Boris Johnson has been accused of misleading MPs twice in recent weeks about benefits related issues.
Today, in answer to a question about Errol Graham, the claimant who starved to death after his benefits were stopped, Johnson claimed that an independent Serious Case Panel was looking into the tragedy.
In fact, although the DWP is being extremely secretive about the newly established Serious Case Panel, the one thing we do know about it is that it isn’t independent.
It will be staffed by senior DWP civil servants and so will not be independent even of the DWP, let alone of the government.
Moreover, the DWP refuses to say what the Panel’s precise role or remit will be.
So, nobody outside the Panel knows what issues it will consider, how it will gather evidence or who its findings will be shared with.
As it stands, claimants can have no faith whatsoever that the Panel will make any difference to the number of needless claimant deaths, let alone hold anyone to account for the department’s failings.
In another attempt to head off criticism, last month Johnson told MPs that universal credit (UC) had already helped 200,000 people into work.
However, this figure has now been fact checked by the UK statistics authority.
It pointed out that the 200,000 is the total number of people that the DWP claims will have been helped into work by the time UC is fully rolled-out. This will not now be until September 2024.
Not only that, but it has also been pointed out by the National Audit Office that the 200,000 figure would be impossible to ever prove because so many other factors, such as changes in the economy, also affect employment rates and the effect of UC can never be assessed in isolation.
Johnson’s disregard for the truth may not matter so much when it comes to spurious claims about UC, which very few people would believe in any case.
But lying about the deaths of claimants, and the DWP’s response to them, matters very much indeed.