Please help hold DWP to account for stats lies

I’d like to enlist your help – both directly and by sharing this post widely so that lots of others do the same and momentum is built and maintained on the issue.

I posted this morning about the second rebuke the Tories, in particular the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) has received for blatant and extreme distortions of statistics to demonise benefit claimants – in the latter instance, a completely unfounded suggestion that almost 900,000 disability benefit claimants suddenly dropped their claims rather than face a medical assessment.

A brilliant idea was posted as a comment on that article, and I need your help to use it to turn up the Parliamentary pressure for Iain (Duncan) Smith and Grant Shapps to be held to account for lying to the British public and (in Smith’s case at least) to Parliament.

Theyworkforyou.com has a very simple search function that allows you to identify, and contact, your MP. Please send a quick email to your MP – no matter which party he represents – with the link to the article (http://skwawkbox.org/2013/06/01/we-did-it-tories-now-spanked-by-uksa-for-blatant-esa-distortion/) on the latest rebuke by the UK Statistics Authority (UKSA) and asking her/him to both raise the issue in Parliament and to write back to you confirming their unequivocal condemnation of this abuse of statistics to demonise the vulnerable.

If you get a reply (a proper one, not an auto-acknowledgement!), please forward it to me at ccgwatch@gmail.com and I will compile them into an article so that others can see whether their MP is prepared to properly condemn something that is unarguably worthy of condemnation, or makes excuses for it and for those who have done it. Those who wish to can then use that response to help inform their voting decision at the next general election.

If enough people do this, it should help raise the heat on Smith and Shapps and make clear that they are still duty-bound, even under this government, to do what once used to be considered the ‘decent thing’ if you were caught in outright lies to your constituents and to the House.

Thanks for your help!


  1. Hiya
    Just checking is this the blog we are linking to in the email?

  2. Which article should I link to? My MP(Lab) has been quite good at replying to e-mails and petitions, and even helped me out whe I got screwed by DWP/JCP/Atos due to ‘clerical error’.

  3. Reblogged this on Vox Political and commented:
    This is an excellent idea and I hope everyone reading this takes it up. Not only will it put pressure on the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats to support honesty and – in doing so – condemn their own government; it will also sort out the wheat from the chaff in the Labour Party and the other opposition groups. We can, and should, make this an election issue. Nobody should believe they can be elected into government on the basis of lies, and nobody should believe they can get away with trying to deceive us when IN government.

  4. Unfortunately mt MP S Mosley supports the party line whatever they do any reply would just blaming the other side or confirming the same old line that it is absolutely alright to do this as all must equally share responsibility.

    1. same here JUSTIN Tomlinson doesn’t even reply now when i send links to him to read because i think he is just about sick of me but he is a Tory so what more can i say

      1. That’s fine. Write to him, but mention that you’re notifying his reply – or lack of it – to this blog and that it *will* be publicised either way. That should focus his mind somewhat!

  5. Done.
    Great idea btw. We really need to keep the pressure up on this. Our governments are here to serve us not themselves.

  6. Steve I have drafted a letter that your followers might be able to use in whole or in part when writing to their MP.
    I picked up a link from Sheila Gilmore’s website to get a copy of the letter so that it can be sent as an attachment. Could you could provide the link on your blog?
    Please see the draft below:
    Grossly Misleading Use of Statistics by the Conservatives
    Please see the attached letter and the two Annexes from Andrew Dilnot, the Chair of the UK Statistics Authority to Sheila Gilmore MP, dated 29 May 2013.
    It is quite clear from Andrew Dilnot’s letter that the Conservative Party’s press release sets out to grossly mislead the public about the truth concerning Employment and Support Allowance – Incapacity Benefit claimants dropping their claims so that they can avoid having to take the Work Capability Assessments.
    Dilnot uses the Department of Work and Pensions own figures to contradict the claims being made in the Conservative Press release.
    The effect of this subterfuge and deception is to further demonise and denigrate Benefit Claimants and to reinforce the unfair Tory rhetoric about Skivers and Strivers which, in turn, only serves to divide society and breed dangerous, festering and destabilising resentment. A classic example of the divide and rule theory.
    When Government Ministers demonstrate such a complete lack of integrity it is of little wonder that the public loose faith in politicians generally and become disillusioned and disengaged from politics altogether.
    This disengagement is clearly evidenced by the low turnout at all elections which potentially opens the door to extremist parties gaining traction and popular support.
    Witness to this is George Galloway’s success in Bradford West and UKIPs surge in by-elections and in the current public opinion polls.
    All parties have been guilty of deceiving the public, Under Labour the Iraq weapons of mass destruction claims totally undermined Labours reputation and public trust and ultimately was one of factors which led to them losing power in 2010.
    As my MP I am now asking you to confirm your position on the misleading use of statistics by all political parties to misinform and confuse the public rather than being used to inform us about the reality and truth, good or bad, of the impact, or potential impact, of the political choices being made by politicians on behalf of the British people.
    Will you therefore confirm that you personally refuse to employ spin and obfuscation in your public statements and agree to always tell your Electorate the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, and to explain and justify your understanding of the factual evidence available to you? Do you also totally reject the use of unsubstantiated assertions in all your communications with your electorate?
    Will you also agree to condemn in a speech in Parliament the disgraceful and divisive behaviour of the Coalition parties in setting out to wilfully confuse and deceive the public through their grossly misleading use and manipulation of statistics?
    I look forward to receiving confirmation of these commitments from you.
    Yours sincerely

