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Iain Duncan Smith versus Jeremy Heywood

16 September 2012

4:32 PM

16 September 2012

4:32 PM

There’s war in Whitehall. The Sunday Times devotes its p2 lead (£) to the fact that Sir Jeremy Heywood, the Cabinet Secretary, is ‘sceptical’ of the Universal Credit, the key to Iain Duncan Smith’s revolutionary welfare reforms. The newspaper has gathered its intelligence by reading the leading article of this week’s Spectator, and repeats our point that civil servants will interpret Heywood’s reservations as a ‘go-slow order’. Here is what our leader column says:

‘Treasury officials have been against Duncan Smith from the start, due to the threat which Universal Credit posed to their beloved tax credits. Ambition in itself is looked down upon by ministers who deride ‘IDS’s grand projet’. Sir Jeremy Heywood, the civil servant effectively running Britain, is letting it be known that he is ‘sceptical’ about Duncan Smith’s mission. This, in Whitehall, is the equivalent of a go-slow order.’

The Sunday Times takes the story on by revealing the fuss caused by our article. A  senior source is quoted describing Treasury officials as a ‘law unto themselves’. It then reiterates that the Treasury favours making further cuts to the welfare budget over pursuing radical, lasting reform. IDS has set himself against such a short-term approach, which may explain why he refused to be reshuffled to the justice department.

The Sunday Times also adds that Heywood is not urging departmental permanent secretaries to co-operate with the government. As we say in our leading article:-

‘This Prime Minister should throw his weight behind Duncan Smith rather than seeking to remove him. He ought to remind Sir Jeremy that, as head of the civil service, he is paid not to be ‘sceptical’ about government policy but to implement it.’

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IDS is not a man to pull punches. The Sunday Times says that the work and pensions secretary is set to demand in Cabinet that the prime minister honours his standing commitment to welfare reform by confronting Heywood. One wonders how the eminence grise will react to une réprimande, assuming he receives one.

PS from Fraser Nelson: It is odd that the Sunday Times did not find space to credit The Spectator in its story, in spite of quoting twice from our article.  But it’s a reminder: information dropped midway into a Spectator piece can often pop up later as a page lead in a newspaper. Once the Daily Mail even splashed the entire newspaper on a fact plucked from our leading article. It led its diary column last Thursday on a quote from James Forsyth’s brilliant interview with the new minister Matthew Hancock (without attribution, the scoundrels).

Part of the fun of subscribing to The Spectator lies in being better informed than those who rely on newspapers. And you can join us – on iPad and print – from as little as £1 an issue. The Spectator, every week. Why wait?

PPS The Sunday Times was right to follow our editorial, of course. In doing so, it was a day ahead of the Daily Mail and the Guardian who had to inform their readers about Heywood’s “scepticsm” on Monday – again without acknowledging the source.

Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.


Show comments
  • james102

    It is unfortunate that the report on attitudes towards welfare
    payments and immigration reported today in the Telegraph was not available when
    this article was written.

    Maybe something could be posted on its main findings.

    It seems to support the contention I have made a number of
    times that Andrew Neather et al were wrong, it is not the right that will
    suffer as a result of multiculturalism but the left. The choice seems to be
    diversity or equality.

  • Daniel Maris

    I think in the spirit of the insurgency, begun by Frank P we should reclaim the wall for free debate.

    Having just been researching some Churchill quotes I must say one reads those and they are not far off Shakespeare in terms of insightfulness. And then you think about the quality of comment coming from the Spectator writers and you wonder…

    For me, as a populist, Churchill was in many ways an ideal politician. He was not afraid to change party. He said that one of the best diets for a man was eating his own words – i.e. he was prepared to listen and learn.

    The Spectator staff should take a couple of days off and read through Churchill’s quotes and have a seminar dedicated to discussing what they actually mean. I think the quality of the whole magazine would improve as a result.

  • Daniel Maris

    The Universal Credit is about the one good thing this government has produced so far.

    My only concern is that the whole government is not behind it so the Treasury will be seeking to discredit it.

    However, it is the one radical measure brought in by an otherwise timid and tawdry outfit. It could really put a dent in welfare dependency.

  • Nicholas

    Heywood needs his left wing clipping – and his arse kicking.

