Tag Archives: advance

Why is ROBERT #PESTON announcing the new #BorisJohnson #lockdown2 restrictions?

 Robert Peston: how come he’s announcing new government Covid-19 restrictions in advance?

I thought Peston’s erstwhile sidekick Allegra Stratton was the one who quit to become the Tory government’s full-time spokes-goon.

What’s Peston himself doing, announcing new policies before Boris Johnson?

And didn’t Johnson fall foul of the relevant authorities for announcing policies via his media stooges before giving Parliament a chance to look at them?

Yes he did.

Some people never learn – or perhaps Johnson’s just thumbing his nose at everybody else and Peston is simply the empty vessel he’s using to do it.

Here’s what the ITV political editor has claimed will be announced at 5pm today (October 31). Let’s compare it with what Johnson says:

Schools and universities to remain open?

This won’t make much of a dent in the spread of the virus, then.

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Suspend benefit cap to protect disabled people in coronavirus crisis? It’ll never happen under Tories!

She’ll never support it: Therese Coffey’s record suggests she is not sympathetic to disabled benefit claimants.

It’s a good, solid, practical suggestion: with disabled people most at risk of financial loss during the coronavirus crisis, the government should suspend the penalties it has imposed on them in the last 10 years.

These include the benefit cap and the “two-child policy” for benefits relating to children.

Also suggested by the Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC) is conversion of the Universal Credit advance loan into a non-repayable grant.

In fact, the DBC requests the suspension of all debt repayment deductions from UC.

And the organisation calls on the government to suspend work-related conditionality and associated sanctions for those receiving benefits.

Other proposals include a call to give higher priority to resolving technical and capacity issues in the benefits system, as well as providing clear guidance for making both a digital and non-digital claim for UC. This is practical as the Department for Work and Pensions has been swamped with claims after the coronavirus lockdown began.

And there is absolutely no hope that the government will grant – or even seriously consider – any of these requests.

The Tories have turned the benefit system into a very efficient device with which to persecute people with disabilities.

They seem to see the coronavirus as a handy aid to this cause, with hospitals already being told to ration ventilators to those with a better chance of surviving – which is prejudicial against the disabled.

In fact it would be easy to see the crisis as providing the Tories with an opportunity simply to continue their hate campaign by other means.

When the final figures are summed up, it will be interesting to see what proportion of the dead happen to be disabled.

Source: Coronavirus: Suspend the benefit cap during crisis to protect disabled people, charities ask – Mirror Online

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DWP persecutes claimants rather than scammers over ‘industrial scale’ benefit fraud

Despair: It seems the DWP’s plan to tackle Universal Credit fraud is to prosecute the victims, rather than the criminals.

Only one scammer has been prosecuted by the Department for Work and Pensions in connection with a fraud that has cost the nation an estimated £150 million per month.

The 145 dedicated staff hired by the DWP to investigate seem more interested in prosecuting genuine benefit claimants – with one already convicted and 28 facing prosecution.

Doesn’t that seem the wrong way around?

The scam works because people who need to claim benefits have been made increasingly desperate by the economic conditions created by the Conservative government.

Here’s how I described it, back in July:

“The scammer approaches the victim – a person in need of quick cash – and offers to get them a government grant or a payday loan for a small fee. They demand the victim’s identity details.

“The scammer then simply goes online and makes a Universal Credit claim in the victim’s name, demanding an advance loan in the process.

“The DWP’s online system automatically approves the claim because it doesn’t know any better and transfers the money into the victim’s bank account – from which the scammer then takes a huge amount of the money that has been handed over.

“The victim is left with a small fraction of the loan, but owing the entire amount back to the DWP. Not only that, but any other benefits they may have been claiming will have been cancelled.

“So the victim is left much worse-off – and the government department doesn’t care. It will pursue them for the full amount.”

This is what we are seeing now – the DWP is apparently pursuing the victims, rather than the perpetrators.

“It seems the scam works because of Universal Credit’s ‘digital by design’ nature; the computerised system automatically approves the application, no matter how bizarre the claims in it.