  7. In recent weeks I’ve written to my MP on the issue of the Energy Bill and to ask him to support Oxfam and Church Action on Poverty’s urgent request for the Work and Pensions Select Committee to investigate the huge rise in food poverty. I will certainly write to him about this as well.

  8. I’ve just emailed my MP now and as well as asking him to speak out in Parliament against this misleading use of statistics I also asked him to do as Sheila Gilmore did and write to the Telegraph and other papers who have peddled these lies to complain on behalf of me and the many friends and family in his constituency who feel disgusted about it AND to insist they publish Andrew Dilnot’s letter on their front page along with an apology. Maybe if enough people lobby their MPs to do this we may see a result.

  9. Done, my mp is a tory and he has replied in the past to my various emails of concerns/complaints etc, will be interesting to see his reply to this one. I normally ask him to bring it up in parliament and the standard reply from him is he doesn’t agree with my concerns etc but will bring it up …but how do I know he is true to his word?

  10. The acknowledgement from my MP – my letter is included below.

    Dr Murrison thanks you very much for your email and has asked me to let you know that he will respond to your concerns as soon as he can.

    Best wishes
    (name removed)
    PA to Andrew Murrison MD MP
    Serving South West Wiltshire
    House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA
    Constituency Office, Suite 1, Holloway House,
    Epsom Square, White Horse Business Park, Trowbridge BA14 0XG
    Tel: 01225 358584 Fax: 01225 358583
    email: andrew.murrison.mp@parliament.uk
    website: http://www.andrewmurrison.co.uk twitter: murrisonMP

    —–Original Message—–

    Sent: 01 June 2013 17:36
    To: MURRISON, Andrew

    Saturday 1 June 2013

    Dear Andrew Murrison,

    I would like to draw your attention to the information outlined in the following; http://skwalker1964.wordpress.com/2013/06/01/we-did-it-tories-now-spanked-by-uksa-for-blatant-esa-distortion/

    In brief, the linked article outlines a cynical deception perpetrated by Iain Duncan Smith and Grant Schapps in order to justify what can now only be described as ideological attacks against the vulnerable.

    I’m calling on you to ensure that both IDS and Schapps are held properly and fully to account for their dishonesty, their manipulation, the abuse of their privilege and their contempt of parliament.

    Theirs is not the kind of behaviour we demand from those we ‘elect’ to positions of power and responsibility.

    Neither do we, the electorate, expect such behaviour to be tolerated, let alone condoned by either action or inaction of others in a position and with a duty to act honestly, fairly, honourably and in the interests of all the citizenry.

    I very much look forward to hearing that you have taken the lead in both publicly condemning their behaviour and ensuring that proper action is taken.

    Iain Duncan Smith and Grant Schapps must be made accountable for both their deception and the consequences of decisions made based on their misrepresentation of statistics.

    1. What a brilliant letter! And at least you got an acknowledgement – I look forward to reading the proper response. Thanks for sending this!

      1. No worries – it wouldn’t have been sent if not for blogs and bloggers blazing the trail. Will forward any proper reply as and when or if it arrives.
        Best wishes, keep the blogs coming.

      2. No further news, sent a follow up;

        “This is becoming an increasingly serious matter as David Cameron has re-joined the misrepresentation game with his claims over NHS spending.

        This behaviour is not only a disgrace, it undermines the very fabric of democracy. As my political representative, please advise when I can expect action demonstrating that you do not and will not condone this appalling deceit?

