Reposted from the Daily
Iain Duncan Smith has launched the strongest government attack on the BBC since the last election, accusing the corporation of being a ‘bigger opponent’ of welfare reform than even the Labour Party.
The Work and Pensions Secretary reacted with fury yesterday after the BBC led its bulletins with more criticism of the Government’s changes to the bloated benefits system.
The corporation seized on leaked documents showing that the costs of employment and support allowance, the main sickness benefit, were rising, meaning the Government was ‘vulnerable’ to a breach of its new welfare cap.
Ministers said the suggestion they would exceed their own limit on benefit spending was ‘outrageous’ – saying the whole point of the reform was to ensure that if the cost of one type of benefit increases, others must be cut to compensate.
Chancellor George Osborne is understood to have shared Mr Duncan Smith’s irritation at the claims. He told colleagues the leaked documents showed the cap was ‘keeping people on their toes’ about welfare spending in exactly the way the Government intended.
Mr Duncan Smith claimed the corporation had run five negative stories this week alone about sickness and disability benefits, and ‘ignored’ a major announcement on an extension of his flagship new universal credit.
‘Who is the biggest opponent of welfare reform? Not a weak Labour Party, but the relentlessly negative BBC,’ he said.
‘This government is fixing the broken and bloated welfare system left behind by Labour – a system which trapped the very people it was designed to help into cycles of worklessness and welfare dependency.
We have successfully introduced the benefits cap to make sure a life on benefits must not be more attractive than working and we have achieved record employment, with more women in work than ever before.
‘But the BBC news appears to consistently rely on a narrow band of commentators who are overwhelmingly negative.
Bias? The Work and Pensions Secretary said: ‘Who is the biggest opponent of welfare reform? Not a weak Labour Party, but the relentlessly negative BBC’ (Broadcasting House pictured)
‘They seem to ignore the fact that the last government saw the cost of welfare spiral during a time of economic growth and it is low-earning taxpayers who have had to pay for this huge cost.’
MINISTER’S CORPORATION CLASHES
In March the BBC ran a report on cuts to housing benefit claimants’ ‘spare room subsidy’ – branded a ‘bedroom tax’ by Labour – based on Freedom of Information requests to various councils.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said the report included inaccurate data and suggested the policy had ‘failed’ in its aim of freeing up underoccupied social housing and reducing overcrowding, even though the figures it quoted were in line with the Government’s expectations.
The DWP lodged a complaint. Mr Duncan Smith has also protested about the unquestioning use of the phrase ‘bedroom tax’.
In April, in an interview with Mr Duncan Smith on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, presenter Evan Davis exclaimed: ‘This is so frustrating!’
The BBC later admitted his tone was inappropriate.
Last July, the DWP complained about BBC coverage of a High Court ruling against opponents of the ‘spare room subsidy’ and the use of the phrase ‘bedroom tax’.
David Cameron said: ‘We’ve made serious savings in the welfare budget – something like £80billion overall is the amount of money we’ve saved because we capped housing benefit.
‘We’ve put a cap on the amount of welfare an individual family can receive so you’re always better off in work than on welfare.’
The Department for Work and Pensions is understood to have lodged a formal complaint about yesterday’s coverage, which also focused on a warning from a committee of MPs about changes to the main disability benefit. Disability living allowance is being replaced by the personal independence payment.
Yesterday’s is the latest in a series of complaints from the Government about the BBC’s coverage of its attempts to cut the benefits bill.
Mr Duncan Smith publicly criticised the corporation last year after the BBC Trust condemned a BBC2 programme examining Britain’s bloated welfare state and the Government’s welfare reforms
The programme, The Future of the Welfare State, featured Today presenter John Humphrys going back to his working-class birthplace in Cardiff, where one in four working-age people are on some form of welfare.
Yesterday a BBC spokesman said: ‘We are satisfied that our coverage of welfare spending has been fair, balanced and impartial.’
These comments from the article sum the situation up quite nicely …
- “It is IDS that is relentlessly negative in deciding that the bulk of the sick and disabled are worthless, lying scroungers, and that all the unemployed are feckless and workshy. This is what I call negative. I always thought the BBC was supposed to report all the news for this country, not just the parts of the news that this so-called government decides it can. Their reports on welfare cuts are merely telling the public the truth. He should be pleased the BBC have refrained from reporting one word about the mass demonstration yesterday where over 50,000 people marched against austerity in London.”
- “The BBC is not relentlessly negative,it is relentlessly supine. On any issue where the three main UK parties are broadly in agreement,the BBC always falls into step with the cosy consensus. Yesterday afternoon 50,000 people took part in an anti-austerity march in London. The BBC has failed to mention this on any of its’ news programmes so far.”