“So thousands of pounds have been given in response to claims on behalf of (allegedly) a 19-year-old with six blind children, people with children called Lisa, Bart and Homer – or indeed Ha, Ha and Ha – and people claiming “Harry Kane” is their landlord.

“Apparently 100,000 or more such advances are being paid every month. At up to £1,500 a go, that’s a lot of money.”

It seems the DWP’s 145 investigators are currently looking into 85,000 cases, with the caseload increasing all the time.

Has anything been done to stop the computerised Universal Credit claim system from automatically allowing these scams? If not, why not? Do the Tories see it as another way to persecute the vulnerable?

It seems to This Writer that there is only one way to stop the scammers from exploiting the vulnerable – and to stop the Tories from persecuting them.

Elect a Labour government that will end Universal Credit and implement a fair system in which people won’t be pushed into the arms of criminals.

It’s that simple.

Source: DWP: Just one scammer prosecuted so far for snaring people in Universal Credit fraud – Mirror Online

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Universal Credit loophole that Tories never fixed leads to huge ID theft scam

Amber Rudd: This scandal has come to light on her watch. Will she take responsibility and quit (again)?

The government is handing huge wodges of cash to identity thieves because of a loophole in Universal Credit that the Tories were either too stupid to anticipate, or about which they simply didn’t care.

In all honesty, the scam also relies on the victims themselves being stupid and desperate.

Fortunately for the scammers, economic conditions created by – guess who? – the Conservative government has nurtured an atmosphere of desperation among thousands upon thousands of people who are living hand-to-mouth – and desperation leads people to do unwise things.

It works like this:

The scammer approaches the victim – a person in need of quick cash – and offers to get them a government grant or a payday loan for a small fee. They demand the victim’s identity details.

How do these scammers know who to target? The victim on the BBC News website says she was approached by a smartly-dressed man with a Job Centre Plus card. Where are these people getting their information?

The scammer then simply goes online and makes a Universal Credit claim in the victim’s name, demanding an advance loan in the process.

The DWP’s online system automatically approves the claim because it doesn’t know any better and transfers the money into the victim’s bank account – from which the scammer then takes a huge amount of the money that has been handed over.

The victim is left with a small fraction of the loan, but owing the entire amount back to the DWP. Not only that, but any other benefits they may have been claiming will have been cancelled.

So the victim is left much worse-off – and the government department doesn’t care. It will pursue them for the full amount.

It seems the scam works because of Universal Credit’s “digital by design” nature; the computerised system automatically approves the application, no matter how bizarre the claims in it.

So thousands of pounds have been given in response to claims on behalf of (allegedly) a 19-year-old with six blind children, people with children called Lisa, Bart and Homer – or indeed Ha, Ha and Ha – and people claiming “Harry Kane” is their landlord.

Apparently 100,000 or more such advances are being paid every month. At up to £1,500 a go, that’s a lot of money.

Now get ready for the double-punchline.

Remember when the Tories were trying to accuse genuinely sick and disabled people of benefit fraud, claiming they were “scroungers” and “skivers” to take their cash and drive them to their deaths?

The fraud rate at the time was just two per cent. Now, DWP estimates suggest fraud has skyrocketed – because of a loophole that the government built into the system.

That’s the first punchline.

Here’s the second: This scam was reported by the Daily Express more than a month ago but the BBC has only brought it to wider public attention today.

Why the delay?

Is it because nobody trusts the news media anymore, after they spent the last few years pushing pro-Tory government propaganda?

Source: Universal credit: Multi-million pound scam targets claimants – BBC News

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Squeeze the tenant dry – the latest cunning landlord stunt? – SPeye Joe

Last weekend  the Guardian ran a piece about social landlords response to Universal Credit. They want their tenants – and note the possessive language they always use their tenants, which is why a tenant can never be a customer as they are captive and can’t move – to make additional rent payments to be one month in advance, writes Joe Halewood.

Let me put that into some perspective reader as aside from tenants struggling to even keep up with rent due to the bedroom tax and benefit cap and a range of other welfare cuts this would mean the UK’s housing associations sitting on about £1.68 billion of tenants money.

4.2 million rents at an average of £400 per calendar month is £1.68 billion which is what social landlords want to squeeze out of their tenants.

