The work and pensions select committee has asked senior government figures including prime minister Boris Johnson for further information on the government’s planning for a no-deal Brexit, including whether extra funding will be given to jobcentres to prepare.
In a letter to the prime minister, which was also copied to work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd and chancellor Sajid Javid, committee chair Frank Field said the MPs had heard warnings of a 30% risk of the economy contracting in 2020, while Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England, has said leaving the EU without a deal would be an “instantaneous shock” to the UK economy.
In light of these warnings, Field urged Johnson to set out the government’s preparations for a potential future recession or economic shock.
He asked whether the government had modelled the effect of a recession or economic shock on welfare spending in general, or Universal Credit spending in particular, and whether the government would share this information. He also asked whether the government had analysed or planned how Universal Credit would operate in a recession, given that the reform began in2013 and has not been tested in a recession.
Field also said Robert Chote, the chair of the Office for Budget Responsibility, had told the committee that “one of the sensible things that was done ahead of the previous recession was to make sure that jobcentres are adequately funded for this when it hits, having learned the experience from previous times”
In light of recent announcements of increased government spending on no-deal preparations, Field asked whether No.10 or the Department for Work and Pensions had "any plans to increase funding for and staffing of Jobcentre Plus in the case of an economic shock or recession”.
The letter comes after the government's announcement that it would spend up to £2.1bn to prepare for a possible no-deal Brexit on top of previously allocated funding, with chancellor Sajid Javid urging departments to “intensify" their planning.
No.10 Downing Street has been approached for comment.