Tag Archives: figures

Now the Tories have stopped publishing Covid-19 death figures – with a flimsy excuse

The Conservative government has stopped telling us how many people are dying of Covid-19 every day because it contradicts the plan to lift lockdown.

I mean: because Health Secretary Matt Hancock has demanded a review of the way the figures are calculated.

But here’s a suggestion: why can’t the figures be published using the current system, until this review is completed and a new method put into practice if necessary?

ITV’s news story says researchers have claimed the way deaths are reported across England has led to an “over-exaggeration” of the figures due to “statistical flaws”.

This suggests that the figures as reported are higher than the actual number of deaths.

But whenever I’ve seen the figures modified, it is the new total that is higher.

So I doubt the sincerity of these so-called “researchers'” remarks. And I distrust the Tories’ reason for suppressing the numbers altogether.

Source: Publication of UK daily coronavirus death figures put on ‘pause’ as Matt Hancock calls for review into PHE data | ITV News

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Coronavirus: ONS says almost twice as many people have died as official statistics say

This is absolutely damning.

The Office For National Statistics, which last week reported that the government had been under-reporting coronavirus-related deaths by 23.5 per cent, has now suggested the difference has increased to 78 per cent.

The government’s official death tally on March 27 was 926 – but the ONS said NHS England alone reported 1,650 deaths related to the virus by that date.

It also means that the true death toll by today’s date is likely to be far higher than the government’s current figure of 5,373.

Let’s be honest – on these ONS figures, the death toll is likely to be 10,000 or more. And that’s just in England.

Source: New analysis points to hundreds more coronavirus deaths than official stats reveal | London Evening Standard

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Coronavirus: the Tories have LIED about the daily death toll – INCREASING fears. Why?

Take a look at this headline:

Is it working? UK records 43 coronavirus deaths in past 24 hours compared to 87 yesterday

You can see it in situ by following the link at the bottom of the article. It was a Daily Mail headline on March 25.

It’s a lie, of course – but this time the Mail doesn’t seem to be to blame.

No, this time it’s the Tory government who seem to be at fault.

It wasn’t realistic for the government to claim that the number of deaths had halved, so early in the pandemic’s residence in the UK.

So the BBC’s Newsnight questioned it – and was told by the government that that it cannot add deaths to the total as they happen, because it has to obtain the permission of each family before it can do so.

This is not true.

There is no law – covering data protection or otherwise – requiring family members to give their permission before a death can be added to the total attributed to the coronavirus.

It’s just a number, you see; no personal details are being passed on.

The government had also changed the time at which the number of new deaths was reported, meaning there had been a shorter period between reports.

And according to Skwawkbox, it seems deaths at home, in care homes and in hospital A&E units have also been omitted.

Why indeed – in response to both questions.

Figures for the following day (March 26) showed an increase of 115 – more than on both the previous two days – showing that the number of fatalities is still increasing.

So the only logical reason for the Tories to lie is contradicted – the number of deaths per day clearly is not falling.

So if we have learnt anything, it is that we cannot trust the figures the Conservative government is providing; the true figure may be much higher than they have said.

So, far from allaying fears about the deadliness of the virus, Boris Johnson and his cronies have only increased them.

Source: Coronavirus UK: Daily death toll halves, rising by 43 to 465 | Daily Mail Online

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We don’t know how many people were wrongly declared ‘fit for work’ – DWP figures are meaningless

Thousands of disabled people were wrongly found fit to work [Image: PA].

Here’s another example of how the Department for Work and Pensions distorts the facts.

This organisation is saying the number of cases brought to appeal was only a small proportion of the overall caseload – but we know that the DWP has measures in place to ensure that many wronged claimants are unable to get as far as making an appeal.

The DWP’s claims – about the number of successful appeals – are meaningless.

Has everybody forgotten about ‘mandatory reconsideration’ – the “delaying tactic” aimed at reducing the number of sick and disabled people claiming benefits?

Since October 2013, claimants of ESA and other benefits who want to dispute a decision made on their claim have had to ask DWP to reconsider the decision – a “mandatory reconsideration” (MR) – before they are allowed to lodge an appeal with the independent benefits tribunal system. Mandatory reconsideration is not restricted to those who are found ‘fit for work’, though, and claimants can use it to request re-classification from the Work-Related Activity Group into the Support Group, for example.

