK might no longer exist politically as we know it today!

    But can you reform a corpse? Into what?

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      I don’t accept the premise of the question. It assumes the recent SNP gains are permanent, and there is no reason to believe it is true.

  13. Daniel Margrain

    I voted with gritted teeth for my local Labour candidate on a tactical basis. After having studied the various manifesto’s, I came to the conclusion that the policies of the Greens were the most progressive. But given the flaws of our electoral system, I realized that it would have been a wasted vote. If I had been living in Scotland, I would have voted for the party that most closely represented old labour values – the SNP – who have filled the vacuum vacated by labour in Scotland whose said values have deserted them.

    I would support labour if it offered a genuine alternative to the Tories which the election of Corbyn would represent. But the ideological gap between the views of the membership and those of the leadership is tearing the party apart. It’s precisely this kind of democratic deficit that will make the party unelectable and lead to its demise, NOT the drift to the right as the media propaganda would have us believe.

    This is what I wrote in my blog piece:

    “Increasingly, the political battle lines are being drawn,not between the ruling party and the opposition, but between the ruling party, opposition and the rest of us. I don’t remember a time when the disconnect between the political establishment and the people has been greater. For the vast majority of the political establishment and their paymasters in the corporate media, they really are all in it together. But that doesn’t mean that left wing views are unelectable as Nicola Sturgeon has shown. Maybe Jeremy will become England’s Nicola. We need him.”

  14. mrmarcpc

    It’s the tories who should be mocked and stripped of everything, make them live rough without a penny to their names, no one will cry or care for them!

Comments are closed.