DWP Secretary Esther McVey misled Parliament twice on Monday, insisting when challenged that a report by the National Audit Office (NAO) stated that the roll-out of Universal Credit (UC) must be ‘speeded up’.
It actually said that the roll-out must stop until the DWP can cope with the number of applicants.
Ms McVey appeared [video] before MPs yesterday afternoon to offer an apology-that-wasn’t for ‘inadvertently’ misleading the House. The claim that she could not just say but repeat emphatically the false claim was no credible – but she compounded her crime by lying again in her ‘apology’, making a further false claim that the report ‘flew in the face‘ of Labour MPs’ calls for a pause.
McVey was called back to the Commons today to answer an urgent question from Birkenhead MP Frank Field. McVey seemed to be aiming to get through the debate by boring everyone to sleep with her slow, monotonous, condescending speech.
But then she did something astonishing even for a Tory minister.
In the urgent debate called to discuss her ‘apology’ for misleading Parliament – in which she again misled Parliament – she completed a hat-trick:
In once again attempting to justify her false claims, McVey said that they had been her ‘interpretation’ of the fact that the NAO report had described ‘a regrettable slowing down’ of the roll-out.
But it says no such thing.
The word ‘regrettable’ does not appear once in the report. Nor does ‘unfortunately’ or ‘sadly’.
The words ‘slow’ and ‘slowly’ appear – usually in describing the DWP’s performance in putting right its errors or in helping claimants in hardship. The report does mention a couple of occasions where the roll-out was slowed down because of the DWP’s inability to cope.
But on not one occasion does it say that these slow-downs were in any way regrettable, negative or adverse – just that they happened. There is no suggestion of ‘too slow’ – and the report’s recommendation to stop until the DWP gets its act together shows that the roll-out was too fast.
The excellent Margaret Greenwood,Labour’s Shadow DWP Secretary who defeated McVey for the Wirral West seat in 2015, was not fooled by McVey’s twisting and went for the jugular. At best, she said, McVey had demonstrated unforgivable incompetence by not reading the report – and if she had read it, she had knowingly misled Parliament.
And either way, she must resign – and if she fails to do so, Theresa May must sack her or be rightly seen as colluding in her guilt.
The DWP was asked for comment. A press officer said a special contact would need to respond on the issue. No input has been received.
Many ministers in the history of Parliament have resigned for misleading the House. But few if any can have misled Parliament on three separate occasions in just four days.
There is no place for Esther McVey on the Tory front bench – and really none in Parliament at all.
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