When it was introduced, DWP civil servants were overturning 40 per cent of ESA decisions. Figures published in June this year showed that this had fallen and only 11 per cent of those who appealed through the MR process – 10,000 people per month – were successful.

Campaigners said this showed the MR stage is simply delaying the benefits process, and pushing disabled people already at risk of poverty into greater hardship.

So we simply don’t know how many people were wrongly defined as fit for work by the DWP.

How many people are pushed into such hardship that they have to give up and accept a false decision that they should claim Jobseekers’ Allowance instead, even though they are not fit to work? We don’t know.

But this skews the appeal results, so the DWP’s claim – that the number of cases brought to appeal is just a small proportion of the overall caseload – is meaningless.

It’s just more nonsense doublespeak, like the claim that claimant suicides have nothing to do with the way they are treated by DWP staff.

Here’s how The Independent reported this story:

“Around 2,000 disabled people were wrongly judged to be fit to work by the DWP over the latest three month period, Department for Work and Pensions figures show.

“Most appeals against disability benefit fit-to-work decisions were successful in the period June 2016, where show 58 per cent of appeals were upheld.

“The number of appeals is also rising compared to the previous quarter, up from 3,400 to 3,600 – despite a falling overall caseload from 145,200 to 96,300.

“The DWP said the number of cases brought to appeal was only a small proportion of the overall caseload, while disability charities warned the numbers were a signal that the tests were not working.”

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Lie after lie over sanctions and FoI: Duncan Smith’s head should roll

The inhumanity of Iain Duncan Smith: He is pictured laughing at the plight of a rape victim who, under his 'reforms', has to pay bedroom tax for the panic room she needs in order to be safe from her abusive, rapist ex-partner.

The inhumanity of Iain Duncan Smith: He is pictured laughing at the plight of a rape victim who, under his ‘reforms’, has to pay bedroom tax for the panic room she needs in order to be safe from her abusive, rapist ex-partner.

Iain Duncan Smith must resign after he disgraced himself yet again, with a leaflet containing fabricated comments from non-existent DWP benefit claimants, according to a leading Opposition MP.

Debbie Abrahams, who has been a leading light in the fight to force the Conservative Government to reveal the true number of people who have died following Duncan Smith’s “welfare reforms”, said the Work and Pensions secretary’s behaviour was a “disgrace” and his position was untenable.

But don’t take This Writer’s word for it – here’s Ms Abrahams herself (all boldings mine):

“As a member of the work and pensions select committee, I have called for Iain Duncan Smith to resign following revelations that his department created a leaflet about sanctions containing made-up quotes attributed to non-existent benefit claimants.

“I instigated an inquiry into the use of sanctions by the work and pensions committee, which reported in March this year, and I believe after being caught out so publicly it must be impossible for Iain Duncan Smith to continue as work and pensions secretary and he should do the honourable thing and resign.

“This is yet another example of not only his incompetence, but what can only be described as very shady and unscrupulous behaviour not befitting a Member of Parliament let alone a Secretary of State leading a Government Department.

“Once again, Duncan Smith is caught trying to paint a particular picture of social security claimants. He is a disgrace and should do the honourable thing and resign. When his own department have to resort to this sort of tactic, in a desperate attempt to make it appear as though the system is working, no-one can be left believing that his draconian social security sanctions regime is fit for purpose.

“Only Mr Duncan Smith seems to believe that unfair and inappropriate use of sanctions on vulnerable social security claimants is acceptable. And now he’s shown that he thinks it’s acceptable for his department to produce literature that is fabricated in a desperate attempt to make people believe his sanctions regime is working fairly.

“It beggars belief that David Cameron can, in the light of this embarrassing debacle, continue to back Mr Duncan Smith as a credible work and pensions secretary when he has presided over such a catalogue of errors.

“In the last few weeks alone, the independent Social Security Advisory Committee has produced a report which says that the Government’s sanctions regime should be given ‘an urgent and robust review’.

“And following the Government’s appeal against the Information Commissioner’s ruling compelling the Government to publish figures on the number of people on Incapacity Benefit and Employment and Support Allowance who have died between November 2011 and May 2014, including those found fit for work, a Tribunal has now been set for November 10 to hear why Iain Duncan Smith has refused to publish these data.

