A senior disabled MP is to examine the government’s failure to respond to allegations that it misled parliament over its disability living allowance (DLA) reforms.
Dame Anne Begg, the Labour MP who chairs the influential work and pensions select committee, this week raised serious concerns about the government’s “overly dismissive” response to last week’s Responsible Reform, a ground-breaking report by disabled activists.
Dame Anne described the Responsible Reform report – also known as the “Spartacus Report” – as “coherent and consistent” and a “detailed analysis” of the responses to a government consultation on its DLA reforms.
But the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has been heavily criticised for avoiding answering a series of crucial questions about the report.
Now Dame Anne has told Disability News Service that her committee will consider – in its current inquiry on DLA reform – how DWP responded to the Spartacus Report.
She said: “Certainly I have concerns about the fact that [the DWP response] seems to be overly dismissive. I think this is a serious piece of work and is a serious analysis of the responses to the consultation.
“I am consistently disappointed about the way that DWP is handling information around this subject and is not taking seriously what are well-argued and well-researched points.”
She and other members of her committee have been outspoken about how DWP has issued information to the media, MPs and the public about disability benefits and welfare reform.
Last month, Dame Anne accused the disabled people’s minister Maria Miller of being “evasive” throughout an evidence session for the DLA inquiry.
She has also accused Miller’s fellow ministers Chris Grayling and Iain Duncan Smith of appearing to encourage the tabloid press to run stories attacking disabled benefit claimants.
A fellow committee member, the Liberal Democrat MP Stephen Lloyd, accused the DWP last year of “pandering to the Daily Mail” in a press release about employment and support allowance, the new out-of-work disability benefit.
A DWP spokesman said: “The work and pensions select committee has yet to publish its report and the government will respond to the report after its publication.”
18 January 2012