Tory MPs respond to their constituents on DWP lies

Some time ago, I asked readers to write to their MPs about the blatant lies told by the government, and in particular the DWP, about disabled benefit claimants. The responses of Tory MPs have been remarkable for the pure nonsense they contain – and many were almost identical.

I posted last night a guest article detailing a remarkable series of emails between John LeBrocq and his MP Andrew Murrell, but my thanks go to everyone who took the time and trouble to write to their MP about the disgraceful behaviour of Work and Pensions Secretary Iain (Duncan) Smith and his colleagues. If I used every single response, this article would become very unwieldy, but the selection shown is very representative.

As you read these responses, bear in mind the context:

  1. The government’s claim was very clear – that almost 900,000 people “dropped their ESA claim rather than face medical assessment”.
  2. The UKSA issued a clear rebuke, stating that the government had ‘conflated’ figures to justify a completely misleading press release (which then mysteriously disappeared from circulation but a copy was still obtained by the UKSA).
  3. The UKSA noted that the figure of 878,300 referred to new ESA claims, not existing claimants transferring from incapacity benefit – and that it was an improper cumulative total of a perfectly normal monthly ‘churn’ of people dropping their new claims before assessment.
  4. The UKSA pointed to evidence that this churn occurs because they waited so long to be assessed that they’d either recovered and gone back to work, found a job even though they were disabled, or else were moved onto a different benefit.

So, with that in mind, on to the responses:

Reply #1: Rory Stewart MP (Penrith and the Border)

From: Rory Stewart [mailto:rory@rorystewart.co.uk]
Sent: 14 June 2013 12:46
To: Elizabeth Jeffrey
Subject: Re: FW: Letter from your constituent ELIZABETH JEFFREY

Dear Ms Jeffrey

Thank you for contacting me about the Department for Work and Pension’s use of statistics.

As the Chairman of the UK Statistics Authority noted in his letter, research from the Department for Work and Pensions does show that an important reason why ESA claims in this sample were withdrawn or closed before they were fully assessed was because the person recovered and either returned to work, or claimed a benefit more appropriate to their situation.

I do believe this highlights the progress the Government is making in fixing the welfare system to ensure that work always pays.

I am proud that this Government is capping benefits so that no out-of-work household can claim more than the average working family earns and introducing Universal Credit which will benefit three million families by an average of £168 a month.

I hope this reassures you that the Government will continue to help those who can work get back into employment while providing support for those who cannot. Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.

With best wishes,

Rory

Rory Stewart MP
Penrith and The Border
www.rorystewart.co.uk

Jason McCartney MP, Colne Valley

From: “MCCARTNEY, Jason” <jason.mccartney.mp@parliament.uk>
To: XXXXXXX
Sent: Thursday, 6 June 2013, 13:03
Subject: RE: Statistics
Dear Vanessa,
Thank you for contacting me about the Department for Work and Pension’s use of statistics.
I am aware that the UK Statistics Authority has questioned the statistics used by the Conservative Party chairman surrounding the move from Incapacity Benefit to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).
As the Chairman of the UK Statistics Authority noted in his letter, research from the Department for Work and Pensions does show that an important reason why ESA claims in this sample were withdrawn or closed before they were fully assessed was because the person recovered and either returned to work, or claimed a benefit more appropriate to their situation.
I do believe this highlights the progress the Government is making in fixing the welfare system to ensure that work always pays.
I am proud that this Government is capping benefits so that no out-of-work household can claim more than the average working family earns and introducing Universal Credit which will benefit three million families by an average of £168 a month.
I hope this reassures you that the Government will continue to help those who can work get back into employment while providing support for those who cannot.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.
Kind regards,
Jason

These replies, following the same pattern almost word for word, were overwhelmingly in the majority. Clearly the Tory party knew it had been rumbled in its Big Lie and had prepared a rote response for its MPs in case they received messages asking about it.