“I will never forget the fact that not only did Iain Duncan Smith defy the Information Commissioner’s ruling to provide these data on deaths of people on social security, but that he stated to me, personally, in Parliament, it did not exist. But then, just two days later, the Prime Minister said to me, again in Parliament, the data would be published, only for the DWP’s appeal documents to defy him as well, stating publication was not in the public interest!

“The select committee inquiry which I instigated reported in March and the mountain of evidence that was put before the select committee by religious organisations, academics and charities, not to mention those actually affected by inappropriate sanctions themselves, pointed overwhelmingly to a system that is inhumane and deliberately created to skew unemployment figures.

“The sad truth is that Iain Duncan Smith is doing everything he can to cover up the mess he has created.

“This is a mess that is ruining innocent people’s lives and, as the evidence suggests, even killing some.

“The only credible reason he’s going to such lengths to hang on to his job is because he knows he has so much to hide.”

A petition on the Government website, calling for a vote of “no confidence” in Iain Duncan Smith and his removal from office, may be signed here.

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How the DWP plans to hoodwink you over benefit deaths

Denied benefit: This is the late Karen Sherlock. Her illnesses included chronic kidney disease, a heart condition, vitamin B12 deficiency, anaemia, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, underactive thyroid, asthma, diabetic autonomic neuropathy, gastropaeresis, and diabetic retinopathy. She died on June 8, 2012, of a suspected heart attack, after the Department for Work and Pensions stopped her Employment and Support Allowance.

Denied benefit: This is the late Karen Sherlock. Her illnesses included chronic kidney disease, a heart condition, vitamin B12 deficiency, anaemia, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, underactive thyroid, asthma, diabetic autonomic neuropathy, gastropaeresis, and diabetic retinopathy. She died on June 8, 2012, of a suspected heart attack, after the Department for Work and Pensions stopped her Employment and Support Allowance.

 

News stories are proliferating about the increasing clamour for the Department for Work and Pensions to publish ESA death figures, so you are increasingly likely to read a comment similar to – or the same as – this:

“The Department for Work and Pensions insists it is irresponsible to suggest deaths which follow an assessment that claimants are fit to work were caused by the assessment.

“A spokeswoman said: ‘We have been clear that we intended to publish these statistics – but we need to make sure they meet the high standards expected by the UK Statistics Authority before we do so.'”

The above comment, from the Birmingham Mail, is particularly ironic when one considers the fact that the UK Statistics Authority has reprimanded Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith for playing fast and loose with the facts.

Also, of course, nobody is suggesting that the assessment itself causes deaths – although the medical is extremely stressful and may contribute to a worsening of health (Mrs Mike spent three days in agony on the sofa, hardly able to move, after hers). The deaths come after the DWP decision maker marks people ‘fit for work’ when they should be in the Support Group (for those with serious medical issues), or orders people who should be in the support group to do Work-Related Activity when this is beyond their capabilities.

The deaths come after people who fail to meet the requirements of the WRA group are sanctioned off-benefit and cannot afford to support themselves.

The deaths come after people who need to be in the Support Group but have been signed off-benefit, after going through a lengthy and deliberately stressful appeal process to get it back, arrive home to find an envelope on the mat saying they’re to be reassessed and will have to go through the process all over again. That’s how it happens.

Here’s how the DWP intends to fool you this time:

In her appeal to the Information Tribunal, £49,000-a-year Treasury barrister Marie Cayetano wrote: “At the time of Mr Sivier’s request, the DWP was working on a set of statistics on Age Standardised Mortality Rates (‘ASMR’) for publication at a future date which was yet to be determined. That remains the case. The DWP intends to publish those statistics.

“The ASMR statistics will include the categories of information within parts… of Mr Sivier’s request. The published statistical analysis would cover a ten-year period up to February 2014. Mr Sivier’s request was made on 28 May 2014, but it is important to note that, at that time, the DWP only held the data within the scope of his request up to November 2013. The ASMR statistics will therefore cover a longer period than Mr Sivier’s request.”

Age-Standardised mortality rates are the number of deaths, usually expressed per 100,000, that would occur in that area if it had the same age structure as the standard population and the local age-specific rates of the area applied, according to Public Health England.

Ms Cayetano is saying the figures to be published by the DWP would not state the number of deaths which have taken place between November 2011 and May 2014. Instead we would be given a fudged figure showing the number of deaths among ESA claimants when compared with the average number among the population as a whole. That is not what I requested; it is not what anybody wants.

