Iain Duncan Smith appeared before the Work and Pensions Select Committee this morning to answer questions about the status of his Universal Credit project. There's an account of what happened on The Register website (marred somewhat by lazy language). UC is, apparently, proceeding slowly. In October it will be rolled out to six more jobcentres; but these will be in places, including Harrogate and Bath, where unemployment is relatively low; and it will still only take in single people with the simplest of claims. Despite some scathing questioning by Glenda Jackson MP, IDS and his mate Lord Freud got off lightly. This afternoon the committee were asking questions about the DWP's misuse of statistics. Many had anticipated that IDS would be skewered for his blatantly misleading figures. (See a blog piece here.) But it was a couple of civil servants who had to face the music. Apparently the ministers will be called in September.
Remember that spate of TV programmes, culminating in the appalling "Famous, Rich and Jobless", which made entertainment out of poverty? (There have been a few more since then, I know, but I refuse to acknowledge them.) It couldn't get any worse, you might have thought. But perhaps it's about to. On BBC1 tomorrow night (11 July) we have, first, "Great British Budget Menu" "in which leading chefs tackle food poverty by living with three families who are struggling to make ends meet." What fun. I should have given them my recipe for carrot and lentil soup. Having watched that you may be in the mood for "Nick and Margaret: We all Pay your Benefits". This is a "two-part special in which ...... Nick Hewer and Margaret Mountford try to find out how much unemployment benefit is enough to survive on." They went to Ipswich. And they pitted workers against claimants. As we've pointed out before, this is a false dichotomy. I won't be watching.