Britain ‘one of the most significant violators’ of the Arms Trade Treaty, says Oxfam


Oxfam has accused British MPs of being in “denial and disarray” over an agreement to sell arms to Saudi Arabia, saying the UK has become one of the most significant violators of the international Arms Trade Treaty.

There are concerns that the weapons are being used in Saudi Arabia’s air campaign in Yemen, where is it supporting the Yemeni government in its battle with Shiite Houthi rebels.

The 17-month war has reportedly left more than three million people displaced and over 14 million suffering hunger and malnutrition – almost half the country’s population.

Saudi Arabia says it tries to minimize civilian casualties, but the UN says estimates more than 6,000 have died.

The British government has faced repeated calls to ban weapon sales to Saudi Arabia since reports emerged alleging that the country was guilty of severe breaches of international humanitarian law.

Signatories to the Arms Trade Treaty, including the UK, are expected to review their international arms sales to ensure the weapons are not used or diverted for illegal purposes, war crimes, or against human rights.

Oxfam says the government has gone from being an “enthusiastic backer” of the international Arms Trade Treaty to “one of the most significant violators.”

Read more at RT



DWP accused of publishing misleading statistics over benefit sanctions

A LEADING Scottish academic has accused the UK Government of distorting benefit sanctions statistics to hide a rise in the number of penalties being imposed.

Dr David Webster, an honorary senior research fellow in urban studies at Glasgow University, said there was a “consistent pattern” of the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) misrepresenting the number of people being sanctioned.

His comments come after he made a successful complaint to the UK’s official statistics watchdog over how the DWP is presenting benefits statistics.

The UK Statistics Authority has now issued a series of recommendations to the DWP, including that it should ensure official statistics are “objective and impartial”.

Webster said the DWP announcements on the issue of sanctions – which can see claimants stripped of their money for up to three years for alleged breaches of Jobcentre rules – focused on the idea that there has not been a major increase in sanctions and only a small number of hardcore persistent offenders were impacted.

Official sanction rates published by the DWP are usually around five cent, based on the proportion of jobseekers who are sanctioned each month.

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But annual figures, obtained under obtained under freedom of information, tell a different story. In 2013-14, a total of 18% of JSA claimants received at least one sanction – just over 568,000 individuals. In 2009-10 – just before the coalition government came to power – the equivalent figure was 10% or 256,000 individuals.

Webster, one of the UK’s leading experts on sanctions, said he believed the DWP was driving up the use of sanctions to save money – but did not want the issue to come to public attention.

In his letter of complaint to the UK Statistics Authority (UKSA) he said: “I believe that ministers and officials are taking advantage of the fact that benefit claimants, and especially those who are accused of not meeting their obligations, are a stigmatised group who have relatively few defenders.”

One example he cited is a press release issued by the DWP in May, in which employment minister Priti Patel said a 300,000 drop in the number of sanctions between January and December 2014 was evidence more jobseekers were taking up “tailored employment support” and moving into work.

It also claimed that sanctions are “only used as a last resort in a small percentage of cases, with over 94% of jobseekers allowance (JSA) claimants…not being sanctioned.”

However in his complaint Webster said only using numbers – rather than overall rate – had exaggerated the fall and could not be used to support the claim that sanctions had induced claimants to change their behaviour.

He said another key issue was that figures published by the DWP fail to include sanctions which are cancelled after an appeal by a claimant.

“If someone appeals successfully then the sanction is treated as not having ever existed (in the figures),” he said.

“But the claimants only get the chance to appeal afterwards – they lose the money and if they are successful they get it back later.

“So they still go through the experience of being sanctioned and very often they will undergo the ill effects.”

Webster said he had heard from one JSA claimant who suffered a severe bout of depression after being sanctioned on “totally unreasonable grounds” – and later got the decision overturned.

He added: “An appeal may reverse the sanction and repay the money, but it doesn’t reverse the consequences.”

Webster argued the use of the phrase “actively seeking work” by the DWP in relation to people being sanctioned was also misleading.

“It is intentionally feeding a public perception that there is a lot of unemployed people out there who are not bothering to look for work,” he said.

“They should say people are being disqualified for not meeting the DWP’s job seeking requirements – that would be accurate.”

In July Jonathan Portes, the director of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, also complained to the UKSA over the DWP’s presentation of statistics breaching the code of practice for official statistics.

Sir Andrew Dilnot, chair of the UKSA, has written a letter with five recommendations to the DWP including providing users with benefit sanction statistics “based on the actual number of sanctions applied, making clear the numbers of reviews, reconsiderations and appeals”.

It also said the DWP should ensure all statements made using official statistics are “objective and impartial”.

A spokesman for the UKSA said: “We have a statutory responsibility to monitor the production and publication of official statistics and to report publicly on our findings. Where issues or concerns have been raised with us, we look at those and make a public report.

“The letter sets out our findings – it will be for the DWP to consider and respond to if they wish.”

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#dwp, #lies, #sanctions, #statistics, #stats

Couple Force DWP To Remove “Inaccurate” Video Of Them

The DWP has been forced to remove the promotional video on Universal Credit, just a day after they had to remove a leaflet featuring made-up quotes.

The video, online since February, featured a young couple from Warrington who described their experience of the newly introduced Universal Credit system.

Speaking to LBC, the couple – who want to remain anonymous – say the video “wasn’t a fair reflection” of their experience. When they described how money they claimed took more than a month to reach them, the couple say staff at the video shoot in the family’s home told them not to talk about it.
The couple also claim that a DWP advisor actually told the mother of one that she didn’t need to get back into work and could continue to claim benefits, despite the video being about getting back into work.

The Department for Work and Pensions removed the video this afternoon following contact with the couple and LBC. In a statement a DWP spokesperson said: “We always seek permission from people for their videos to be used. Taking part is entirely voluntary. If someone later changes their mind, they can ask for the video to be taken down.”


#dwp, #lies, #propaganda

The following article is written by Paul Kavangh for The National Scot. Some small edits have been made.

POLITICS is, allegedly, the art of the possible. However, if you look to the oeuvre of such high profile practitioners of the political arts as Iain Duncan Smith or John McTernan, you soon realise that politics isn’t the art of the possible at all. It’s the art of making things up as you go along. It’s the art of self-justification. It’s the art of outright lying. Although to be fair, it’s wrong to accuse John of outright lying, because before you can lie you must be in touch with some sort of semblance of reality to begin with.


The Department of Work and Pensions is presided over by Iain Duncan Smith who once claimed that he’d studied at the prestigious University of Perugia. In fact, Iain went there on a weekend break, had a nice plate of lying linguine in a sauce of barefaced cheek and went back home to the expensive house his wife’s millionaire family bought. It’s very easy not to have to face the consequences of your actions when you have an extremely wealthy family which will insulate you from your screw-ups. And Iain’s career in politics has been one lying screw up after another.

Back in 2013, the UK Statistics Authority issued a statement condemning Iain’s department for its abuse of statistics after he claimed that 8000 claimants affected by the benefits cap had moved into work. The very statistics Iain’s department had collected showed no such thing. Enraging an accountant takes a special kind of annoying. Iain did the same with his claims of success for the work programme, which was supposed to provide training for the long term unemployed. Iain just makes things up, and by the time the correction makes it way into a small paragraph in the inside pages of a Tory newspaper, his lie has already been plastered all over the front of the Daily Mail as an example of the successes of vicious right wingery. Of course, the only thing that Iain is successful at is telling porkie pies.

Iain’s relationship to truth and veracity is at best tangential, so when faced with mounting criticism of the inhumane regime of capriciously applied benefits sanctions which take from the mouths of the very poorest, Iain was in desperate need of some sanctioned claimants who would say that their sanctions had been a positive experience. Not for any particular reason of improved public image mind, the entire country already thinks he’s a bastard. It was because in keeping with Iain’s benefits regime, cabinet ministers have to produce a certain number of positive media reports, or George Osborne will sanction them. George knows all about painful and humiliating sanctions.

Unsurprisingly, he couldn’t find any people who’ve been starved who think it’s a positive thing, although perhaps if he’d looked amongst people following Michelle the Moan’s diet plan he might have had some success. He’d have had even more success if he’d trawled some of the more recherché nightclubs, because there at least he’d encounter some masochists who really do enjoy being kicked in the nads, reduced to powerless objects who have to beg, and stripped of their human dignity. Rumour has it there are quite a few of them who are Tory MPs.

Confronted with an absolute absence of any real-life positive outcomes from the Department of Work and Pensions sanctions regime, the DWP just took a leaf out of its boss’s book of lies, and made some up. Jennifer was sanctioned by the DWP and it relieved her of the burden of choosing food for her children’s tea, now she saves a fortune by just feeding them what she can find in the bins at the back of Lidl. James was found fit for work after dying of cancer, and now he runs a successful waste consultancy business in Kidderminster with Derek Acorah. Richard was sanctioned for being late for an appointment after his bus was caught in traffic, now he’s learned that money is a symbol of materialism and is a more spiritual person who fasts for weeks at a stretch.

But in one important respect, the invented sanctions stories are absolutely spot on. Just like the real sanctions, they have no grounding whatsoever in any objective reality. Caught out in its lie, the DWP hastily claimed that the stories were merely for illustrative purposes. This is obviously a different interpretation of “illustrative” from that used by the rest of us.

In the DWP “illustrative” clearly means fictitious self-justifying bull. If they’d caught claimants doing the same thing in their CVs the DWP would have sanctioned them more quickly than Iain Duncan Smith could say Perugia University. Because there’s a technical term for what the DWP did, and it’s “lying through your lying teeth”. Otherwise a claimant could write a CV full of what an employer would have said about how good they were at the job they never got and if the employer had liked them. But surely it must be OK if it was only for illustrative purposes. Iain does it, and no one sanctions him.

THERE was a time, aeons ago, that a government minister whose department was caught out telling bare faced lies would have had to resign for it. They’d have been slapped down and forced to make a grovelling apology to the House of Commons. That’s why cabinet ministers are paid so much more, because they are supposed to be responsible and the buck stops with them. They’re supposed to be accountable. But Iain won’t receive any sanctions for an action that would have resulted in a benefits claimant being sanctioned. It’s only the poor and the weak who have to suffer the consequences, not the rich and the powerful. That’s the real lesson of Iain’s sanction regime. We are governed by an unaccountable class which doesn’t need to bother with trivialities like truth, or even basic human decency. Iain’s department is also the department which insists that a raped woman prove that her child is a result of rape or she’ll get her benefits capped. And these are the people whose job is to ensure a basic standard of living for all citizens.

#benefits, #dwp, #iain-duncan-smith, #lies