Furthermore, the figures would cover 10 years from February 2004 to February 2014. ESA was not even operating until 2008. Any ESA death figures that are stretched to cover years when that benefit was not even being provided will be distorted.

Finally, it is nonsense to suggest that the ASMR statistics will cover a longer period than my request. If the DWP had figures to November 2013 it should have provided them. This Writer is quite happy to receive the remainder when they become available. As it is now more than a year since the request was made, all the requested statistics should be available now.

So the next time you read a comment from the DWP about the raw figures being misinterpretable, consider how that Department wishes to mislead you when it does finally release its doctored statistics – and ask yourself why ministers first claimed they were putting these – doctored – statistics together in August 2013 and still haven’t published them.

Then visit the petition site on Change.org, sign and say exactly what you think of the evil game they are playing.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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Newcastle MP joins call for DWP to publish death statistics

Thanks are due to Newcastle Labour MP Chi Onwurah, who has supported the petition for the DWP to honour Vox Political‘s Freedom of Information request on ESA deaths.

Mrs Onwurah, who led a Commons debate on the benefits system earlier this year, said: “One of the most powerful and distressing examples in my debate was of a man who had committed suicide.

“If someone dies after being fit to work it doesn’t necessarily mean that being found fit to work had an impact in their death, so I can understand that the Government might fear the figures would be misinterpreted.

“But if the Government has figures then they should share those, and allow people to interpret them fairly.

“This isn’t just a matter of dry statistics. It is about about the health-affecting impact that having been fond fit to work can have on claimants.

“And I know that because I see them in my surgery on a regular basis.

“When bad decisions are made I know they can have a life-destroying impact on vulnerable people. So it makes sense for the Government to share that data.”

In January this year, Mrs Onwurah told MPs that a constituent had committed suicide after being found fit for work.

She said: “My constituent was found hanged in his home by a neighbour. He was well known to Newcastle Welfare Rights, from which he had received considerable support in his dealings with the Department for Work and Pensions.

“He had been in receipt of employment and support allowance, and previously incapacity benefit, and he was engaging well with Newcastle Welfare Rights until November 2013, when he underwent a work capability assessment.”

Source: Newcastle MP demands: Tell us how many died after being found ‘fit for work’ – Chronicle Live

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Vox Political vindicated on unemployment figures

austeritydolequeue

How pleasant to see Vox Political‘s concerns about the massaging of UK unemployment figures being taken up by the kind of people the mass media actually respect.

A report on the BBC News website states that Conservative Party claims that unemployment has dropped by around 60 per cent in some areas is based on “wrong data” – in other words, the Tories are lying.

This blog has been saying that for a very long time!

The story says Tories have been using Jobseekers Allowance figures – the so-called Claimant Count – to justify their claims, but the independent Office for National Statistics showed only a 20 per cent drop in those seats. The ONS said online: “the number of unemployed people in the UK is substantially higher than the claimant count”.

Jonathan Portes, director of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (and well-known to readers of this blog), said: “Many people who are unemployed don’t claim JSA… JSA figures at the local level are accurate, but it is not correct to confuse JSA rates and unemployment.”

In the BBC story, a Tory spokesman said the concern over the data was “nonsense”. He said: “This unemployment measure is provided by the independent House of Commons Library – and for constituencies they are the most up to date and most reliable numbers to use.”

Yes, the House of Commons Library does provide figures – with a caveat that they do not include the number of unemployed people claiming Universal Credit, and there is no date set for when those figures will be included in the Claimant Count (as reported by David Hencke in November last year). The current way of calculating these figures is misleading from the start.

In an article from the same month, This Writer made some other pertinent points:

“If employment has increased – and there’s no reason to say it hasn’t – we can also conclude that the reason employers are more willing to take people on is that they can pay peanuts for them and rely on the government to top them up with in-work benefits. It seems likely that the work was always there but employers weren’t going to take anybody on if it meant increasing the wages bill and reducing the amount of profit available to them. Now that zero-hours contracts are available, along with part-time schemes that deny people pensions and holiday pay, it’s a different matter.

