Iain Duncan Smith had his official credit card suspended after racking up more than £1,000 in expenses debt, it has been revealed.
The Work and Pensions Secretary is one of nineteen MPs subjected to action by the Commons watchdog, over potential invalid spending.
The revelation comes after Iain Duncan Smith had previously backed the introduction of prepaid cards for benefit claimants.
Details released in response to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request by the Press Association, reveal that the watchdog has suspended the credit cards of nineteen MPs since the beginning of 2015.
The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) issue credit cards to MPs to use for expenses costs, such as travel and accommodation.
Politicians are required to prove that spending on the cards is legitimate within one month. Failure could result in a build-up of debt, which would be recovered by refusing further expenses payments made through the cards.
According to the FOI response, Iain Duncan Smith’s card was blocked after he owed £1,057.28. He is no longer owes any money.
Labour run North Tyneside Council has had to cancel an attempt to introduce voluntary prepaid benefits cards after only two claimants volunteered to take part. The council claimed that the scheme was misrepresented as being aimed at drug and alcohol users.
The council’s attempts to launch the cards predates Iain Duncan Smith’s announcement to the Conservative party conference last month, in which he said:
“I have long believed that where parents have fallen into a damaging spiral – drug or alcohol addiction, even problem debt, or more – we need to find ways to safeguard them – and more importantly, their families, their children, ensuring their basic needs are met.
“That means benefits paid, I always believe, should go to support the wellbeing of their families not to feed their destructive habits.
“To that end, conference, today I can stand here and announce to you that I am going to start testing prepaid cards onto which we will make benefit payments so that the money they receive is spent on the needs of the family, finally helping I believe to break the cycle of poverty for families on the margins.”
In fact, prepayment cards have already been extensively tested on failed asylum seekers, who are obliged to use an Azure card produced by French multinational Sodexo.
Users of the card report that they are treated negatively, that the cards often don’t work and that they are prevented from buying cheaper fruit and vegetables from markets.
One user told the Red Cross:
“You go to [one of the approved retailers] and it’s just refused when they swipe it…. So sometimes you can go for a week without food…. If it happens by Friday – at the weekend they are closed. Then you tell them on a Monday that this is what happened, and they tell you it will take three to four days. So already you’re half of the week.”
So, the claim by North Tyneside deputy mayor that they wanted to give people
“. . . a financial life-line to better managing their finances so they could be more independent in the future and provide them with great choices.’
may be genuine, but it doesn’t seem to reflect what actually happens when you take away people’s right to spend their money as they choose.
Source – Benefits & Work, 10 Oct 2014