The changes are described as indefensible in a damning resignation letter
In a blow that will send the Government reeling, Iain Duncan Smith has resigned as Work and Pensions Secretary over the cuts to disability benefits in Wednesday’s budget.
In a damning resignation letter, Duncan Smith described George Osborne’s plans to slash Personal Independents Payments (PIPs) by £4bn as ‘a compromise too far’.
“While they are defensible in narrow terms, given the continuing deficit, they are not defensible in the way they were placed within a Budget that benefits higher earning taxpayers.”
The most scathing sections of the letter take clear aim at Osborne, whose relationship with Duncan Smith is known to be strained.
“I am unable to watch passively whilst certain policies are enacted in order to meet the fiscal self imposed restraints that I believe are more and more perceived as distinctly political rather than in the national economic interest.”
This attack will further undermine Osborne’s Tory leadership hopes.
David Cameron responded to IDS with his own terse letter, in which he describes himself as ‘puzzled and disappointed’ by the decision.
Extraordinarily for a Prime Minister responding to a Cabinet resignation, he appears to query Duncan Smith’s justifications, pointing out that the changes to disability spending were agreed between the Treasury, Number 10 and IDS himself.
The letter also confirms that, despite Osborne’s claims to the contrary in recent days, the Government will not be pushing ahead with the plan in its current form.
“Today we agreed not to proceed with the policies in their current form and instead to work together to get these policies right over the coming months.”
Tensions have been high between Downing Street and the eurosceptic Duncan Smith since the announcement of the referendum on EU membership. In the coming days, many will question whether this was Duncan Smith’s true motivation.
Since the quarrel between the Treasury and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has long been publicly known, it’s reasonable to take Duncan Smith’s explanation at face value. That said, the EU campaign may have exacerbated those disagreements.
Duncan Smith has become something of a hate-figure on the left because of a series of controversial welfare changes including the bedroom tax, and the planned roll-out of Universal Credit.
The derision will not abate with his supposedly principled resignation, particularly since the letter reaffirms his commitment to some of his most controversial policies, and to Conservative ideology more broadly.
I truly believe that we have made changes that will greatly improve the life chances of the most disadvantaged people in this country and increase their opportunities to thrive. A nation’s commitment to the least advantaged should include the provision of a generous safety-net but it should also include incentive structures and practical assistance programmes to help them live independently of the state. Together, we’ve made enormous strides towards building a system of social security that gets the balance right between state help and self help.
Labour’s Shadow Secretary for Work and Pensions, Owen Smith, described the resignation as ‘a humiliating blow’ for a Government in disarray, while Jeremy Corbyn announced that Osborne should ‘follow the honourable course taken by Iain Duncan Smith’ and step down himself.
The resignation of Iain Duncan Smith reveals a government in disarray and a chancellor who has lost the credibility to manage the economy in the interests of the majority of our people.
The Budget has exposed George Osborne’s record of profound unfairness and economic failure. Not only must the cuts to support for disabled people be abandoned, but the government must change economic course.
There has been no indication as to who will replace IDS at the helm of DWP.
Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.