“The number of people who were self-employed increased by a staggering 186,000, to reach 3.25 million, while people working as self-employed part-time increased by 93,000 to reach 1.27 million. That’s 4.52 million – almost one-sixth of the total number of people in work. If you think that’s great, you haven’t been paying attention. Remember this article, warning that the increase was due to older people staying in work? And what about the catastrophic collapse in self-employed earnings we discovered at the same time?

“How many of these are people who have been persuaded to claim tax credits as self-employed people, rather than jump through the increasingly-difficult hoops set out for them if they claimed Jobseekers’ Allowance – and do they know they’ll have to pay all the money back when their deception is discovered?

“The number of people in part-time employment has also increased, by 28,000 to reach 6.82 million. Are we to take it that this means under-employment has increased again?

“Public sector employment has fallen again. If you want to know why the government keeps messing you around, there’s your answer. There aren’t enough people to do the job. This month’s statistics show 11,000 fewer public sector employees than in March, and 282,000 fewer than this time last year.

“Unemployment is said to have dropped – but remember, this is not counting people who have been sanctioned. A recent study by Professor David Stuckler of Oxford University suggests as many as half a million people could have been sanctioned off-benefit in order to massage the figures, meaning that the total listed – 931,700 – is probably wrong. Remember also that Universal Credit claimants aren’t counted, nor are those on government work schemes – another 123,000 people.

“This means the actual unemployment rate is likely to be double the number provided by the official statistics.

“And what about people on ESA/DLA/PIP?”

In January this year, This Writer added: “New research by Oxford University and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine has shown that only around one-fifth (20 per cent) of people who have been sanctioned off of Jobseekers’ Allowance have actually found work, leaving 1.6 million in limbo; they’re off the benefits system but researchers can only surmise that they are relying on food banks.”

And in February, Vox Political had this point to make: “We also know that many thousands have died – through suicide or complications of their physical conditions (if claiming incapacity benefits) after receiving decisions that were not only wrong, but may have been fraudulent.”

Whichever way you slice it, the Tories aren’t being straight with you.

You can trust Vox Political to give you the facts, though.

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DWP is still refusing to reveal how many people its policies have KILLED

140113FoI

What does Iain Duncan Smith have to hide? That is the obvious question.

With a general election coming up in May, it seems clear that the Conservatives intend to guard any figures that reveal the failure of their policies jealously.

In this instance, it seems likely they are also perverting the course of justice. Failure to act in order to prevent deaths caused by the actions of an organisation like the Department for Work and Pensions is a crime.

So what is the DWP really saying? “We’re going to keep these murderous policies. We like that they are killing these people. We want them to keep killing these people – and you’re not going to stop us.”

Does that about cover it?

You see, an email arrived at Vox Towers yesterday from the DWP’s Freedom of Information people. It upheld a decision to refuse a request made by this writer all the way back on May 28, 2014. Yes – that’s nearly nine months ago.

The reason the request was refused is as follows: “I can confirm that we do hold some information which can be used to answer most of your queries however as we also intend to publish this information it is exempt from disclosure under section 22 of the FOIA [Freedom of Information Act]. I can also confirm that we do not have a definite publication date at this stage but we will pre-announce the agreed date here: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/announcements

“The exemptions in Part II of the FOIA, such as exemption 22, are known as ‘absolute’ or ‘qualified’ exemptions. If an absolute exemption applies, the information can be withheld without any public interest assessment. If the exemption is a qualified one, the public authority must weigh the public interest in maintaining the exemption against the public interest in disclosure. This is the public interest test. The exemption relating to information which is intended for future publication – section 22 of the FOIA – is a qualified exemption and its use therefore requires a public interest assessment. The Department intends to publish the information you seek and the established publication process will apply once a date is settled.”

This is what the DWP has been telling people since mid-2013.

The last information released on this subject is now more than three years out-of-date – and revealed that a horrifying 10,600 people had died while going through the claim process for Employment and Support Allowance between January and November 2011.

That is to say, four people were dying every three hours or so.

Who knows how many thousands – how many tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands (remember, the draconian Welfare Reform Act was passed in February 2012, making matters much worse for benefit claimants with illnesses or disabilities) have died since then?

The point of publishing statistics in a regular basis is to ensure that the system is running properly and the DWP is adhering to its duty of care in preventing deaths that could have been prevented. Clearly the DWP has been derelict in that duty – otherwise, why hide the figures?