This stock reply is, of course, pure nonsense. As the constituents noted in their letters, the UKSA had already highlighted that the figure of 878,300 related to a perfectly normal ‘churn’ of discontinued claims – a figure that goes back, remarkably consistently, to years before the coalition took office. It’s absolutely clear that it doesn’t in any way “highlight the progress the Government is making in fixing the welfare system”.

The stock response also entirely fails to answer the questions posed by those who wrote in – who asked among other things whether the MP would raise the issue in Parliament.

Only a couple of Tory MPs bothered to actually write a non-standard reply. Sadly, these were just as ridiculous:

James Wharton MP (Stockton South)

From: “WHARTON, James” <james.wharton.mp@parliament.uk>
Date: 8 June 2013 22:33:36 BST
To: James King
Subject: Re: Misuse of statistics

Hi James

Statistics are often open to interpretation and politicians of all colours have a history of presenting them in a way that flatters their arguments.  For my part I always try to be accurate and to properly present statistics so as to lead people to understand a true picture of what is being discussed.

Best wishes

James (not even semi detached)

Sent from my mobile.

James Wharton MP
House of Commons
London
SW1A 0AA

This one doesn’t even bother to refer to the DWP’s deliberately misleading statistics – and the constituent’s letter did not ask how Mr Wharton handles statistics, but what he would do/say about the DWP’s handling of them.

Simon Reevell MP (Dewsbury)

Dear Shaun
Thanks very much for your email and apologies for the delay in responding.
I agree with you that it is very important for politicians to use statistics properly. This is especially the case when policies are working and exaggerating their success actually detracts attention from the fact they are doing so.
Kind regards
Simon

This one appears to be parsed from the stock reply and still claims, ridiculously, that the Tories’ policies are working. But hey, at least he took the time to personalise it.

I guess it’s no surprise that Tory MPs tamely parrot their party’s line even when it refers to the criminal incitement of hatred toward disabled people (and oh so many other groups). But somehow it still manages to be shocking.

This really is a parliamentary party that’s rotten from top to bottom, with tragically few exceptions.

37 responses to “Tory MPs respond to their constituents on DWP lies

  1. Steve thanks for doing this piece, I was annoyed that Aden Burley had not answered the questions i asked,but let it slide as stupidly I believed he was tied up in the hospital debacle in this area… To find I have been softsoaped with a party line letter has infuriated me. I will be contacting him again

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  2. Pingback: Tory MPs respond to their constituents on DWP l...·

  3. I got similar from my MP, Andrew Jones for Harrogate. I mentioned bedroom tax, food banks and ATOS, he only replied about food banks saying they were working with them and children get free fruit or veg every day from 4-6 at school.
    Then went off on the party line, cloned replies from central office.
    Chocolate fireguard comes to mind.

    Like

  4. ‘I am proud that this Government is capping benefits so that no out-of-work household can claim more than the average working family earns ….’, well what a surprise, exactly the same wording in reply from my MP, the pride he claimed riled me, compounded by the lack of answers to any questions my letter contained. Not sure if im disappointed, depressed or angry to find out its a template letter of response that shows the complete contempt we/I’m held in when he/they cannot even be bothered to actually construct a reply to the letter I bothered to write, hence why no answers to particular questions letter contained.

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      • It would be good if you did compile a new letter for people to send to MPs. Mine (Labour) hasn’t even bothered to respond even with his usual avoidance tactic of sending a postcard when he doesn’t want to address the issue. I’m actually shocked and disgusted that our elected representatives have the barefaced cheek to trot out these set letters which totally avoid addressing real concerns. What the hell are we paying them for? This complacent and dismissive attitude is simply not good enough.

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  5. Sad that the first reply was from Rory Stewart, one of my favourite Tory MPs (trying to make a list of possible good ones, three so far). I didn’t have a Tory MP to write to, but the replies are sort of what you would expect. You used to get similar “I also think it’s a load of shite but have to give the Party Line, so here it is ….” replies from Labour MPs about the Iraq war.

