Iain Duncan Smith
|The Right Honourable
Iain Duncan Smith
|Secretary of State for Work and Pensions|
12 May 2010
|Prime Minister||David Cameron|
|Preceded by||Yvette Cooper|
|Leader of the Opposition|
13 September 2001 – 6 November 2003
|Prime Minister||Tony Blair|
|Preceded by||William Hague|
|Succeeded by||Michael Howard|
|Leader of the Conservative Party|
13 September 2001 – 6 November 2003
|Preceded by||William Hague|
|Succeeded by||Michael Howard|
|Shadow Secretary of State for Defence|
15 June 1999 – 13 September 2001
|Preceded by||John Maples|
|Succeeded by||Bernard Jenkin|
|Shadow Secretary of State for Social Security|
2 June 1997 – 15 June 1999
|Preceded by||Peter Lilley|
|Succeeded by||David Willetts|
|Member of Parliament
for Chingford and Woodford Green
9 April 1992
|Preceded by||Norman Tebbit|
9 April 1954 |
Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
|Alma mater||Università per Stranieri di Perugia
Royal Military Academy Sandhurst
|Years of service||1975–1981|
He was previously the Leader of the Conservative Party and Leader of the Opposition from 2001 to 2003. He was first elected to Parliament in 1992 as the MP for Chingford, and he has represented its successor constituency of Chingford and Woodford Green since 1997.
Duncan Smith was born in Edinburgh and served in the Scots Guards from 1975 to 1981, seeing tours in Northern Ireland and Rhodesia. He joined the Conservative Party in 1981, and was elected as a Member of Parliament in 1992. Duncan Smith succeeded William Hague as Conservative Leader in 2001, winning the leadership election partly on the support of Margaret Thatcher for his Eurosceptic ideology. Duncan Smith was the first Roman Catholic to serve as a Conservative Leader, the first to be born in Scotland since Arthur Balfour and also the first Leader of the Conservative Party and any British political party from an ethnic minority background as he is of Japanese ancestry. In 2010, "The Tablet" named him one of Britain’s most influential Roman Catholics.
His time as Conservative Leader saw his party fall in opinion polls, and many Conservative MPs came to consider him incapable of winning an election. In 2003 his MPs passed a vote of no confidence in his leadership; he immediately resigned, and was succeeded by Michael Howard. As a backbencher, he founded the centre-right Centre for Social Justice, a think tank independent of the Conservative Party, and became a published novelist, though his novel The Devil's Tune received heavily critical reviews. On 12 May 2010, Prime Minister David Cameron appointed Duncan Smith to serve in the Cabinet as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.
- 1 Early life and family
- 2 Education
- 3 Military service
- 4 Political career
- 5 Political views
- 6 Creative writing
- 7 Personal life
- 8 References
- 9 External links
Early life and family
Duncan Smith was born in Edinburgh, in Scotland, in 1954. He is the son of W. G. G. Duncan Smith, a decorated Royal Air Force flying ace of World War II, and Pamela Summers, a ballerina. They were married in 1946. He is a descendant of Adam Duncan, the admiral who defeated the Dutch Navy at the Battle of Camperdown in 1797.
Duncan Smith's maternal great-grandmother was a Japanese woman living in the then Peking, Ellen Oshey, who married Pamela's grandfather, merchant seaman Captain Samuel Lewis Shaw, from Ireland. Other relations include Canadian CBC wartime broadcaster Peter Stursberg, who was born in China, and whose 2002 book No Foreign Bones in China records the story of the Anglo-Japanese couple, and his son, current CBC vice-president Richard Stursberg. Through Captain Shaw, Duncan Smith is also a distant relative of George Bernard Shaw, the Irish playwright and socialist.
Duncan Smith was educated at what is now St. Peter's RC Secondary School, Solihull, until the age of 14, then at HMS Conway, a Merchant Navy training school on the Isle of Anglesey (where he allegedly played rugby union in the position of fly-half alongside Clive Woodward at centre) until he was 18.
