Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, has branded attempts by Labour MPs and welfare campaigners to force the government into publishing benefit-related death statistics ‘disgraceful’.
A petition calling on the government to publish figures revealing how many people have died within six weeks of having their benefits removed, including those who have committed suicide, has now passed 220,000 signatures.
Iain Duncan Smith continues to resist the mounting pressure to release the requested data, even insisting that the Department for Work and Pensions “doesn’t collate the numbers”. This is despite of the DWP releasing similar statistics in 2012, showing that thousands of Incapacity Benefit claimants tragically lost their lives between 2009 and 2011.
He came under fire from Labour MPs in a heated commons debate. MP Marie Rimmer asked: “May I ask again why the Government are refusing to publish – even though the Information Commissioner has instructed them to do so – the up-to-date statistics relating to the number of people who have died, having been found fit for work at their face-to-face assessment?”
Iain Duncan Smith (IDS) replied: “I find it absurd that Opposition Members deliberately try to misrepresent what happens under such schemes.
“I remind the honourable lady it was her Government who introduced the employment support allowance and the work capability assessment, and at no stage did they say that that led to people committing suicide.
“People in that situation are often in a very delicate and difficult position, and I find it disgraceful that she is going round making such allegations.”
Furious Labour MP Debbie Abrahams retorted: “Does the Secretary of State think that he and his Department are above the law!?
“Why does he refuse to publish the details of the number of people who have died within six weeks of their claims for incapacity benefit and employment and support allowance, including those who have been found fit for work?”
A visibly angered IDS responded: “I find it unbelievable that she, the honourable lady and others have spent all their time trying to make allegations about people going about their work.
“It is a crying shame that Labour members want to go out every day scaring and frightening people. It is no wonder they lost the election.”