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This Tory fiction is getting old very quickly.
Today, David Cameron spat out the current Conservative Government line about the people who have died while claiming incapacity benefits. He was responding to Debbie Abrahams, who has been a superb campaigner on the subject. Here’s her question:
“Two weeks ago, the Work and Pensions Secretary’s Department not only admitted to falsifying testimonies in leaflets, but published data on the deaths of people on sickness benefit, which showed that they are four times more likely to die than the general population. That was after the Secretary of State told the House that these data did not exist. Given that, and his offensive remarks earlier this week—referring to people without disabilities as “normal”—when will the Prime Minister take control and respond to my call for the Work and Pensions Secretary to be investigated for breaching the ministerial code?”
Everything in her question was accurate. The DWP has admitted falsifying testimonies in leaflets. The DWP’s data does show that people on incapacity benefits are four times more likely to die than the general population. Iain Duncan Smith had told MPs that this information did not even exist.
She drew no conclusions from these facts, other than that Iain Duncan Smith should be investigated for breaking the ministerial code.
So why did David Cameron go off on a tangent about “people being wrongly assessed as fit to work”? Ms Abrahams never even suggested that!
He said: “First, let me deal very directly with the publication of this data. This data was published because I promised at this Dispatch Box that it would be published, in a way that it was never published under any Labour Government. That is the first point.”
Point-less, in fact. And a lie. The data was published because the Information Commissioner had upheld my appeal against the DWP’s refusal to provide me with the information. It had nothing to do with any promises he made at the Dispatch Box.
“I also think we should be clear about what this data shows. It does not show people being wrongly assessed as fit to work. It does not show people dying as a result of their benefits being taken away.”
Pointless, again. Nobody is disputing that. It does, however, raise serious questions about whether people are being wrongly assessed as fit to work or dying as a result of their benefits being removed – questions that the DWP has failed to answer.
“If you listen to the organisation Full Fact, it has said—[Interruption.]” Whoever interrupted was quite right to do so. Nobody should pay any attention to Full Fact on this matter. As mentioned previously on This Blog, the article is drivel that is unfit for use as toilet paper.
Pressing on with his non-existent point, Cameron droned: “I have to say to [the] hon. Gentlemen shouting that two newspapers have printed that and had to retract it, so I think that people should actually look at the facts. A fact-checking organisation says: ‘It was widely reported that thousands of people died within weeks of being found ‘fit for work’ and losing their benefits. This is wrong.’ Perhaps the hon. Lady should read that before asking her next question.”
Perhaps Mr Cameron should learn the full facts about his own government’s benefit system before spouting such nonsense. The DWP’s statistical release states quite clearly that 2,380 people with a WCA decision of “fit for work” flowed off-benefit with a date of death at the same time, meaning (if one checks the small print) “those whose date of death is up to 14 days after the claim end date for ESA”. Claims are ended immediately when people are found “fit for work”, therefore these people passed away within two weeks of being found ‘fit for work’ and losing their benefits.
Or perhaps Mr Cameron is a liar.
Having taken the time to address three issues that had not even been mentioned, the Prime Minister then failed to answer the one question he had been asked.
So, when will Iain Duncan Smith be investigated for breaching the Ministerial Code?
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