The government appears to have delayed publishing crucial evidence that undermines a key part of its controversial welfare reform bill until weeks after the legislation completed its passage through the House of Commons.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) report, which details the growth in the number of claimants of disability living allowance (DLA), appears to have been signed off by its author in May, weeks before MPs began the bill’s critical report stage.
But the statistics were only published last week, while MPs were on holiday and weeks after the bill had passed through the Commons.
The delay also meant that the statistics would not have been available to peers, who had been due to debate the bill for the first time on 19 July, although that debate was eventually postponed until 13 September.
The discrepancy in publication dates was spotted by the blogger Mason Dixon, Autistic, who pointed out that the figures were finally published while most of the media was occupied by coverage of the riots.
A DWP spokeswoman claimed that the May sign-off date was a mistake and should have read “August 2011”.
She said: “The initial work was done in May 2011, the write-up was produced in late July and then published as soon as practicable in August, in accordance with the usual planning and clearing processes and departmental priorities.”
The figures would have been crucial ammunition for MPs opposed to DLA cuts and reforms.
In the government’s consultation on DLA reform, it argued that claimant numbers had risen by 30 per cent in eight years, which it said was not “affordable and sustainable” in the long term.
This increase was used to justify plans to replace DLA with a new personal independence payment and to cut spending on working-age DLA by 20 per cent.
But the new figures actually show the number of working-age DLA claimants rose by just 13 per cent in eight years.
18 August 2011