Winter Fuel Payment
Tell the Truth 4
What is the Truth?
What are the Facts?
ONLY five and a half percent of all UK Pensioners in all EU/EEA countries who had lodged a claim for the Winter Fuel Payment, live on the Costa del Sol in Spain.
AND YET Iain Duncan Smith gave an ‘exclusive interview’ to the Daily Mail Online, published on 30 December 2014, and the Mail ran the headline shown above to draw readers into the article.
The IDS interview was all about the Winter Fuel Payment. It was all about attacking UK Citizens. And, it contained startling language from a Cabinet Minister who, at that time was responsible for 28% of all Government expenditure.
IDS said: paying the winter fuel payment to Expats was ‘an obscene waste of taxpayers’ money’. And, in his ‘exclusive’ IDS sneered: 'It's absurd and offensive that taxpayers are funding these payments for people who have retired to the Mediterranean and enjoy warmer weather.' There you have it - ‘obscene’, ‘absurd’, and ‘offensive’ in one short interview. Who was he talking about?
IDS aiming at Benefit Cheats
IDS knew perfectly well this interview would generate exactly the headline from The Mail Online that he wanted. Why? This was the fifth time in under three years that IDS had deliberately attacked UK Pensioners on the issue of the Winter Fuel Payment, setting out to denigrate them as if they were real ‘Benefit Cheats’!
Why did IDS say what he said to The Mail Online, when he must have known the true figures? Those articles and the headlines they generated, were backed up by a series of MAC cartoons, four of which denigrated UK Pensioners. MAC is one of the best and funniest of all cartoonists. We telephoned MAC (Stanley McMurtry) and he told us he always drew his cartoons in response to published headlines.
The measures IDS pursued to remove the WFP from 164,000 UK Pensioners across Europe reduced the DWP overall budget by a minute 0.009% of the total DWP of £170 Billion for 2015/2016.
Nowhere near the Mediterranean!
Roger Boaden comments: 'I live at best, 250 miles from my nearest point to the Mediterranean, and 890 miles from the Costa del Sol.
'So, I decided to submit a Freedom of Information request in January 2015, asking how many WFP claimants lived in the Malaga Province of Spain, which is the Costa del Sol. It was my way of responding to that very nasty interview given by IDS. The first DWP response to my request: ‘it would take too long and cost too much in accordance with the FoI Act 2000’.
'I then asked for an appeal to the Information Commissioner. He backed up the DWP, and rejected my appeal. In their submission to the Commissioner the DWP stated they would need to: ‘interrogate 90 million records to identify all records above age threshold for WFP with relevant country code’, and the whole process to supply my information would take: ‘total of 6.25 days’. Incredible!
'I knew this was nonsense. So I appealed to the First-tier Tribunal (Information Rights). My appeal was due to be heard at the end of March 2016, but was postponed to 4th May 2016. Then on 18th July, the Judge, Her Honour Judge Claire Taylor issued a ‘Joinder and Directions’, joining the DWP with the Information Commissioner for my appeal, and issued Directions, to the DWP and to me, for more information. I was confident at this stage, because it meant the Judge was swayed by my arguments that the DWP did have a ‘single searchable file’, which could quickly and easily be sorted to provide the breakdown of statistics needed to give me my figures.
DWP had it all along!
In fact, the DWP have two mailing file databases - one for Pensioners, who are advised each year about the uprating of their Pensions - the other to provide a letter for advising WFP claimants that their cash is on its way. Such mailing files would have been pre-sorted by the mailing house into the respective country codes - after all you would hardly post letters to Munich when the intended destination was Malaga! Would you?
On 1st August the DWP capitulated. They admitted my information could be supplied in ‘under one day’, and ‘within the appropriate limit of £600’, which is allowed for under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.
Furthermore, the response stated that: ‘the Secretary of State apologises to the appellant, the Information Commissioner and the First-tier Tribunal judge for the delay in clarifying internally that this FoI request could be answered within the appropriate limit of £600’.
