Benefits cap row: Iain Duncan Smith accused of relying on 'dodgy' statistics to justify household cut-off

 

Iain Duncan Smith was accused on Monday of relying on “dodgy” statistics to justify the Government’s  £26,000-a-year benefits cap for each household.

The Work and Pensions Secretary said that more than 12,000 people  had moved into work after being told about the £500-a-week cap for families and £350-a-week ceiling for single people.

Labour seized on the small print of a Department of Work and Pensions  progress report issued as the welfare cap, which has been trialled in four London boroughs, was rolled out nationally from on Monday. It said: “This analysis is confined to correlation and does not show causation”.

The qualifying statement follows a rebuke for Mr Duncan Smith’s previous claim about the number of people taking jobs as a result of the benefits ceiling. In May,  he was criticised by the independent UK Statistics Authority.

On Monday, his department cited a poll it commissioned by Ipsos MORI of 500 people who were told their state handouts  would be capped. The survey found that 61 per cent of the group now in work found their current job after being told about the cap. But critics said there was no proof that they would not have found work anyway or that the policy  was responsible. In Haringey, one of the trial areas, only 30 of the 734 claimants affected by the ceiling are said to be in work.

Alison Garnham, chief executive of  the  Child Poverty Action Group, said: “This polling only demonstrates the paucity of evidence for the benefit cap. [It] reflects the fact that most people hit by the cap have worked and will soon work again. It’s also unhelpful for public policy and quite misleading to the public  for the spin to run ahead of the facts through repeating dodgy claims about the effect of the policy on people moving into work when the evidence is clearly not there to back up these claims.”

Liam Byrne, the shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, said: “Iain Duncan Smith is having to make things up as he goes along because his policies are failing. Even the [DWP] report he hides behind makes absolutely clear that there is no evidence for his claims. It is simply incredible that the Work and Pensions Secretary thinks it is acceptable to operate his department on guess work and blind faith.” 

An unrepentant Mr Duncan Smith accused the BBC of “seeking out lots of cases from people who are politically motivated” . He clashed with  John Humphrys, presenter of Radio 4’s Today programme, who reminded him of the Statistics Authority’s ticking off. Mr Duncan Smith replied: “No. What they [the Statistics Authority] said was that you can't absolutely prove that those two things are connected.”

Mr Humphrys then quoted the independent authority as saying the minister’s statement was "unsupported by the official statistics published by your own department". Mr Duncan Smith replied: “Yes, but by the way you can't disprove what I said either.”

You can make any claim on that basis,” Mr Humphrys replied.

“Well, I am. I believe this to be right. I believe that we are already seeing people go back to work who were not going to go back to work until they were short of the cap,” Mr Duncan Smith countered.

He told Mr Humphrys: “What you’re doing, as always in the BBC, you’re seeking out lots of cases from people who are politically motivated to say this is wrong ... The fact is that people will not be earning more than average earnings sitting out of work unless they are in exempt categories.”

The Work and Pensions Secretary claimed that predictions that the benefit cap would lead to thousands of people becoming homeless had not materialised. “The homeless figures have hardly moved at all,” he said.

He also rejected claims that the ceiling would force families to move out of London. “The vast majority of the areas in London – a third of all rentable accommodation in the private sector – is available for those who are on social rents,” he said.

But Ruth Davison, director of the  National Housing Federation, warned: “In many parts of the country, families won’t be able to pay high private rents because of the cap. There will be more demand for than ever for affordable housing, particularly in Greater London where nearly half (49 per cent) of the people affected by the benefit cap live.”

She added: “Families could face the stark choice of cutting back on essentials or having to move away long distances from their support networks to look for cheaper places to live. Until we see a long-term affordable housebuilding programme that will drive down the price of rents for everybody, housing costs should be removed from the cap.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
i100
News
Budapest, 1989. Sleepware and panties.
newsDavid Hlynsky's images of Soviet Union shop windows shine a light on our consumerist culture
News
In humans, the ability to regulate the expression of genes through thoughts alone could open up an entirely new avenue for medicine.
science
News
Williams says: 'The reason I got jobs was because they would blow the budget on the big guys - but they only had to pay me the price of a cup of tea'
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
A sketch of Van Gogh has been discovered in the archives of Kunsthalle Bremen in Germany
arts + ents
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Associate - London

Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - HIGHEST QUALITY INTERNATIONAL FIRM - A...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Law Costs - London City

Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - EXCELLENT FIRM - We have an outstandin...

Austen Lloyd: In-House Solicitor / Company Secretary - London

Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: IN-HOUSE - NATIONAL CHARITY - An exciting and...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Solicitor - Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: EXETER - A great new opportunity with real pot...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee