Hundreds of IT jobs associated with the government’s benefits system overhaul are being sent to India, it has been reported. But these jobs are new and are therefore not being offshored, the government has said.

Universal credit, which is set to replace child tax credits, housing benefits, jobseekers allowance, working tax credit and more, is the government’s answer to “radically simplifying” the benefits system and making work pay.

But it has now been reported that 500 IT technicians are to be employed in Mumbai and Bangalore to work on the supporting IT system, even though ministers had previously said major data projects would be kept in the UK.

According to the Guardian newspaper the work could be worth hundreds of millions of pounds.

But the decision was said to have been taken despite a November comment from employment minister Chris Grayling that it was important for “government-controlled employment” to remain onshore.

Grayling was at the time referring to a dropped proposal which could have seen Hewlett-Packard jobs on a DWP contract moved to India. “We have a job to try to maximise employment in this country, and I pay tribute to all those involved in that workforce for drawing our attention to the issue and the challenge,” he said. “It is by far the best option to see people investing in the UK.”

But the DWP has insisted the latest move is different to the Hewlett-Packard case. “No existing British jobs are being sent overseas by the DWP and no personal data is held or can be accessed outside the UK,” a spokesman told the Guardian.

Labour MP Mary Glindon, who has previously told readers that offshoring did not add up, complained that the North-East was “crying out for specialist jobs like these”. “We need to keep the pressure on the minister to honour his commitments on offshoring,” she said