Esther McVey under fire over 'incorrect' Universal Credit claims
The National Audit Office's (NAO) chief has written to Tory Minister, Esther McVey over a series of inaccuracies in the Work and Pensions Secretary’s address to MPs on Monday, following a report which detailed a series of fundamental flaws in the Universal Credit system.
McVey had claimed that the Audit Office had not taken into account "recent changes” at the Department for Work and Pensions which addressed the failings raised in the NAO's report.
The watchdog boss, Amyas Morse wrote to McVey to say that he had seen "no evidence of such impacts nor fresh information" since the publication of the report.
He went onto criticise McVey for stating that the report had recommended that Universal Credit be rolled out to more of the country at a faster pace.
"I’m afraid your statement on 2 July that the NAO was concerned Universal Credit is currently ‘rolling out too slowly’ and needs to ‘continue at a faster rate’ is also not correct," he said.
The chief auditor added: "While we recognise regrettable early delays to Universal Credit, my recommendation made clearly on page 11 of the report is that the Department must now ensure it is ready before it starts to transfer people over from previous benefits.
“This will avoid the Department’s performance declining further as it faces high claimant volumes. I also recommended the Department learns from experiences of claimants and third parties, as well as the insights it has gained from the rollout so far."
Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Margaret Greenwood said Ms McVey’s comments were a “very serious matter”, adding that she should “consider her position” as a result.
“Esther McVey appears to have misled Parliament in misrepresenting the findings of the NAO report,” she said.
“She sought to rubbish the NAO report, rather than respond to its findings, which were damning of her Government’s flagship social security policy, even though her own department had agreed the report prior to its publication.
“She must now make a full apology to the NAO, to Parliament and to the people who rely on Universal Credit for support.
“If she won’t then she should consider her position because people’s lives are being ruined by this botched policy rollout.”