Finally, at the request of Her Honour Judge Taylor, I withdrew my appeal, when the DWP gave me the figure I was looking for.
After a 20-month battle with the DWP, which started with a Freedom of Information Request, the DWP finally gave me two figures - the number of Pensioners, even though I had earlier withdrawn that part of my request, and the figure of 7,385 claimants of the Winter Fuel Payment living on the Costa del Sol, otherwise the Province of Malaga.
Why is this figure so important?
For almost four years the DWP had argued that it was too complex and too costly to make payments on a regional basis. Revelations from the Met Office, show that there were extensive discussions between the Met Office and the DWP around the subject of making payments regional. We know for example, that the DWP told the Met Office on 8 June 2012 that: ‘We would like to talk to you about the possibility of a regional approach ….’
The ease and speed which the DWP displayed in responding to the request from the Tribunal Judge, proves, beyond doubt, the DWP lied, lied and lied again and again, for nearly four years! They also covered up the work done by the Met Office, which had told the DWP: ‘…. the Met Office proposes that an average temperature value for the period November to March is calculated for each of the 22 regions across France.’
Something like 164,000 UK Pensioners have been made to suffer to satisfy the anti-Europe obsessions of Iain Duncan Smith. 5.5% of ALL WFP Claimants live on the Costa del Sol, not every single claimant in every country of the European Union!”
Freedom of Information
Requests helping to uncover Truth!
Little by little, several us have been extracting fragments of truth from the Met Office and the DWP, by using carefully worded Freedom of Information Requests.
We began by asking questions based on previously released information. However, the DWP have twisted and turned and wriggled off the hook by telling us we could only ask for ‘information’. The DWP said: ‘The Freedom of Information Act gives you a legal right of access to any recorded information held by a public authority. We do not have to provide opinions or, explanations, generate answers to questions, or create or obtain information we do not hold.’ So, we had to be more circumspect!
One key focus of our attack has been how it was that the DWP managed to ‘get away’ with fiddling the average winter temperatures for France, Spain and Portugal. As it was, the fiddling with Spain and Portugal added very little to the recorded figures for those countries in the Met Office Report of 12 December 2012.
But, as we now know, it made a huge difference to France - inflating the French average from 4.9°C to 7.0°C - a jump of 2.1°C - which in the process, made France ‘hotter’ than SW England. And, as we know, this fiddle was achieved by adding the temperatures from Tropical French Territories to that of Metropolitan France. The fact that there is no evidence to be found anywhere for doing that, never bothered the DWP, but as we have probed, they have come up with more and more odd ‘excuses’.
The ‘excuses’ started in letters from the DWP in May 2013. In a world where facts are hard to come by, the biggest surprise for all of us, has been the degree to which the DWP presents things in ways which are often bent, biased, obfuscated, ignored or wilfully misrepresented.
However, before that, we learnt from redacted emails released by the Met Office, in response to an FoI request, there were active discussions between the Met Office and the DWP from late May 2012 until March 2013 - discussions over a period of nine months which were all about establishing a 'Temperature Link' policy which took account of the wide variations between the coldest and the hottest regions across Europe.
1. The ‘excuses’ began by telling us that the four Overseas Territories had to be included.
2. Then, that became: the Overseas Territories (the DOMS) are the same as the Mainland Departments, so, they had to be included.
3. Later the ‘excuses’ turned to criticism, by telling us that we must not interfere in the internal affairs of another country, implying in some way that the inclusion of temperatures from Tropical locations was something the French Government did.
4. Later still, and since the most consistently used ‘excuse’, was the linking of the Overseas Territories to the Co-ordination of Social Security Systems.
5. Then bizarrely, Iain Duncan Smith said: the Overseas Territories were ‘considered’ to be part of Metropolitan France.
Of course, we challenged that immediately, and asked for the DWP to produce the definitive evidence.
