Coffee House

Iain Duncan Smith ties himself into universal knots over welfare reform

9 March 2014

1:50 PM

9 March 2014

1:50 PM

Will Universal Credit ever become universal and will the lowest paid still face an effective tax rate of a sometimes outrageous 76 per cent? Iain Duncan Smith took a grilling over his plans for welfare reform on the Sunday Politics today, but didn’t give a clear answer to either of these questions regarding his reforms.

Firstly, on the progress of implementing Universal Credit, the Work and Pensions Secretary claimed that ‘Universal Credit is already rolling out and the IT is working’, despite just 6,000 people currently on the ‘Pathfinder’ stage. In his initial plans, a million people claiming six existing working-age benefits were due to be on the Pathfinder stage by April 2014. IDS said it was his decision to slow down the roll out:

‘I changed the way we rolled it out over a year and a half ago. There was a reason for that. Under the advice from someone from the outside, he said you’re better off Pathfinding this out, make sure you learn the lessons, roll it out slower and gain momentum later on.’


He also sparred with Andrew Neil on how much money has been wasted on Universal Credit so far. The Public Accounts Committee reported £140 million has been written off, whereas IDS claimed this is only £40 million, plus general depreciation costs. In comparison to the private sector, IDS pointed out ‘IT programmes write off 30-40 per cent because that’s the nature of such projects’. He may be right but more scrutiny is to be expected with taxpayers’ money.

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When will UC be finished? IDS said he expects everyone claiming the six existing benefits to be on Universal credit by 2016 — assuming the next government doesn’t abandon the project — but it will not entirely universal until 2018; eight years after the implementation of the project began. As UC will affect millions of people, this may not seem unreasonable but it’s a significant delay on the initial time scales.

But how much better off will claimants be under UC ? Noting that some people are paying an effective 96 per cent marginal tax rate, it was put to IDS that this would only be 76 per cent under Universal Credit. He claimed this was due to the ‘withdrawal’ rate’ set by the government:

‘For lone parents, it would be 76 per cent if they were in the tax bracket…Some of the poorest people in this land will pay over 100 per cent back in some cases under the present system. The 98 per cent is a specific area due to lone parents, but there are some compound processes inside the present benefits system that mean that people are worse off going into work than staying out of work. This will make a big difference, they will be better off and they will be able to identify how much better off they are without a maths degrees.’

So, IDS is right in saying that some of the poorest people will be better off but in some cases not significantly so. It’s fair to wonder whether the years of effort and millions spent are worth it, to see some paying a 76 per cent marginal tax rate. At the 2009 Tory conference, David Cameron was outraged at such tax rates, but not enough it seems to do anything about it in five years.

But the Welfare Secretary summed up his belief in the project; that the pathfinder stages have shown ‘people are going to work faster, they’re doing more job searches and they’re more likely to take work under Universal Credit’. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that he’s right.

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Show comments
  • Vrex622 .

    IDS trying to justify his cruel and bungled welfare reforms….. its almost pitiful to watch.

  • swatnan

    Not even a boy scout could get IDS out of this mess.

  • Jo1xyz

    Some of these comments are downright hilarious. Ian Duncan Smith credible? Impressive? He lied his way through this interview as he does on every occasion when called to account for the mess he is creating. All that stuff about poverty being higher amongst those on work than out of work under Labour? Not true. Claimants who are sanctioned being able to claim hardship payments within 7 days? Not true. I could go on but it would take too long. Andrew Neil only let him get away with it because IDS will only turn up for interviews if he’s given assurances that he won’t be given too much of a hard time (ie no questions about disabled/sick claimants being forced onto JSA and in some cases dying whilst trying to appeal).

  • RedMiner

    It’s illustrative of how far we’ve fallen in Britain that a bungling oaf such as this can hold such high office and blunder through reforms affecting millions, squandering hundreds of millions of ‘hard working taxpayers’ money in the process.

    We used to demand a degree of competence from our politicians; it seems that now all that is required is a fantasy of ones own abilities and a desire to punish poverty, thus securing the support of what passes for a right wing in Britain these days – a nasty, vindictive clique of superannuated boot boys dishing it out to the poorest in the land.