Notwithstanding the fact that the vast majority of tenancy agreements are weekly tenancies and tenants need to be a week in advance, social landlords are seeking to squeeze the tenants for a further 3.33 weeks of rent between now and UC coming online or in other words paying lip service to their own tenancy agreements as legally binding contracts!

£1.68 billion!

Read the rest on SPeye Joe’s blog.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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ESA audio recordings: Did Hoban answer and does it matter either way?

Audio anywhere: This image proves that Atos assessors can use their own laptop computers to create audio recordings of work capability assessments. They can then use onboard software to burn a CD of the interview and hand it to claimants on the spot. What's the problem?

Audio anywhere: This image proves that Atos assessors can use their own laptop computers to create audio recordings of work capability assessments. They can then use onboard software to burn a CD of the interview and hand it to claimants on the spot. What’s the problem?

He did – and some of the responses were actually encouraging. Most were questionable – meaning, it seems, the government will continuing trying to obstruct attempts to make the assessment process more open.

Those of you who read yesterday’s article will know that the adjournment debate in the House of Commons yesterday was about the audio recording of work capability assessments, which are made as part of the claim process for Employment and Support Allowance.

The government has claimed that, when the service was offered in a pilot scheme, too few people requested it, and only one per cent of them wanted a copy of the recording that was made – but Sheila Gilmore MP, in her speech, pointed out that Atos, the company running the hated assessments, said enough requests had been made to make it desirable. She also pointed out that the procedure for getting a personal copy of the recording was extremely bureaucratic and off-putting.

She asked five questions about the issue and, in an unusual but welcome move, ensured that employment minister Mark Hoban had advance notice of them, thereby offering him no excuse for failure to answer.

In the main, he did. But… well, you’ll see.

Hoban prefaced his responses by affirming that the DWP considers the issue to be important, something that “we must get it right. It accords firmly with our commitment to improving the WCA process continuously”.

But he said: “While we accept that there has been an increase in demand for its use, we must be sure that we understand the evidence base, including that relating to the value to claimants… The evidence needs to be balanced against potential costs, and that is the process in which my officials are currently engaged.”

We’ll go into those extra costs in a moment, but the comment begs an obvious question: Wouldn’t the extra cost be offset by the savings made by having fewer ESA appeal tribunals?

Later he confirmed that a claimant has no legal right to an audio-recorded assessment, and neither the DWP nor Atos Healthcare has a legal obligation to provide an audio-recording service or equipment. “The unavailability of audio recording facilities does not mean that the WCA process can be delayed indefinitely. That could slow down the process unnecessarily.” But he added that, since the introduction of audio recording, only nine requests have been refused owing to the unavailability of equipment.

He said (but the statement is disputable): “All those having face-to-face assessments have been able to request that their sessions be recorded… Claimants can ask for their assessments to be recorded, either by means of the service offered by the Department for Work and Pensions and Atos Healthcare or through the use of their own recording equipment. Requests for an audio recording, whether through the use of Atos Healthcare’s equipment or through the use of equipment provided by a claimant, must be made in advance when a face-to-face assessment is arranged. The purpose of that is to provide adequate notice so that recording equipment can be made available and ready for use.”

This is not what I have found. Long-term readers will know that my partner, the long-suffering Mrs Mike, suffers from a long-term ailment and has undergone the work capability assessment. It took place in early July last year – remember the date. I went with her.

We were not informed of the procedure for requesting audio recordings in any way. I went along with my dictaphone, but when we announced our intention to use it, we were told that would not be acceptable and the assessment would not take place if we insisted on this condition.

Therefore it occurs to me (admittedly from anecdotal evidence) that Hoban’s figures must be skewed. How many claimants found themselves in the same position when they arrived for interview – ready to record – only to have the carpet pulled out from under them? For a disabled person, the only option then is to continue with the assessment because – for many of them, it is a very difficult and painful process simply to reach an assessment centre.

Let’s look at the questions. The first was this: Will the Minister now accept that the number of claimants requesting a copy of their recording is not an accurate reflection of demand, and that the number of people acquiescing to their assessment being recorded is a more appropriate metric to use?

