IDS has flown the white flag from the top of Caxton House, bowing to pressure from the Twitter mob and distancing himself from the DWP’s perfectly reasonable promotional material:
“.. somebody along the way put up what is essentially meant to be an example of the kind of advice… and ended up going out as a quote… it’s quite peculiar and quite wrong and we’ve immediately taken it down and stopped it.. “
He has also hung whoever approved the leaflet out to dry, vowing disciplinary proceedings against someone who was essentially doing their job: helping benefits claimants avoid being sanctioned by using illustrative examples. A victory for the Twitter outrage bus…
Awkward, via PA:
Iain Duncan Smith had his official credit card suspended after running up more than £1,000 in expenses debts, it can be revealed.
The Work and Pensions Secretary was among more a dozen MPs subject to action by the Commons watchdog after failing to show spending was valid.
The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) issues MPs with credit cards for to pay for items such as travel and accommodation.
The politicians then have to prove the spending was genuine by the end of the month, or they build up debts to the watchdog.
What would the DWP have to say about such a flagrant breach of the rules?
Seems pretty serious: Higher.
Hardly the first time that the words ‘IDS’ and ‘expenses’ have been heard in the same sentence…
Certainly a case for suspending hand outs.
UPDATE: Team IDS get in touch:
“Iain has not had his card suspended. IPSA have confirmed twice in writing that this issue was an error on their part. To be clear no money is owed”
Yet IPSA still insist the credit card was switched off and that they stand by their original claim entirely. So who’s telling the truth?
Rachel Reeves got very heated in the chamber at the end of DWP questions, storming out after IDS after he refused to apologise for pointing out that she failed to turn up to vote last week. Reeves rather cryptically warned him: “The Secretary of State knows nothing for why I was not able to attend last week”. Could it be another expertly executed Labour ambush?
Regular readers will remember that Rachel Reeves told a meeting of ‘Christians on the Left’ that:
‘It will be much better if we can say that all of the changes that the Government have introduced we can reverse and all benefits can be universal.’
After Guido reported the comment back in March, Reeves went out of her way not to deny the quote when it was raised in the Commons by Mark Harper. Yesterday, during an exchange with IDS, she changed tact and flatly denied ever saying it:
IDS: A little while ago, in March, she is recorded as having said that, left to her, “all the changes that the Government has introduced” in welfare reform would be reversed “and all benefits” could be and should be “universal”. She has been asked this question before. It was a quote. I will give way to her if she wants to deny it.
Rachel Reeves indicated dissent.
IDS: There we have it—we now know what the policy is.
RR: The right hon. Gentleman did not read out a quote and I deny what he said.
IDS: I have to say to the hon. Lady that it is reported that she said that “all changes that the Government has introduced” in welfare could be reversed and “all benefits can be universal”. That is what she is quoted as saying. I will send her the quote if she likes. This is important.
RR: As I said, what the right hon. Gentleman read out is not a quote of what I said and I deny that that is my view.
Well guess what? There’s a tape, Rachel. Watch the video above to hear Rachel say the exact quote. She told the house she did not say it would be better if all benefits were universal, when she clearly did. Labour should realise there is always a tape these days.
As IDS and Trigger go head to head at DWP questions this afternoon, Guido hears word of a peace offering. Having spent the last year tearing strips off each other in the Commons chamber and on the airwaves, when Rachel Reeves and the Labour shadow DWP team came to the department for a briefing, IDS thought he would ease the tension with a gift. He jollily presented her with personalised ‘Iain’ and ‘Rachel’ Coke bottles. No such gift for Chris Bryant who tagged along, and grumpily tells Guido: “The meeting had been cancelled by them three times already. Not exactly on time and on budget…” And to think they say “Things go better with Coke”.
Have Labour taken Dan Hodges’ advice and given up on fighting on welfare? This morning IDS took a sawn off shotgun to the opposition for their welfare record and a legacy that ‘let these problems be ghettoised as though they were a different country. Even now, for the most part they remain out of sight – meaning people are shocked when they are confronted with a TV programme such as Benefits Street.’ The speech was packed with ideas for reform and the moral case for it, yet the increasingly underwhelming Rachel Reeves is trying to suggest that it showed IDS has ‘no answers’. Which is rich coming from someone whose contribution to the benefits debate so far could fit on the back of small Post It note.
As Trigger’s speech on Monday proved, it is Labour who are devoid of any real contribution to the welfare reform debate. As Hodges said:
“It’s time for Labour to just shut up about welfare. It’s clear that Miliband does not feel comfortable advocating genuine cuts in the social security budget, and has no real intention of making the case for them.”
IDS sums up the problem rather well:
“Met with the problem of social breakdown, the Left would have it that a sympathetic approach is to sustain these people on slightly better incomes – the accepted wisdom of the last Government being that poverty is about money, and more state money should solve it. As a result, Labour ratcheted up welfare bills by an enormous 60%. Yet rarely did they stop to ask what impact that money was having, no matter if it kept individuals from the labour market, if it labelled them ‘incapable’, if it placed them in housing that they could never have afforded if they took a job. Where for most people, their life’s direction of travel is dictated by the informed decisions they make: can they afford a large family? Should they move in order to take up a better-paid job? Can they risk a mortgage to get a bigger home? Yet, too often for those locked in the benefits system, that process of making responsible and positive choices has been skewed – money paid out to pacify them regardless, with no incentive to aspire for a better life.”
Labour have no answers because they want to ignore the question.