His claim that he studied at the University of Perugia was later found to be false after an investigation by the BBC. His office subsequently admitted that he attended the Italian Università per Stranieri (founded 1921) in Perugia for a year but he did not obtain any qualifications or finish his exams. In 1975 he attended the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and was subsequently commissioned into the Scots Guards. Duncan Smith's biography, on the Conservative Party website, claimed he was "educated at Dunchurch College of Management" but following questioning by the BBC his office confirmed that he did not get any qualifications there either, stating that he completed six separate courses lasting a few days each, adding up to about a month in total. Dunchurch was the former staff college for GEC Marconi, for whom Duncan Smith worked in the 1980s.
He was commissioned into the Scots Guards as a second lieutenant on 28 June 1975, with the service number 500263. He was promoted to lieutenant on 28 June 1977, and retired from the military on 2 April 1981, moving to the Regular Army Reserve of Officers.
During his service he served in Northern Ireland and the region known as Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), where he was aide-de-camp to Major-General Sir John Acland, commander of the Commonwealth Monitoring Force monitoring the ceasefire during elections.
Member of Parliament
At the 1987 general election, Duncan Smith contested the constituency of Bradford West, where he was defeated by the incumbent Labour Party MP Max Madden. At the 1992 general election, he stood in the constituency of Chingford (where the Conservative MP, Norman Tebbit, was retiring), and was elected to parliament. (Following boundary changes, Duncan Smith's constituency became Chingford and Woodford Green in 1997.)
A committed Eurosceptic, Duncan Smith was a constant thorn in the side of Prime Minister John Major's government in 1992–97, opposing Major's pro-European agenda at the time (something that would often be raised during his own subsequent leadership when he called for the party to unite behind him).
Duncan Smith remained on the backbenches until 1997, when the new Conservative leader William Hague brought him into the Shadow Cabinet as Shadow Social Security Secretary. In 1999, Duncan Smith was moved to replace John Maples as Shadow Defence Secretary.
Leader of the Conservative Party
William Hague resigned after the Labour Party's victory in the 2001 general election. On 13 September 2001, Duncan Smith won the Conservative Party leadership election. He had initially been seen as an outsider candidate, but his support was bolstered when Margaret Thatcher publicly announced her support for him. His victory in the contest was helped by the fact that his opponent in the final vote of party members was Kenneth Clarke, whose strong support for the European Union was at odds with the views of much of the party.
As a mark of respect for the victims of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on 11 September 2001, the announcement of Duncan Smith's victory in the leadership contest was delayed until 13 September 2001. In November 2001, he was one of the first politicians to call for an invasion of Iraq and held talks in Washington, DC, with senior US officials, including Vice President Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice and Paul Wolfowitz.
Problems as leader
In 2002, Michael Crick on the TV programme Newsnight caused some embarrassment when probing Duncan Smith's curriculum vitae, which had been in circulation for years, for example, being reproduced in the authoritative annual Dod's Parliamentary Companion for the previous ten years. The CV claimed that he had attended the University of Perugia when he had in fact attended the Università per Stranieri, which did not grant any degrees at that time, and a claim that he had attended the prestigious-sounding Dunchurch College of Management turned out to refer to some weekend courses at GEC Marconi's staff college.
Duncan Smith proved not to be a particularly effective public speaker in the rowdy atmosphere of Prime minister's questions (PMQs) in the House of Commons. His seeming troubles with a "frog in his throat" throughout most of his two years as leader prompted Private Eye to refer to him incessantly as "Iain Duncan Cough". As well as this, there were continued rumours of discontent among his backbenchers, not dampened by his warning to his party in November 2002: "My message is simple and stark, unite or die".