Hoban’s response: “I do not think that it was that difficult to get hold of a copy. The recording might need to be held on a handheld device before it is transferred to a computer and a transcript is printed, but that does not stop people asking for a copy. I thought that was one point in the hon. Lady’s thoughtful speech that was not well substantiated.”

This is inaccurate. For those who have never attended a work capability assessment, the Atos assessors complete them using laptop computers – because the assessment is a tick-box test that demands simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers. Laptops generally come with not only audio recording but also CD burning programs as part of the package, and even if they don’t, freeware recording software is widely available and CD-burning software is also available, if not for free, then for a reasonable price. If the onboard microphones aren’t adequate to the task, it is possible to buy them very cheaply – especially if buying in bulk.

In short, it should be entirely possible to record every single assessment at a reasonably high quality, burn it onto CD and hand it to claimants on the spot. For example, I have an audio copy of yesterday evening’s debate which I can burn off and hand to anybody who wants it for reference. There is no justification for the bureaucratic process through which the DWP currently demands claimants to navigate, which is – as Ms Gilmore noted – off-putting.

Hoban continued: “The results also provided little evidence that audio recording of face-to-face assessments improved the quality of assessments. There was only limited evidence of improvement in the customer experience for some individuals.”

SOME individuals? We must question these ministers’ use of language and that word is telling.

“Of those who took part, fewer than half the claimants thought that audio recording would be helpful to them.”

How were they to know? Did they expect to have to go to appeal and use it to persuade a tribunal? Were they even made aware that this could happen?

“Those are the key areas that Professor Harrington wanted to understand when he called for the original pilot. As a result the Department decided not to introduce audio recording of face-to-face assessments universally on the basis that a facility for all assessments would be extremely costly, with no apparent substantial benefit or improvement in the quality of assessments.”

Not true.

“Since the introduction of a limited audio recording facility in September 2011, fewer than 4,000 claimants have requested a recorded assessment. To date, Atos has conducted more than 2,000 audio-recorded assessments.”

So almost half those who requested a recording were refused it, despite that fact that using laptops to record assessments is cheap and easy?

“During that period almost 1.5 million face-to-face assessments for both ESA and incapacity benefit reassessments have been completed. Therefore, the proportion of recorded assessments is less than 0.2% of all assessments carried out during the period. We need to continue to monitor that take-up, but universal recording for such low numbers does not seem prudent and might not provide value for money.”

Not (provably) true.

We move on to the second question. I give you advance warning that the reply is scandalous: Can the Minister confirm whether any official DWP communications inform claimants that they can have their assessment recorded?

His response was to say that the DWP has recently provided more information about the audio-recording facility on the ‘Inside Government’ section of the gov.uk website. recently? Two years after the option was made available?

And he said: “I am pleased to say that we are … taking steps to boost awareness of audio recording. The Department and Atos are in the process of amending written communications to claimants by updating the WCA AL1C form. The document is sent to claimants when they need to arrange a face-to-face assessment and will provide more information on how to arrange an audio-recorded assessment. We expect the revised form to be sent out to claimants by the end of next month, once the necessary changes have been made and the form has been cleared for use.”

Sheila Gilmore rightly took issue with this, demanding: “Perhaps the Minister might be able to explain why it has taken nearly two years to make that amendment?”

Even if he was, he didn’t.

She also raised the issue of timing, which the DWP frequently uses to skew its statistics: “If I understood him correctly, he said that the evaluation of all this process was being extended to the end of the summer, so if the revised letter is not going out until the end of this month or the end of next month, there will be very little time to judge whether that has made any difference.”

Absolutely correct. This is how the DWP produces many of the figures it uses to hoodwink Parliament and the general public. If a procedure has been available for 24 months, but official documentation has publicised that to claimants for just two or three months, then the results are unreliable.

You will, undoubtedly, be on tenterhooks to know what Hoban had to say about this.

He said nothing.

Question three: Can he indicate how many audio recording devices Atos now have access to?

Yes he can. The total is a staggering 31 audio recording machines, three of which are currently being repaired – so 28 functioning machines. Atos also has access to 21 cassette machines which are on loan from the DWP.

