I wrote yesterday about the sound backside-spanking that Iain (Duncan) Smith had received from the UK Statistics Authority (UKSA) for claiming statistics showed effects of Tory policies, which the UKSA said, as categorically as could be
are unsupported by the official statistics.
The UKSA also criticised the DWP for making the claim even though the official statistical release
explicitly states that the figures are not intended to show the additional numbers returning to work as a direct result
of the government’s measures. As the excellent Vox Political blog pointed out, Smith committed contempt of Parliament by making these claims to the Commons when he knew they were false.
But he has gone much further. He even directly lied to Parliament about the UKSA’s verdict on his statistical abuse. This extract from the Parliamentary Hansard record of Friday’s debate is long, but it’s worth reading:
Mr Duncan Smith: The hon. Lady is wrong about the Work programme. In fact, I will show her later that the UK Statistics Authority has taken her party and others to task for their use of the statistics, which it says is incorrect. The reality, as she will see when we come forward in June, is that the programme is a success, and it is cheaper than anything that Labour produced.
Rushanara Ali: Perhaps the Secretary of State can also explain why he got a slap on the wrist today—and previously—for meddling with the statistics, because people—
Mr Duncan Smith: Will the hon. Lady give way?
Rushanara Ali: No, I will not give way until I have finished my sentence. I will give way when I am done; then I will listen to the Secretary of State’s response.
The Secretary of State is damaging public trust in statistics—there is that old phrase about “damned lies and statistics”. That will lead to further distrust, not just of politicians such as him, but of important institutions that are there to provide independent, credible statistics. He should not be meddling with his figures. The fact that only 2% of participants in my constituency managed to get jobs through his Work programme is an absolutely appalling indictment of his performance in his role and shows his failure to get people into work. I find it deeply disappointing, because I happen to have admired his work with the Centre for Social Justice, which he set up before he got into government. Although I was a sceptic about his conversion to understanding poverty and deprivation and wanting to reform and improve society, I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, but no longer, because he has returned to the approach that the Conservatives have always taken and failed to do anything to give people genuine opportunities. That is summed up in his Department’s failure to get people into work in constituencies such as mine. The facts speak for themselves. I am afraid that he does not have much to offer, other than trying to rewrite statistics.
10 May 2013 : Column 323
Unless the Secretary of State has something else to add, I will move on.
Mark Hendrick: He has forgotten his intervention.
Rushanara Ali: The Secretary of State has forgotten, but I am happy to give way.
Mr Duncan Smith: I hope that the hon. Lady will withdraw the idea that I am rewriting statistics. She will see from the letter written to me today by the UK Statistics Authority that no mention is made of that. I continue to believe, absolutely correctly, that the work of the cap will help and will lead to people getting jobs. That was the whole purpose, which is why we left those on tax credits off the cap. I believe that people are moving into work, and will continue to do so, as a result of the cap, and I will be able to demonstrate that.
Not only does Smith lie about the spanking he has unequivocally received from the UKSA – but he even tries to ‘flip’ the rebuke and claims that Labour were rebuked instead of him.
It used to be that lying to Parliament was an automatic resignation matter. However, the behaviour and consequences of the outright lies told by Cameron, Hunt, IDS (of course) and many other government ministers has made a travesty of that honourable tradition.
Smith is more likely to be promoted than asked to resign. Since the Prime Minister will not do his job, it’s up to the electorate to deliver an emphatic verdict on him and all his mendacious henchmen.