“It’s no secret that a liar won’t believe anyone else.” – U2, The Fly.
Iain Duncan Smith must reckon he’s pretty fly, casting doubt on figures that show two-thirds of those affected by the Bedroom Tax are disabled by saying they are based on tenants’ self-declarations.
He implied that the figures are doubtful because there is no “check” on them.
Well, as Bono sang in the U2 song quoted above, it is very easy for a liar to doubt what other people say – or, as Ian Hislop stated in a different context in the video clip from Have I Got News For You (about Jeffrey Archer), “Takes one to know one.”
So, in the spirit of the video clip, that covers the life and lies of Lord Archer (up to 1995, when it was recorded), let’s have a look at some of the lies we can attribute to Mr … Smith. There have been so many that this article only covers a few well-known cases, and historical incidents covered by Vox Political up to around March 2013. More will be added in later, and the subject seems worthy of its own separate page on the site. For now, have a look at these facts about the man we call RTU (Returned To Unit) in recognition of his disastrous career in the Army as a bag carrier:
He claimed that he was educated at the Universita di Perugia in Italy, founded by the Pope (of the time) in 1308, but in fact attended the Universita per Stranieri (University for Foreigners) which was founded in 1921 and did not grant degrees when he studied there in 1973. Iain Duncan Smith did not get any qualifications there or even finish his exams.
He also claimed he trained at Dunchurch College of Management, the former staff college for GEC Marconi, for whom he worked (briefly) in the 1980s. He completed six separate courses lasting a few days each, adding up to about a month in total. He never earned a recognised qualification there.
He employed a policy special adviser, Philippa Stroud, who was also being paid by the right-wing thinktank he set up – the Centre for Social Justice – that lobbies the DWP, knowing that the special advisers’ code of conduct stipulates that they “should not receive benefits of any kind which others might reasonably see as compromising their personal judgment or integrity”. He seemed to think it was okay for her to take public money on top of her own salary; he seemed to think it was all right for her to have a job as a senior member of a pressure group that tries to influence his department, when her role within that department was to give him advice on what to do; and he seemed to think it was permissible to allow all that and still lecture the nation about what is morally acceptable.
In November 2012, he appeared on the BBC’s Question Time, on which he reeled off inaccurate figures. For example, he told Owen Jones: “I didn’t hear you screaming about two and a half million people who were parked, nobody saw them, for over 10 years, not working, no hope, no aspiration.” In fact, according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, only in two per cent of households had nobody ever worked, and more than half of adults in ‘never-worked’ households were under 25. Two per cent of the population is not two and a half million people, and under-25s cannot have been unemployed for more than 10 years.
His DWP claimed welfare-to-work companies – firms hired by the Department to get people into jobs – weren’t paid until they had found work for a client. In fact, “The WTW [Welfare-to-Work] provider gets a £600 attachment fee. They also get paid fees for ‘providing support’ i.e. bullying her into doing what they want. Later they get an ‘outcome fee’ for making her stay in the minimum wage job of their choice. If she finds something with no help from them, they still pocket the dosh. If she finds training other than their useless ‘courses’ she gets rewarded with a sanction (benefits withheld indefinitely) to ensure compliance.” Iain Duncan Smith was adamant that no payment was made other than by results. He said: “Unlike previous work programmes that the last government did where they paid up to half the money just for taking the person on, we don’t do any of that. what we say is, the company concerned has to get them into work but just not into work; also into a job that is eventually, say, six months – that’s when we pay them.”
He is on record as saying the benefit system is “too generous” but was quick enough to take advantage of it himself: His first job was taxpayer-funded military service, carrying bags for a Major-General. After six years of this, he left the Army and spent six months on the dole. You can guarantee he was getting housing benefit for it. Current plans would give a man that age only as much as if he was renting a single room in a shared house, and one must wonder how well this gentleman would have coped in that situation. He then started a job, using the skills he had gained while being paid by the taxpayer in the Army – as a salesman for arms dealer GEC-Marconi. He moved on to a property firm, but after six months found himself back on the dole (and housing benefit, one presumes). Then he sold gun-related magazines for Jane’s Information Group. Then he got elected to Parliament, in 1992. Every year since then, he has been paid more than most taxpayers earn, and currently receives £134,565 per year. He has had four children and received child benefit for all of them. He currently plans to restrict child benefit, making it payable for only two children per household. He put all of his children through private school – with the help of his MP’s salary which is paid by, you guessed it, the taxpayer. His wife’s record of work, since they married, totals 15 months as his diary secretary – for which the taxpayer gave her £15,000. It has been suggested that she did not, in fact, do any work at all while drawing this paycheck.
At the end of December 2012 he spoke in support of the Universal Jobmatch computer system. Jobseekers were coerced into signing up (they didn’t have to) and into ticking a box which allowed Job Centre staff to view their activities and pass their personal details on to possible employers (again, not a legal requirement. If the adviser did not believe the claimant was looking for work, their benefits would be withdrawn, Iain Duncan Smith said. He said: “I’m a job adviser and I’ve got someone who doesn’t want to do this. I will haul them in a lot. Instead of them going in every two weeks, these job advisers can bring them in every day if they want, if they think they are not getting out of bed in the morning.” Universal Jobmatch very quickly became a second home for pimps, who lured users into the sex industry, and identity thieves, who used complicated ‘application forms’ to steal users’ personal details.