        If you intend dodging the issue with ‘assurances’ that the underlying policies are working, then also provide proper, un-tampered, evidence to support your claims. And then explain why you’re allowing this behaviour to continue.”

  11. I’ve received a positive response from Alison McGovern, Labour MP for Wirral South, and have forwarded her email to you as requested.

  12. Hi! Steve
    Just had a response to my emails as follows:-
    Dear Ms Smith,

    Please provide me with your full postal address to enable me to reply to your emails. There is a strictly adhered to parliamentary protocol which dictates that MP’s may only correspond with their own constituents.

    Yours Sincerely

    David Morris MP
    Morecambe and Lunesdale
    House of Commons
    SW1A 0AA

    Tel: 0207 219 7234
    01524 841225
    Fax: 0207 219 6610
    Email: david.morris.mp@parliament.uk
    Hilary Smith 07:33
    To: david.morris.mp@parliament.uk

    Dear Sir,

    I have written previously regarding the misrepresentation of statistics to which I do not appear to have received a reply, since writing another violation has occurred.

    “This is becoming an increasingly serious matter as David Cameron has joined the misrepresentation game with his claims over NHS spending.

    Last Wednesday (5 June), David Cameron claimed during Prime Minister’s Questions:

    “We are putting £12.7 billion extra into the NHS.”

    Looking at Treasury spending statistics, there is a nominal, but not real-terms, increase in NHS spending compared to the last year under the previous government, but certainly nothing like £12.7 billion. Since the Treasury routinely claws back well billions from the NHS – some £2.2 billion during 2012/13, up from £1.5bn in 2011/12 – Mr Cameron’s statement was a bare lie. He did not say that NHS budgets had increased, but that more was “put into” the NHS – which is not true when the Treasury is clawing back far more than the nominal increase.

    And even if this were not the case, budgets have not risen by £12.7 billion – or at all in real terms according to UKSA late last year.

    Please see the following links for further information:-


    This behaviour is not only a disgrace, it undermines the very fabric of democracy. As my political representative, please advise when I can expect action demonstrating that you do not and will not condone this appalling deceit?
    If you intend dodging the issue with ‘assurances’ that the underlying policies are working, then please provide proper, un-tampered, evidence to support your claims, If not, then please explain why you’re allowing this behaviour to continue?”

    I look forward to receiving your reply

    Hilary Smith
    Hilary Smith 02/06/2013
    Dear Sir I would like to refer you to this article http://skwalker1964.wordpress.com/2013/06/01/we-did-it-tories-n
    Copied the letter from dbsfilms as it was more eloquent than I could come up with..
    Do you think it would be okay to send him my home address as I don’t trust any of them and he is a tory after all.

    1. Thank you – very hard to get a straight answer from a Tory MP on this issue! Please let me know once he’s happy you’re a constituent and writes back properly.

  13. Didn’t think it was going to go well… he is a Minister. Andrew Murrison’s response to my letter.

    “Thank you. I’m not familiar with the blog you’ve sent me but do not agree that my colleagues engage in ‘cynical deception’ and ‘dishonesty.’ Since I’m also a minister in this government, an attack on them is also an attack on me and I would resent such accusations and refute them.
    Andrew Murrison”

    I have replied:

    “Thank you for your reply. Even if it does nothing to amend my perception of those concerned and even less to alleviate my concerns.

    Details about the misrepresentation/distortion of statistics are fully outlined in the previously linked blog.

    The page includes the response from Andrew Dilnot, Chair of the UK Statistics Authority alongside a copy of the grossly misleading DWP press release (which, having served its purpose, has since been hidden from public view).

    I also refer you to the following BBC news report.


    “Shadow work and pensions secretary Liam Byrne said: “This is a government that doesn’t like to let the facts get in the way of a good story… but it really is outrageous that the Tories have been caught yet again misusing statistics for their own ends.” ”

    I also refer you to this headline from Dec 2012 (from the Telegraph)


    “The chairman of the authority, Andrew Dilnot, issued the rebuke after upholding a complaint by Labour about statements by the Prime Minister and other senior Tories.”

    Despite this official rebuke, I now refer you to PMQs on Wednesday 5th June 2013 during which Cameron twice repeated the (officially false) claims that NHS spending was up.

    I’m very well aware that, for many politicians, ‘massaging’ statistics combined with careful, considered phraseology, allusion and sub text are all part and parcel of the ‘political’ process. That this practice is, in some quarters, admired and considered acceptable persuasion rather than devious, deceptive and damaging manipulation.

