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Iain Duncan Smith ‘very pleased’ as department sinks in crisis

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Issue 2378

It’s been another bad week for work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith. First the Supreme Court ruled that his department’s workfare programmes are illegal last week. It said claimants on the schemes weren’t given enough information about them beforehand.

The court ruled against the Department for Work and Pensions, which was challenging an earlier verdict by the Court of Appeal. Lawyer Tessa Gregory said, “The court upheld the findings that Iain Duncan Smith acted beyond the powers given to him by parliament by failing to provide any detail about the various schemes. 

“Iain Duncan Smith has sought to brand our clients as ‘job snobs’, but in reality all they have been seeking is a system that is fair and transparent.”

Duncan Smith desperately tried to spin this humiliating defeat as a victory because the court ruled that workfare didn’t constitute forced labour. He said he was “very pleased” with the verdict on the Department for Work and Pensions website. Yet he failed to mention that the court found against him on every ground of appeal he raised.

And even the bosses’ Financial Times described the ruling as a victory for his opponents. 

Meanwhile, the government’s Universal Credit benefit scheme is in such a mess that it could be written off altogether, leaked documents have revealed. The plan is one of two options for trying to rescue the botched benefit scheme. It would mean writing off £119 million that has already been spent to favour a more “web-based” scheme. 

It would cost a further £96 million to develop. Plan B is to try and fix the scheme as it stands—which a risk assessment accepts is “not achieveable within the preferred timescales”. It also admits that ministers won’t know if a new system would work until summer next year. At that point the system is expected to be “live for 100 claimants”.

Prison riots greet new Tory attacks

“incidents” and “disturbances” were reported at two prisons last week after the government announced new attacks on inmates. Around 40 prisoners were involved in a disturbance at Maidstone prison in Kent on Friday of last week. 

Meanwhile up to 70 inmates joined a protest at Warwickshire’s Rye Hill prison, refusing to return to their cells. One woman reported hearing prisoners in one block calling to those in another “asking them what was going on”.

Tory justice secretary Chris Grayling unveiled plans to make life harder for prisoners on the same day. This involves forcing some to wear uniforms and taking away “perks” such as access to TV or gym. Prison Officers Association vice-chairman Ralph Valerio said there is “growing discontent” in prisons.

Sun admits mistake on ‘benefit tourists’

The Sun was last week forced to admit that one of its latest scare stories about immigrants and benefits wasn’t true. It attacked “benefit tourism” on page 6 of its paper on 21 October, claiming the cost “to the NHS alone could be £1.5 billion a year”.

A correction appeared in a small box on page 2 of the Sun on Thursday of last week. It read, “Our 21 October headline ‘Brussels: UK’s 600,000 benefit tourists is no problem’ was not accurate.

“There is no evidence of 600,000 ‘benefit tourists’ in the UK. Neither has the European Commission said this would be no problem.”

  • Channel Four news encouraged racism against Roma in a report last week. It spoke of “waves” of Roma arriving in “huge numbers” in Britain. A reporter added that Roma “feel more comfortable on the margins of society”. Roma are marginalised because of racism, not through personal choice.

Sick forced to wait weeks for their benefits

A new benefits system is delaying payments to  hundreds of terminally ill cancer patients. The Tories have begun replacing Disability Living Allowance with Personal Independence Payments for many disability benefit claimants.

Macmillan Cancer Support said payments that used to take up to 10 days to be processed now take up to 10 weeks. Cancer patient Keith Boyd said delays made him feel “second class”.

Being a woman in Britain is bad for health

If you’re a woman living in Britain you are likely to die earlier than if you live in most other European countries.

That’s the conclusion of a report compiled by the World Health Organisation and University College London academics. It ranks Britain 21st out of 53 countries for female life expectancy.

The average female life expectancy in Britain is 82.6 years. This compares to 85 in Spain and 82.8 in both Greece and Slovenia.

Tory minister Ken Clarke decided to join the attacks on Muslim women who wear the veil last week. Clarke said he’d back a ban on the veil in courts. Or as he respectfully put it, “It’s almost impossible to have a proper trial if one person is wearing a kind of bag.”

We are paying the gas and electricity bills of multi-millionaire MPs, a Sunday Mirror investigation has revealed. MPs have claimed £200,000 to pay energy bills in their second homes. Etonian and Foreign Office minister Hugo Swire claimed £3,198 on gas and oil in one year. But he says consumers “have to pay” higher energy bills “if we want the lights to stay on”. 


Lynton Crosby 

The Tories have taken on the lobbyist full time in a £500,000 deal. He had been working part time


David Cameron 

Cameron has fallen out of Forbes magazine’s list of the top ten most powerful people in the world

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