Minister denies existence of jobcentre league tables
Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith has categorically denied Labour claims that jobcentre staff have been set targets to sanction benefits.
Liam Byrne, the shadow work and pensions secretary, quoted from a leaked email suggesting staff were being pressured by managers to increase the number of claimants referred to a "stricter benefit regime", or face disciplinary action - in an effort to bring down unemployment figures.
Mr Byrne said it was an "incredibly serious matter", but Mr Duncan Smith insisted "there are no targets for any sanctions whatsoever" and said anyone using them would be disciplined.
The exchanges came during a third day of debate on the Budget on 22 March 2013.
Mr Bryne said ministers had given assurances earlier in the week that there were no league tables in place for jobcentres for sanctioning claimants.
"It beggars belief that minsters told the House on Monday that no such targets and no such league tables exist, and here we see in these leaked emails that this is deep within the DWP's [Department for Work and Pensions] culture," he said.
The sanctioning regime was "running out of control", he said, and sought guarantees that the independent review would "get to the bottom of every case in which sanctions have been used".
Mr Duncan Smith replied: "There are no targets. There are no targets on those sanctions. There will be no targets. Anybody that is caught imposing a target will themselves be dealt with. That is absolutely clear, it has already gone out."
He said the government was "breaking" the "target culture" that existed under the last Labour administration.