The Labour Party is pulling a genius move by trying to give Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) chief Esther McVey a taste of her own medicine.
McVey was criticised by the National Audit Office (NAO) over her claims about the government’s flagship benefit, Universal Credit. This led to MPs claiming that the NAO’s statement suggested McVey had lied to parliament.
Now, in echoes of one of the DWP’s most harmful policies, Labour is calling for McVey to be sanctioned. On 11 July, parliament will debate the censure motion that will question whether MPs have any faith in McVey. And as the Mirror reports, Labour’s motion also calls for McVey to lose a month’s wage.
Lying to parliament
As The Canary previously reported, the NAO released a damning report into Universal Credit on 15 June. McVey refused to accept the findings. She claimed in parliament that the report was based on out-of-date figures and that the NAO “did not take into account the impact of our recent changes”. She also asserted that Universal Credit was working.
The NAO “reluctantly” wrote to McVey, setting out the truth of the situation:
National Audit Office “reluctantly” writes to Esther McVey complaining of inaccuracies in her statements on universal credit. Says report was fully agreed with DWP. pic.twitter.com/XnEkdR3i2n
— Ashley Cowburn (@ashcowburn) July 4, 2018
Presently, up to 350,000 people a year face benefit sanctions – where people lose money from their benefits for failing to meet certain conditions. The NAO criticised sanctions in its report [pdf, p74]. It said that the rates of DWP sanctions being overturned at appeals suggested “decisions are not always correct”.
Benefit sanctions are also blamed for mental health problems. In 2017, leading psychotherapeutic organisations signed an open letter calling for the sanctions regime to be scrapped. It stated that the regime causes:
destitution, disempowerment, and increased rates of mental health problems.
Kensington Labour explained why the debate is so important:
Ppl forced to use UC are sanctioned for being 3 minutes late or for getting a job.
But Esther McVey can say the precise opposite of what the NAO has said about it and face no repercussions at all. Zero. Nada.
We want that changed.https://t.co/aCBetWQFVH
— Kensington Labour (@KensingtonCLP) July 11, 2018
Although others argued that the action taken against McVey could be stronger:
There shouldn’t be a debate or a sanction Esther Mcvey should be sacked. Imagine if you got caught lying to your boss what would happen?.
— Lefty Loony Snowflake (@lizardkweenship) July 11, 2018
Even if the motion passes, McVey won’t suffer the real misery that claimants suffer when their benefits are cut. After all, it certainly won’t drive her to the local food bank.
This notwithstanding, it is delicious to see McVey being threatened with a taste of her own medicine.
– Support The Canary so we can keep holding the powerful to account.
We need your help ...
The coronavirus pandemic is changing our world, fast. And we will do all we can to keep bringing you news and analysis throughout. But we are worried about maintaining enough income to pay our staff and minimal overheads.
Now, more than ever, we need a vibrant, independent media that holds the government to account and calls it out when it puts vested economic interests above human lives. We need a media that shows solidarity with the people most affected by the crisis – and one that can help to build a world based on collaboration and compassion.
We have been fighting against an establishment that is trying to shut us down. And like most independent media, we don’t have the deep pockets of investors to call on to bail us out.
Can you help by chipping in a few pounds each month?