Back in May, I reported that Iain Duncan Smith would be grilled by MPs over his misuse of benefit statistics and, after his latest crimes against data, the good news is that a date has now been confirmed.
In response to an email from Jayne Linney, who started a Change.org petition demanding parliament hold Duncan Smith to account, Anne Begg, the Labour chair of the work and pensions select committee, replied:
I can confirm that IDS will be appearing before the Work and Pensions Select Committee on Wednesday 4th September where he will be asked questions about the DWP’s Annual Report and the Department’s use of statistics.
The committee certainly won't be short of material. To recap, Duncan Smith claimed that 878,000 people dropped their claims for sickness benefits rather than face a new medical assessment; that thousands deliberately registered for the Disability Living Allowance before it was replaced with the more "rigorous"Personal Independence Payment; and that 8,000 people moved into work as a result of the introduction of the coalition’s benefit cap. Not one of these assertions was supported by the official statistics.
Thousands of people move on and off benefits each month as their health, housing and employment circumstances change but there is no evidence that they do so for the reasons ascribed by Duncan Smith. As his own department stated in relation to the benefit cap, "The figures for those claimants moving into work cover all of those who were identified as potentially being affected by the benefit cap who entered work. It is not intended to show the additional numbers entering work as a direct result of the contact."
Perhaps it's not surprising, then, that in his now infamous Today interview on Monday, Duncan Smith abandoned any pretence of evidence-based policy, declaring: "The reality is, I believe that to be right. I believe that we are already seeing people go back to work, who were not going to go back to work until they were assured of the cap."
Let's hope the committee treats this guff with the contempt it deserves.