Guidelines by the Information Commissioner’s Office show that the date of publication does not need to be definite for the DWP to apply a section 22 exemption. However, there are certain rules that apply:

  • There will be some information that is compiled as part of a scheduled procedure which includes a planned publication date” – that does not apply in this case as there is no planned publication date.
  • “The date of publication of other material may be less certain, for example: “A deadline may be provided, but publication could be at any time before then;” – no deadline has been provided.
  • “Publication will take place once an information gathering exercise has been completed;” – the information is gathered routinely and is available now.
  • “Or by reference to other related events” – there are no other related matters that have bearing on the publication of this information.

To cut a long story short, the DWP is breaking the rules by refusing to provide the information.

After the DWP refused the May 2014 FoI request – a refusal that, itself, broke the law as it was months late – a call for reconsideration was sent out on August 31, 2014. It is this call that was answered yesterday – nearly six months after it was sent, and nearly nine months after the original request was made.

Does anybody think perhaps the DWP has been stalling for time, in the hope that this would run on until after the 2015 general election.

In early October, when it became clear that the DWP’s reconsideration process was not happening, the Information Commissioner was contacted for a judgement on the matter. It seems his officers are still working on this matter. Perhaps they are also stalling. Now, why would that be?

In the event of a judgement against the request, the intention was to take the matter to an information tribunal. Vox Political has done this before, over the now-infamous ‘vexatious’ FoI request of 2013. That case was only lost on a point of law and the tribunal’s report was that its members were “sympathetic” to the requester.

It seems unlikely that there will be time for that now.

Perhaps the Information Commissioner’s Office will decide against the DWP, and that organisation will be forced to divulge the information it has guarded so ardently since November 2011. Before the general election? This seems unlikely.

Perhaps it is time for some of us to speak out about this in more public arenas.

Your thoughts are invited.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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Risible PMQs performance is no win for Cameron

The face is red but the heart is black: Cameron's strategy is to say one thing and do something entirely different.

The face is red but the heart is black: Cameron’s strategy is now one of false arguments and ignoring the questions put to him.

Was anybody else dismayed to see media commentator after media commentator blithely commenting that this week’s Prime Minister’s Questions was, for example, an “easy win” for David Cameron (George Eaton, New Statesman), with Guardian political correspondent Andrew Sparrow tweeting, “Verdict from the Twitter commentariat – Unanimous for Cameron”?

It offends this writer’s sense of Britishness and fair play. If Cameron won, he did so by evasion, false argument, and perverting the facts.

Let’s go through the leaders’ exchange together, using the BBC live blog and Hansard for reference.

The first thing mentioned by Ed Miliband was the Iraq Inquiry – he called for its findings to be published as soon as possible. Then he changed subject, pointing out that the Coalition government will be the first to leave office with living standards lower than when they came into power.

David Cameron did not answer the question but went back to Mr Miliband’s comment about the inquiry instead. He said he too wants to see the Iraq Inquiry published as soon as possible – but it would have been ready years ago if the previous Labour government had set the inquiry up sooner, as the Conservatives and others had wanted.

This not true. Labour’s position on it is that the inquiry was set up at the appropriate time – after hostilities in Iraq had ended. In any case, we are now in the sixth year since the inquiry was established (in November 2009); most of the delays have taken place under the Coalition Government led by David Cameron. The reason currently being given for the delay, by inquiry chairman Sir John Chilcot, is that witnesses need an opportunity to respond to any criticisms of them that have been made.

This blog wishes to point out that Mr Cameron himself is also partly responsible for delays in this matter. The Guardian reported in November 2013: “The Cabinet Office is resisting requests from the Iraq inquiry… for ‘more than 130 records of conversations’ between Tony Blair, his successor, Gordon Brown, and then-US President George W Bush to be made public. In a letter to David Cameron, published on the inquiry’s website, the committee’s chairman, Sir John Chilcot, disclosed that ’25 notes from Mr Blair to President Bush’ and ‘some 200 cabinet-level discussions’ were also being withheld.

“The standoff between the inquiry and Sir Jeremy Heywood, the cabinet secretary, has been going on for five months and has meant that the [process] in which politicians and officials are warned that they will be criticised in the report, is on hold. As a result, a date for the final publication of the report has yet to be agreed, more than four years after the inquiry started. ”

That’s a delay directly attributable to David Cameron and his government. It would have been more accurate if he had said the inquiry’s report would have been ready years ago if Mr Cameron himself had not done everything he could to hinder it.

