The last two anti-Iain Duncan Smith posts have been leading towards this – a call to action by Jayne Linney. It appears on her blog but hopefully she won’t mind that you can read it in full here. It’s worth it. She writes:
After yet another series of posts demonstrating how IDS and the DWP are continuing to lie about the impact of Welfare Reform on disabled people; I decided it was time to take action, and along with Debbie Sayers, we’ve started another petition.
This time we are demanding – KATHRYN HUDSON PARLIAMENTARY COMMISSIONER FOR STANDARDS to
Use the full Powers of the Commission and investigate Iain Duncan Smith Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, for his regular use of untruths and the persistent deception misleading of The House of Commons, Select Committees and the Media.
The Commissioner is responsible for investigating complaints about MPs who have allegedly breached the Code of Conduct or related Rules and we believe IDS has breached at least TWO of the Principles. Most of these principles are concerned with finance and expenses but, we argue IDS persistent use of distorted statistics, causes a breach of Accountabilityand Honesty; this is especially the case asThe Government in their response to the Work & Pensions and the Public Administrations Select Committees, agree that “Government statistics should be presented in a way that is fair, accurate and “unspun” .
” Iain Duncan Smith continues to ignore his Government and persists in misusing statistics, and it is for these reasons we believe it is time for the Powers of the Commissioner for standards to be exercised, and for Iain Duncan Smith to be independently and openly investigated for breach of Conduct”
If YOU agree that it is time for IDS to be made to pay for this ongoing assault on disabled people, please SIGN, SHARE, BLOG, & TWEET about this Campaign –
Several months ago this blog accused Iain Duncan Smith of being a liar and a coward because, not only had he fabricated statistics on the number of people leaving benefits because of his new benefit cap, but he had also weaseled his way out of an appearance before the Commons Work and Pensions Committee to account for this behaviour.
The very next day, we had to apologise (to readers) and publish a correction saying that the man we call ‘Returned To Unit’ would be attending a follow-up meeting in September, at which the 100,000-signature petition calling him to account for the benefit cap lies, organised by Jayne Linney and Debbie Sayers, would also be presented to MPs.
Apparently the meeting was being timed to coincide with publication of the DWP’s annual report for 2012-13.
Now it is November, and we have still had no meeting with RTU. Nor have we seen the annual report, which is now almost eight months late. Meanwhile the calamities at the DWP have been mounting up.
The latest appears in a Guardian report published yesterday, about the ongoing disaster that is Universal Credit. You may remember, Dear Reader, that the Department for Work and Pensions has admitted it had to write off £34 million that had been spent on the scheme; it subsequently emerged that the total amount to be written off might actually be as high as £161 million.
The Guardian article appears to confirm this, adding £120 million to the £34 already written off if the DWP follows one of two possible plans to take the nightmarish scheme forward.
The other plan would attempt to salvage the existing system, and is understood to be favoured by the Secretary-in-a-State. The drawback is that it could lead to an even greater waste of taxpayers’ money (not that this has ever been a consideration for Mr… Smith in the past. He’ll waste millions like water while depriving people of the pennies they need to survive).
Universal Credit aims to merge six major benefits and tax credits into one, restricting eligibility for the new benefit in order to cut down on payouts. It relies on the government creating a computer programme that can synchronise systems run by HM Revenue and Customs, the DWP itself, and employers. So far, this has proved impossible and a planned rollout in April was restricted to just one Job Centre, where staff handled only the simplest claims and worked them out on paper. Later revelations showed that the system as currently devised has no way of weeding out fraudulent claims.
A leaked risk assessment says the web-based scheme is “unproven… at this scale”, and that it would not be possible to roll out the new system “within the preferred timescale”. Smith has continually maintained that it will be delivered on time and on budget but, as concerns continue to be raised by senior civil servants that systems are not working as expected and there are too many design flaws, it seems likely this is a career-ending claim.
Is this why he hasn’t deigned to account for himself before the Work and Pensions Committee?
Is this why he hasn’t deigned to account for himself before the committee?
We have yet to learn why this man felt justified in claiming 8,000 – and then 12,000 – people had left benefits because of the £26,000 cap he introduced in April (he claimed it is equal to average family income but in fact it is £5,000 and change short of that amount as he failed to consider benefits that such families could draw). Information from polling company Ipsos Mori showed that the real number of people who had dropped their claims after hearing of the scheme was more likely to be 450 – just nine per cent of the figure he originally quoted.
Is this why he hasn’t put a meeting with the committee in his diary?
Perhaps we should not be surprised, though – it seems that RTU has never had a decent grip on the way his department works. For example, he allowed George Osborne to cancel Disability Living Allowance for one-fifth of claimants in 2010, claiming that the benefit had been “spiralling” out of control because it had 3.1 million claimants – triple the number since it was introduced in 1992. Smith said the rise was “inexplicable” but in fact the explanation is simplicity itself, as The Guardian‘s Polly Toynbee pointed out just two days ago:
“DLA is only paid to those of working age, but when they retire they keep it, so as more people since 1992 move into retirement, numbers rise fast. There has been no change in numbers with physical conditions, despite a larger population; back injuries have declined with the decline of heavy industry. There has been a real growth in numbers with learning disabilities: more premature babies survive but with disabilities, while those with Down’s syndrome no longer die young. More people with mental illness claim DLA now, following changes in case law: there has been no increase in mental illness, with 7% of the population seriously ill enough to be receiving treatment, yet only 1% claim DLA. Psychosis is the commonest DLA diagnosis, hardly a trivial condition. This pattern of disability mirrors the rest of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries, with nothing exceptional here.”
