http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/politics/tory-axeman-running-scared-of-explaining-1400154 IAIN Duncan Smith was blasted for “disrespecting” Scotland yesterday after he refused to appear before MSPs to defend his brutal welfare cuts. The Work and Pensions Secretary – nicknamed the Quiet Man when he was Tory leader – lived up to his moniker by declining to give evidence to Holyrood’s welfare reform committee. And his Atos axemen provoked further outrage by snubbing the influential committee of MSPs. They are investigating the damaging cuts imposed by the Coalition Government in Westminster. The Record has been exposing the heartbreaking stories of the devastation caused to Scots by the controversial fit-for-work tests carried out by Atos on behalf of Duncan Smith’s Department for Work and Pensions. We told how Henry Sherlock, 50, who is blind with chronic heart disease, diabetes and depression, claimed he has been “harassed and bullied” during the process. He said he feared he would have to “go through another witch-hunt” in order to apply for the new personal independence payment, which is replacing disability living allowance. But despite widespread public concern over the reforms, Duncan Smith and Atos refused to attend the meeting. Nationalist MSP Jamie Hepburn last night condemned the decision and said it broke Prime Minister David Cameron’s promise to “respect” Scotland. He added: “We asked the Secretary of State to come and brief us publicly so that the people of Scotland can get answers to some of the questions we have uncovered. “Duncan Smith suggested to us that one of his senior officials could attend, demonstrating his total lack of understanding of the importance of this issue for the people of Scotland. “For him to refuse to engage with us is disappointing in the extreme.” Labour’s Michael McMahon, the committee convener, said it was “extremely disappointing”. He added: “Our committee are working on behalf of all the people of Scotland but most especially for the vulnerable. To refuse to work with us is unacceptable. We are writing to ask him to reconsider.” Atos also declined to talk to the committee in person but they did agree to provide written evidence. They have also invited the committee to visit their assessment centre in Edinburgh. It has been agreed some of the MSPs will go to see the tests in action. McMahon added: “While we are not happy at the Atos response, their offer of access, information and meetings does demonstrate a willingness to engage with the committee and work with us to ensure those elected to represent the people of Scotland can do their jobs thoroughly.” A DWP spokesman said a senior official had already appeared before the committee to brief them on welfare reforms. He added: “We are clearly engaging with the Scottish Government and have provided extensive support to help them understand the very necessary reform of the welfare state.” The row erupted as Duncan Smith said cash-strapped parents on benefits with more than two children should not automatically expect more cash. Chancellor George Osborne wants to slash another £10billion from the welfare bill by 2016/17 on top of the £18billion already being cut.
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