  • Jessie Bauchope Young

    In any other ‘business’ this incompetent nincompoop would have been ‘let go’ long ago. He lied about his qualifications, (all he has ever done is a few short courses’ ) he lies about his own performance, and has cost the taxpayer more money than he wil ever save.
    He is being used by Cameron as a whipping boy, there to take all the flack ,that the P.M doesn’t want to take himself.

  • BarkingAtTreehuggers

    For God’s sake leave IDS alone, it’s not his fault – now let him go.

  • hindleA

    I have a signed letter from a DWP Minister confirming that I will be worse off in work under UC than the present system and a reduction in income would result if I returned to work at the same level I used to(non conditionality).If it comes in,unreformed it scuppers any chance of a return to work in my particular circumstances,the supposed reasoning behind the reform.I am far from alone.The most concerning part of the interview for me was the exchange concerning necessary rooms for care/medical purposes and his mentioning of his eventual acceptance of exemptions on the basis of not penalising children for the decisions of their parents,I sincerely hope this was just stupidity ,the alternative has very sinister overtones.

  • Leon Carter

    If you want to know just how corrupt the DWP is here is your answer: http://diaryofansahstrokesurvivor.wordpress.com/2014/03/07/a-clear-case-of-disability-benefit-denial/

  • Paulo Rodrigues

    The Welcome Trust have found that under some conditions people on Universal Credit will actually have less money in their pockets after working an additional two days.

    As for IT programs writing off 30 to 40% I’d be astonished if that were true. Where did he get that from? IDS has a track record for abusing statistics is this yet another case? Fact check please!

    • Makroon

      Quite so, the usual Labour practice, when it came to pharaonic IT systems, was to write off at least 100%.

    • GraveDave

      And it’ll be six times harder to claim anything in the first place. The idea is to present you with so many forms and to make it so messy and awkward that if you later make an error you stand to lose the lot. Of course while they’re saving all this money there will be the usual army of paper pushers and number crunchers there to ‘help it’ through.

  • brossen99
  • GraveDave

    But the Welfare Secretary summed up his belief in the project; that the pathfinder stages have shown ‘people are going to work faster, they’re doing more job searches and they’re more likely to take work under Universal Credit’. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that he’s right.

    Hilarious. What’s happened to our so called journalists, and just when did our MSM become so BLATANTLY complicit in covering up for state terrorism against their
    own people.

  • anyfool

    Were you actually watching the programme, the man handled the odious exile from France very well.
    Andrew Neil is morphing slowly but surely to the standard BBC lefty, it will not be long before he jumps over the Italian border and joins the Guardian columnists suffering in the heat as they battle with their pens for the poor.

    • Kooljeff

      I like the fact that a well know right-wing journalist like AN is considered by you be a “lefty”. How far right-wing are you? .

      • anyfool

        I said moving slowly to a BBC lefty, do you really think the top people at the BBC believe the garbage they spout, a BBC that openly conspired with its highest paid to avoid paying their taxes.
        The really rich from TV land, Melvin Bragg and co. became rich through the changes Maggie introduced, like the carpetbaggers from Russia they were in the right place and time to grab the best bits of TV land..

        • Daniel Maris

          Don’t be too hard on Braggy – presenting one of maybe three of four progammes on the BBC radio and TV networks that you might remotely refer to as intellectual.

      • Fergus Pickering

        There are no right-wing journalists on the television. Andrew Neil is miiddle-of-the-road. There are mad lefty idiots abounding. My number one guy for a kicking is the egregious Jon Snow..

    • Makroon

      The Guardian couldn’t afford Neil’s salary.

  • Martin Sawyer

    It’s time we stood up to the outrageous attack IDS has made on the most vulnerable people in our society. If you want to show your support to the sick, disabled, elderly and vulnerable then sign our petition!

    http://www.change.org/en -GB/petitions/ed-miliband-mp-debate-a-motion-of-no-confidence-in-the-way-in-which-iain-duncan-smith-has-managed-the-department-for-work-and-pensions

    • anyfool

      Grow up, this is the wrong place for your puerile nonsense, we already have the village idiots Telemachus and David Lindsay spouting that type of nonsense, and they are better at it than you appear to be.