“We constantly monitor the updating of audio recording assessments to ensure that the supply of the equipment meets demand,” said Hoban. Utterly ridiculous, for the reasons already outlined.

Question four: Can he confirm that what few recordings currently occur are part of a wider rollout or a mere further pilot?

This was the question he did not answer.

Finally: Will he accept Professor Harrington’s call for more work to be done on this? And will he rerun the pilot using the level of successful appeals as the key metric in determining whether or not audio recordings improve the quality of assessments?

It seems that he did! “we have decided to extend the evaluation period until the end of the summer to allow us to gather additional data on quality and potential take-up for a subsequent robust decision on any potential future audio-recording provision.

“We now have a benchmark for current take-up but, as has been rightly pointed out, we cannot get a true comparison until we routinely let people know about its availability.”

So what are we to make of these responses?

They’re a mixed bag. There is no excuse for failure to make recordings and hand them over to claimants on the day – that is glaringly obvious and the most scandalous part of this affair. Thanks to computer technology, it is cheap, easy and available. Considering the size of the DWP and the number of assessors employed by Atos, it is inconceivable that nobody was aware of this and therefore we must conclude that the failure to offer the service is an attempt to obstruct transparency by the DWP and its ministers.

There is also no excuse for the almost-two-year delay in revising DWP correspondence to make it clear that audio recording is available to anybody who wants to request it. In fact, because it should be possible to use assessors’ laptops to make those recordings, it is entirely possible to argue that they should offer it verbally at the start of the assessment procedure.

The extension of the evaluation period is to be welcomed – but the brevity of the extension is to be lamented and the “benchmark” data being used to judge the evaluation are entirely questionable.

As ever, with this Coalition government, any dialogue over its procedures is a war of attrition. This issue is not buried yet, and the debate was useful in teasing out the details.

The best we can say for the moment is that this is TO BE CONTINUED…

Nowhere to hide, Mr Hoban: With advance notice of questions there’s no excuse for failure to answer

Now get out of that: Mark Hoban has been challenged to come clean with the facts. If he does, he'll be the first DWP minister to do so since Labour left office.

Now get out of that: Mark Hoban has been challenged to come clean with the facts. If he does, he’ll be the first DWP minister to do so since Labour left office.

Let’s get something straight from the outset: By Parliamentary convention, if a government minister lies to MPs – or is found to have told falsehoods and does not then correct the inaccuracies, that is a resignation matter.

Until the current Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition came into power, this convention was observed by all parties. The fact that the current administration – which, let’s remember, did not win any elections to get into office – does not observe this convention is yet another indication that it is an outlaw government.

Iain Duncan Smith is a classic case of the Coalition attitude. He has told so many porkies to Parliament and the public that he is to be dragged before the Commons Work and Pensions committee to account for them. The trouble is, even if he is forced to admit knowingly misleading us all, there is no reason to expect him to do the decent thing and fall on his sword. He’ll damn our impertinence for having the cheek to question him.

Probably the best way forward with him would be for the Work and Pensions committee to take his case to the Speaker of the House of Commons, and the committee on Standards and Privileges, as this seems to be the correct route to take, in order to expel an MP.* If he won’t go willingly, he’ll have to be pushed.

Of course Mr… Smith might decide to claim he cannot answer some of the more involved questions, if he hasn’t had prior notice of them; he could say he hasn’t been able to put the facts together. Then, instead of admitting he is dishonest, he’ll just be admitting incompetence. No Coalition minister has yet been sacked for that.

One of his fellows who’ll have no such excuse is Mark Hoban, due to face questioning by Sheila Gilmore MP – who also sits on the Work and Pensions committee – in an adjournment debate on the audio recording of Atos work capability assessments at 7pm today (Wednesday, June 12).

Why not? Because she has sent him advance notice of all the questions she will be asking, in her speech, which she has published here for everyone to see.

Firstly, she attacks the government’s assertion – made by Hoban’s fellow truth-bender Chris Grayling, when he was in Hoban’s job – that there is a lack of demand for audio recording of assessments. He said a pilot scheme to test whether audio recording assessments improved their quality had produced a negative result: “We decided not to implement universal recording because, based on the trial experience, people did not want it.”