    Maybe I’m old fashioned but I stand in the quarter that values a more noble approach to leadership.

    Perhaps, after considering the news reports and the rebukes from the UK Statistics Office you might recognise that there are occasions, such as these, when rhetoric (or ambition.. or self preservation) overstep the bounds of even political debate.

    Best wishes

    John Le Brocq”

      1. Latest reply;

        “Thank you, but spending on the NHS is up!

        Dr Andrew Murrison
        MP for South West Wiltshire
        Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Defence
        Prime Minister’s Special Representative for the Centenary Commemoration of the Great War”

        My reply;

        “Hi Andrew,

        NHS spending is up…? Err, no. Not in real terms (when adjusted for inflation) and especially not after the ‘clawbacks’ – £2.2 Billion last year – which is up on the approx. £1.5 Billion in the previous year.

        Best wishes


        Not sure we’re actually on first name terms (yet), just testing the water 😉

      2. Good job, John, and good luck with the local paper.With a bit of luck the pathetic Andrew will get booted out at the next election.

  14. I know… has the ring of clutching at straws…. as well as leaving the nasty taste that he really couldn’t care less. Will work up a draft letter to my local paper outlining the attempt for a proper response.

  15. Latest news from Andrew ‘stuck record’ Murrison;

    “There’s been a cash terms increase unlike other departments which have necessarily been cut thanks to the financial situation we inherited.
    Andrew Murrison”

    My reply;
    “Entirely misses the point and… really, is that the best you can offer?

    It still amounts to a real world cut, is contrary to policy ‘promises’ and
    the exact opposite of the impression Cameron and Hunt contrived to imply until they were ordered to stop making false claims (see previous link to the telegraph’s news report).

    Do we really need a watchdog to step in and order public servants to stop perverting the truth? Have we sunk that low?

    I don’t suppose you’d have a comment to make on today’s news about the investigation into the DWP, David Halpern and the misuse of psychometric testing?

    The logic behind any claim that the NHS budget hasn’t been cut less is perverse and destructive. It’s almost as perverse as claiming that benefit cuts ‘make work pay’. They don’t. Increased pay and conditions make work pay. Jobs make work pay. Benefit cuts just make poverty, hunger and homelessness.

    By the way, please don’t insult me by defending the latest fact twisting claims that poverty has been alleviated for 100,000 people.

    I’ve seen the methodology behind the calculations showing that, yet again, the truth is the exact opposite. Rather than any reduction in poverty, average living standards have been significantly reduced to such a degree that ‘relative poverty’ can be made (if you’re so perversely inclined) to appear lessened.

    Poverty isn’t a relative statistic, it’s the absence of life’s necessities.

    Knowing your neighbour is also going hungry does not fill your stomach.

    This government has simply made enough people poorer to skew the average and allow the DWP to make merry with their strange analysis. This government has not lifted anyone out of poverty, it’s brought a whole lot more into or closer to.

    To date, in real terms, an additional 300,000 children have been
    unnecessarily forced into poverty. It’s suggested this figure will reach 500,000 by 2015.

    It’s that perverse logic at work again.

    Sorry, the ‘poor me’ rhetoric of blaming the previous incompetents just doesn’t wash. Not least because the root of the financial ‘situation’ you ‘inherited’ lies with Thatcher and market deregulation, for example; http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/7f8aaf08-a122-11e2-bae1-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2WeYhQMvt

    And was then compounded by the inhumane nature, the entitlement ‘culture’ of greed and the opportunity for abuse within a system that demands ruthless self serving aggression from those it allows to ‘succeed’.

    Rather than whine on about the other side’s failings, how about some action to correct the abuses of those who milk the nation’s wealth, effort and productivity from luxurious off shore tax havens?

    I know it might appear easier to pick the pockets of the least represented, the weak and vulnerable, and to justify this by manipulating public opinion with the use of false statistics but… is that really what you signed up for?

    In the long run even George ‘the destroyer’ Osborne will have to acknowledge that a poor, sick, homeless and hungry population is far more damaging to the nation than a few disgruntled dinner guests and even a couple of lost holiday invitations.

    In brief, and to be clear, this isn’t about party politics. This is simply
    one of your constituents asking their representative to stand up for an honourable, honest and proper approach to power, privilege and
    responsibility. This is concern for the state of the nation.

