Esther McVey refuses to widen apology over claim she misled MPs

Esther McVey has refused to apologise for misleading MPs about the progress of welfare reforms after being dragged before parliament to hear further demands that she should step down from her cabinet post.

The work and pensions secretary was asked on Thursday to answer an urgent question about claims she had wilfully misled parliament on three key points in a highly critical National Audit Office report to make it look as if the programme was doing well.

But after hearing claims that she had been “dissembling” and calls for her resignation, McVey declined to go further than apologise for claiming that the independent auditor wished to speed up the process.

The urgent question was granted after Sir Amyas Morse, the head of the NAO, sent an unprecedented open letter on Wednesday claiming that McVey had misled MPs about his organisation’s views on universal credit, a programme that rolls six separate benefits into one.

The shadow work and pensions secretary, Margaret Greenwood, told MPs: “The secretary of state should be ashamed that she has been forced to come to this house again. If she misread this report so badly this brings in to question her competence and her judgment. If she did read the report and chose to misrepresent its findings, she has clearly broken the ministerial code. Either way, she should resign.”

McVey said she planned to meet Morse on 9 July, adding: “From my interpretation of what was said and the words that I used, I apologised for and came to the house.”

She reiterated the assertion that the highly critical NAO report failed to take into account recent changes made to the flagship benefit.

She said: “On the significant changes this government has brought in this year, those effects cannot have fully been taken into account because they are still being rolled out.”


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