      • GraveDave

        The village idiots aren’t running the country though – are they.
        But on second thoughts …

    • Makroon

      Given the number of Labour trolls queuing up to slag off IDS, I think we can answer Sebastian Payne’s doubt – Labour will definitely cancel the scheme if they win the election, at enormous further cost, and revert to their old, corrupt system of patronage and divide and rule. Welfare benefits as gracious grants from the “beneficent” Labour party big brother.
      If Clegg plays his cards right, Cable might even be granted the privilege of killing this evil Tory attempt to bring some sanity to the benefits system.

      • Kooljeff

        Disagreeing with IDS is not the same as supporting Labour. .

  • GraveDave

    Actually it was ‘only 40 Million’ was it Ian? Oh well, that’s all right.
    You unbelievable imbecile.

  • LadyDingDong

    I watched the entire interview and saw a confident, credible and impressive performance from IDS. He quietly (yes) demolished all of Neil’s weak propositions and displayed total mastership of his brief. You must have been sitting on little Eddie Miliband’s lap watching through Cleggy’s spectacles Sebastian. What a total travesty of objective journalism from a supposedly right of centre publication. I am not easily impressed but please do try harder.

    • Kitty MLB

      Utterly agree your ladyship.
      Deplorable laziness aimed at pleasing the lowest common denominator. Some
      Journalists today ( in general) are
      not allowing the truth to get in the way of a little bit of stirring and gerrymandering. I hope the election will be fair, heaven forfend Milipede
      in Number 10.

      • Kooljeff

        Right wing supporters always go for the easy propaganda and ideology and Pavlovian responses without having a clue to what is really going on.

    • GraveDave

      When a man has to march a mentally retarded , partially blind, crippled son on sticks to ask IDS why he insists his son is fit for work ,and your wonderful IDS refuses to even show his face , coming out later with the pathetic excuse that these people aren’t within his constituency, shows the utter gutlessness of a man doomed to come back a cockroach. Never mind even Grofaz hated smoking and loved his dogs. And let’s not forget the trains running on time -eh.

      • Andy

        If the man had any respect for his son he would not have used him in such a shameless and ill considered way merely to further a Fascist Party political campaign. The Welfare system needs reform. It is people like you who wont allow any reform and who will kill the whole system.

        • GraveDave

          Read the full story and then comment.

          • Andy

            I know how the system works, or rather doesn’t. That is why IDS needs to press on with REFORM, REFORM, REFORM.

            • GraveDave

              No you don’t. And wanting something so bad you have to shout it out just shows the typical behaviour of an IDS merchant.

              • Andy

                And you are a typical example of the attitude you get from the Fascist Party. The welfare system has long needed to be reformed and IDS is doing exactly that. Fact you hate it and him proves how right he is.

        • Mad Monk

          hmmmmm not like David Cameron and his ‘grab Ivan for a photo shoot to show the public im just like all the rest’ then?

          • Kooljeff

            Or bring up his dead son’s memory at every conference speech.

        • Kooljeff

          IDS is not reforming Social Security he is cutting it.

    • Kooljeff

      If anyone was looking through Rose Tinted Glasses it was you. Of course he was confident, he is a brazen liar, and he has form.

    • keggsie

      What planet do you inhabit?

  • Bourne18

    Those who praise him have no idea, from first-hand experience, how many lies he told today. Neil was weak in questioning him and didn’t challenge the lies. But then, Toryland is a different planet from that most of us are forced to inhabit.

    • Kooljeff

      The trouble is IDS and the DWP refuse to be interviewed UNLESS they are guaranteed to have it skewed in their favour (that’s why a couple of Panorama reports have had no official DWP spokesperson on them). So AN did his best, it was either softly or IDS would withdraw (as he has done in the past when he couldn’t get his own way)

  • Kitty MLB

    Utter poppycock, a total lie from journalists with their own agenda.
    It was a very strong performance by a man who does not suffer from self- doubt,
    he was precise, clear and knows exactly what he is doing and that it will
    succeed in making Britain a fair and productive country.
    His job and that of the brilliant Michael Gove are the most difficult reforms
    that this government needs to make.

