Oldham MP brands Iain Duncan Smith’s false benefit claims ‘unacceptable’

By Glen Keogh

An Oldham MP has hit out at Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, for making false claims based on the misuse of official statistics.

Duncan Smith was rebuked for his comments which claimed the coalition’s benefits cap had already allowed 8,000 people to move into jobs.

Debbie Abrahams, Oldham East and Saddleworth MP, made a Point of Order in the Commons on Monday to lash out at the government and even accuse the Prime Minister of making false claims.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. You may be aware that last Thursday, Andrew Dilnot, the chair of the UK Statistics Authority, wrote to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions regarding his misuse of official statistics on the benefit cap,” she said.

“It was found that, once again, the Department was making claims that were unsupported by official statistics.

“That follows similar issues regarding the Child Support Agency statistics in February, and also extends to the Secretary of State for Health and his health funding claims last December, and even to the Prime Minister’s use of official statistics last October.”

Duncan Smith was attempting to use unsubstantiated statistics to support the controversial benefits cap which is already in place in some UK boroughs and will be imposed nationwide from July.

Speaking afterwards, Ms Abrahams said: “The Work and Pensions Select Committee has repeatedly warned Ministers and officials about using data responsibly. Too often data is conflated and inappropriate conclusions are drawn.

“Whether this is done inadvertently or not it is unacceptable and must stop.”

When Ms Abrahams made her comments in the Commons, The Speaker interrupted saying there were other channels to draw attention to the issue.

Mr Dilnot’s letter to Duncan Smith outlined the way statistics had been used to falsely represent information.

“In the manner and form published, the statistics do not comply fully with the principles of the Code of Practice, particularly in respect of accessibility to the sources of the data, information about the methodology and quality of the statistics, and the suggestion that the statistics were shared with the media in advance of their publication,” he said.

Picture courtesy of Foreign and Commonwealth Office, via Flickr, with thanks. 

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