Iain Duncan Smith's latest effort to prevent the publication of documents warning of the dangers of universal credit has been dismissed by a judge.{jcomments on}

The information commissioner ruled the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) should release documents about the progress of universal credit, an assessment of independent reviews and a record of problems with it. He ruled against the release of a risk register - a department document listing possible problems with the scheme - but a tribunal overruled him and said it too should be published.

The DWP insisted publication would have a "chilling effect" on the working of the department. The information tribunal ruled there was no evidence of that but that there was "strong public interest" in publication.

IDS appealed. The DWP's first argument was that the tribunal misunderstood the nature of the chilling effect and the evidence needed to support that argument.

Judge Wikeley gave it short shrift.

"[The chilling effect] is a well known concept, and I can see no support for the argument that the tribunal misunderstood its meaning…[it] applied its expertise and reached a decision that the chilling effect argument was unpersuasive."

The DWP's second argument is for 'perversity'. This states that the tribunal reached a decision which no reasonable tribunal, on a proper appreciation of the evidence and the law, would have reached. It's obviously a very high threshold which they did little to reach.

Judge Wikeley found:

"This challenge, in my assessment, does not get near clearing this high hurdle. The tribunal identified the relevant issues, analysed the material evidence, made its findings and in that context reached its conclusions, explaining why it had done so. It seems to me its approach was entirely sustainable. The perversity ground is not arguable."

Finally they tried to argue that the tribunal had not given due weight to the expertise of the DWP's witness. This was irrelevant, Judge Wikeley found. He said:

"An appeal to the upper tribunal is confined to a point of law… I conclude it is not arguable."

No-one knows how much taxpayer money has been dedicated to making these frivolous legal appeals - all in a bid to save the work and pension's secretary's blushes.

When there are disability benefits which need cutting, every pound counts. When it's the secretary of state who needs saving, the government's wallet bursts at the seams.

It will still be possible for IDS to keep fighting this ruling through the courts, possibly for years, and ultimately to issue a ministerial veto to prevent publication regardless of what the courts say.

Read the full commentary in Politics.co.uk

Our thanks to Papasmurf for spotting this story for us


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