POLITICS
31/07/2013 08:52 BST | Updated 31/07/2013 11:36 BST

Grant Shapps Attacks BBC For Claiming Benefit Cuts Will Cause 'Armageddon'

PA
Conservative party co-chairman Grant Shapps arrives for a cabinet meeting at Downing Street in London, after Prime Minister David Cameron hailed his new-look top team, insisting he had put the right people in place to kick start the flagging economy.

The Conservative Party has stepped up its attack on the BBC, accusing the broadcaster of "irresponsible" negative coverage of the coalition's cuts to benefit payments.

Speaking in Westminster on Wednesday afternoon, the Tory chairman Grant Shapps said viewers of the BBC could be forgiven for thinking that the government's welfare reforms would result in "Armageddon".

Shapps said today: "I think its incumbent on the national broadcaster to cover these things fair and properly."

"There was a weekend back in the autumn last year where a number of different welfare caps were coming in ... and watching the BBC you would have been forgiven for imagining this was Armageddon. The broadcaster was so fundamentally over the top. I think that is irresponsible."

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He added: "It is right for the BBC to tackle that kind of problem, particularly if it feels like it is institutional. I do think it is incumbent on a major broadcaster to be scrupulous and fair and not let their own opinions shine through their broadcasts."

Yesterday the BBC Trust ruled that a programme about the government's welfare reforms presented by John Humprhys breached its impartiality guidelines in a way poverty campaigners said gave too positive view of the government.

But work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith also reacted angrily to the suggestion the Humprhys programme was biased in favour of the government.

"I have just watched reporting on the BBC about the government winning a High Court judgment on the spare room subsidy that once again has left me absolutely staggered at the blatant left-wing bias within the coverage," he said.

"And yet the BBC Trust criticise John Humphrys’s programme, which was thoughtful, intelligent and born out of the real life experience of individuals."

Alison Garnham, chief executive of Child Poverty Action Group, said the programme broke rules on accuracy and impartiality "in ways that fundamentally misled viewers".

She added: "This programme, like too many media stories, failed the public by swallowing wholesale the evidence-free myth of a 'dependency culture' in which unemployment and rising benefit spending is the fault of the unemployed."