Labour bid to ‘sanction’ Esther McVey four weeks’ ministerial pay over Universial Credit

Esther McVey is facing calls to lose four weeks’ ministerial pay after misleading MPs over the Government’s flagship welfare reforms.

Labour wants to “sanction” the Work and Pensions Secretary for her handling of Universal Credit (UC), which has included a public row with the National Audit Office (NAO).

The Opposition’s whips office, posting a copy of the motion, said the Department for Work and Pensions sanctions people for “far less”.

Such action is imposed against claimants ruled not to have complied with agreed commitments, and can result in their benefit being cut or stopped.

Ms McVey apologised and faced demands to quit last week for “inadvertently misleading” the Commons by claiming the NAO, Whitehall’s spending watchdog, called for the UC roll-out to be accelerated.

But she defended other claims she made in response to the report and reiterated she believed the NAO had not taken into account the effects of recent changes made to the flagship benefit by the Government.

Ms McVey also argued factual information had been agreed but different interpretations were reached.

The NAO had taken the highly unusual step of rebuking the Cabinet minister’s response to its June 15 report, which highlighted the hardship caused to claimants by delays in receiving payments under UC.

It concluded that the new system – being gradually introduced to replace a number of benefits – was “not value for money now, and that its future value for money is unproven”.

Labour’s motion, to be debated in the Commons on Wednesday, states: “That this House censures the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions for her handling of the roll-out of Universal Credit and her response to the NAO report, Rolling out Universal Credit.

“(It) notes that the DWP’s own survey of claimants published on June 8 showed that 40% of claimants are experiencing financial hardship even nine months into a claim and that 20% of claimants are unable to make a claim online.

“(It) further censures the Secretary of State for not pausing the roll-out of Universal Credit, in the light of this evidence.

“And calls on the Government to reduce her ministerial salary to zero for four weeks.”

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