The 2002 Conservative Party conference saw an attempt to turn Duncan Smith's lack of charisma into a positive attribute, with his much-quoted line, "do not underestimate the determination of a quiet man". The line was as much derided as it was admired. During PMQs, Labour backbenchers would raise their fingers to their lips and say "shush" when he was speaking. The following year, Duncan Smith's conference speech appeared to have abandoned this technique in favour of an aggressive hard-man approach that few found convincing, even if the party members in the hall punctuated the speech with several ovations. The most remembered sound bite from the speech was his, "the quiet man is here to stay, and he's turning up the volume."
Duncan Smith stated in December 2002 that he intended to be party leader for a "very long time to come." This did little to quell the speculation in Westminster regarding his future. On 21 February 2003, The Independent newspaper published a story saying that a number of MPs were attempting to start the process of petitioning for a vote of no confidence in Duncan Smith, as many Conservative MPs considered him to be unelectable.
Despite the gains made in the 2003 local elections, Crispin Blunt, the Shadow Secretary of State for Trade and Industry resigned. He called Duncan Smith's leadership a "handicap" as he had "failed to make the necessary impact on the electorate" and said that he should be replaced.
These worries came to a head in October 2003. Michael Crick revealed that he had compiled embarrassing evidence, this time of dubious salary claims Duncan Smith made on behalf of his wife that were paid out of the public purse from September 2001 to December 2002. The ensuing scandal, known as "Betsygate" weakened his already tenuous position.
Vote of no confidence
Under leadership vote of confidence rules, 15% of Conservative MPs (at this point twenty-five MPs) had to write to the Chairman of the 1922 Committee demanding the vote. On 26 October, amid mounting claims that the threshold of 25 was about to be reached, Duncan Smith made an appearance on television daring his opponents to show their hand by the evening of 29 October or to withdraw their challenge. He also stated that he would not step down if a vote was called. Duncan Smith's demand that 25 MPs write to the chairman by 29 October had no bearing on party regulations. Had the votes not been delivered until later, the vote of no confidence would still have gone ahead. Nevertheless, by 28 October, 25 Conservative MPs had indeed signed on to demand a vote.
After the vote was announced, Duncan Smith made an appearance in front of Conservative Party headquarters in Smith Square, where he stated that he was "absolutely" going to contest the vote, which was held on 29 October. He lost by 90 votes to 75. He stepped down as leader eight days later when Michael Howard was confirmed as his successor (Howard was unopposed for the role and so no election was required).
Duncan Smith followed William Hague as only the second Conservative Party leader since Austen Chamberlain not to have become Prime Minister and was the first since Neville Chamberlain not to have led the party in a general election.
Return to the backbenches
After his term as party leader, Duncan Smith established the Centre for Social Justice in 2004. This organisation is a centre-right think tank which works with small charities with the aim of finding innovative policies for tackling poverty. (Duncan Smith served as the centre's chairman until he joined the Cabinet in May 2010, and remains its Life Patron.) He also served under Michael Howard on the Conservative Party's advisory council, along with John Major, William Hague and Kenneth Clarke.
On 7 December 2005, Duncan Smith was appointed Chairman of the Social Justice Policy Group, which was facilitated by the Centre for Social Justice. The group's aim was to "study the causes and consequences of poverty in Britain and seek practical ideas to empower the least well-off," and was one of several that were set up by Conservative Party leader David Cameron. Duncan Smith's Deputy Chair was Debbie Scott, the Chief Executive of the charity Tomorrow's People. The group released two major reports, "Breakdown Britain" and "Breakthrough Britain". "Breakdown Britain" was a three hundred thousand word document that analysed what was going wrong in the areas of Economic Dependence and Unemployment, Family Breakdown, Addiction, Educational Failure, Indebtedness, and the Voluntary Sector. "Breakthrough Britain" recommended almost two hundred policy ideas using broadly the same themes. On their website the group claimed that the Government has so far taken on sixteen of the recommendations, and the Conservatives twenty-nine.
