The work and pensions secretary was forced to apologise to MPs this week. She had previously told them that the National Audit Office (NAO) thought UC was being rolled out “too slowly” and that it should “continue at a faster rate”.
In fact its report said that the rollout should be paused.
McVey has now apologised for “inadvertently misleading” MPs. But there was nothing inadvertent about it.
Ellen Clifford is an activist with Disabled People Against Cuts (Dpac). She told Socialist Worker, “Esther McVey shamelessly lied to parliament as the Tories try to conceal how much of an utter disaster UC is.
“Billions of pounds have been wasted on a system that is explicitly designed to punish the poor.”
UC replaces six other benefits and the Tories claim it is a way of simplifying the benefits system and helping claimants. In reality it makes life harsher for claimants and acts as a mechanism for terrorising people in work to accept poor pay and conditions.
The NAO report said that “many” claimants moved onto UC suffered “difficulties and hardship”. It said rent arrears and food bank use have gone up since UC was introduced.
And the High Court ruled last month that the rollout of UC unlawfully discriminates against disabled people.
Ellen said that McVey “deliberately misrepresented” the ruling by claiming that the two men who brought the case had lost. “The Tories are clearly nervous and under pressure on UC,” she said.
“This week the Unite union voted to support Dpac’s position to stop and scrap UC. And surveys of PCS union members show that a majority of frontline workers tasked with delivering UC think the rollout needs to stop.”
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said McVey’s apology “will do nothing to convince those using Universal Credit, or our members who administer it, that the scheme works.
“The roll out of Universal Credit is having a shocking impact on claimants as well as staff. The government must cease its roll out.”
Serwotka added that it is a “damning indictment” that the NAO head, Sir Amyas Morse had publicly exposed McVey’s misleading statements.
Indeed, the only reason McVey issued her half-hearted apology is because she was publicly caught out.
In a letter to McVey made public, Morse said that she was wrong to say that the report said UC was working. He also said she is wrong to say that the report hadn’t taken into account recent government changes to UC.
He said the report had been signed off by her department on 8 June. “Our report was fully agreed with senior officials in your department,” he said.
“It is based on the most accurate and up to date information from your department. It is odd that by Friday 15 June you feel able to say that the NAO ‘did not take into account the impact of our recent changes’.”
But McVey is standing by claims that the NAO report was not up to date—and by implication that its criticisms are invalid. “The impact of these changes are still being felt and therefore couldn’t have been fully taken into account by the NAO report,” she told MPs this week.
McVey’s lies are just the latest scandal to hit UC. They show once again why the hated scheme should be scrapped. But they also show that the Tories are on the backfoot over their attacks on claimants. As Ellen put it, “We must escalate the pressure to force out McVey, scrap UC and get rid of the Tories.”