Employment minister Chris Grayling has been accused of misleading parliament, after a written answer tabled in the Commons appeared to contradict correspondence from his private office about the censorship of a government publicity video on the appeals process for disability benefits.
In response to a question as to why a video designed to help disabled people in the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) appeals process was removed from YouTube, Chris Grayling said:
“[We] did not direct that the Ministry of Justice video about ESA appeals be removed from YouTube. We sought to correct factual inaccuracies within the video…”
But far from a series of “factual inaccuracies”, Grayling had objected to perfectly truthful aspects of a video produced by the Ministry of Justice, saying of the film before it was axed: “it may be that we feel the whole tone of the video is wrong and could not be fixed.”
Freedom of Information requests show that the objections raised by Grayling included:
if the word medical must be used we’d be OK with “medical assessment”, but would prefer something like “an assessment of your capability to work”
Here the department seems to have been trapped by its own weasel words on assessments, which the government claims are performed by “approved healthcare professionals” — while denying they are “medical assessments”.
They go on to complain about the advice the MOJ gives to claimants in the video, saying:
“It notes that the [Job Centre Plus] doesn’t usually send anyone to a tribunal — while this is true…it does feel quite a negative comment… it’s noted that a claimant is twice as likely to win if they turn up in person — again this is broadly true, but doesn’t help…”
Grayling would know more than most benefits claimants about fiddling the system, having been forced to repay cash during an expenses scandal which exposed his Pimlico flat — funded by the taxpayer despite having two buy-to-let properties and a constituency home 17 miles away.