Duncan Smith was re-elected comfortably in Chingford and Woodford Green at the 2005 general election, almost doubling his majority, and remained a backbencher for the Conservative Party. He has been Member of Parliament for Chingford and Woodford Green since 1997, having succeeded Norman Tebbit as MP for the predecessor constituency of Chingford at the 1992 general election.
In September 2006 he was one of fourteen authors of a report concerning Anti-Semitism in Britain. He was also one of the only early supporters of the Iraq surge policy. In September 2007, he called for Britain to withdraw from the war against Afghanistan and to fight in the war in Iraq indefinitely. In his 2009 Conservative Party Conference speech, Conservative Party leader David Cameron signalled that Duncan Smith might serve in his Cabinet, with responsibility for social justice, should he be called upon to form an administration after the next general election.
Secretary of State for Work and Pensions
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Following the 2010 general election, the Conservative Party formed coalition government with the Liberal Democrats, with David Cameron as Prime Minister. Cameron appointed Duncan Smith to the Cabinet as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, with responsibility for seeing through changes to the welfare state.
Outlining the scale of the problem, Duncan Smith said almost five million people were on unemployment benefits, 1.4 million of whom had been receiving support for nine or more of the last 10 years. In addition, 1.4 million under-25s were neither working nor in full-time education. "This picture is set against a backdrop of 13 years of continuously increasing expenditure, which has outstripped inflation," he said. "Worse than the growing expense though, is the fact that the money is not even making the impact we want it to." He continued saying "A system that was originally designed to support the poorest in society is now trapping them in the very condition it was supposed to alleviate."
It was also announced that Duncan Smith will chair a new Cabinet Committee, involving Cabinet members from the Treasury, Home Office, Health, and Communities and Local Government departments, to tackle the underlying causes of poverty.
In June 2010, Duncan Smith said that the Government will encourage people to work for longer by making it illegal for companies to force staff to give up work at 65. At the same time, the age at which employees can claim the state pension will rise to 66 as soon as 2016 for men – 10 years earlier than the last government had decreed. Life expectancy is currently 77.4 for men and 81.6 for women. At present rates, there will be three people in their nineties for every newborn by 2050. Duncan Smith told The Daily Telegraph that the radical pension reform he will oversee was designed to "reinvigorate retirement". "People are living longer and healthier lives than ever, and the last thing we want is to lose their skills and experience from the workplace due to an arbitrary age limit," he said. "Now is absolutely the right time to live up to our responsibility to reform our outdated pension system and to take action where the previous government failed to do so. If Britain is to have a stable, affordable pension system, people need to work longer, but we will reward their hard work with a decent state pension that will enable them to enjoy quality of life in their retirement." He continued saying, "That is why we are issuing a call for evidence on moving the state pension age to 66, and thereafter plan to take a frank look at the relationship between state pension age and life expectancy." The announcement coincides with Lord Hutton, the former Labour minister, beginning a review of public sector pensions which is expected to recommend that staff contributions increase substantially as soon as 2011.
In July 2010, Duncan Smith said that more workers will have to wait until they are 68 to claim their state pension as the Government speeds up plans to raise the retirement age saying the move would save billions of pounds. Labour set out plans to increase the retirement age to 66 by 2024 and 68 by 2046 to reflect growing life expectancy. Before the election, the Tories suggested that it should rise to 66 sooner – by 2016. Duncan Smith said workers would have to accept even quicker increases as Britain tightens its belt. The Government's timetable suggests that the retirement age is likely to reach 68 by 2038, meaning millions more will be forced to wait for their pension.
On 30 July 2010, Duncan Smith announced a series of reforms that are intended to ensure that low earners will always be better off in employment. They are in a document that will form the basis of a White Paper to be published this autumn and herald the end of Labour’s complicated tax credits system, with many benefits being rolled into one. "After years of piecemeal reform the current welfare system is complex and unfair," said Duncan Smith. One example cited by Duncan Smith involves the case of a lone parent with three school-age children earning £7.50 an hour as an office administrator. Working 23 hours a week, he says, she would have a net weekly income (including benefits and tax credits) of £345 after paying rent and council tax. However, if she were to increase her hours to 34 a week she would get only about £10 more due to a loss of benefits. The new system will be called the Universal Credit.
