Iain Duncan Smith Accused Of 'Misrepresenting' Benefit Statistics By Economist Jonathan Portes

The work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith has been accused of "misrepresenting" statistics on welfare to falsely praise the the effects of the government's new benefit cap.

Duncan Smith announced on Friday that figures showing the number of people expected to be hit by the cap - which comes into force this week in London before being rolled out through the rest of the country - had fallen from 56,000 to 40,000, with 8,000 claimants finding work through JobCentre Plus.

"Already we've seen 8,000 people who would have been affected by the cap move into jobs. This clearly demonstrates that the cap is having the desired impact," the Conservative MP said.

However, Jonathan Portes, a leading economist and director of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, and former economist for the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), disputes Duncan Smith's claims.

Portes has accused Duncan Smith of improperly using DWP statistics

"The actual analysis published by the Department for Work and Pensions makes it quite clear that they do not attempt to analyse any impact of behavioural change and that there is as yet no evidence one way or the other that there is behavioural change," Portes told the BBC's Today programme on Saturday.

Portes was careful not to criticise the DWP, saying their statistics are accurate, but that the statistics have been misused by Duncan Smith.

"I think it is very unfortunate. These statistics are very important. Government analysts, economists statisticians work very hard to produce and they provide important information to the public," added Portes, who regularly writes on economic policy and the misuse and misrepresentation of statistics on his own blog, Not The Treasury View, the Guardian and the Huffington Post UK.

"It is very important that ministers should not seek to misrepresent what those stats actually do or don't show. That detracts from the public's faith in the analysis produced by government statisticians.

"This is, I am afraid, a consistent pattern of trying to draw out of the statistics things which they simply don't show."