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ESTHER McVEY faced cries of “shame” from Labour MPs today who called for her wages to be docked for repeatedly misleading MPs over universal credit.
The Work and Pensions Secretary was accused by her Labour counterpart Margaret Greenwood of being “shockingly complacent” after she apologised last week for “inadvertently misleading” the Commons over a report on universal credit by the National Audit Office (NAO).
Labour sought to “sanction” her handling of universal credit, which has included Auditor General Sir Amyas Morse having to correct Ms McVey’s statements in public.
He rebuked her in an open letter for having falsely claimed that his report called for the roll-out of the scheme to be sped up — rather than stopped to fix the problems have forced 40 per cent of benefit claimants into financial hardship.
Ms Greenwood opened an opposition day debate by telling MPs: “She undermined the report rather than addressing the extremely serious issues it raised.
“Her approach was shockingly complacent — as if oblivious to the hardship so many people are suffering.
“The Secretary of State repeatedly claims her department is testing and learning, but this testing and learning is using people as guinea pigs — this is unacceptable. Where is the dignity?”
She called on Ms McVey to halt universal credit and put forward a “credible plan to fix its many failings before many more people suffer.”
She added that Ms McVey had only apologised after receiving the open letter, and only for one of her three mistakes.
Ms McVey shamelessly defended the two others — claiming that the NAO had not accounted for more recent changes and that her department just had a “different interpretation” than the NAO.
Labour’s motion calls on the government to reduce her ministerial salary to zero for four weeks.
Labour MP Catherine West later raised the case of a constituent who was “sleeping in a tent in a bin chamber” as he was one of the 20 per cent of claimants who did not have internet access to make an application for universal credit.
Ms McVey, while receiving jeers and shouts of “rubbish” and “nonsense” from Labour backbenchers, said: “What we do with people who’ve fallen on hard times, is to reach out to them and support them and if that person is not getting the support I would ask her — work with me.”
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