28 May 2008
A minister has distanced himself from claims made by DWP special adviser David ‘Benefits’ Freud as Benefits and Work members continue to push for action against the former City banker.
Meanwhile, the outspoken Mr Freud has fallen strangely silent since the deluge of critical comments and formal complaints about his attack on incapacity benefit claimants.
David Freud, an extremely wealthy former City banker, claimed in an interview with the Telegraph in February that ‘disability tests are done by people’s own GPs’, that 5-7% of incapacity claimants are working in the black economy and that two thirds of claimants should not be receiving incapacity benefit. The first of these statements is simply wrong and the other two are contradicted by a wealth of the DWP’s own research findings.
A number of Benefits and Work members who complained about Freud’s inaccurate and harmful misrepresentations have received a letter from the Office of Stephen Timms, Minister for Employment and Welfare Reform. The letter attempts to disown any responsibility for Freud’s now notorious Telegraph interview, claiming that “the contents of Mr Freud’s recent press articles were not prompted by research commissioned by the Government, and reflect his own views.”
The letter goes on to say that Freud is currently advising the department "on commercial and commissioning strategies and not with the design of the benefit system or its administration."
However, we understand that some members have already responded to this letter by pointing out that as a government special adviser Mr Freud has a duty to correct any errors that he makes. Mr Freud’s comments have been widely reported by the press as being made by a government special adviser. The attempt by Mr Timms to suggest that they were nothing whatsoever to do with his role as a special adviser, they claim, are ludicrous and untenable.
We’ll continue to keep you informed of the progress of complaints against Freud and hope that, in the meantime, the special adviser’s current talent for taciturnity continues.