In other words, from the moment he took over this hugely important government department, with its huge – and controversial – budget, Iain Duncan Smith had about as much understanding of its workings as a child.
It seems Sir John Major was exactly right when he expressed fears about the DWP Secretary’s ability last week, claiming his genius “has not been proven”.
Is this why we’ve seen neither hide nor … head of the Secretary of State?
Finally, Dear Reader, you will be aware that Vox Political submitted a Freedom of Information request to the DWP, asking for up-to-date statistics on the number of Employment and Support Allowance claimants who have died during a claim or while appealing against a decision about a claim – and that the request was dismissed on the indefensible grounds that it was “vexatious”. This was not good enough so the matter went to the Information Commissioner’s office and, according to an email received this week, will soon be brought to a conclusion.
Is this why Iain Duncan Smith is hiding?
Perhaps it’s time to drag him out of his bolt-hole and force some answers out of him.
Jayne (Linney), in her blog, has called on people who use Twitter to start tweeting demands for Smith to come forward, using the hashtags #whereisIDS and #DWPLateReview. This is good, and those of you who do so are welcome to use any of the information in this article as ammunition in such a campaign.
There is nothing to stop anyone writing to the press – local or national – to ask what is going on and why benefit claimants are being left in suspense about the future of their claims. People have to work out how they will pay their bills, and the continued uncertainty caused by Mr… Smith’s catalogue of calamities is causing problems up and down the country.
A short message to your MP might help stir the Secretary of State out of his slumber, also.
Cool your engines, everybody; it seems that Iain Duncan Smith was never going to the Work and Pensions Committee meeting in June, despite what we had all been led to believe.
This morning I received a message from Jayne Linney, one of the authors of the petition to make LieDS account for himself before the Parliamentary Committee.
It said that, in fact, he never was going to attend the committee in June/July: “This is an evidence-gathering meeting only. IDS is to attend the follow up Q&A session on September 4 when we are also submitting the petition.
“We’ve been working with Anne Begg, Sheila Gilmore and Debbie Abrahams on this and as far as I know this remains the same.”
This information supercedes the notice on Jayne and Debbie Sayers’ petition website that states, “Iain Duncan Smith will face questions by the Committee over his department’s use of statistics in June”.
I am grateful to Jayne (and Debbie, who also got in touch) for providing this corrected information. It is disappointing that the officials who have been working on this matter did not see fit to keep the public informed about developments. I know many other people, besides myself, spent much of June on tenterhooks, waiting for the meeting – with Mr… Smith – to take place and wondering why it was taking so long.
He thinks he got away with it: Look at that smug smile. But Iain… Smith has committed contempt of Parliament. He admitted his guilt by failing to explain his actions to a Parliamentary committee and now he must be expelled from Westminster. Nothing less will suffice.
We were all so thrilled at the time. After being outed as a liar by some of our favourite blogs, and after more than 100,000 people signed a petition calling for him to be held to account, we heard that Iain Duncan Smith was to be called before Parliament’s Work and Pensions committee to account for the statistical falsehoods he has been spreading around Westminster and the UK like a new disease.
The session, covering recent UK Statistics Authority investigations into complaints about benefit statistics and the DWP’s response, the quality and accessibility of the department’s statistics, its processes for preparing and releasing statistics, and its role in helping the media interpret those statistics, will instead question two civil servants.
They are David Frazer, head of information, governance and security directorate at the DWP; and John Shields, director of communications at the DWP. And they are completely uninteresting.
I can tell you what they’ll say right now. They’ll say they produced the statistics in good faith, all with warnings on them, telling ministers like the Secretary-in-a-State that they should not be misrepresented in certain ways (especially the ways he has misrepresented them).
For example: Smith’s claim that “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.”
We know there is no evidence to support this claim. We also know that the DWP officials who provided the figures issued an explicit caution, that they were “not intended to show the additional numbers entering work as a direct result of the contact”.
It is therefore pointless to interrogate the officials over the wrongdoing of the Secretary of State, or any other Conservative or Coalition MP who has bent the facts before the public.
The no-show by the DWP’s head honcho will be a huge let-down, especially for the 100,332 people who signed disability activists Jayne Linney and Debbie Sayers’ petition for the Work and Pensions Committee to hold Iain Duncan Smith to account for his lies.
After the committee announced that it would question him in June, they wrote: “We are really proud that we started this petition. It’s often feels like politicians get away with saying whatever they like. By starting this petition we’ve shown that everyone has the tools to call politicians out if they try to make things up. They can’t get away with spinning statistics any longer.”
It is now apparent that politicians think they can get away with it if they don’t bother to turn up and explain themselves.
So let’s just put it to the Work and Pensions committee that it should forget about the meeting, which is now due to take place on July 10.
Let’s all accept Iain Duncan Smith’s refusal to attend as what it is – an act of cowardice and an admission of guilt.
If he won’t defend himself, then he must stand guilty of the offence.
This brings us to the question of the penalty he should pay.
I refer you to my article earlier this year, in which I quoted Parliamentary convention: “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.
“It’s time for Iain Duncan Smith 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.”
He has made it clear that he will admit nothing. He won’t even bother to explain himself.
There is now only one option available. It’s time he got the boot.
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.
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