In November 2010, as Work and Pensions Secretary, Duncan Smith said a major shake-up in the welfare system would benefit all those who "play by the rules". The plan, which will see people who refuse to take up job opportunities stripped of benefits for up to three years, is part of a "contract" with the unemployed. Duncan Smith said simplifying the welfare system would ensure "work always pays more" than relying on the state by easing the rate at which benefits are withdrawn as income rises.
In a Commons statement on 11 November 2010, he said: "This is our contract: we make work pay and support you through the Work Programme to find a job. "But in return, if we do that, we also expect co-operation from those who are seeking work. "That is why we are developing a regime of sanctions for those who refuse to play by the rules as well as targeted work activity for those who need to get used to the habits of work".
Duncan Smith, in December 2011 has drawn up proposals to stop "under-employed" people "topping up" their wages with hand-outs when they are capable of working for longer. Individuals will be told they must earn a minimum amount each week from their jobs and will face being stripped of their housing benefit and tax credits if they fall short, under the plan. The reforms, which could come into force from 2013, mark the latest stage of Mr Duncan Smith’s drive to encourage more people to move from a dependency on benefits to earning a living through work. Duncan Smith said benefit claimants "must take responsibility for themselves" and their families. "We are already requiring people on out of work benefits to do more to prepare for and look for work," he said. "Now we are looking to change the rules for those who are in-work and claiming benefits, so that once they have overcome their barriers and got into work, in time they can reduce their dependency or come off benefits altogether."
In January 2012, Duncan Smith said that imposing a planned £26,000-a-year benefits cap would not lead to a rise in homelessness or child poverty. He admitted that peers may want to "vent" their feelings over the cap, the equivalent of £35,000 before tax, but said it would help families who are trapped by a dependence on benefits. "The reality is that with £26,000 a year, it’s very difficult to believe that families will be plunged into poverty – children or adults," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme. "Capping at average earnings of £35,000 before tax and £26,000 after, actually means that we are going to work with families make sure that they will find a way out." He added that there would still be some flexibility in the system to help struggling families who were genuinely attempting to get back into work. Mr Duncan Smith said: "For people who fall out of work, we have always said there will be discretionary measures to make sure that this does not punish people but we make sure that we help them to change their circumstances. "For those who are doing the right thing who have fallen out of work, we will support them and make sure they get back to work. "Councils will be able to work with certain key families who may need a little bit more time to make some changes to their circumstances while they push them through the cap and into new housing."
In June 2012, Duncan Smith argued that families should work at least 35 hours a week, rather than rely on state handouts, if they want to avoid their children living in poverty. Duncan Smith said that Labour’s strategy to spend more than £150 billion in extra benefit payments for poor families had failed to stop child poverty. Figures published show that the Government failed to meet its statutory target to halve the problem by 2010 – despite the huge amount of taxpayers’ money spent on tackling it. Duncan Smith unveiled a new analysis which will show that hundreds of thousands of children will be lifted out of poverty if at least one of their parents works 35 hours a week earning the minimum wage. The introduction of the universal credit, under the Government’s welfare reforms, will mean that people returning to work from benefits will continue to receive some state support. Mr Duncan Smith will also set out plans to change the definition of child poverty so that a more sophisticated analysis is used. He said that the strategy has failed and parents need to be helped back to work rather than simply subsidised by the state. He said: "With the right support, a child growing up in a dysfunctional household, who was destined for a lifetime on benefits could be put on an entirely different track – one which sees them move into fulfilling and sustainable work. In doing so, they will pull themselves out of poverty."
