Iain Duncan Smith asked once again to appear before Holyrood committee in public
Iain Duncan Smith is “not wired into the reality” of what impact imminent welfare reforms will have, the deputy convener of Holyrood’s Welfare Reform Committee has claimed, fresh from a private meeting with the Work and Pensions Secretary.
Members of the Scottish Parliament committee sat down with the UK government minister for an hour-and-a-quarter yesterday afternoon to discuss the fallout from changes, including the so-called ‘bedroom tax’, that come into effect next week.
The meeting behind closed doors came on the same day as Duncan Smith was branded a “ratbag” by angry protestors as he delivered a speech at a welfare reform conference in the capital.
“I think he thought he would get an easier time going to this conference than he would coming before the Welfare Reform [Committee] in public session; well there wasn’t anyone at the Welfare Reform Committee calling him a ratbag, for example,” deputy convener Jamie Hepburn told Holyrood.
“Maybe he’s learned a lesson and hopefully that will mean that he is prepared to come and see us publicly and people can actually see for themselves the evidence and hear for it themselves.”
An invite to appear before the group of MSPs in a formal committee environment has been reissued, which Duncan Smith is reported to have said he will keep under review. Four previous invitations to answer questions on the implementation of welfare reforms in Scotland have been issued since last September.
“It was always going to be unsatisfactory to have this exchange behind closed doors and first thing is we’ve reiterated our call for him to be prepared to come and meet us publicly, which he at least said he would keep under review,” Hepburn added.
“It remains to be seen how genuine an offer that is, but in terms of some of the specific issues raised, in terms of the impact on housing, the impact on Scottish people, I really think it’s further evidence that this is a man who is not wired into reality of what is happening on the ground.”
Concerns voiced to the committee over work capability assessments, the under-occupancy measures dubbed the ‘bedroom tax’, and direct payments were among issues discussed, the MSP said.
Committee convener Michael McMahon MSP said: “The fundamental policy we disagreed on so we focussed our discussions on the practicalities of its implementation. However, we were bitterly disappointed that he did not seem to take on board our views or the evidence we have gathered.
“His view on measures he claims will help do not reflect the reality of what is happening on the ground. He says he is listening but he is not hearing.”