This is – to nobody’s surprise – untrue.

The Atos pilot concluded, “68% of customers agreed to the recording when contacted by telephone prior to the appointment.”

This total dropped to 46 per cent due to some claimants not taking the assessment. This is most likely caused by the phenomenon of ‘churn’, as discussed on this blog, and others, in previous articles – a fairly consistent number of claimants stop their claim before taking the assessment because they either get better, find a job that can accommodate their disability, or die.

As far as Atos were concerned, the result was beyond doubt: “Our recommendation would be that recording should become routine as it is in a call centre or for example – NHS direct.”

This is the recommendation of the company running the much-criticised assessment scheme, remember. Even Atos wants better accountability and an improved quality of assessment that this may bring.

Ms Gilmore goes on to attack the government’s claim that the number of claimants requesting a copy of their recording is just one per cent. This cannot be regarded as an accurate assessment of the number who would like a copy, for two reasons, she tells us.

Firstly, the assessors used handheld devices to make their recordings, meaning they would have to be transferred to computer and burnt to CD afterwards, preventing claimants from taking recordings away with them on the day. Instead they had to make a further request – in writing. “Unsurprisingly this suppressed uptake,” Ms Gilmore’s speech states.

Secondly, claimants were warned off applying for copies by assessors who told them recordings would only be useful to them if they appealed. The report that stated only one per cent of claimants persisted in their request was completed only days after the pilot study ended, meaning most of those involved had not received a decision on their claim and therefore did not know whether they needed to appeal. Demand may well have been higher, had the measurement been taken after a reasonable time.

This is just one example of the DWP timing processes in order to get its way. We’ll return to that topic in a moment.

Chris Grayling also stated that the DWP would offer “everyone who wants it” the opportunity to have their assessment recorded. In practice, this seems an empty promise, as Atos had around 50 audio recording machines on May 22 this year, but undertakes more than 11,000 assessments every week.

Also, the option to request recordings is not offered in any official DWP communications to claimants. As Arthur Dent points out in The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, it’s not like they’ve gone out of their way, “like actually telling anyone or anything!”

What we’re seeing is a series of attempts to distort information and skew the facts, to create a story that supports DWP ministers’ intentions, rather than the evidence. That’s bad for the country, because it means decisions are taken on the basis of fantasy, diverting attention and effort away from where it is needed.

“Today I have taken the unusual step of emailing a copy of my speech for an upcoming debate to Mark Hoban, the Minister due to speak for the Government,” said Ms Gilmore. “Now he can have no excuse for not answering the important questions I intend to put to him…. I want to ensure the Minister can’t ignore these points, and that’s why I’ve take this action today.”

Whatever happens this evening, it seems unlikely that anything can be done about the DWP’s latest misuse of statistics – actually withholding performance data about the Work Programme (as reported previously in Vox Political) and the Youth Contract until the day after the government’s comprehensive spending review.

This means decisions are likely to be made on ministers’ recommendations, rather than on the basis of fact – and we now know that we cannot trust those recommendations at all.

The Telegraph, reporting the delay, stated that the figures – when they arrive – “are expected to be very disappointing.

“It is hardly unreasonable to say that the Government would sooner Labour did not have these to throw at it when George Osborne gives details of the Comprehensive Spending Review in Parliament on June 26.”

Columnist Tim Wigmore concludes – and this is in the Torygraph, remember: “The Government only has itself to blame if it’s getting harder to give it the benefit of the doubt.”

That time is long gone.

There must be no dishonesty in Parliament.

If Mark Hoban fails to give full and frank answers to the questions Sheila Gilmore has put to him, but resorts to distortions of the figures or outright falsehoods, then he must be expelled from his job, not just as a minister but as an MP.

That goes for his boss, Iain Duncan Smith. It goes for Grant Shapps, Michael Gove (mentioned in the Telegraph article) and, above all, it also goes for David Cameron.

Liars all.

*If any MP is reading this and able to provide details of the correct procedure, please get in touch.

Iain Duncan Smith has committed contempt of Parliament and should be expelled

It's a whopper: How big do you think Iain Duncan Smith's next Parliamentary exaggeration of the truth will be?

