Last week, Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey MP was accused of misleading Parliament about the content of a report from the National Audit Office (NAO), forcing her to reluctantly apologise to MPs.
She admitted: “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’.”
MPs will now debate on Wednesday whether Ms McVey should have her wages docked (to £0) for a month, in punishment for misleading Parliament.
Some people reading this article would (perhaps accurately) argue that what she said, that the NAO’s report had suggested the roll-out should be accelerated, was an outright lie, but for legal reasons I have to be careful of my wording.
The rarely used ‘Censure Motion’, tabled by Labour, will also ask if MPs still have full confidence in Ms McVey to fulfill her duties as DWP boss and not misrepresent reports in the future.
Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Margaret Greenwood MP (Labour) said: “Universal Credit’s roll out has caused real hardship for many people.
“It has pushed people into debt, rent arrears and forced some to rely on foodbanks.
“Esther McVey needs to get her act together, pause the roll out and come up with a plan to address the serious flaws in Universal Credit.”
Defending the controversial benefit sanctions regime, which can see people lose some or all of their benefit for weeks or even longer – often for unfair reasons such as being a few minutes late for a JobCentre meeting – Ms McVey argued:
“What does a teacher do in a school? A teacher would tell you off, or give you lines and detentions, or whatever it is, but at the same time they have your best interest at heart.
“They are teaching you, they are educating you, but at the same time they will also have the ability to sanction you.”
Sadly, for some, Labour’s motion does not include the power to remove Ms McVey from her post as DWP Secretary… and should not be regarded as an official ‘no confidence’ motion.
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