In January 2013, he said the previous Labour government’s tax credit system had been wide open to abuse, with fraud and error costing £10 billion. “Tax credit payments rose by some 58 per cent ahead of the 2005 general election, and in the two years prior to the 2010 election, spending increased by about 20 per cent,” he said in a Telegraph article. Between 2003 and 2010, Labour spent a staggering £171 billion on tax credits, contributing to a 60 per cent rise in the welfare bill. Far too much of that money was wasted, with fraud and error under Labour costing over £10 billion. It will come as no surprise therefore that fraudsters from around the world targeted this benefit for personal gain.” In fact, in 2003-4, £16.4bn was paid, and the following year – the one including the general election to which Mr Duncan Smith referred – £17.7bn. That’s an increase of eight per cent, not 58. The total spent on tax credits between 2003 and 2010 – under Labour – was £147 billion, not £171 billion. During that period, £11.16bn was lost through fraud and error, with only £1.27bn of that due to fraud – 0.7 per cent of the total. The claim that fraudsters around the world targeted tax credits was completely unsubstantiated as the system does not record the nationalities of claimants. However: Everyone claiming Working Tax Credits must have a UK National Insurance number. Everyone claiming Child Tax Credits must be able to show they are on Child Benefit, for which they must produce a birth certificate for each child, thereby proving they were born in the UK – otherwise, they get nothing.
The very next day, he said that benefit payments were increasing faster than wages when this was impossible. His claim that unemployment benefits had risen by 20 per cent in the previous five years, compared with an average 12 per cent rise in private sector pay, was rendered meaningly when the actual amounts of money were used to illustrate this. These showed that, in the five-year period quoted by Mr Duncan Smith, unemployment benefits had risen by just £11.85 per week, while average private sector pay had risen by £49 per week.
A week later, the BBC quoted him as saying the Benefit Uprating Cap was necessary because inaction would leave the UK “bankrupt”, with “huge borrowing costs”. It is impossible for the UK to become bankrupt – as a sovereign nation with its own currency, it can always print enough money to get out from under debt – and in fact this has happened during the course of the current Parliament. It’s called quantitative easing. Also, UK government debt is embodied in bonds which are sold to organisations including foreign governments and pension fund operators, who snap them up as extremely reliable investments. Therefore the level of government debt is in fact an indicator of the balance between public sector and private sector involvement in government spending.
Also in January 2013, he told the House of Commons that “we have better employment figures — there are one million new private sector jobs, which outweighs the public sector jobs we have had to get rid of” – only to have this debunked by Clive Efford, who pointed out: “The argument coming from the Government benches is wholly founded on misinformation, particularly in respect of the claim that the Government have created one million jobs in the private sector… According to the Office for National Statistics, 196,000 of those jobs are due solely to the reclassification of sixth-form colleges and further education colleges.”
In the same debate, discussing Employment and Support Allowance, he said: “By and large, the benefits for those who are disabled and qualified as disabled, and for those in receipt either of support payments in ESA, disability living allowance or the premiums in many other benefits, are being uprated in line with inflation… The only benefit that is not being uprated in line with inflation is ESA for those in the work-related activity group. Some of those with disability will be affected because many in their households will be on other benefits.” This was rebuffed by Fiona O’Donnell, who said: “Disability Rights UK… has said that 1 million disabled people will be affected by the one per cent uprating, and that more disabled people will be living in poverty.”
He said: “Under Labour, public spending spiralled out of control… Labour spent taxpayers’ money like drunks on a Friday night, with no care or concern for how effective it was. Our record on getting people into jobs is better than theirs.” But Liam Byrne responded: “No doubt he, like me, will have looked at the DWP benefit expenditure tables, which show that spending on out-of-work benefits between 1996-97 and 2009-10 did not rise, but fell by £7.5 billion. That is why Lord Freud said that Labour’s record in getting people back to work was ‘remarkable’ and noted that Labour had tackled the long-term dependency on unemployment benefits that it had inherited from the Tories in 1997.” Lisa Nandy added: “Research carried out recently by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation found that no … culture of worklessness existed, and that in fact there was a strong commitment to work among people throughout the country.”
Told that the Benefit Uprating Cap would push an estimated 200,000 children into poverty, according to figures from The Children’s Society, he said: “I don’t agree that the way to get children out of poverty is to simply keep transferring more and more money to keep them out of work,” revealing a belief that, rather than receiving benefits to support them, poor children should be sent out to work.
That last comment suggests a resemblance to Tories of the Victorian era, who saw working class people of any age as a commodity to be used up as required.
In fact, Iain Duncan Smith is more similar to Mussolini – especially around the eyes. Musso was famously said to have made the trains run on time, but RTU isn’t like that.
Judging by his DWP record, if he was in charge, they’d all be empty.
Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike
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