As pressure mounts on the government to pause its roll-out of the highly controversial Universal Credit system, MPs from across the political divide have issued a scathing attack on the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), accusing ministers of “deliberately concealing” statistics and crucial information.
In a statement published on it’s website, the Work and Pensions Select Committee says the DWP “has failed to respond to the Committee’s call for written evidence, or any of the four letters requesting statistics and clarifications of policy sent to the Secretary of State over the past six weeks.”
The DWP were asked to respond to the committee’s concerns over universal credit by last Thursday, but failed to meet this deadline and provide any information to the inquiry.
The Work and Pensions Select Committee is a powerful and influential cross-party group of MPs, whose intervention today will prove to be yet another embarrassment for Theresa May’s government.
While 180 organisations and individuals managed to send written evidence to the inquiry before the deadline, Frank Field MP (Labour), who heads the committee, has suggested that the DWP is either “deliberately concealing information about Universal Credit or is simply incompetent.”
Frank Field said: “For claimants not to receive money from Universal Credit is usually a disaster. For the Secretary of State not to answer letters shows either a huge discourtesy to Parliament or a sign that the Government knows the game is nearly up in trying to present this mega-reform as a success.
“I don’t know if the DWP is deliberately concealing information about Universal Credit or is simply incompetent. Either way, it is not good enough. This has obvious echoes in the far greater failure of not paying hungry claimants on time.
“One letter simply asked if the conference announcement on advance payments was, despite appearances, simply a restatement of existing policy. You’d think they could at least answer that one.
“We expect another announcement on Wednesday about helping councils left short by Universal Credit’s failure to account for the cost of emergency temporary accommodation, by “rolling-in” some claimants back onto Housing Benefit.
“This is overdue, but does nothing to address the fundamental problem of people being left for weeks without anything to live on.
“Given everything we have heard, I was surprised that David Gauke opted to proceed with the accelerated rollout. I strongly suspect his decision, together with the failure to tell us anything, reflects a culture at the DWP of those most invested in Universal Credit not telling anyone, including their Ministers, bad news.
“The overwhelming picture we are getting is that Universal Credit as currently configured is very bad news. We have heard nothing, to the contrary or otherwise, from those running it.”
This article was last updated at 04:57 (GMT) on the 17th October 2017 to correct an editing error.