Pressure from the Treasury resulted in welfare changes being pushed through parliament “without meaningful analysis of impact or interactions with other parts of the benefit system”, according to the Chair of the Social Security Advisory Committee (SSAC).
In a damning report on how the government develops new welfare policies, SSAC Chair Paul Gray says top-down pressure from the former Chancellor George Osborne to meet Budget deadlines meant legislation was being rushed without proper analysis or scrutiny.
In a foreword to the report, Mr Gray writes: “On the basis that primary legislation was to be debated in some detail in Parliament, the Government was not required to bring the majority of these provisions to SSAC.
“Consequently, the amount of secondary legislation presented to us in the first few months of the reporting year was lighter than usual.
“By contrast from September onwards a number of sets of regulations were presented to us for scrutiny – most with their origins in the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s Budget proposals for reducing benefit expenditure.”
He continues: “The Committee has observed that legislation required to deliver policies announced by the Chancellor during his Budget or autumn statements is often developed at pace to meet challenging deadlines set by HM Treasury.
“This has regularly resulted in secondary legislation being presented to us without meaningful analysis of impact or interactions with other parts of the benefit system.
“The absence of evidence underpinning some of the Government’s policy choices has been a significant concern to us over the past year, and we hope that the Government will adjust this aspect of its approach to policy-making in the coming year.”
He added: “The committee has noted in the past the absence of analytical material on the cumulative impact of welfare reforms.”
Mr. Gray draws particular attention to tax credit changes proposed in the Summer Budget and passed to the SSAC for advice and scrutiny, highlighting “the lack of available evidence to support the policy changes being presented to us”.
The changes were later abandoned in an embarrassing U-turn, which may have even contributed to the Chancellor being sacked by Theresa May. However, many commentators agree the cuts were simply passed down to Universal Credit.
Mr. Gray concludes: “There can be no question that this committee is hampered in its role of scrutinising proposed changes in cases where the supporting explanatory material and evidence is scant.”