Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey MP (pictured) is facing calls to resign, after admitting she had misled Parliament by falsely claiming the National Audit Office (NAO) said the roll-out of Universal Credit should be accelerated.
In a statement given to MPs, Ms McVey said: “Whilst speaking in Parliament, in answer to questions on the National Audit Office (NAO) report into Universal Credit, I mistakenly said that the NAO had asked for the rollout of Universal Credit to continue at a faster rate and to be speeded up.
“In fact the NAO did not say that Mr Speaker, and I want to apologise to you and the House for inadvertently misleading you. What I had meant to say was that the NAO had said that there was ‘no practical alternative to continuing with Universal Credit’.
“We adopt a ‘test and learn’ approach to the roll out of Universal Credit, which the NAO says ‘mainly follows good practice’ and therefore the point I was trying to make was that calls from the Party opposite to pause it seemed to fly in the face of those particular conclusions.
“As you know Mr Speaker I asked you yesterday if I could come to the House to correct the record. I believe it is right that as a Minister I should come and correct the record, and I therefore hope you will accept my apology.
“Whilst I am here, Mr Speaker, with regard to the other issues raised in the letter sent today by the NAO. The NAO contacted my office at the end of last week, and we are working on setting up a meeting.
“And with regards to the NAO report not taking into account the impact of the recent changes to Universal Credit, I still maintain this is the case – such as Housing Benefit run on, and 100% advances and the removal of waiting days – the impact of these changes are still being felt and therefore by definition couldn’t have been fully taken into account by the NAO report.”
“I hope that clarifies the position.”