Iain Duncan Smith
He served as leader of the Conservative Party from September 2001 until November 2003, and as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions from 2010 until he resigned from the role in 2016.
In May 2008 in the abortion amendments to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill (now Act), Iain Duncan Smith voted for the abortion time limit to be lowered to 20 weeks against scientific and medical consensus which is currently 24 weeks. After four separate parliamentary votes on varying time limits, the majority of MPs voted to keep the abortion time limit at 24 weeks, in keeping with scientific and medical consensus, hence no abortion amendments were added to the bill.
In September 2011 Iain Duncan Smith voted for Nadine Dorries’s amendment to the Health and Social Care Bill, which was ultimately defeated by 368 to 118 votes. This amendment would have stopped BPAS and Marie Stopes from providing counselling for women with unwanted pregnancies and allowed ‘independent’ counselling including that provided by faith-based organisations.
Libel Law Reform
- "I understand your concerns on this issue. It is important that those who contribute so much to research and culture in this country so not feel restricted from publishing intelectually challenging and informative articles. Fear of libel action should not curb debate by scientists, academics and journalists. Freedom of expression is the hallmark of a free society and must be strongly protected.
- "If libel cases do succeed, the costs are often so crippling to defendants that even large newspapers are in difficulty in resisting some claims. It is evident that Britain has become an attractive place for individuals to bring about speculative libel action since lawyers will often bear the brunt of the cost in exchange for the potential rewards available to winning litigants.
- "You may be aware that the Secretary of State for Justice, the Rt. Hon. Jack Straw MP, has recently announced that the government is drawing up plans to alter libel law.
- "As a general rule, I do not sign EDMs as the seldom have any impact. Please be assured that I will continue to press the government on this issue, to ensure that any changes to the law adequately protect individuals without placing to great a burden on, for example, scientists, academics, journalists."
In July 2007, The Centre for Social Justice, with Duncan Smith as chairman, published a document titled "Breakthrough Britain - Ending the costs of social breakdown". In the "addictions" section, they present an analysis of current drug policy and make several recommendations. However, journalist Johann Hari, who has written in favour of legalising drugs, criticised the evidence base of the report.
Childhood Neglect and Brain Development
Around April 2010, Duncan Smith made claims about links between childhood neglect, brain development and crime. The Guardian contacted Dr Bruce Perry, a neuroscientist whose work Duncan Smith had referenced. Dr Perry described Duncan Smith's statements as an "oversimplification" that "greatly misrepresents the way we would explain the impact of neglect or trauma on the developing brain", and added "to oversimplify this way is, essentially, to distort".
Statistics Connecting Divorce and Crime
In November 2010, articles in the press stated that Iain Duncan Smith had claimed that children from "broken homes" are nine times more likely to commit crimes. The use of this statistic was criticised as "cherry-picking" and an example of the adage "correlation is not proof of causation".
Statistics on Effect of Benefits Cap
Letter from the UK Statistics Authority, May 2013: http://www.statisticsauthority.gov.uk/reports---correspondence/correspondence/letter-from-andrew-dilnot-to-rt-hon-iain-duncan-smith-mp-090513.pdf
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