However, Jeremy Hunt, who was Foreign Secretary prior to being replaced by Dominic Raab after Boris Johnson became Prime Minister, swiftly leapt to Sir Iain’s defence. The petition was launched on the Change.uk website by Mona Kamal two days ago, and cited his time as Work and Pensions Minister, and specifically the introduction of Universal Credit, as the reason why he should have been precluded from such an honour.
Ms Kamal wrote: “During his time as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith was responsible for some of the cruellest most extreme welfare reforms this country has ever seen.
“There is no place for these cruel dehumanising measures in any civilised compassionate society, and the fact that Iain Duncan Smith the individual responsible and the architect of such misery, is to receive the honour of a knighthood is an insult to the hundreds of thousands of vulnerable individuals across this country who are suffering as a result of his policies and to those who have tragically lost loved ones as a direct result. He must not be knighted.”
As of 2pm today, the total number having signed the petition had just passed 135,000.
Signatory Libby Howell commented: “I’m signing this petition because Ian Duncan Smith has caused outright misery and in some cases, premature deaths by the injustice of the so-called Welfare Policies.”
Sue Copper added: “What has he done to deserve a knighthood!
“His accolade of putting the pension age back for 3.8 million women is nothing to be proud of!”‘
As work and pensions secretary under then-Prime Minister David Cameron, Sir Iain was the architect of Universal Credit.
Opposition parties said it “beggared belief” that someone whose policies had caused so much distress should be honoured in such a way.
Labour’s Lisa Nandy said it was a “disgraceful decision by Boris Johnson to reward a legacy of cruelty and failure”.
Writing on Twitter, she added: “This regime deliberately removed the safety net. It stripped people of their dignity. There is no honour in that.”
A Labour Party spokesman said it was “unfortunate to see that one of Boris Johnson’s first priorities” was to grant a knighthood to Sir Iain – the “primary architect of the cruel Universal Credit system, which has pushed thousands of people into poverty”.
However, Mr Hunt tweeted: “I have never worked alongside someone more willing to face unpopularity for standing up for his deeply held principles and moral convictions.”
As DWP minister, Sir Iain said Universal Credit was intended to end what he termed the benefits trap by incentivising claimants to take work, while simplifying the rules.
However, complications with the introduction of the new system meant thousands of low-income families were forced into poverty.
Separately, Mr Duncan-Smith said ministers need to ask “very serious questions” about how the home addresses of celebrities, military figures and elderly people named in the New Year Honours list came to be inadvertently posted online.
Sir Iain described the alleged data breach as a “complete disaster”.
There have also been calls for an inquiry into the leak, which is being investigated by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).
The Cabinet Office apologised and said it was contacting those affected after details relating to the vast majority of the 1,097 recipients could be viewed online from 11pm on Friday, shortly after news of their honours went public.