Work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith has been caught lying twice in a television interview about the impact of his reforms on disabled people, even managing to contradict his own special adviser.
Iain Duncan Smith has been a focus of anger for disabled activists since he took over the post in 2010, but his latest television interview this week, with Channel 4 News, saw him lie twice about the impact of his reforms on disabled people in an interview that lasted less than five minutes.
He lied first about how generous Britain was in disability spending, and then lied about Conservative plans for a benefits freeze after the election.
Duncan Smith claimed that those disabled people in the support group of the out-of-work disability benefit employment and support allowance (ESA) – those with the highest support needs – would be “exempted” from the benefits freeze.
But his own special adviser, Lizzie Loudon, told Disability News Service (DNS) just three weeks ago that this group would not be exempted from the benefits freeze, a position that was eventually confirmed by chancellor George Osborne’s own special adviser.
They confirmed to DNS that the main ESA component would be frozen – so affecting all those in the support group – and that it was just the support group top-up that would be exempted from the freeze.
Duncan Smith was asked how disabled people should feel about the controversial comments of his welfare reform minister Lord Freud, who claimed at a fringe event at the Conservative party conference in Birmingham that some disabled people were not worth the minimum wage.
Duncan Smith replied that the UK government “probably spend more than almost any other country in the developed world. We spend nearly double what Germany spends.”
This repeated claims made by both Lord Freud and their Conservative ministerial colleague Esther McVey, who had used figures from the OECD (the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) to suggest that the government was a “world leader” in disability spending.
They said last year that the UK spent “almost double the OECD average” on disabled people, spending 2.4 per cent against the OECD average of 1.3 per cent in 2009.
But they were only able to make that claim by quoting the OECD’s “disability” figures, and ignoring those for “sickness”, which includes spending on ESA and incapacity benefit.
If a comparison is made between the UK and all of its immediate OECD neighbours – Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, France, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Iceland and Ireland – the UK’s spending is lower than average.
Where the UK spent 2.9 per cent of GDP on “disability and sickness” in 2009, its nine OECD neighbours spent an average of 3.2 per cent. And the UK’s spending is only slightly higher than Germany’s, which is 2.6 per cent of GDP, a long way from being “nearly double”.
Duncan Smith declined to comment when asked to respond to claims that he had lied about both issues in the Channel 4 interview.
24 October 2014