Sometimes information becomes public that boggles the mind. It seems Iain Duncan Smith bullied members of the Public Accounts Committee into blaming his permanent secretary, Robert Devereaux, for the failings of Universal Credit.
That’s right – it is alleged that the man who is afraid to reveal how many people have died because of his policies, whose mandatory work schemes have proved less successful than doing nothing, who changed the law after his rules for Workfare were found to be illegal – only for the Supreme Court to rule they were still illegal, whose departmental annual report is now nearly eight months late, who lied to Parliament and the public about the success of his benefit cap and who is afraid to face the Commons Work and Pensions committee to account for himself, has resorted to intimidation because he doesn’t want to take the blame for his latest – or rather, longest-running, catastrophe.
Let’s not even get started on the Bedroom Tax!
The allegation appears in a BBC News report, under a headline that claims David Cameron is supporting the unrepentant Work and Pensions secretary. Does this mean Cameron approves of such ungentlemanly behaviour as bullying? The report states that “Downing Street said the work and pensions secretary was ‘doing exactly the right thing’ with the new scheme.”
Smith has denied claims he tried to “lean on” members of the committee to place the blame on Mr Devereaux, but Labour sources on the committee told BBC News there was a “concerted” effort by Tory members to shift the blame, with extra meetings and discussions over amendments “pointing the finger” at the permanent secretary.
But David Cameron’s official spokesman was vague in his support from the Secretary-in-a-State. Asked if it was proper for a secretary of state to approach members of a select committee ahead of publication of a report, in the way alleged of …Smith, he said: “There are procedures that are in place for the relationship between departments and select committees and that is something the Department for Work and Pensions have been very clear about.”
Not exactly a ringing endorsement, is it?
Labour’s shadow leader of the Commons, Angela Eagle, has demanded an urgent statement from …Smith: “This morning we learn of a wholly improper attempt to lean on members of an independent select committee of this House by Mr Duncan Smith and his parliamentary team to try to put the blame on the permanent secretary.”
She was wrong.
We don’t need a statement. We need disciplinary procedures.
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