The Tories today repeatedly refused to publish a report on the impact of cutting housing benefits to under-22s would have on homelessness.
After being summoned to the Commons by Labour this afternoon, Work Minister Caroline Nokes said the Government would not be releasing the advice her department received before it announced the policy.
The Government confirmed last Friday it would push ahead with axing housing benefit for 18 to 21 year olds, unless they qualify for an exemption.
One charity has estimated that around 9,000 young people could be forced on to the streets as a result of the changes, which come into force on April 1.
In the Commons today, former Labour leader Ed Miliband tore into the Government, and said: “We should call this for what it is: It’s a nasty, vindictive policy that will make injustice worse from a government who said it will tackle burning injustice.
He added: “No impact assessment has been published for this measure – inexplicably in my view. Will she now tell the House what advice she has received from her officials about the impact of homelessness of this proposal?”
Nokes replied: “The Government has of course met all its requirements under the public sector equality duty. Equality assessment information has been received and shared with the social security advisory committee who chose not to consult on this.”
When Labour MP Maria Eagle again challenged the minister to reveal the official impact assessment report, Nokes was defiant, and replied: “We did look very carefully under the public sector equalities duty at the impact this policy would have and shared that information with the social security advisory committee.
“I’m under no obligation to publish it.”
While the Labour benches were angry at the policy, many Tory MPs took to their feet to defend the Government.
Sir Oliver Letwin – who was David Cameron’s policy guru when the measure was announced in 2015 – argued the long list of exemptions meant that the cuts would not affect those in dire need.
The policy will not apply to those with dependent children, care leavers, those in temporary accommodation or young people who have been working for the previous 6 months.
An exemption will also apply if the Secretary of State judges it is inappropriate for individuals to live with their parents due to a threat of violence and other reasons.
Sir Oliver said: “In light of all the exemptions there are, are we not talking about the children but the responsibilities of the parents?
“And are we not seeing here the reassertion rightly of the responsibilities of parents for unemployed young people under the age of 21.”
Fellow Tory MP Philip Hollobone said the public would welcome the measure as it showed the party was “sticking to a Conservative manifesto pledge”.
Labour MP Jess Phillips shouted: “You said you’d stay in the Single Market in your manifesto. How’s that going?”