    • GraveDave

      Have you seen him when he loses the argument (followed by his temper)?
      Other than blaming some faceless minion, not exactly what you would
      expect of a professional. Apparently he’s failed in every field he’s been given charge. And given the time, money and resources they’ve had, none of their policies have produced the results promised. None.Even the so called Upturn is a proven nonsense. And as from now it’s only the right-wing media keeping these charlatans afloat.

      • Kooljeff

        IDS is a coward like all bullies

      • Makroon

        “Even the so-called Upturn is a proven nonsense”.
        That clownish clap-trap disqualifies you from any further consideration mate.

        • GraveDave

          So tell me again..?

      • Jessie Bauchope Young

        I still have a newspaper cutting with him stating quite clearly disabled people would not pay bedroom tax, butthey do. He is a liar.

        • GraveDave

          Many people were also found exempt but were never informed. Then all the councils, including the labour ones, decided to ‘close the loophole’ (though I’m not sure they have yet). Nevertheless they had- or have – a duty to inform people first. So there ought to be a few hundred thousand cases here for refunds.

          • Kooljeff

            Factually wrong – it is Smith, not the councils, who is closing the loophole with yet more retrospective legislation.

      • allymax bruce

        it’s called Inverse-Convergent Policymaking, (all rights reserved to allymax). It’s where a Policy, is ‘designed’ to be absolutely Counterproductive, to it’s ‘supposed good intention’. Bliar’s Labour Party do it too; Education, Education, Education!
        Roll-on Scottish Independence.

    • Mad Monk

      Are you insane?
      wait… i think that comment spoke for itself 😀
      Have to say, I think you need to ‘rethink’ the boundaries between “self-doubt” and out-and-out delusional

    • Kooljeff

      Are you on LSD? He lied, he said every set of figures except his were wrong (and then couldn’t produce any). he said Child Poverty was coming down with a chart behind his head showing the complete opposite. He even said he was a better Catholic than the Cardinal and the Pope. Delusions of adequacy. What does that say about people who support him?

    • Mad Monk

      I’m curious to know where you get YOUR news from…
      ‘Gove’ and ‘brilliant’ in the same sentence?

    • Mad Monk

      Are you aware that in just under a year (January 2011 to November 2011), 10,600 people died after their ‘out of work entitlements’ were stopped, after being found ‘fit for work’ by ATOS, under instructions from the DWP…
      Just as a reference.. Dachau concentrated labour camp, also brandishing the slogan of “Arbeit Macht Frei” in the 12 YEARS it ran (1938 – 1945) had 32,000 recorded deaths, records meticulously kept my the Nazi’s. Since 2011 the DWP have refused FOI’s of how many people have died after being found fit for work… Ever wonder why that would be?

      • Fergus Pickering

        Oh undoubtedly because the Tories kill them sadistically and with glee.

    • Fergus Pickering

      Stick it to them, Kitty.

  • Bill Frazer

    Andrew Neil continues to be obnoxious , bad mannered , overbearing , bullying ,
    ( thinks he is the greatest ) and just plain nasty , especially with the tories . The same as JOCO and NICRO , they all follow the BBC orders to damn the conservatives whenever possible , its disgraceful . What a bunch of jobsworths .

    • GraveDave

      Andrew Neil, a bully? Lol.

    • Kooljeff

      That’s the trouble with Tories they expect an easy ride because they can do no wrong eh? In this interview AN was quite soft and only partially rattled IDS once. The trouble is the BBC are too sofft on the Tories in general and IDS in particular. They should give them a hard time, MPs our our servants, not our masters and must be brought to account, often and vigorously. Now the interview with Zahawi (you know the one who heated his stables with tax payers money) was robust and took no prisoners.

    • GraveDave

      Andrew Neil continues to be obnoxious , bad mannered , overbearing , bullying ,
      That’s pretty much how IDS behaves too , by all accounts. Should have been a good match then.

  • HookesLaw

    ‘he may be right but…’ ??
    So is he right or not? And if he is right then why the ‘but’.
    If when looking at a private sector benchmark the Govt are doing well then why the criticism?

