Campaigners have welcomed the government’s decision to postpone the next parliamentary stage of its controversial welfare reform bill.
The bill has already passed through the Commons and a second reading debate was due to take place on 19 July in the House of Lords. But this debate has now been postponed until 13 September.
Many disability organisations have argued that the passage of the bill has been rushed and have criticised the government for failing to publish details of how the bill will affect disabled people.
Campaigners have become increasingly frustrated by the reluctance to release detailed information about the likely impact of its reforms of disability living allowance (DLA), even though its replacement – personal independence payment (PIP) – is due to be introduced in less than two years.
The detail of how the reforms will work in practice and how they will impact on disabled people will be contained in regulations, which the government has yet to publish.
Neil Coyle, director of policy for Disability Alliance (DA), welcomed the decision to postpone the Lords second reading but said the timing of the government’s announcement of the delay – late last week – was “very strange”.
He said the message from peers to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) had been that they did not want to debate the bill until September.
Despite the delay, Coyle warned that there had been no indication yet that the government was “wildly revising the provisions of the bill”.
DA has warned that it is ready to seek a judicial review of the government’s DLA reforms, if it fails to provide evidence that it has carried out a robust analysis of the impact of the changes.
DA has asked the government to prove that it has properly analysed the impact of proposed cuts of more than £2 billion to spending on DLA/PIP. Coyle said the delay would mean there was more time for the government to provide this evidence.
He said: “The more time they give themselves, the more likely it is they can avoid any potential judicial review.
“We are not questioning the right of government to make decisions, but they need to do it based on the right evidence.”
A DWP spokeswoman said the date of the second reading was moved “due to parliamentary business”, and insisted that the government was “following the usual processes” and “working with disability organisations” on DLA reform.
20 July 2011