    It would appear I need to take my concerns elsewhere.


    John Le Brocq”

  16. The latest – and a thank you for your support.

    From Andrew;
    “Thank you. There is no need to be unpleasant. I have stated the facts and cannot be responsible for any impression you have gained from them. I think the points you are trying to make are polemic in nature and I suspect we are unlikely to be able to find common ground. Nevertheless, I’m grateful to you for letting me have your views.
    Andrew Murrison”

    My reply;
    “You’re more than welcome although, I am sorry you found my approach unpleasant, it wasn’t intended as such – I was aiming for robust banter, something to help develop a dialogue beyond refutation.

    Aren’t you just a bit concerned when such prominent and influential members of this government are officially cautioned for making false claims?
    Concerned that these claims are given credibility (as press releases) and so erroneously influence public opinion? Not least because the corrections receive far less attention and the minister’s responsible have, so far, escaped any accountability for such actions.

    Not to mention, you must be concerned when key policy decisions need to be justified by misrepresentation of their effectiveness and consequences?
    Especially when emergency legislation needs to be drafted and applied retroactively as the only way to legitimise departmental behaviour? http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2013/mar/15/dwp-law-change-jobseekers-poundland

    For the Statistics Authority to issue such orders there has been either gross incompetence (by either the departments or ministers) and/or gross negligence (by senior advisors or ministers) or outrageous dishonesty.
    None of which can be swept under the carpet if we are to ensure proper management of the nation’s concerns.

    You see, I remain convinced that the common ground we share is a concern for the proper management of the nation and the well being of all the people.

    As such, I’m similarly convinced that we would both recognise the need for any government (and its agents) to have sufficient strength of character to admit failings and amend policy rather than fudge statistics?

    I do understand the difficulties you face, especially as a minister, in
    supporting my concern but, surely, your desire, as shown by your chosen profession and your previous career, is to serve the country above all else?

    Aside from which, if the persons involved have nothing to hide, what harm would there be in raising the matters for full and proper examination?

    On the other hand, if there is something ‘rotten in Denmark’, surely it
    would be crucial for the proper management of the country to ensure a full and proper investigation leading to actions within the bounds of both parliamentary procedure and expectations?


    John Le Brocq”

  17. Two in one day – so I took an extra coffee break to reply. If anyone has suggestions for ways to improve the conversation, particularly in relation to relevant procedure and process, please let me know.

    From Andrew;
    ” I’m assuming you are equating official caution with comments made by the government statistician which is slightly different. The danger of stats as I know since I’ve used them rather a lot is that they can be used to say various things. My view is that authorities should not knowingly manipulate official figures to falsify positions.
    Andrew Murrison”

    My reply;
    “Thank you, Andrew, I think you might be right.

    I’m referring to statements – made by the UK Statistics Authority given Royal Assent to (in part) oversee the quality and integrity of statistics produced, quoted, used (or abused) by government departments.

    I’m asking for action to be taken to put more weight behind the comments to ensure those responsible for misuse of statistics face official sanctions (which may be a caution or may be more severe).

    So far as the dangers and flexible nature of statistics, I agree, there is often ‘wriggle room’. As a consequence, I thought long and hard before approaching you and pursuing this matter.

    In these cases what we’re seeing goes far beyond ‘wriggle room’ –
    particularly in the case of Shapps, IDS and the conflation of “official
    statistics relating to new claimants of the ESA with official statistics on recipients of the incapacity benefit (IB) who are being migrated across to the ESA” – we’re seeing such a level of incompetence or negligence or dishonesty that it demands further action.

    I’m not expecting you take my word for this, nor am I expecting you to personally undertake an investigation into exactly how, why and who was responsible. I’m simply asking that the matter is properly raised and addressed, that a prominent and public correction is made and that (after a suitable investigation is made) sufficient punitive action is taken against those responsible to ensure this misleading behaviour is stopped.

    Andrew, the particular statistics in question represent the most vulnerable people in our community, people who demand the greatest duty of care, people in already fragile, sometimes desperate circumstances. Their lives are tough enough without the added burden of reckless misrepresentation.

    All I’m asking is that you initiate action that ensures that duty of care is properly upheld.


    John Le Brocq”

    1. John, this exchange is too big and too good to just be part of the overall article I’m going to do on the responses. Do you fancy turning them into a guest post?

      1. Love to – I can send a transcript with a brief introductory paragraph or let me know what you had in mind, john ‘at’ lebrocq.net

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