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Questions over Universal Credit research kept secret for 18 months

17 April 2019

Committee Chair Rt Hon Frank Field has written to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rt Hon Philip Hammond, and Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Rt Hon Amber Rudd, copied to Prime Minister Theresa May, on the “alarming” findings of HMRC and DWP research into the transition from tax credits to Universal Credit: research that Government chose not to publish until 4 April this year, 18 months after it was produced.

Excessively long delay before research published

Today's release focuses on the “excessively long delay” before the research was published "even allowing for the vagaries of Government announcements and publications." It goes on to note the unfortunate coincidence of the 18 month delay “with a period of intense scrutiny of Universal Credit, spanning the decision to accelerate the Full Service roll-out in October 2017, to ongoing scrutiny of DWP's plans for “managed migration” of claimants of existing benefits to Universal Credit.”

It asks Ministers: “What actions you took immediately on seeing the report, aside from deciding to delay publication?”

The Committee has a number of other detailed questions about the joint DWP/HMRC research, and the Departments' response to the findings, which will shortly be set out separately.

Transparency in Universal Credit vitally important to its success

Today's letter asks Government, in advance of the Committee's substantive questions on the research, to:

  • explain why there was a delay of eighteen months between the UCTC report being finalised and its publication? 
  • confirm when Ministers in each Department first saw the report 
  • provide copies of any briefing provided to Ministers on the report's content

DWP has recently acknowledged that transparency in Universal Credit is vitally important to its success, and the Department repeatedly says is taking a “test and learn” approach to Universal Credit.

Chair's comments

In today's letter Committee Chair Rt Hon Frank Field MP concludes:

"The decisions taken to date on Universal Credit and those to be made in the coming weeks and months will affect the lives and incomes of millions of people. Members of Parliament should not be asked to make these pivotal decisions based on partial information. It would be deeply irresponsible for the Government not to provide Members of both Houses with the best possible information on which to make them. It is profoundly regrettable that this seems to have occurred in this case. I very much hope that this consideration will be at the forefront of the Government's mind as it makes future decisions on sharing the findings of its own research."

Further information

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