We’ve have had a weekend of the Tories shamefully spinning the facts on immigration and benefits, now this:
Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith (IDS) has hit out at bishops trying to block his welfare reforms, accusing them of ignoring the concerns of ordinary people.
In an interview with The Sunday Times, he acknowledged that his plans to limit the total payments any household can receive could face defeat in the House of Lords on Monday.
“The question I’d ask these bishops is, over all these years, why have they sat back and watched people being placed in houses they cannot afford? It’s not a kindness,” he said. The question the Bishops might ask is why did successive governments sit back and watch house prices rise, driven by an out of control, clearly self destructive, free market, to levels where ordinary hard working people could not afford to live in ordinary houses in the same area as their job, family and friends? Why did successive governments do nothing about providing affordable housing for all those hard working families who cannot make ends meet regardless of how hard they work simply because their wages are too low?
“I would like to see their concerns about ordinary people, who are working hard, paying their tax and commuting long hours, who don’t have as much money as they would otherwise because they’re paying tax for all of this. Where is the bishops’ concern for them? Well the Bishops might ask why do these poor ordinary hard working people have to pay tax to subsidise owners of buy to let properties because let’s remember that’s were the money goes. In addition, perhaps the Bishops are concerned that these ordinary people are paying a higher percentage in tax than many of the property developers who benefit from the income from high rents but live abroad for half the year to avoid paying a fair tax.
“I would like to see a more balanced response from the bishops. Perhaps the Bishops actually want critical analysis based on facts, evidence and rational thought.
“It’s all very well for the bishops to express a political opinion, but I would love them to ask about the poor people on low incomes who are working hard, whose families share rooms, who are doing the right thing.” I think that is exactly what the Bishops are concerned about i.e. families who have lived in the same area / village for generations but who are priced out of their village by free market houses prices, grotesquely inflated by second and third home buyers. Then there are people who want to live near their work because they cannot afford to travel far but are priced out of the area by people whose earnings are so high that they do not have enough to spend their money on.
With Liberal Democrat peers expected to vote against the plan in the Lords, Mr Duncan Smith acknowledged the result could come down to the independent “crossbenchers”, including the bishops. Let’s hope the Lib Dems demonstrate some critical and independent thinking – it seems to be more than can be expected from their colleagues in the House of Commons.
“My sense is that unless I can persuade them that they’re in the wrong place on this one, which they are, then they might be tempted to vote against it. It’s down to the crossbenchers,” he said. I think it is pretty obvious that whatever way the Bishops vote they will not be persuaded by such a flawed set of arguments as those given by Ian Duncan Smith. I suspect the Bishops are more adept at critical thinking than IDS assumes. Finally, I think IDS overlooked the possibility that the Bishops might exhibit a little Christian humanity.
Text above in black taken from: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/01/22/iain-duncan-smith-urges-bishops-to-back_n_1221715.html?ref=uk (accessed 22nd Jan 2012)
Text above in red italics is my own.
Post script: My knowledge of the Bible may be a little rusty and please correct me if I am wrong but unless you are an Old Testament fundamentalist, the teachings of Jesus Christ and the new testament would seem to make it mandatory that Bishops involve themselves in politics, the welfare of their parishioners and fairness and justice in society. Who else should lead the way in over turning the tables of the money changers??
Further, given Iain Duncan Smith’s history regarding tax payer funded expenses it might be worthwhile asking him to cap his own tax payer funded benefits at the same rate he is setting for the Housing Benefits Cap.
Here are some quotes from Edinburgh Eye:
Iain Duncan Smith believes that after one year off, cancer patients should be able to get back to work, and that those “with a certain level of income” should know that state support will not be “open-ended”.
In 2009, Betsy Duncan Smith was diagnosed with breast cancer. During that year Iain Duncan Smith took those six months off work to care for his wife. In 2009/10, the same year in which Iain Duncan Smith took six months out of Parliament, he received an MP’s salary of £64,766. While IDS thinks that people in their sad situation – partner with cancer, other partner able to do some work from home but not able to go to their main place of work – should not receive “open-ended” support, he doesn’t seem to have grasped that to most of them, a guaranteed income of £64,766 would look pretty damned open-ended, compared to what they do get.
Just £64,766 a year would by itself put IDS in the top 10% of the population (discounting his wife’s personal wealth as that’s not a matter of public record, though her estimated wealth puts her in the top 1%).
But though £64,766 is nearly two and a half times the £26,000 that Iain Duncan Smith says ought to be the absolute limit that a family can receive from the state, it’s not all IDS gets. In 2008/09, he claimed £98,077 in expenses. So in total, in one year, IDS claimed from the state (i.e from all those hardworking tax payers) well over six times what he says a family ought to get. (IDS is a multimillionaire and has the benefit of his wife’s inherited wealth – hence they have a two million pound home in Buckinghamshire)
Please go to: Edinburgh Eye for more on this story.