Labour will call for work & pensions secretary Esther McVey to be ‘sanctioned’ over her ill-informed attack on a National Audit Office (NAO) report damning Universal Credit.
At today’s Opposition Day debate into McVey’s handling of UC, Labour wants her salary reduced to zero for four weeks – citing the DWPs own evidence in doing so.
In the Commons, McVey made an apology for “inadvertently misleading” members during her ill-informed attack on the NAO and its report branding UC a major policy failure, by turns unwieldy, inefficient, unresponsive and seemingly unable to ever demonstrate value for money.
Where McVey claimed the report didn’t account for “recent changes”, the NAO said it could not assess such changes with the DWP struggling – ironically given its obsession with sanctions – to provide information in a timely manner.
McVey’s ‘headline’ claim that UC would help 200,000 people into work – as supposedly signed off by the Treasury – was, the NAO found, unmeasurable with the DWP accepting it could not be proved.
The Opposition Day debate envisages the DWP’s own arbitrary, vindictive approach to claimant sanctions turned on McVey.
A motion to censure McVey for not pausing the UC roll-out cites the DWPs own survey of claimants – published this week – showing 40% are unable to make a claim online.
Uncowed by McVey’s attack, the NAO took the unprecedented step taking her on to say the DWP had signed off on the damning report – an acknowledgement of its factual content
Both McVey and architect of the ‘reform’ Iain Duncan Smith – who called the report shoddy – were exposed the pair as, at best, ill-informed over flaws with the listing flagship policy running six years behind schedule, failing to deliver anticipated cost savings and employment benefits, and leaving thousands of claimants facing debt and destitution.
Shadow work and pensions secretary, Margaret Greenwood, told the Commons the attack on the NAO was “disgraceful” and warned McVey of a need to “wake up to the reality of poverty in Britain”.
Frank Field, the chair of the Commons work and pensions committee, said a “realistic statement” from McVey would have acknowledged UC as transforming the welfare state from one which protects people from poverty to one that drives them into destitution.
Today, the NFA and ARCH became to latest sector critics of the UC roll-out, saying it will not be possible for landlords to sustain present levels of support.