In the September 2012 reshuffle, Duncan Smith was offered the job at the Ministry of Justice replacing Kenneth Clarke but declined and remained in his current post. Duncan Smith led the governments legislation in the House of Commons in January 2013 to cap most benefit increases at 1%, a real terms cut.
In March 2013 Duncan Smith caused a "civil liberties outrage" when he introduced emergency and retrospective legislation after his department lost a court case relating to unemployed people being forced to work for free for companies such as Poundland. Legal experts were outraged that the bill applied retrospectively, breaking a key standard of British law. Jonathan Lindsell of the Civitas think tank commented that "Retroactive legislation sets a very dangerous precedent for rule of law because it means the government can change its mind on whether an act was legal or illegal after the fact." Ian Dunt commented that "Human rights groups and civil liberties campaigners associate retrospective legislation as a typical component of oppressive regimes and regressive constitutional arrangements." The Guardian commented "The new bill would also put a stop to any potential claims for the national minimum wage, which could otherwise be due to those who spent weeks working for no pay at high street chains such as Tesco, Matalan and Argos. Lawyers and campaigners branded the DWP's move as "repugnant" and "unbelievably disgusting", saying it undermined the rule of law."
On 1 April 2013, Iain Duncan Smith claimed he could live on £53 per week as Work and Pensions Secretary, after a benefits claimant told the BBC he had £53 per week after housing costs. Subsequently a petition was started on change.org for him to do so for a year; it reached 300,000 supporters by 7:30 P.M. the next day, with further names added that evening at a rate of 12,000 per hour. The petition was handed in one week later with 460 thousand signatures.
In late April 2013, Duncan Smith called for wealthier people to voluntarily return winter fuel payments, which are given to all pensioners regardless of wealth, to help reduce the strain on public finances. This suggestion prompted much media comment, with some wealthier pensioners pointing out that they had already tried to return their payments, for this same reason, but had this offer refused by the government because there is no mechanism in place to receive returned payments (Dame Joan Bakewell had tried to do the same three years earlier).
In July 2013 Duncan Smith was found by Andrew Dilnot CBE, Head of the UK Statistics Authority, to have broken the Code of Practice for Official Statistics for his and the DWP's use of figures in support of government policies. Dilnot also stated that, following an earlier complaint about the handling of statistics by Duncan Smith's department, he had previously been told, "that senior DWP officials had reiterated to their staff the seriousness of their obligations under the Code of Practice and that departmental procedures would be reviewed".
Duncan Smith's defence of his department was that "You cannot absolutely prove those two things are connected – you cannot disprove what I said. I believe this to be right.". This led Jonathan Portes, director of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research and former chief economist at the Cabinet Office, to accuse the Conservative Party of going beyond spin and the normal political practice of cherry picking of figures to the act of actually "making things up" with respect to the impact of government policy on employment and other matters.
In August 2013, Duncan Smith was accused of being disingenuous by the CEO of The Trussell Trust, which now provides foodbanks in the UK, when he attempted to use the Trussell Trust to support his view that the reason behind "the explosion in demand" for their services was not due to the effect of recent benefit cuts but rather due to a growth in awareness that such services exist. Charities reported they are now "seeing children in Lancashire with pot bellies, sunken cheeks and sallow complexions like youngsters found in famine-ravaged countries". On World Food Day in October 2013 the Trussell Trust called for an inquiry to investigate the tripling in numbers of people using their food banks in the past year and the rise in U.K hunger and food poverty which they describe as now reaching "scandalous levels" and reports of mothers "not eating for days because they’ve been sanctioned for seemingly illogical reasons, or people leaving hospital after a major operation to find that their benefits have been stopped or delayed. It’s not right that so many more people are now being referred to foodbanks due to problems with welfare, especially as much of this is preventable" Oxfam commented "These figures lay bare the shocking scale of destitution, hardship and hunger in the UK. It is completely unacceptable that in the seventh wealthiest nation on the planet, the number of people turning to foodbanks has tripled." The British Red Cross announced that it will provide volunteers for the first time to support foodbanks as "it is so concerned by levels of UK hunger." According to the BBC, the number of people given three days food by the Trussell Trust increased from 40,000 in 2009-2010 to 913,000 by 2013-2014. A letter signed by 27 bishops earlier in 2014 blamed "cutbacks and failures in the benefits system" for driving people to food banks. In September 2013, Duncan Smith's department cancelled a week of "celebrations" to mark the impact of enhanced benefit sanctions. Mark Serwotka, the general secretary of the PCS unions commented: "It is distasteful in the extreme and grossly offensive that the DWP would even consider talking about celebrating cutting people's benefits." In the same month, Duncan Smith's department was subject to an "excoriating" National Audit Office report. The department he runs was accused of having "weak management, ineffective control and poor governance; a fortress mentality, a "good news" reporting culture, a lack of transparency, inadequate financial control, and ineffective oversight" as well as wasting 34 million pounds on inadequate computer systems.