Back to today: Ed Miliband noted that Mr Cameron made no mention of the economy in his reply, and pointed out that people are £1,600 a year worse off since 2010. According to the BBC blog: “David Cameron says Labour has no apology for not launching the Iraq Inquiry earlier – before launching into a defence of the coalition’s economic record. He says Mr Miliband is wrong about everything.”

In fact he raised the alleged drop in unemployment and rise in wages recorded by the ONS (and debunked on this blog earlier today). His mention of tax reductions as a defence against the “£1,600 a year worse off” claim is ridiculous as it shows how lightly his government has taken its self-described reason for being – reducing the deficit. This is not going to happen under a government that doesn’t want to take taxes.

Cameron’s claim that there is no cost of living crisis because inflation is at 0.5 per cent is a silly ‘excluded middle’ false argument; just because the headline level of inflation is low, that does not mean people are not struggling to make ends meet – especially when they have to deal with measures brought in by Cameron’s government like the Bedroom Tax, that have nothing to do with inflation and everything to do with Tory neoliberal ideology.

Mr Miliband stood his ground: Cameron has raised taxes on ordinary families, raised VAT, cut tax credits. Wages are down; taxes are up – and a report by the Joseph Rowntree foundation has shown that half of all families where one person is in full-time work cannot make ends meet at the end of the month.

“You can work hard and play by the rules, but in Cameron’s Britain you still cannot pay the bills—that is the reality,” he said – and it’s strong stuff.

Cameron’s response was feeble. He claimed that more than 30 million people are now in work – but we know that this is partly due to the rise in the population, and most of the jobs are zero-hours, part-time or temporary, meaning that Mr Miliband is right; families are struggling to pay the bills. His repeated reference to the ONS statistics – which were discredited within minutes of having been published, is risible. Cameron was making an ‘argument by selective observation’ – what he was saying was factually accurate, but he was deliberately failing to put all the facts before us.

The claim that people in work are seeing their pay rise by four per cent seems to be an outright lie. Even the ONS could only support a rise of 1.8 per cent.

“If we had listened to [Mr Miliband], none of these things would have happened,” blustered Cameron. “If we had listened to Labour, it would be more borrowing, more spending, more debt: all the things that got us into a mess in the first place.” How does he know that? He doesn’t. It’s another false argument – an ad hominem (attacking Mr Miliband, rather than his argument), also an ‘appeal to widespread belief’, as many people still seem to believe that Labour will borrow more and create more debt (despite repeated evidence that Labour will do nothing of the sort) and that the economy is safer with the Conservatives (even though their own rampant borrowing has nearly doubled the National Debt), and a non sequitur – it doesn’t follow that, if the Tories had listened to Labour, none of the favourable outcomes he listed would have happened.

Mention of borrowing prompted Mr Miliband to point out that the Coalition Government has failed on the deficit – accurately. According to his original preductions, Chancellor George Osborne should have reduced the deficit to around £37 billion per year by now – instead it stands between £90 billion and £100 billion.

Mr Miliband’s claim that executive pay has increased by 21 per cent in the last year alone, meaning the recovery is only for a few at the top, is also accurate. Spread among the workforce as a whole and coupled with the small pay rises they have received, the average may be 1.8 per cent – but most people aren’t enjoying any sudden increase in prosperity. Are you?

Cameron’s response: “The right honourable Gentleman criticises me on the deficit—he is the man who could not even remember the deficit.” Another ad hominem, and another non sequitur. What does Mr Miliband’s lapse of memory in a speech from last year have to do with today’s statistics?

Mr Miliband’s last question was about David Cameron’s decision not to take part in televised election debates if the Green Party is excluded. If he is so confident about the economy, why is he “chickening out”?

Again, Cameron did not even answer the question. Instead he quoted Christine LaGarde, head of the International Monetary Fund, in support of his claim that the UK economy is improving. That discussion was over. Why did he have nothing to say about the TV debates? It’s a simple change of subject but, again, it’s no argument against what Mr Milband was saying.

So let’s tot up the Prime Minister’s score – did he win or lose? Let’s see: Iraq inquiry – lose; economy – lose; employment – lose; wages – lose; deficit – lose; TV debates – lose.

The moral of the story: You don’t have to win any argument if enough people are willing to say you did.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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