Universal Credit: Court of Appeal Judgment - Commons Urgent Question

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 2:31 pm on 29th June 2020.

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The following Answer to an Urgent Question was given on Thursday 25 June in the House of Commons.

“I can today confirm my department’s intention not to appeal against the judgment of the Court of Appeal of 22 June 2020 in the case of Johnson, Woods, Barrett and Stewart v the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. The judgment relates to an appeal made in January 2019 by the department against the High Court decision.

As we told the court, identifying claimants is hard; it is a difficult issue. To date, we are aware of around 1,000 claimants who have disputed their earnings and fall within the relevant cohort. We are looking at how we can further identify people in this group. I stress that many people affected by two salary payments will not suffer a financial loss, as their universal credit award will increase in the following month to balance the reduction. However, we do recognise the budgeting issues that may have been caused, and we are now assessing the remedial options. That is not straight- forward—it is not the simple click of a switch—particularly at a time when the department is focused on meeting the challenges of unprecedented demand for its services.

I hope Members will appreciate that as the judgment was passed down on Monday, it would be remiss not to afford more consideration before we press on, particularly when the court has not called for immediate action. We will now begin the process of carefully considering possible solutions, and we will keep the House updated as progress is made. There are, however, immediate actions that can be taken. We are already working closely with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs to work with employers on how to report their employees’ earnings correctly. HMRC has issued updated guidance for employers which, if followed correctly, will further reduce the small numbers affected.”