Monday, 31 December 2012

Unlimited rises in benefits

BFTF noticed a survey on welfare reform that was reported in The Sun (see here). The article stated that:

"...More than 2,000 people were surveyed by pollsters Populus on behalf of the Tory Party. ....When asked whether the Government should borrow more to fund unlimited rises in benefits, 80 per cent disagreed."

BFTF is genuinely puzzled by this, as it looks like the Coalition has actually asked people "Should the Government should borrow more to fund unlimited rises in benefits?" which is an outrageously leading question, not least becasue it leaves the unspoken impression in the readers mind that "unlimited" means "very large" - when actually, it means "in line with inflation"

A quick look on the internet found what seemed the origninal survey on limiting benefit rises to 1% per annum for a limited time (see here for the survery).

The Survey is actually pretty sensible (although it stangely starts at "Question 2") and it does not contain the leading question quoted in the Sun report.

The other aspect of the story that troubled BFTF was the it was not clear how long the "limited period" would last or what the legislation actually said. Reports such as this one in the Guardian talk of "A brief three-clause bill"

The Confused BFTF
Unhelpfully, the Guardian chooses not to give a link to the Bill, and BFTF cannot find it at the UK parliament website, nor at the DWP website.

So much for public involvement in the political process...

So BFTF has asked the local Conservative Party the following :
i) According to The Sun, the Government commissioned a survery by Populus which asked people "whether the Government should borrow more to fund unlimited rises in benefits". This appears to be a shockingly leading question, not least because "unlimited" actually means "in line with inflation". I can find no record of this question in Populus's report of the survery. Did the Government really ask this question? Or is The Sun making stuff up?

ii) I understand that the 1% rise cap is currently draft legislation ("a three clause bill" according to the Guardian) but am unable to find a link to it. Where can I read the actual proposed Bill?
Update 03Jan13 : The local party referred me to Lord Freud, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Welfare Reform), so BFTF forwarded the email on to him.

Update 16Jan13 : Received a response from the "Ministerial Correspondence Team" which refused to answer any part of question (i), ignored question (ii) but did tell me that the legislation aimed to "uprate most benefits by 1 per cent from 2013/14 and for a further two years", with excemptions for pensioners and the disabled, whose benefits will increase in line with CPI.

BFTF does rather wonder what is the point of writing a clear, specific and (hopefully) reasonable question when politicians and civil servants are going to ignore it and provide the answer to another question entirely...

Update 14Mar13 : Forgot to mention that Nottingham South MP Lilian Greenwood did supply BFTF with a link to the relevant legislation (rather wonderfully via the magic that is Twitter) - so you can read it yourself here.

Update Jun2013 : Received response from Lilian Greenwood MP stating that she had asked Lord Freud if the government had indeed commissioned the survey, and would get back to BFTF when she got a response.

Update Jul2013 : Received (via Lilian Greenwood) response from Steve WebbMP, Minister of State for Work and Pensions, who could "confirm that this survery was not commissioned by the Government"

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