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Claims that Iain Duncan Smith bullied members of the Public Accounts Committee into blaming his permanent secretary for the failings of Universal Credit are gaining traction after the Daily Telegraph reported that committee chair Margaret Hodge said that “senior figures had sought to influence her report”.
The Telegraph report states: “In comments to students on November 11 – four days after the publication of he committee’s report – Mrs Hodge said: ‘I can’t tell you how much inappropriate talking there was to me and other members of the committee, by both ministers and civil servants, either to get me to blame the permanent secretary in the DWP and therefore transfer blame away from Iain Duncan Smith or to put the blame on Mr Devereux [Robert Devereux, the permanent secretary] and to ensure ministers escaped blame.'”
As reported here on November 7, Iain Duncan Smith “has denied claims he tried to ‘lean on’ members of the committee to place the blame on Mr Devereaux, but Labour sources on the committee told BBC News there was a ‘concerted’ effort by Tory members to shift the blame, with extra meetings and discussions over amendments ‘pointing the finger’ at the permanent secretary”.
Bizarrely, it is Andrew Lansley, the Leader of the House of Commons, who has come under attack after the revelation – because he told the Commons (on the same day) that there was “no truth” to the claims.
While it is true that knowingly telling a falsehood to other MPs constitutes contempt of Parliament, for which the penalty used to be expulsion – as we know from the record of Iain Duncan Smith - it seems strange that the focus is on Lansley, who merely repeated what he had been told to say, and not Smith himself, the alleged perpetrator of the wrongdoing.
Spokespeople for the DWP and Lansley have denied any wrongdoing – well they would, wouldn’t they?
But Iain Duncan Smith is due to go before the Commons Work and Pensions Committee to account for the many offences he has committed in the last few months, and it seems right that this bullying allegation should be included alongside the financial irregularities now associated with Universal Credit (more than £160 million wasted on duff computer systems), his refusal to provide up-to-date figures on the number of deaths now associated with his social (in)security policies, the illegality of his attempts to deprive sanctioned victims of his workfare schemes of the back-benefit the government now owes them, and his own contempt of Parliament offence, in which he made false claims about the benefit cap.
That meeting is set to take place on December 9 (postponed from an original date in July). Do you think the lying coward will turn up?
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