The DWP response on 4th November 2016, was to quote Articles 349 and 355 of the Treaty of Lisbon, presenting those two Treaty Articles as their ‘definitive evidence’! The DWP offered this ‘definitive evidence’ to prove they had to add the temperatures from the Tropical locations to Metropolitan France.
The truth is: Articles 349 and 355 are the Articles of the Treaty of Lisbon (TFEU), which CONFIRM the full integration of the Outermost Regions into the EU/EEA!
The real clincher from the DWP came on 9 December 2016! We made a Freedom of Information Request, referring to a quote in a letter signed by IDS: ‘Please supply the definitive authority which supports the statement ‘The Overseas French Departments (DOMs) are considered part of metropolitan France …" included in the letter of 31st October 2015 sent by the then Secretary of State, Iain Duncan Smith to the Rt.Hon. Andrew Tyrie MP.’
The DWP replied as follows: ‘The definitive authority is The Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. Please find below a link to the Treaty:
It’s a strange response - saying in effect, go away and read the Lisbon Treaty! It’s like the earlier response, but instead of referring to specific Articles, it directs you to the whole Treaty.
We think the individual in the DWP charged with responding, examined the Treaty, spotted the reference which lists the Outermost Regions: ‘Taking account of the structural social and economic situation of Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Martinique, Réunion, Saint-Barthélemy, Saint-Martin, the Azores, Madeira and the Canary Islands, which is compounded by their remoteness, insularity, small size, difficult topography and climate, economic dependence on a few products, the permanence and combination of which severely restrain their development, the Council, on a proposal from the Commission and after consulting the European Parliament, shall adopt specific measures aimed, in particular, at laying down the conditions of application of the Treaties to those regions, including common policies. Where the specific measures in question are adopted by the Council in accordance with a special legislative procedure, it shall also act on a proposal from the Commission and after consulting the European Parliament.’
And then, that individual rubbed his/her hands with glee, seeing the four Overseas Territories used by the DWP to inflate the French temperature, concluding this was finally, the definitive evidence demanded. Either that, or they really were taking the p***!
We recommend the whole staff of the DWP should go away and read the following:
We are sure of one thing - anyone reading these important documents will fully appreciate that: The Court of Justice has ruled that the EU acquis communautaire takes precedence over national law if there is a conflict, and that the acquis may have direct effect in the Member States. The truth will out!
From the beginning of our experiences of contact with the DWP over the issue of the Winter Fuel Payment, IDS, and the DWP led by him, have deliberately and cynically, pursued a policy of obfuscation and procrastination.
They have manipulated their own statistics; they have manufactured non-existent temperatures, not recognised anywhere; they have created all manner of excuses why something cannot be done; and they have made up ‘explanations’ which do not stand up to detailed examination.
Documents we have now seen - redacted emails passing between the Met Office and the DWP, clearly illustrate that there was every intent to make payments by region. The Met Office had worked on, and provided, as requested by the DWP, regional temperatures to support that approach before Christmas 2012.
The DWP continued to use kind of mantra which had been pursued relentlessly by the DWP for making payments taking account of vast regional differences in average winter temperatures across France, Spain and Greece in particular - ‘It would be unnecessarily complex and costly to administer the Winter Fuel Payment scheme on a regional basis within the EEA.’
Before we go - it is worth examining what the Oxford Dictionary has to say about Lies and Lying! First, as a noun - untruth, falsehood, deception, invention, piece of fiction, falsification, misinformation, disinformation, perjury, dissimulation, mendacity, propaganda; and then, as a verb - say something untrue, tell an untruth, tell a lie, tell a falsehood, invent a story, make up a story, falsify, dissemble, dissimulate.
He's At It Again!
On 21 September 2016 The Mail Online published a new article on the subject of the latest WFP statistics published by the DWP.
We have no way of knowing for sure, but this looks suspiciously like a deliberate IDS plot to denigrate Expats still further. It carries all the hallmarks of his campaign against us still being pursued, even though he no longer holds the responsibility for the WFP, he appears to be claiming credit.
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