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article imageIain Duncan Smith 'misled Parliament' on UK rental statistics

By Mathew Wace Peck     Nov 20, 2010 in Politics
London - A British Conservative cabinet minister has been accused of misleading Parliament by passing off property price-comparison figures that were taken from an Internet website as official government figures.
The i newspaper reports that in a recent parliamentary debate, Iain Duncan Smith – the Secretary of State for the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) – claimed that he had figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showing “that private-sector rents had fallen by 5 per cent last year [while at] the same time [. . .] the amount local authorities paid to private landlords had risen by 3 per cent”.
However, it has emerged that the ONS does not collect the type of statistics that Duncan Smith quoted. Furthermore, the figures that Duncan Smith used – and which another MP, the Housing minister, Grant Shapps, repeated on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme – actually came from Findaproperty.com, a website owned by Associated Newspapers, the publisher of the Conservative Party-supporting Daily Mail.
In his own words, Duncan Smith had claimed – falsely, as it turns out – “We now know that, according to the Office of National Statistics, the private market-place in housing fell by around 5 per cent last year. At the same time, local housing authority rates, which the previous [Labour] Government had set and left to us, had risen by 3 per cent. There is thus a 7-per-cent gap with what is going on in the market-place.”
It seems that the DWP are unconcerned about the misleading nature of Duncan Smith’s statement. According to i, when the department was informed that the ONS doesn’t collect such statistics, the DWP replied, “This is a distraction from the important point the secretary of State was making.”
The latest gaffe, i reports, “comes only a day after it emerged that the [Con-Dem] Government had used a ‘statistical sleight of hand’,” which means that thousands of the poorest graduates will be forced to pay back their university fees earlier than they had hitherto expected.
Politicians, lies, damn lies, statistics and prejudice
In February, as reported in the Independent, one of Duncan Smith’s Conservative Party colleagues, Chris Grayling, MP, was accused of using misleading information concerning UK crime rates. At the time, Grayling was the Shadow Home Secretary, and the UK Statistics Authority said his actions were “likely to damage public trust in official statistics”.
Also, earlier this year, Grayling caused upset and claims of homophobia among gay people when he said that bed-and-breakfast owners should have the right to turn them away from their establishments.
The Observer newspaper revealed that Grayling had been secretly recorded speaking in support of discrimination against gay people. He could be heard on the tapes, saying:
I personally always took the view that, if you look at the case of should a Christian hotel owner have the right to exclude a gay couple from a hotel, I took the view that if it’s a question of somebody who’s doing a B&B in their own home, that individual should have the right to decide who does and who doesn’t come into their own home.
In reply, Ben Summerskill – the chief executive of the gay-rights group, Stonewall – said:
The legal position is perfectly clear. If you are going to offer the public a commercial service – and B&Bs are a commercial service – then people cannot be refused that service on the grounds of [their] sexuality. No one is obliged to run a B&B, but people who do so have to obey the law. I don't think anyone [. . .] wants to go back to the days where there is a sign outside saying: ‘No gays, no blacks, no Irish’.
Despite the furore, after becoming Prime Minister, David Cameron appointed Grayling as a Minister of State in Duncan Smith’s department. Duncan Smith is one of Cameron's predecessors as Leader of the Conservative Party. He led his party for two years, from 2001 until his fellow MPs – unhappy with his style of leadership – forced him to resign in 2003.
More about Iain duncan smith, Parliament, Chris grayling, Department work pensions, Dwp
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