In September 2013 leaked documents showed that Duncan Smith was looking at "how to make it harder for sick and disabled people to claim benefits" Duncan Smith was advised that it would be illegal to introduce secondary legislation, which doesn't require parliament's approval, in order to give job centre staff more powers to make those who were sick and claiming Employment and Support Allowance undertake more tests to prove that they were making a serious effort to come off benefits and find a job. The powers being discussed also included "forcing sick and disabled people to take up offers of work." DWP staff would also have the power to strip claimants with serious, but time-limited health conditions, of benefits if they refuse the offer of work. His department had previously announced on the 2012 United Nations' International Day of Persons with Disabilities forced work for disabled people who received welfare benefits in order to "Improve disabled peoples chances of getting work by mandatory employment". The founder of the Susan Archibald Centre stated that the mandatory employment of people with disabilities is a breach of article 27/2 of the UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Guardian noted that from this United Nations appointed day onwards people with disabilities and illnesses ranging from cancer to paralysis to mental health may be forced by the U.K government to work for free or else they can risk being stripped of up to 70% of their welfare benefits. His department had previously been subject to criticism for trying to force one of the world’s longest surviving kidney dialysis patients with 33 years of renal treatment, four failed transplants and 14 heart attacks back to work. In 2014, it was revealed that his department was employing debt collectors to retrieve overpaid benefits, the overpayment purely down to calculation mistakes by HMRC.
The Department for Work and Pensions had said that 1 million people would be placed on the new Universal Credit benefits system by April 2014, yet by October 2014 only 15,000 were assigned to UC. Duncan Smith said that a final delivery date would not be set for this, declaring “Arbitrary dates and deadlines are the enemy of secure delivery.”
Duncan Smith has said he is in good company with Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher after it was alleged that George Osborne said he was not clever enough. The work and pensions secretary said both former Conservative prime ministers had been told they were not bright enough in their lives, but were determined individuals. Duncan Smith was responding to claims that his clashes with Osborne had reportedly resulted in the chancellor claiming he was "not clever enough". The allegation appeared in Matthew d'Ancona's book, In It Together. Speaking on BBC Radio 4's World At One, Duncan Smith said: "Well, the chancellor, George Osborne, a very good friend of mine, he was on the radio and television I think yesterday morning saying this is all completely untrue, he never said anything of the sort."
Iain Duncan Smith has become significantly involved in issues of family and social breakdown. He has stated his support for early interventions to reduce and prevent social breakdown.
During Duncan Smith's leadership campaign in 2001, he changed his stance on the now-repealed Section 28 from opposing repeal to supporting it. In 2003, Duncan Smith's decision to compromise on repeal of Section 28 was described as "illogical" and "messy" by other Conservative MPs.