    • telemachus

      Your jackboot friends will oblige

      • Nicholas

        Read Douglas Carter’s comment below and learn the difference between commenting and trolling. Then we will all be obliged. Your presence here and your style are both offensive and tedious.

        • George_Arseborne

          Nick A Lass, trolling best describe you. You keep going round and round while reading comments opposing your view.
          It is time you take up some anger management course.
          Keep up Telemachus, good comment that angers trolling Nicholas

          • Nicholas

            Is that really the best you can do? A juvenile distortion of my Christian name by a troll with an abusive pseudonym. My anger at socialists requires no management, thank you, but I suggest that you get some help with writing English.

            • George_Arseborne

              Good . At least you understood the context of my comment and you decided to troll again by expressing your anger.
              Anything social is an integral part of human being. Rage against socialist is of no help to you. And by making you that angry leads to fascism and I am afraid…

              • Nicholas

                Complete bollocks of course. The modern fascists are all in left-wing, socialist parties – that is why they are called leftofascists – and there is plenty of anger towards them.

                • George_Arseborne

                  Trolling with anger again. take it Easy RIGHTOFASCISTS!!!!!!!!!

                • Nicholas

                  No anger. Just pity at your stupidity, imported Labour voter.

                  Ok I lied about the pity. I think your stupidity it is pretty funny. You do know that block capitals online means shouting, right?

  • http://twitter.com/DHewson Ex Spurs supporter

    Scrap tax credits, bring in universal credit with a 50/50 taper, raise the income tax threshold to 12,000, cut immigration to the tens of thousands, and then just sit back and watch unemployment fall.

    • AnotherDaveB

      I thought raising the personal tax allowance was a recognition that the tax credits policy was a mistake. I’m surprised it isn’t already being dismantled.

      • http://twitter.com/DHewson Ex Spurs supporter

        Tax credits are so political, labour seize on any reduction and were intent on using tax credits to bribe the electorate with its own money.

  • Frank P

    A lot of cod French in this piece, M.Noirbrûlé? Holiday in Provence? You weren’t the Kate-snapper, were you?

    As for the post itself – no longer a question of “Yes, Minister”. It’s now, “No! Minister”. To join in the lingo, “Plus ca change ….”

  • 2trueblue

    Isen’t it wonderful that the civil service are now dictating what policies will and will not be rolled out? I have no recollection of the civil service being elected. Labour did us a great diservice in politicising the civil service. I do not care how IDS comes across. I have very strong views on the civil service not doing their job, or for that matter anyone refusing to do their job. Surely they are in breech of their contract? Sack the lot of them.

  • davebush999

    This is so typical of this coalition. Come up with an unworkable policy, such as universal credit, and then blame the Civil Service. Where is the foundation for the assertions in this article? Sounds like briefing from IDS to cover his failed backside.

    • 2trueblue

      Gosh, no idea that the government were elected to run the country for the benefit of ease of the civil service. The problem is that the Labour government politicised the civil service. We employ these people, they should be sacked if they can not fulfill their remit. Generally speaking it is called doing your job. You do not dictate to your employer.

  • james102

    Just naming Heywood is a good first step. Civil servants and
    others on the public payroll need to be
    much more accountable as individuals.

    Maybe the next time a committee looks into something like
    the G4S contract the officials who drafted and agreed the contract will answer
    questions as well as the company awarded the contract.

    Who knows we may even move towards making social workers as
    accountable as gas fitters so when a child dies as a result of their negligence
    they face manslaughter charges.

    • telemachus

      Those poor souls charged with these difficult decisions are already more accountable than most.
      Do not move us to a position where no one will be a social worker

      • http://twitter.com/ianwalkeruk Ian Walker

        I love the insinuation that you are a civil servant. In the laughably small likelihood that this is true, could you possibly stop wasting my tax (e.g. your salary) spending your entire waking day posting outdated socialist drivel on the Spectator blogs?

      • james102

        No people will be social workers who are prepared to stand
        by their decisions. At the moment social work seems to attract the wrong type
        of people for a job which has changed. Decisions about life and death or
        whether children should be compulsory adopted can only be taken by people with
        the highest levels of common sense and judgement, not untried barely literate
        (see Victoria Climbie Inquiry available on line )staff.

