What do Richard Gere and Iain Duncan Smith have in common?
Writing about Universal Credit is a bit like writing about a celebrity marriage. You know it’s in trouble , you just don’t know how much or exactly why.
And as is often the case with celebrity break-ups (I’ve read my fair share of gossip magazines), while the rumours of difficulty swirl around relentlessly, there’s a spirited and very public declaration that everything in the garden is still rosy.
So it is with Universal Credit. “On track and on time”. If the secretary of state for work and pensions, Iain Duncan Smith and his ministers have said this once they’ve said it a million times.
Meanwhile, in real life, the deadlines shift and the numbers of people being transferred over to the new single benefit aimed at transforming welfare remain starkly small.
However, we could be much closer to finding out what is really happening to Mr Duncan Smith’s flagship welfare policy – although it’s fair to say it’s no thanks to IDS himself.
In a series of legal moves, the DWP has been fighting the release of a number of documents which would give a picture of the progress of the Universal Credit project, including an assessment of independent reviews and a record of the problems it’s been facing.
The information commissioner ruled the DWP should release them but Mr Duncan Smith appealed.
A number of arguments put forward by the DWP at appeal – including that publication of the documents would have a ‘chilling effect’ on the working of the department, that staff would feel unable to go about their work freely and without fear – were overruled by the tribunal judge.
So, will the DWP now be forced to publish the documents? Well they’re not giving in yet.
A spokesman said they were ‘considering their response’.
“We remain confident that we’ve fulfilled our duties in publishing information and details on Universal Credit and been open and honest,” the spokesman said.
Just like when Richard Gere and Cindy Crawford took out that ad in The Times saying they were very happily married. They were divorced a year later.