THE BLOG

Iain Duncan Smith Caught Misleading Again - Benefit Death Figures to Be Published

26/06/2015 10:30 BST | Updated 25/06/2016 10:59 BST

We are used to Iain Duncan Smith misleading us in all sorts of ways.

Last month a leaked document from his Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) showed he had already been working through the next £12 billion of benefit cuts after he claimed not to know where they would fall.

He has been pulled up repeatedly by the government's own statistics authority for misleading claims, including once on the number of disabled people living on benefits and another when he pretended his pet benefit cap had helped thousands of people into work.

This is before we get to his bizarre diagnoses of the UK's benefit ills. This is the only man who has been to the Easterhouse estate in Glasgow and come away thinking the main issue is that residents have too much money.

His latest lie came this week in a parliamentary session. The information commissioner ruled in April that the DWP must publish figures on how many incapacity benefit and employment support allowance claimants died while receiving this money.

This is a vital piece of information, because the work capability assessment, which is supposed to rule on whether someone with a disability or illness should be forced to look for a job, has been so mishandled that many vulnerable people who should never have been found fit have committed suicide because of the pressure the system put them under.

Others have been forced to look for work while living under the shadow of a terminal illness, the state making their final days a misery as they balance treatment with jobcentre harassment.

So this matters hugely, and Smith must be concerned that this is the information that could bring support for his benefit 'reforms' screeching into reverse.

Smith being Smith, his response to this was to stick his fingers in his ears and pretend the figures simply didn't exist.

He told Labour's Debbie Abrahams in parliament on Monday:

"She knows very well that the department does not collate numbers on people in that circumstance.

"It deals with individual cases where things have gone right or gone wrong and reviews them. It is a crying shame that Labour members want to go out every day scaring and frightening people. It is no wonder they lost the election."

An extra little dig at the opposition there for good measure.

Fast forward all of two days to yesterday's prime minister's questions, and we have David Cameron confirming that DWP does collate these figures after all:

"First of all let me reassure you this data will be published and is being prepared for publication as we speak. I think it is important we publish data and this government has published more data about public spending than any previous government."

If the figures were never collected they clearly could not be prepared for publication.

Smith was foolish for thinking he could simply pretend the numbers didn't exist. For anyone with a more blemish-free track record, misleading parliament would be a resignation matter, but this seems incredibly unlikely for shameless Smith.

There is another set of information that he is desperate to hide. The DWP must publish the findings from its investigations of the 40 times claimants have committed suicide after their benefits have been taken away, but Smith has been refusing to provide this information, presumably believing it would make him look like a murderer.

Some of us have been looking for the magic piece of information that finally forces its way into people's consciousnesses and makes them understand that, far from being too generous and too often abused, UK welfare is a broken system that steals National Insurance contributions and too often refuses to pay out when people are in need.

Revealing the misery created may just be the first step on a road to a better way of delivering help, one that allows people to live with dignity in the most difficult time of their lives.

Anything that can force this reassessment must be hoped for, but we must never forget those who paid with their lives so a terrible government could cut spending while protecting their rich donors.