Views on marriage
In December 2010 Duncan Smith studied a state-sponsored relationship education programme in Norway, under which couples are forced to "think again" and confront the reality of divorce before formally separating. The policy has been credited with reversing Norway’s trend for rising divorce rates and halting the decline of marriage in the country over the past 15 years. Duncan Smith said he was keen to explore ways in which similar approaches could be encouraged in Britain. Officials point out that such a programme would be expensive but an approach could reduce the long-term cost of family breakdown, which has been estimated at up to £100 billion. Duncan Smith said couples in Norway were able to "work through what is going to happen with their children", which has "a very big effect on their thinking". "Many of them think again about what they are going to embark on once they really understand the consequences of their actions subsequently," he said.
Duncan Smith said in February 2011 that it is "absurd and damaging" for ministers not to extol the benefits of marriage for fear of stigmatising those who choose not to marry. Duncan Smith said: "We do a disservice to society if we ignore the evidence which shows that stable families tend to be associated with better outcomes for children." He added: "There are few more powerful tools for promoting stability than the institution of marriage." He added that "The financial costs of family breakdown are incredibly high. But what is most painful to see is the human cost – the wasted potential, the anti-social behaviour, and the low self-esteem."
Views on immigration
In July 2011 Duncan Smith said that tighter immigration controls are vital if Britain is to avoid "losing another generation to dependency and hopelessness". In a speech delivered in Spain he said that only immigrants with "something to offer" should be allowed into the country and that too often foreign workers purporting to be skilled take low-skilled jobs that could be occupied by British school leavers. According to the Daily Telegraph's analysis, the speech contained a warning to David Cameron "that a 'slack' attitude to immigration will result in the Coalition repeating the mistakes made under Labour, when the vast majority of new jobs generated before the recession were taken by immigrants". However, the published text of the speech does not refer to the prime minister in its comments on "seeing the situation repeat itself, with more than half of the rise in employment in the past year accounted for by foreign nationals".
Mr Duncan Smith believes that some companies are using immigration as "an excuse to import labour to take up posts which could be filled by people already in Britain". He says Britain needs an immigration system that gives the unemployed "a level playing field". "If we do not get this right then we risk leaving more British citizens out of work, and the most vulnerable group who will be the most affected are young people," he said.
On 6 November 2003, Iain Duncan Smith released his novel The Devil's Tune. The book received heavily critical reviews such as, "Really, it's terrible ... Terrible, terrible, terrible.", by Sam Leith in the Daily Telegraph. The book was never published in paperback.
He married Elizabeth "Betsy" Fremantle, daughter of the 5th Baron Cottesloe, in 1982. The couple have four children, and live in a country house belonging to his father-in-law's estate in Swanbourne, Buckinghamshire.
His wealth is estimated at £1 million, much of which has been acquired by after-dinner speaking. However, an "audience with Duncan Smith" held at Liverpool's Philharmonic Hall attracted an audience of only 67 people.
Duncan Smith has been reported to support both Tottenham Hotspur where he holds a season ticket and Aston Villa. Gareth Southgate cited Duncan Smith when he remarked after England's 2002 World Cup quarter-final defeat against Brazil that "we were expecting Winston Churchill and instead we got Iain Duncan Smith." This comparison was seen as being a scathing criticism of the then England manager Sven-Göran Eriksson's quiet and understated approach to management.
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- Newsnight reveals inaccuracies in Iain Duncan Smith's CV, BBC Press Office, 19 December 2002
- Tory frontbencher quits post, BBC News 2 May 2003
- Aide's email warning of risk to IDS triggered investigation, Andrew Sparrow and Benedict Brogan, Daily Telegraph 13 October 2003
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- The Northern Echo
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Iain Duncan Smith.|
- Official website
- Profile at the Conservative Party
- Profile at the Parliament of the United Kingdom
- Article archive at The Guardian
- Iain Duncan Smith collected news and commentary at The Guardian
- Iain Duncan Smith collected news and commentary at The New York Times
- Department for Work and Pensions's channel on YouTube, has a number of videos featuring Duncan Smith.