        They must also act within the cultural values of the majority
        population or their decisions will be considered irrational.

        In fact most such decisions should be taken by a lay panel
        of elected councillors rather than local government officers.

  • John Steed

    He has every right to be sceptical if, as seems likely, this policy ends up causing administrative chaos.

    • Douglas Carter

      He has every right to be sceptical. He has no mandate in any respect to contrive the levers of the Civil Service to block the policy.
      He is under a tacit obligation to honour the policies of the Government of the day, no matter his opinions. If he feels he’s entitled to a different stance, or that the Government has no place directing his energies towards their policies, he should seek to step down with immediate effect.
      HM Official Opposition sits in Parliament opposite the Prime Minister. It has no place in the Civil Service.

      • UlyssesReturns

        I was about to write something similar but could not possibly improve on your words. In the parlance of my youth Heywood requires a good slap.

    • ButcombeMan

      More chaos than the monster of “tax credits” and the O’Donnell/Great Leader, evidence free, reorganisational chaos created by merging the two taxation Departments while they implemented them?

      The “Treasury” connived in the Big Brown Mess to an extraordinary and mindless degree.

      Cameron would be well advised to reign in the Treasury. It has historically been full of supposedly bright young things, enormously clever in their own estimation but mostly with an absence of basic common sense and a long term view of the best interests of the country.

    • itdoesntaddup

      In the Department of Administrative Affairs? Heywood can’t Hacker it?

      Life is truly stranger than fiction.

    • http://twitter.com/ObliviousReaper Ian Whittaker

      It will only cause administrative chaos if the senior management at the DWP are incapable of managing change & implementing related IT systems; in which case is the issue with the relatively logical policy or with employing people who are incapable of carrying out their jobs?

    • http://twitter.com/ObliviousReaper Ian Whittaker

      It will only cause administrative chaos if the senior management at the DWP are incapable of managing change & implementing related IT systems; in which case is the issue with the relatively logical policy or with employing people who are incapable of carrying out their jobs?

    • telemachus

      Absolutely John Steed.
      IDS does not have a good track record of success and like all idealogues rams a policy home before it is fully thought through.

      Let us take the example of council tax benefit reform

      Let us suppose a factory closes and suddenly a lot more people claim council tax benefit, everyone else in the district will have their council tax benefit cut to accommodate the new claimants. Since the majority of the non-pensioner poor are in work, this hits the working poor hardest, adding to disincentives to work, when every extra pound they earn can see 95p in benefit lost.

      This blows away Iain Duncan Smith’s repeated promises that his universal credit, will smooth out all tapers and ensure everyone is always better off working. The government even defended this cut with the assertion that it would incentivise local authorities to find work for their denizens, so as to get them off council tax benefit. Yet the Institute of Fiscal Studies has shown
      the effect to be the opposite: it takes away incentives to work, with too steep
      a loss of the benefits for those moving into jobs.
      *
      I would say Jeremy Heywood is saving the Coalition from itself. What does Vince think?

    • telemachus

      Absolutely John Steed.
      IDS does not have a good track record of success and like all idealogues rams a policy home before it is fully thought through.

      Let us take the example of council tax benefit reform

      Let us suppose a factory closes and suddenly a lot more people claim council tax benefit, everyone else in the district will have their council tax benefit cut to accommodate the new claimants. Since the majority of the non-pensioner poor are in work, this hits the working poor hardest, adding to disincentives to work, when every extra pound they earn can see 95p in benefit lost.

      This blows away Iain Duncan Smith’s repeated promises that his universal credit, will smooth out all tapers and ensure everyone is always better off working. The government even defended this cut with the assertion that it would incentivise local authorities to find work for their denizens, so as to get them off council tax benefit. Yet the Institute of Fiscal Studies has shown
      the effect to be the opposite: it takes away incentives to work, with too steep
      a loss of the benefits for those moving into jobs.
      *
      I would say Jeremy Heywood is saving the Coalition from itself. What does Vince think?

  • Publius

    “One wonders how the eminence grise will react to une réprimande, assuming he receives one.”

    Presumably Heywood will sack Cameron.

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