It’s a whopper: How big do you think Iain Duncan Smith’s next Parliamentary exaggeration of the truth will be?

Why is Iain Duncan Smith still a member of Parliament?

Apparently there is an offence, here in the UK, known as Contempt of Parliament. An MP is guilty of this if he or she deliberately misleads Parliament, and any MP accused of the offence may be suspended or expelled.

Our odious Work and Pensions secretary is a repeat offender. It is one thing to be “economical with the truth”, as the euphemism goes; it is entirely different to present known falsehoods to the House of Commons as though they were accurate.

Smith’s latest wheeze involves a press release released by his Department of Work and Pensions last month, in which he is quoted as follows: “Already we’ve seen 8,000 people who would have been affected by the [benefits] cap move into jobs. This clearly demonstrates that the cap is having the desired impact.”

There is no evidence to support the claim. This has been made clear by Andrew Dilnot, chair of the UK Statistics Authority, who said in an open letter yesterday (Thursday) that it was “unsupported by the official statistics published by the department”.

He added that an explicit caution had made it clear that the statistics used by Smith to support his claim were “not intended to show the additional numbers entering work as a direct result of the contact”.

In addition, figures released alongside the statement do not comply with the UK’s codes and practices on statistical releases, and concerns have been raised about the methodology and sourcing, along with possible advance sharing of the data with some – sympathetic? – media outlets.

As an aside, it seems unlikely that Mr Dilnot realised, when he accepted his role at the statistics authority, that it would be such a high-profile role. How many people had even heard of it before the Tory-led Coalition government came into power? Precious few, one suspects.

Yet it has now become a household name, due to the Tories’ continued and persistent use of faked statistics.

They claimed the NHS budget was rising when it had fallen – and only yesterday we saw one consequence of this; the critical strain facing accident and emergency units. Remember, many hospitals are having their A&E units closed, adding to the strain on those that are left. Why is this happening, if not to save money?

They also claimed – in a party political broadcast, no less – that the national debt was falling when in fact it has risen massively over the course of this Parliament.

And now this.

Smith is, as mentioned above, a repeat offender: He also stated recently that around a million people have been stuck on benefits for at least three of the last four years, “despite being judged capable of preparing or looking for work”. These figures were, of course, inaccurate – they included single mothers, the seriously ill, and people awaiting testing.

Oxfam’s Katherine Trebeck, policy and advocacy manager for its UK poverty programme, said in The Mirror that this was “beyond the pale”.

She said: “The vast majority of people who are out of work would jump at the chance to take a job that paid them a wage they can afford to live on.”

And the TUC’s general secretary, Frances O’Grady, said in The Guardian: “Only people with weak arguments need to make up statistics.

“The secretary of state needs to apologise – not just to Parliament, but to the many who cannot find jobs, for misusing his department’s statistics in this way.”

The DWP has issued a statement supporting Smith, but its argument is extremely weak. It said anecdotal responses of staff and claimants supported what he had said: “DWP staff and claimants are telling us the cap is impacting behaviour and leading to those affected finally entering the world of work.”

Anecdotal evidence is not fact and cannot be presented as such. Our good friend Wikipedia describes it in these terms: “Because of the small sample, there is a larger chance that it may be unreliable due to cherry-picked or otherwise non-representative samples of typical cases.Anecdotal evidence is considered dubious support of a claim; it is accepted only in lieu of more solid evidence. This is true regardless of the veracity of individual claims.

Manipulation of statistics by the DWP and its secretary of state prompted Debbie Sayers and fellow blogger Jayne Linney – who has supported Vox Political articles many times – to launch a petition on the change.org website, calling on Parliament’s Work and Pensions Committee to hold Smith to account for his habitual offences against government statistics.

The petition is here, and at the time of writing has more than 76,500 signatures. Please sign it if you haven’t already done so.

It’s time for Iain Duncan Smith – who remains, let’s all remember, Vox Political‘s Monster of the Year for 2012 – to put up or shut up. He must either admit that he lied to Parliament and to the people in order to justify his despicable treatment of the most vulnerable people in the country…

… or he must be expelled from Parliament like the disgrace that he is.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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