Labour pledges to "pause" universal credit if elected in 2015

The shadow work and pensions secretary, Rachel Reeves, has announced that Labour will "pause" the build of the government's flagship welfare reform for three months to allow for a National Audit Office report on it, if it wins the next general election in 2015.

Although Ms Reeves stated that the Department for Work and Pensions had been in “chaos” under Iain Duncan Smith, she said that Labour supported the Universal Credit policy, which merges six working-age benefits into a single payment, in principle and did hope to “rescue” it because it is the “right thing to do.”

Ms Reeves criticised ministers for not being open about what had gone wrong with the £12.8bn project, as it is not clear “what sort of state it is in,” and urged them to follow her plan as soon as possible. “The government doesn't need to wait for the next election…they could do this today: call in the National Audit Office, stop throwing good money after bad, and finally get a grip on this incredibly important programme."

Earlier, Iain Duncan Smith said that the department had developed a "much better" strategy, under which the project would be introduced in phases. He also announced that universal credit would shortly be expanded from the 10 job centres where it is currently being piloted to all 90 job centres in north-west England.

Labour has said that the pause would not halt the pilot schemes in place.

Further information can be found here.