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  6. Rather than change their mind on attitudes to free schools, wish the labour party was making more of this

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  7. “I only believe in statistics that I doctored myself”

    “Statistics are like a drunk with a lampost: used more for support than illumination.”

    Winston Churchill

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  8. Pingback: Tory MPs respond to their constituents on DWP lies | SMILING CARCASS'S TWO-PENNETH·

  9. Reblogged this on Vox Political and commented:
    Here’s a good reason to vote ALL Conservative MPs out of their seats – they have all, tamely, followed the Party line on lying to Parliament and to the country. In fact, most of them, when challenged, merely copied out a rote letter provided by their Party superiors in the hope that this would be enough (it isn’t. A lie is a lie). Take a look. If you have a Tory MP and haven’t contacted them about this, try it. But warn them in advance that you know about the rote letter!

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  10. As a matter of record all email addreses of mps are available from theyworkforyou.com – unless they ignore their paliamentary email addresesses.

    Anyway, why should we protect them.

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  11. I wrote to my MP about the impact of sanctions on food poverty (this was in support of a campaign by Church Action on Poverty and Oxfam. His assistant sent me a copy of the reply from Anne Begg, Chair of the Work and Pensions Committee. Despite the fact I had sent a personal email, she makes it clear she regarded all emails on this issue to be “pro-forma letters”. Also, when I and many others contacted Owen Paterson (Environment Secretary) a few weeks ago about an issue, he labelled our correspondence a “cyber attack”. There’s none so deaf as those who don’t want to hear.
    … apologies if this is slightly off topic but …
    For those who maybe don’t know but may be interested, the Work and Pensions Committee sits on Wednesday 26 June to start looking at the Jobcentre Plus and Welfare Reform issue:
    “Subject: The role of Jobcentre Plus in the reformed welfare system
    Witness(es): Nilufer Rahim, Senior Researcher, NatCen Social Research, Matthew Oakley, Head of Economics and Social Policy, Policy Exchange, Tony Wilson, Policy Director, Centre for Economic and Social Inclusion and Adam Sharples CB, Non-Executive Chairman, Ixion Holdings Ltd (and formerly Director General for Employment Group, DWP)
    Location: Room 15, Palace of Westminster” [from parliament.uk] … and if you’re really interested you can probably watch it on parliament tv too 🙂

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    • What hope do we have if MPs and Ministers characterise legitimate criticism from the people they are elected to serve as a ‘cyber attack’, painting them almost as terrorists? They give the impression that they have some kind of divine right to govern when in fact they’re there on our mandate. The arrogance of Patterson is sickening.
      Thanks for the info about the Select Committee., saved me looking it up!

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    • Hello Julie thanks for the heads up of the forthcoming DWP Committee sits on Wed 26th will watch on Parliament UK, Have also re-posted this info for others on my blogsite Blessings 🙂

      Like

  12. On the same lines as this, wrote to my local tory MP about a comment on his blog about “everyone paying the national debt off” wont bore you with the details of what nonsense that statement is but the reply I got back was even more telling that either he didnt know what he was talking about or was using dodgy figures. The stat he used was about debt repayment as follows “the percentage of government spending on debt servicing is £49.5 billion pounds (37.9% of the deficit) and will continue to increase until the deficit is reduced” sounds scary doesnt it but there is a problem with that statement noone but noone would use the deficit figure v debt servicing its a crazy way to measure. The answer to why is that debt servicing is measured against GDP and currently just over 3% so a quick look back at history shows you that in 1995 it was the same, go back to 1985 it was 4.5%! It is actually low by historic standards.

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  13. Pingback: Pls send this letter to your coalition MP | The SKWAWKBOX Blog·

  14. Pingback: Can’t read or don’t care? Javid, Goodwill: parrot-like on to DWP stats lies | The SKWAWKBOX Blog·

  15. Thanks for your letter,sorry I shot your Dog,raped you Wife and sold your children into slavery,but policy dictates that this is acceptable under the current policy,in time this will be beneficial to all concerned and “remember We are all in this together” thank your for your continued support! Heil!

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