6 October 2008
A Tory MP who claimed that Benefits and Work was for ‘fiddlers’ and that the people who run it should be locked up has apologised in writing and completely retracted his allegations.
Tory MP Philip Davies was quoted in a Mail on Sunday article as saying:
‘As far as I’m concerned people setting up websites like these should be prosecuted for aiding and abetting benefit fraud.
'Genuine cases don’t need to employ a service like this. It’s for fiddlers.
'But it just goes to underline what a soft touch this Government is when it comes to benefits.’
Following the article, Benefits and Work’s very own rotweiller – Holiday Whitehead - protested to the Press Complaints Commission, resulting in a letter of apology from the editor of the Mail on Sunday and the removal of the story from its website. (See: Mail on Sunday editor apologises to Benefits and Work).
Holiday also exchanged a number of letters with MP Philip Davies, seeking to persuade him both of the error of his opinions and of the peril he faced if he clung to them. This culminated in a handwritten letter in which the MP told us:
‘I very much apologise for the comments made to the Mail on Sunday and for any offence they caused and I totally retract the statement made to them as quoted in their paper in full.
‘I hope you appreciate that my comments were made in good faith based on the information given to me by the Mail on Sunday.’
In the course of Holiday's correspondence, she explained some of the realities faced by claimants under the current ‘soft touch’ system and we now harbour a shred of hope that at least one Tory MP will think twice in future before condemning claimants as fiddlers. We certainly believe he’ll think twice before believing everything he’s told by tabloid journalists.