    Strikes me this is ‘lazy’ reporting.

    • Fergus Pickering

      It’s a reporter, isn’t it? So, if his name ain’t Gilligan (which it ain’t) then it’s lazy.

      • Makroon

        Mr Payne has a LibDem agenda.

        • Fergus Pickering

          Is someone paying him for this or is he just stupid for free?

  • LB

    5.6% per annum of money adminstered going in charges. That’s the DWP.

    Welfare state. 7,100 bn in debt and no assets.

    Total UK wealth, 7,300 bn.

    Then there is PFI, Borrowiung and allt he other debts on top.

    • HookesLaw

      The welfare state in not in debt. It has assets – ie the payments that workers make in.
      PFI payments are not simply ‘borrowing’ they include services maintenence and repairs – ie running costs.

      • LB

        In which case, it’s debts are even larger. It has the payments it has to make in order to keep the workers happy.

        If you want to include future tax receipts as well as the debts, you have to include future expenditure on the serfs.

        Since currently the payouts exceed the receipts, the workers are liabilities.

        A large percentage of PFI is the debt side, not the changing a light bulb service charge.

      • LB

        Interesting the shift in your position.

        Now its that the debts are there, but there are assets. We’re making progress.

        Now for those other non pension liabilities, such as spending to keep the plebs paying taxes.

        After all, that’s a debt in your book to, just as the assets of tax revenues are. [Not that an accountant would agree].

        Pity the average pleb is a liability not an asset eh!

  • Lloyd Adam Cofagen

    ‘I changed the way we rolled it out over a year and a half ago. There was a reason for that. Under the advice from someone from the outside, he said you’re better off Pathfinding this out, make sure you learn the lessons, roll it out slower and gain momentum later on.’ – How can someone continue to hold office after spouting such utter nonsense?

    • GraveDave

      Under the advice from someone from the outside

      Someone over the garden fence was it. Or did he pull open a crackerjack when he was pissed. IDS, you couldn’t make him up.

      • treborc1

        Possible speaking to Miliband.

    • telemachus

      Curiously I find IDS to be one of the most credible members of the coalition
      *
      He sticks doggedly to his brief and is not prone to unjustified sound bites or short term popularity
      His aims are laudable and at least he is making a fist of delivering them in a way that motivates and does not do down the most needy
      *
      Word is that Ed plans to keep him on in a consultative capacity next May

  • Mynydd

    “didn’t give a clear answer” he is only following Mr Cameron’s example at PMQ.

  • James Allen

    It was a hugely impressive performance. Surprised you didn’t mention that – but then you’re just following the herd, aren’t you?

    • Kooljeff

      No the sheep are the ones who agree with IBS.

    • grockster

      … a hugely impressive performance?
      Wow. You’re either being ironic or easily impressed. I can’t tell which.

    • http://www.spectator.co.uk/ Sebastian Payne

      For what it’s worth James, I agree that IDS gave an impressive performance. Doesn’t detract from the issues with Universal Credit though

      • James Allen

        These big IT projects are always going to be tricky, but what else can you do? Allow the bureaucratic structures to get ever more labyrinthine? Eventually there’ll be more people over-seeing the benefits system than there are benefit recipients. And as IDS pointed out, a 76% “marginal tax rate” is at least better than the current system where some people are actually penalised for going back to work.

        I joined UKIP sometime ago, on the basis that I believe in national sovereignty and parliamentary democracy, not remote bureaucratic power wielded by foreigners. Gove and IDS are two of the main reasons I would consider voting Tory. Going against conventional wisdom, I find the Tory party more popular than David Cameron, whose strategy in Europe whifs of duplicity and cowardice and who, on most touchpaper issues, seems to stand foursquare behind not very much at all. If the Tories could just grasp the mettle, get rid of Heseltine, Major and Clarke, and get serious about the EU – accepting we cannot go on like we are supporting an increasingly federalist superstate – they would attract a lot of support back to the party. That and re-engaging with their working class Tory base…. the modernising agenda is all very well as a marketing exercise, but it’s rather undone by reverting to a pre-1950s Etonian cabinet.

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