Duncan Smith, Duplicity And The Deficit

Regular bloggers who have followed the career of the government minister for work and pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, will be familiar with his propensity for sophistry, obfuscation and obtrusiveness. If by chance you are not familiar with the man, you might be forgiven, having seen the recent interview he gave with Dermot Murnaghan regarding the ‘fake letters’ row, that his portrayal by critical bloggers and others has been unfair.

I was astonished just how much of an easy ride he was given by the Sky News anchor. Thankfully, a small minority within the mainstream media are actually prepared to undertake the job that they are paid to do by bringing power to account, as opposed to acquiescing to it. One journalist worthy of the name is LBC Radio’s James O’Brien.

Up until a few days ago, I wasn’t aware of the 2013 interview Duncan Smith gave with O’Brien following the court of appeal Poundland scandal. In the interview Duncan Smith is exposed for the compulsive liar he is.

What follows is an edited transcript of the interview which is illuminating, not least because it would tend to support the assertion by blogger Mike Sivier that Duncan Smith is incompetent in his role as work and pensions secretary. After reading the 2013 interview transcript below you might actually be inclined to question his sanity:

JOB: ” Current figures suggest that 2.5 million people in the UK are claiming Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) while job vacancies stand at around half a million.Today eight available jobs at Costa Coffee in Nottingham attracted 1,700 applications. There appears to be something of a disconnect between these two states’ of affairs.”

IDS: “The figures show that 83% of those seeking full time work are in full time work. 17% of those who are looking for full time work can’t find it and are taking part time work.”

JOB: “No Mr Duncan Smith. There could be 2.5 million people looking for full time work. You are confining yourself to people who have found it.”

IDS: “No, I’m talking about those looking for work. The reality is, those who seek full time work are finding full time work.”

JOB: “But 2.5 million people haven’t found work.”

IDS: “But those are the people who are seeking work. That’s what I’m saying.”

JOB: “The people who are finding jobs are finding full time work, but there are still millions of people who are not finding jobs….The woman who was stacking shelves [at Poundland] wanted to be paid for it.”

IDS: “But she was paid for it. The tax payer was paying her for Gods sake.”

JOB: “Let me read you the official Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) response to an official petition to abolish workfare. ‘We do not have work for your benefit or workfare schemes in this country’. This is a further response to a freedom of information (FOI) request from your department. ‘Benefit is not paid to the claimant as remuneration for the activity’. So explain to me how she [the Poundland shelf stacker] can ‘earn’ her Job Seeker’s Allowance (JSA) in a country where benefit is not paid as remuneration’?”

IDS: “Because the work experience programme is one you volunteer to do. We do not have a workfare programme…We changed the rules so that young people can do work experience for up to two months and still receive their JSA benefit.”

JOB: “But the court of appeal has ruled that they are forced into these programmes.”

IDS: “What the court of appeal found is that it’s not against their human rights to do it.”

JOB: “I haven’t mentioned human rights.”

IDS: “This is a voluntary scheme. Most people want it, enjoy it, and get something out of it.”

JOB: “I need to clarify this point. You used the word ‘earn’ to describe the payment of JSA to somebody working for a highly profitable company like Poundland. That’s your phrase. But then we learned from your department that benefit is not paid to the claimant as remuneration. Those two positions are completely irreconcilable”.

IDS: “No they are not. Listen, they volunteered to do this. We’ve allowed them to continue to receive JSA at the same time they are doing their work experience.”

JOB: “What she was saying is she wasn’t paid.”

IDS: “But she was. The taxpayer paid her JSA. We have allowed people to do work experience and not lose their JSA.”

JOB: “So it’s remuneration for working?”

IDS: “In the past she would have lost her JSA.”

JOB: “So the benefit is payment for the work.?”

IDS: “I don’t understand what you are concerned about.”

JOB: “She is getting paid for doing the work at Poundland with her JSA. It is a pay packet.”

IDS: “It is work experience. She has volunteered to go on the work experience programme.”

JOB: “Because she had been lied to about what it would involve, as the court of appeal found last week.”

IDS: “They did not find that she was lied to.”

JOB: “They said they needed to clarify what the regulations were.”

IDS: “The regulations were around the withdrawal of benefit if she failed to comply with what she agreed to do.”

JOB: “Which only works if the benefit is a reward for doing the work experience.”

IDS: “You clearly haven’t read what the judgement said.”

JOB: “I’ve read every word of it.”

IDS: “With respect, you need to understand it.”

JOB: “With respect to you, I do. Insulting me, doesn’t advance the argument in any way.”

IDS: “This debate is going nowhere….Are you saying these kids shouldn’t be doing work experience.”?

JOB: “I’m saying, if they are working, they should be paid for it. It’s quite straightforward. You are, why shouldn’t they”?

IDS: “They are on JSA. The taxpayer is paying them.”

JOB: “So What’s the minimum wage legislation for”?

IDS: “This is work experience for up to two months….”

JOB: “The bottom line is, you are using benefits to pay an incredibly cheap workforce to subsidize incredibly profitable companies at the tax payers expense, and passing it off as some kind of assault on a feckless generation.”

IDS: “I don’t agree with that.”

JOB: “Of course you don’t. 17,000 people in Nottingham applied for eight jobs.”

IDS: “Look, there are more people in work today than at anytime since records began.”

JOB: “What a strange observation. There are many more people alive today. What would you say to the 1,692 people who failed.”

IDS: “The reality is that in that area there are 15,000 vacancies and the claimant count their is still falling.”

JOB: “Is that really what you would say to them”?

IDS: “I would say that you have to keep looking for jobs. We are moving in the right direction and that’s a positive.”

JOB: “Sorry, you’ve lost me. To the 1,692 people who have failed to get a job in a coffee shop, you say it’s a positive”?

IDS: “I didn’t say that.”

JOB: “Yes you did.”

IDS: “The positive figures today are a good indication that the private sector is creating jobs, there are more people in work, more vacancies and the claimant count is falling. These are positives…There are half a million vacancies on a daily basis in the UK.”

JOB: “For two and a half million job seekers. The astonishing thing is you think that a benefit is a payment for work done.”

IDS: “I think that the work experience programme is a great success and I’m very proud of it.”

JOB: “Apart from the little wobble in the court of appeal last week.”

IDS: “We’ve changed the regulations going forward.”

JOB: “So the thing you are proud of has now been changed”?

IDS: “No, the programmes are the same.”

JOB: “But the regulations have changed”?

IDS: “The court of appeal has said that the regulations need tightening up and we’ve tightened them up.”

JOB: “Iain Duncan Smith, many thanks for your time.”

Perhaps Duncan Smith believes that subsidizing multinational companies to take on cheap labour will help reduce the deficit the Tories are constantly pontificating needs reducing.

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