20 March 2016

A Tory With a Conscience, and Other Myths

Iain Duncan Smith, the British Work and Pensions Secretary,  has resigned over cuts to disability payments to the UK's most vulnerable:
Iain Duncan Smith has resigned as work and pensions secretary, denouncing £4bn of planned cuts to disability benefits as "indefensible".

He complains of pressure to "salami slice" welfare, saying the latest cuts were a "compromise too far" in a Budget that benefits higher earning taxpayers.

David Cameron said he was "puzzled and disappointed" at the resignation.

Earlier, the government had indicated it would look again at some of the proposed disability benefits changes.

'Enormous regret'

BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg said: "There had been bad blood off and on between Chancellor George Osborne and Iain Duncan Smith over some of the more controversial welfare reforms, but nobody expected this move only 48 hours since the Budget."

She added that she understood Mr Cameron had personally tried to persuade Mr Duncan Smith to stay on and called the resignation "a bombshell at a very sensitive time"
Mr Duncan Smith, who was the Conservative Party leader and Leader of the Opposition from 2001 to 2003, wrote in his resignation letter that the changes to disability benefits were "defensible in narrow terms, given the continuing deficit".

But he said they should have formed part of "a wider process" of finding the best way to focus resources on those most in need.

"I am unable to watch passively whilst certain policies are enacted in order to meet the fiscal self-imposed restraints that I believe are more and more perceived as distinctly political rather than in the national economic interest," Mr Duncan Smith said.

"Too often my team and I have been pressured in the immediate run up to a Budget or fiscal event to deliver yet more reductions to the working-age benefit bill.

"There has been too much emphasis on money-saving exercises and not enough awareness from the Treasury, in particular, that the government's vision of a new welfare-to-work system could not be repeatedly salami-sliced.

"It is therefore with enormous regret that I have decided to resign."


Over the weekend Iain Duncan Smith discovered the Chancellor planned to offer cuts in Capital Gains Tax and was very unhappy that those tax cuts were to be offered to the better off, while he had been forced to make more welfare cuts prematurely, in his view. When Number 10 and the Treasury then backtracked on the reforms to PIP today, he concluded that he could no longer remain in government.

Sources close to him are absolutely adamant that his decision was in no way related to his views on Europe.
Smith supports a Brexit from the EU, so there is some speculation that his exit was influenced by this difference.

Personally, I am inclined to think that there are crass political motivations, but I'm a cynic that way.


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