Labour accused the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) of acting ‘illegally’ as it was savaged by MPs during an angry parliamentary debate. But if sick and disabled people were hoping for some answers from work and pensions secretary Esther McVey into the latest DWP scandal, then they’ll be sorely disappointed.
Another day, another DWP scandal
As The Canary previously reported, judges forced the DWP to admit that it had been interpreting its own guidelines over the personal independence payment (PIP) incorrectly. The department’s climb-down was in relation to two court cases where it had previously denied two disabled people PIP. This was on the basis they did not meet its criteria for the “daily living” component of the benefit.
After tribunals disagreed and told the DWP it must give the two claimants PIP, the department was going to appeal. But on 30 May, it told law firm Garden Court North Chambers that it was withdrawing the appeals. The DWP also said that it will be reviewing all PIP claims this may affect.
A parliamentary question
So on Monday 4 June, Labour’s former shadow work and pensions secretary Debbie Abrahams raised this in an Urgent Question to McVey in parliament. Abrahams asked McVey:
if she’ll make a statement on the withdrawal of her appeals in relation to personal independence payment claimants with chronic conditions and what further action she’ll be taking.
McVey said that she was “absolutely committed” to supporting sick and disabled people. But regarding Abrahams’ specific question, she would only say that the two claimants in question would have their money backdated, and would be paid in “days”.
As The Canary previously reported, the government has not stated how many claims are affected by its admission of error. Also, when The Canary asked the DWP to comment, it failed to respond. Now, McVey is also refusing to give any information on the situation. This left Abrahams less than impressed.
She said the situation “raises serious questions” for the DWP and McVey:
As Abrahams noted, in another previous case where judges ruled the DWP had made an error in its interpretation of its own rules, it had to review 1.6 million people’s claims. Her claim of ‘illegality’ by the DWP was echoed by Garden Court North Chambers, which said the DWP’s withdrawal of its appeals:
may cast doubt on the legality of the changes [which the DWP] made to the regulations in March 2017…
But despite all Abrahams’ questions, McVey refused to answer any of them. Shouting can be heard coming from the opposition benches throughout McVey’s response:
The anger from opposition parties to McVey’s refusal to answer questions continued throughout the debate, as did the criticism of the DWP.
Labour’s new shadow work and pensions secretary Margaret Greenwood accused McVey of being “dismissive” about MPs’ concerns. She said the DWP had “again got the law wrong” on its own guidance, and fired numerous questions at McVey. Greenwood summed up by asking:
What reason do disabled people have to believe that her department is fit for purpose?
McVey couldn’t answer most of that, either.
The SNP’s Alison Thewliss then put it to McVey that the DWP’s reputation “lies in tatters” and that it was “in no fit state” to be rolling out Universal Credit. Labour’s Angela Eagle, meanwhile, repeated Abrahams’ claim that the DWP had acted “illegally”.
But it was Thewliss who perhaps summed the situation up best, saying [11:54]:
The fact remains that they [the DWP] had to be dragged through the courts in the first place in order to be proven that they are wrong.
McVey gave no guarantees as to when this latest scandal will be dealt with, leaving disabled people’s lives once again on hold. But it’s the arrogance of the DWP and McVey that truly beggars belief – and opposition MPs fully expressed their disgust during this debate.
We need your help to keep speaking the truth
Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.
Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.
We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.
In return, you get:
* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop
Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.
With your help we can continue:
* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do
We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?