Iain Duncan Smith knighted in New Year’s Honours despite fury at Tory welfare policies

Critics say ex-Tory leader’s ennoblement ‘beggars belief’ after record on universal credit

Lizzy Buchan
Political Correspondent
Friday 27 December 2019 23:28
New Year Honours list: Which stars have been recognised?

The Conservative architect of the troubled universal credit reforms has been given a knighthood in the new year honours​​ list.

Iain Duncan Smith, whose controversial welfare shake-up has been blamed for pushing thousands of people into poverty, is among several political figures celebrated for their contribution to public life.

His ennoblement sparked anger from critics who said it “beggars belief” that he had been given an honour while his reforms had left thousands of families struggling to pay their bills.

As work and pensions secretary under David Cameron, Sir Iain presided over the creation of universal credit, which rolls six working-age benefits into a single payment.

But the botched roll-out and delays in making payments pushed some low-income families towards destitution.

A string of women told MPs they had been forced into sex work to meet basic survival needs, such as food, money and shelter.

Liberal Democrat MP Christine Jardine said: “It is beggars belief that Iain Duncan Smith has been rewarded in the new year honours list.

“He is the architect of universal credit, a failed system that has left thousands of families struggling to pay bills and buy food.

“The system created by Duncan Smith forces people to survive four weeks without payment, increases rent arrears and caps benefit at two children, causing untold stress.”

Pete Wishart, a senior SNP MP, said the honour was a sign that Westminster was “simply unreformable”.

“It’s appalling that Iain Duncan Smith – the architect of Tory welfare reforms, cuts and the discredited universal credit system – is being rewarded in this manner,” he told The Independent.​

Sir Iain, a former Tory leader, unexpectedly resigned from the cabinet in 2016 over cuts to disability benefits and has since carved out a career on the backbenches as an ardent supporter of Brexit.

He was a prominent figure in the European Research Group (ERG), the Eurosceptic Conservative backbenchers who helped to derail Theresa May’s premiership.

Veteran Conservative MP Bob Neill, a former chairman of the Commons Justice Committee, was also knighted in the annual honours, which saw gongs handed out to household names in sport, entertainment and public life.

Labour MP Diana Johnson was made a Dame for her campaign for the victims of the NHS contaminated blood scandal, which killed thousands of people given blood products or transfusions from the 1970s to the 1990s.

She told The Independent: “I dedicate this honour to the NHS infected blood community and all those with whom I have worked on this and other campaigns.

“The campaign on contaminated blood is far from all over and this award encourages me to continue the work to secure justice for those affected and proper compensation for all involved.”

Senior Labour MEP Claude Moraes, a long-standing campaigner for refugees and on justice and civil liberties issues, was made an OBE.

NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens was knighted, while former chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies and John Manzoni, one of the UK’s most senior civil servants, also received honours.

Organisers said this year’s honours was compiled by priorities set when Ms May was still prime minister – rather than Boris Johnson.

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