The DWP’s Esther McVey is blasted for giving ‘incorrect statements’ to parliament

The DWP Logo and Esther McVey
Steve Topple

The Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) secretary Esther McVey has been caught giving out “incorrect” and “wrong” information to parliament. But it’s all become a bit personal for one MP, as well.

The DWP: in the dock again

As The Canary previously reported, on 14 June the DWP lost part of a court case over Universal Credit. It centred on the loss of benefits for two claimants when they moved onto Universal Credit. Because this new benefit from the DWP replaces most previous ones, some disabled people with severe impairments could lose out on money. Solicitors Leigh Day argued that the DWP had acted unlawfully by not making up a loss of £178 a month for one claimant specifically, when he changed over from his old benefits to Universal Credit.

And the judge partially agreed.

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They ruled that the arrangements for the delivery of Universal Credit for severely disabled people are “discriminatory” and “unlawful” on ground three of the case; that is, that the:

implementation of universal credit and the absence of any ‘top up’ payments for this vulnerable group as compared to others constitutes discrimination contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights [ECHR].

Continue reading below...

Leigh Day judgement one

McVey had already changed the rules for people receiving the benefit in question: the Severe Disability Premium (SDP). So people moving onto Universal Credit would have the amount they previously received protected. But the judge still found the DWP to have committed “unlawful discrimination”, historically, before it made the changes. Because McVey only made the changes days before the court judgement. And the DWP denied to John Pring at Disability News Service that the two were connected.

Leigh Day judgement two

But in parliament on Thursday 21 June, McVey appeared to have forgotten this.

Wait, what…?

Labour’s Debbie Abrahams raised the case during the debate. According to parliamentary record Hansard, she said:

I cannot believe what I am hearing from the government. They are in absolute denial… In the past six months, there have been not one, not two, but three High Court decisions or tribunal rulings saying that the government’s actions… most recently… are discriminatory and unlawful…

McVey hit back:

I ask the honourable lady to read the court judgement. I had already made the decision on the disability premium. The court did not ask the government to alter the severe disability premium – we won on that point of law – so I ask the honourable lady to digest the judgement properly.

Ruffled

But Abrahams was not having it. At the end of the debate, she raised a point of order – an official query as to whether a debate has been conducted properly. She said:

The secretary of state, in response to my question, incorrectly said that the government had not been found to have acted unlawfully… I have looked up that judgement. I was at court 28 when the judgement was handed down… and it is absolutely the case that… the government were found to have acted unlawfully and in a discriminatory way. I would appreciate it if the record were corrected.

McVey still wasn’t having it:

If the honourable lady read and were, supposedly, at the judgement… I am giving her a get-out clause. On many of the points, the government ​won. They were questioned on how moving area had impacted on people with the severe disability premium. It was not about the fundamental change that I have made… which is different.

But neither was Abrahams.

Weasel words

She took to Twitter to highlight McVey’s less-than transparent behaviour:

So was McVey wrong? Well, the judge clearly said the DWP had previously acted unlawfully and discriminatorily. But McVey went in and changed the rules in time, to avoid the whole case being ruled in the claimants’ favour. Still, the judge’s words were clear. Unfortunately for McVey, they were words she didn’t seem to like hearing.

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Featured image via UK government – Wikimedia and Mr Topple – YouTube

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